Pop star Gloria Estefan leads a group of some 70 Latino recording artists in song during an event in the East Room of the White House. celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, Oct. 12, 2001. The artists sang a benefit song for those who died in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the U.S. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts Thursday, and for the next 30 days the United States will celebrate the origin and history of the nation’s largest ethnic group in America.

National Hispanic Heritage Month was created to recognize Hispanic and Latino culture, which now represents 56.6 million U.S. residents according to the Census Bureau. Initially instituted as a weeklong celebration on Sept. 15, 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Congress later expanded the holiday to last an entire month in 1989.

To kick off the month-long celebration, we’ve compiled a list of noteable facts about Hispanic and Latino influence in the U.S. and a few fun ways to celebrate during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Check them out below.

Eat the food: One of the biggest influences Hispanics and Latinos have had on American culture is their unique and savory cuisine. Hispanics account for a large portion of people under 37 in the country and are projected to the “growth drivers” of the eating patterns of Americans over the next five years, according to a report by the NPD Group titled, “The Future of Eating: Who’s Eating What in 2018?” What better way to celebrate than by indulging on plates filled with Hispanic and Latino goodies, including tacos, rice and beans and yuca fries?

Learn the history: Although it's considered an American holiday, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the independence of five Latin American countries including Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua along with Mexico, Chile and Belize. It is also when Hispanic and Latino countries recognize their Independence Day, or Día de la Raza, which is Oct. 12. Join in on the historical celebration by attending a Hispanic Day Parade in your area or with or other Independence Day activities.

Listen to the music: Latin and Hispanic music has long had an influence on American culture. From the megastars — like Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Enrique Iglesias, Selena and Pitbull — to bachata singers — like Prince Royce, Aventura and Luis Vargas — as well as increasingly popular reggaetón artists like J Alvarez, Farruko and Justin Quiles, there are plenty of Latin and Hispanic singers and songs to keep you moving and grooving during National Hispanic Heritage Month.