Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of America’s Latino and Hispanic communities, whose families immigrated to the United States from Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, and Spain.

The national celebration begins each year on September 15, the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during the period ending October 15.

“Vermonters who identify themselves as Hispanic are the state’s largest minority group,” reported Kevin O’Connor in his 2016 Vermont Digger article “Is Vermont the whitest state in the union?”  There were 5,504 people in the 2000 census who identified as Hispanic in Vermont, compared with  10,226 in 2016 — 1.6 percent of the state population compared to 16.9 percent nationally. “The count includes 3,015 Mexicans, 2,808 Puerto Ricans, 498 Cubans and 3,905 who choose the classification “other Latino,” O’Connor said.

Nationally, famous Hispanic and Latino Americans include Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor; Astronaut Ellen Ochoa; baseball players José Altuve (Astros), Francisco Lindor (Indians), Luis Severino (Yankees) and Javier Báez (Cubs); and actresses and singers Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera.  The list goes on.

We’ll recognize Hispanic Heritage Month at Milton Public Library with book displays, and with the launch of our new Bilingual Spanish Story Time, from 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 2.

I’ve chosen five Latino authors and one of their books each to feature in this month’s Book Bits column.  Their books are available at the library.

Julia Álvarez, currently writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, is an award-wining Dominican-American author who has published novels, children’s books, young adult fiction, poetry collections, and a book of essays.

Her novel “In the Time of the Butterflies” (1995) is a fictionalized account of the murder of three of her sisters for their participation in the underground plot against Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina — El Jefe — the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic from February 1930 until his assassination in May 1961.

Sandra Cisneros, novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist, performer, and artist, may best be known for her 1984 novel “The House on Mango Street.” The story told in vignettes follows Ezperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago.  The book has sold more than 6 million copies and been translated into 20 languages.

Mexican American poet, novelist, and essayist Luis Alberto Urrea’s latest book is “The House of Broken Angels” (2018).  It tells the story of 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz.  He’s dying, and he wants to have one last birthday bash. “When his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart.”

“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo is a 2019-20 Green Mountain Book Award nominee and a 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Fiction and Poetry Award recipient.  In the book, Xiomara Batista confides her frustrations and passions onto the pages of a notebook.  When she’s invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she can’t stop thinking about performing the words she’s written.  Author Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam champion.

“A Dream Called Home” (2018) is Reyna Grande’s sequel to her 2012 critically acclaimed memoir “The Distance Between Us.”   Grande, who at age 9 entered the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, went on to become the first person in her family to graduate from college.  In these two memoirs, she writes about her life before and after illegally emigrating from Mexico to the United States, and her perseverance to fulfill her dream of becoming a writer.

This article by Susan Larson was first published in the Milton Independent on September 11, 2019, with the title “Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Milton Public Library.”  The article is reprinted with permission.