Written by Michael Sutherland, Web Services Librarian
On June 10, 2015, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Juan Felipe Herrera as the Library’s 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, for 2015-2016. Herrera begun his duties this month by participating in the Library of Congress National Book Festival on September 5 and opened the Library’s annual literary season today with a reading of his work at the Coolidge Auditorium. The new Poet Laureate is the author of 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children, most recently “Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes” (2014), a picture book showcasing inspirational Hispanic and Latino Americans. His most recent book of poems is “Senegal Taxi” (2013).
His appointment is significant because Herrera becomes the first Hispanic American to serve as Poet Laureate of the United States. As a child, Juan Felipe Herrera learned to love poetry by singing about the Mexican Revolution with his mother, a migrant farmworker in California. Inspired by her spirit, he has spent his life crossing borders, erasing boundaries and expanding the American chorus.
The start of Herrera’s appointment coincides with National Hispanic Heritage Month observed between September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
Check out LOPERSearch for more information on Juan Felipe Herrera.