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Hot Topics: National Hispanic Heritage Month

Last update: August 27, 2014

The U.S. Government, in wanting to recognize the accomplishments of Hispanic-American citizens created by Public Law 90-498 National Hispanic Heritage Week on September 17, 1968. The law was later amended by Public Law 100-402 expanding the event to National Hispanic Heritage Month on August 17, 1988.

What is a Hispanic?
Let's start by saying what it is not. It is not a racial identification. Hispanic is more of a regional identification like saying "North American." What is a Hispanic? Hispanics come in all sizes and shapes. There are Jewish, Arab, Asian, Indian, Black and White Hispanics as well as brown. What most Americans perceive as brown is actually a mix of Indian and White. When Spanish explorers settled the Americas, they did not bring families with them like the English settlers did when they arrived in the U.S. The Spanish explorers were mostly soldiers and priests, etc. As a result, the soldiers intermarried with the Indian women they found in the countries they explored. The result was a new racial identity known as mestizos. In time, mestizos became the middle class and the largest population.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines Hispanic Origin as:

Persons of Hispanic origin were identified by a question that asked for self-identification of the person's origin or descent. Respondents were asked to select their origin (and the origin of other household members) from a "flash card" listing ethnic origins. Persons of Hispanic origin, in particular, were those who indicated that their origin was Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Hispanic origin. It should be noted that persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

from: The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 1993, Current Population Reports, Population Characteristics, Series P20-475.

Religioius Identity?
Since Spain was a Roman Catholic country and they sent priests to help settle the Americas, the most prominent religious identity for most Hispanics is Roman Catholic. Yet, during the past 30 or 40 years there has been an increase of Hispanic Protetstants. According to the CIA World Factbook, 6.6% of Mexico's population is Protestant, Nicaragua is 23.2%, Chile is at 16.4%, 15% in Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica is 14.4%.

Where do you find Hispanics?
In the United States, Hispanics can be found in large urban centers like New York City, New Orleans, Seattle, etc., in rural areas, and in former land owned by Mexico. At one time, Mexico's territory included California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and Colorado to name just a few. The vast majority of Hispanics in the United States come from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Mexico because of its former land holdings and due to economic problems in that country; Cuba, in order to escape the Castro regime; and Puerto Rico because it became a U.S. territory as a result of the Spanish-American War. But in recent years, more and more Hispanic immigrants are coming from Central and South America largely due to political and economic instability in those regions. Check out the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 and 2010 Census website to find the number of Hispanics in your community.

What are the Hispanic Origin Population Projections?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1997 Population Profile of the United States (pgs. 7-8), by the year 2050 Hispanics will become the largest minority in the U.S. at 24% surpassing 15% for African-Americans.

According to the 2010 Census , the Hispanic community is the largest minority in the country at 50,477,594 or 16.3% of the U.S. population compared to African-Americans at 38,929,319 or 12.6% of the U.S. population.

Spanish Speaking Countries in the Americas

Map of Latin America

North America Mexico
Central America Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama
Caribbean Sea Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico (U.S. Territory)
South America Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay

Independence Day Dates in Latin America

Argentina: July 9, 1810 Guatemala: September 15, 1821
Boivia: August 8, 1825 Honduras: September 15, 1821
Chile: September 18, 1810 Mexico: September 16, 1810
Colombia: July 20, 1810 Nicaragua: September 15, 1821
Costa Rica: September 15, 1821 Panama: November 3, 1903
Cuba: December 10, 1898 Paraguay: May 14, 1811
Dominican Republic: February 27, 1844 Peru: July 28, 1821
Ecuador: May 24, 1822 Puerto Rico: U.S. territory
El Salvador: September 15, 1821 Uruguay: August 25, 1825
Venezuela: July 5, 1811

Source: CIA World Factbook

Issues Confronting Hispanics

Contribution of Hispanics

Well Known Hispanics

Martin Sheen
(born: Ramon Estevez)
Hispanic-American Actor

Asian-Hispanic Alberto Fujimori
Peruvian President (1990 - 2000)

Desi Arnaz
Cuban Band Leader/Actor/Producer

Simón Bolívar

Liberator of Venezuela, Colombia,
Panama, Ecuador,
Peru and Bolivia

Ellen Ochoa

invented optical analysis systems and
was also the world's first
Hispanic female astronaut -
Invention Dimension.

Jorge Luis Borges
Argentinian Writer

Cameron Diaz
Cuban-American Actress

Cristobal Colón
Discoverer of the New World

Roberto Clemente
Puerto Rican Black Hispanic
Major League Baseball Player
Beyond Baseball: The Life of Roberto Clemente
National Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown)

Julio Iglesias

Enrique Iglesias

Father and Son Hispanic Singing Sensations

Sonia Sotomayor
Associate Supreme Court Justice
of the U.S. Supreme Court

Cesar Chavez
Cesar Chavez Day
Hispanic American Activist

Carlos Santana
Rock'n Roll Guitarist

Admiral David Farragut
1st Admiral of the U.S. Navy
"damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

Hilda Solis
Secretary of Labor
(2009 - 2013)
Obama Administration

Franklin Ramon Chang-Diaz

Donna De Varona
Olympic Gold Medalist in Swimming
Ranks 82nd in Sports Illustrated
List of 100 Greatest Female Athletes

First Female Sportscaster in Network TV
Older sister of Joanna Kerns

Joanna Kerns
Actress and Director
born: Joanne Crussie De Varona
Sister of Olympic Swimmer Donna De Varona

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