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Every year, from September 15 to October 15, the United States celebrates National Hispanic Heritage month. During this time, Americans recognize the history, culture, and endless contributions of one of the largest and most influential cultural groups in the United States – Hispanic Americans.
September 15 was chosen as the start date because it is the anniversary of Independence for several Latin American countries, such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Other countries’ Independence Day anniversaries are also included in Hispanic Heritage Month as they happen to fall during the month of September. Mexico celebrates Independence day on September 16, and Chile celebrates it on the 18th.
During this month, Hispanic and Latin Americans are credited for their positive contributions to the American history, society, and culture. Starting with the first Spanish and Portuguese settlements in South America and the Caribbean during the 15th century, the Americas have been shaped by the cultures and norms brought over from Europe and Latin countries.
Parts of North America, too, were once Spanish settlements. States like Florida and California were influenced by early European conquistadors and missionaries from Spain. In fact, Hispanics have been in America far longer than English speakers have been, and they’ve been playing a pretty important role throughout our history. Below are some major ways that Hispanic Americans helped the United States become the beautiful country it is today.
Founding of America’s Oldest City
Spanish explorers founded St. Augustine in Florida in 1565, specifically admiral Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. This is the oldest established European city in the continental United States, which gives it the nickname “Ancient City.” St. Augustine certainly has the look of an old Spanish town with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, quaint cafes, and strong forts. The very first American church, first hospital, first school, and first city plan were all built in St. Augustine by Spanish settlers, paving the way for many more American cities to come.
When the 13 colonies set out to gain Independence from Great Britain, they could not have succeeded without the help of their Hispanic allies. We celebrate our Independence on the 4th of July every year, but very few remember to thank our Cuban allies, who donated their own possessions, money, and jewelry to help fund George Washington’s war; or Bernardo de Gálvez, who was the Spanish-born governor of Louisiana who helped Washington by smuggling supplies to the American rebels and establishing free trade with Cuba and other Latin countries so as to cease any financial ties with Britain. As a military general, Gálvez also carried out a massive military campaign and defeated British military forces on many occasions, eventually leading to the success of the Revolution.
Making Quality Education Available to Everyone
You may think that it was the Supreme Court’s landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that, for the first time, made school segregation illegal. However, what most people don’t know is that this decision was reached as a result of an earlier case that involved a group of 5 Mexican American fathers: Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Gonzalo Mendez, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez.
In 1946, 8 years before Brown v. Board of Education, these heroic fathers challenged the widespread racial segregation in Orange County, CA. Their children, along with 5,000 others who were of Hispanic decent, were forced to attend separate “Mexican” schools. The court sided with the fathers and stated that in California it is unconstitutional to segregate students based on their nationality and skin color. This paved the way for the big decision 8 years later, which desegregated schools in the rest of the country, and allowed everyone to have access to a quality education regardless of their skin color.
Shaping Our Culture
United States is often called the “melting pot” because many different cultures, cuisines, and traditions brought here from all corners of the world are mixed together to become one. Hispanic and Latin American influences are felt in many aspects of our culture. For example, hundreds of Spanish words have become part of our dialect (and we might not even know it) such as: “bodega”, “armadillo”, “banana”, “California”, “cafeteria”, and many more.
Latin American music has been influencing pop music in this country since the Argentine Tango went viral in the 1930s.
The presence of Latino immigrants brought with it the exciting flavors of hispanic cuisine, such as salsa, tacos, burritos, empanadas, Jamaican beef patties and chipotle spices. Some of these foods have become so American we forget their true origins – Doritos, anyone?
Strengthening Our Economy
Despite what you may hear from certain presidential candidates, the presence of 40 million immigrants in the US, many of whom are from Latin American countries, has been proven to stimulate the economy and increase our GDP. While the Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce at the rate of 10,000 retirees per day, the labor gap is being filled by working class Americans and immigrants alike.
Additionally, Latin American immigrant workers have increased the US housing market by $3.7 trillion by revitalizing, stabilizing and driving up demand for less popular neighborhoods. Latin Americans are also more likely than any other ethnic group to start their own businesses.
Sharemoney Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Americans have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community. Sharemoney recognizes these contributions and celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month!
Celebrate with us. Between now and October 15, use the code below to send a free money transfer to your loved ones!
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