In September 1968, Congress authorized the president to annually designate the week of September 15 as “National Hispanic Heritage Week” and to “call upon the people of the United States, especially the educational community, to observe such week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” The designation of these days in September was made in recognition of independence day celebrations in a number of Latin American countries. In 1988 Illinois senator Paul Simon introduced a bill to lengthen the celebration to “National Hispanic Heritage Month,” beginning each year on September 15.
In 1928 Mexican-born Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo became the first Hispanic American to serve in the U.S. Senate when he was elected to complete the unexpired term of New Mexico senator Andrieus A. Jones. Dennis Chavez, the first American-born Hispanic senator, occupied the same New Mexico Senate seat from 1935 to 1962. The third Hispanic American to serve in the Senate was Joseph M. Montoya, who also represented the state of New Mexico, from 1964 to 1977. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, and Senator Alex Padilla of California are currently serving in the Senate, and represent the growing ethnic diversity in the U.S. Congress.