This month was made for you and me

October 28, 2005

Hispanic Heritage Month began on September 15 as a tribute to the spectacular achievements made by Hispanic Americans throughout history. Because of the impact that Hispanic Americans have made on the United States, we can all share in celebrating a piece of ourselves in honoring their success. As Americans, our history is saturated with the contributions of Hispanic Americans from various countries around the world. Every aspect of our life, from entertainment to medicine to our most fundamental human rights, has drastically changed for the better because of these contributions.

Hispanic Americans have been enriching our lives with art and entertainment for more than a century. Baseball, for example, is called the Great American Pastime, but what would it be without the significant accomplishments of the Puerto Rican Hall-of-Famers Roberto Clemente and Orlando Cepeda? What would happen to our beloved Red Sox without Dominican powerhouse David Ortz? But baseball is not the only sport that has taken great strides due to Latin-American stars. Boxing has never been the same since five-time world champion Oscar de la Hoya left his mark (no pun intended).

Hispanic Americans have inspired the world through both visual and performing arts. For example, the great ballet dancer Fernando Bujones, who is known around the world for his grace and power. And who can forget the Puerto Rican starlet Rita Moreno, known best for her work in West Side Story. Moreno happens to be one of the only two female performers to ever receive all four of the entertainment industrys biggest awards: a Tony, a Grammy, an Oscar, and an Emmy. And of course, Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan maintains a successful film and music career, and is supported by millions of listeners around the globe.

There have been many Hispanic Americans throughout the past century who have taken it upon themselves to rectify immense social injustices in Americato stand up for whats righteven in the face of adversity. Hispanic influence reaches all the way back to the American Civil War with the loyalty and service of Admiral David G. Farragut. This Spanish-American hero joined the Navy when he was only ten years old, and eventually went on to defeat a Confederate fleet at the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. A man by the name of Juan Segun, who later became a Texas Senator, fought in the Battle of the Alamo for Texas independence from Mexico despite his Mexican heritage.

In the 20th century, the renowned Csar Chvez fought for social justice in California. Chvez had grown up in a family of poor immigrant farm workers. Being a Mexican-American farmer, he knew the plight of those farmers like his family who were forced to live in dirty, cramped spaces, and carry unfair burdens. In 1972, along with Latina activist Dolores Huerta, Chvez founded a group to change these awful conditions called the United Farm Workers of America. In 1982, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American to be elected to the U.S. Congress, and she continued to fight communism in Cuba and support human rights around the world for the duration of her life.

The dynamic world of science owes a great deal to the Hispanic American community as well. Beginning with Cuban-American physician Carlos Juan Finlay who discovered the mystery of yellow fever, there have been innumerable advances made in medicine, space travel, technology, and several other scientific fields. Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert made food healthier for all of those living in the southwest in the late 1800s. She taught people all over New Mexico and beyond safe ways to preserve food through canning and drying techniques. Years later, Severo Ochoa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his discovery of the process that allows humans to create RNA in a test tube. Ellen Ochoa also impacted science in a profound way when she became the first Hispanic woman astronaut.

Each of these accomplishments and triumphs are part of American history, a history we can all share in as our own. It is important to remember how truly diverse our home remains, and how diversely it continues to grow. In 2050, it is projected that Hispanics will constitute 24 percent of the nations total population. Thirteen states have at least half a million Hispanic residents. The nations Hispanic population has doubled since the 1990 census. Hispanics have a higher concentration of preschoolers (11%) among their population than any other race or ethnic group. Hispanic heritage is not just a piece of our past;

it is an integral part of the future we will enjoy together as a magnificent, ever-changing American culture. Stanley Crouch once put forth, You have an ethnic heritage and you have a human heritage. Your human heritage includes everything of human value. Como un humano en este pas, puedo decir con honor que El Mes que Celebran Los Hispanos ocupa una parte importante en mi corazn.

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