Hispanic Heritage month is now through October 15th

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to recognize Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias. 

Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías, (1929-2001), Pediatrician, Educator, Activist, First Latina President of the American Health Association

Dr. Trias was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City. As a child, she experienced bias for simply being Latina and was “placed in a class with students who were academically handicapped, even though she had good grades and knew how to speak English,” according to Wikipedia. Dr. Trias later went on to graduate from medical school at Universidad de Puerto Rico with highest honors.

Her accomplishments include founding the first center for newborn children in Puerto Rico and serving as Director of Pediatrics at Lincoln Hospital in South Bronx, NY. In addition, Dr. Trias went on to lead the New York City Department of Health Mental Hygiene.

She helped “bring national attention to the devastation caused by HIV and AIDS among inner city mothers and children. In 1993, the American Public Health Association elected her their first Latina president.” (http://www.nps.gov/latino/latinothemestudy/sciencemedicine.htm)

Why do we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month? … A little bit of history

National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the group’s heritage and culture.

The Hispanic Heritage Month was established by legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal (D-Los Angeles) first proclaimed President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. The commemorative week was expanded by legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban E. Torres (D-Pico Rivera) and implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period (September 15 – October 15). It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988 on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) also celebrates the long and important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans in North America. A map of late 18th-century North America shows this presence, from the small outpost of San Francisco founded in Alta California in 1776, through the Spanish province of Texas with its vaqueros (cowboys), to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the first colonial settlement in North America, founded in 1513, ninety-four years before the English landed in Jamestown, Virginia.