A summary from the article Contributions To The USA
When we say “Hispanic,” whom are we talking about? For sure, they are not one nationality, nor one culture. Instead, Hispanics are greatly diverse people. Their cultural and linguistic origins are Spanish and Latin American, regardless of race and color. They can be of European, Indian or African descent, or any combination of these three. They can have cultural ties to Mexico, the Caribbean countries, Central America, South America or Spain itself.
Most Americans believe that the history of the United States began at Plymouth Rock in 1620. But our history text books fail to tell us that when the Pilgrims were struggling to maintain their tiny colony, Spanish towns were already growing and flourishing in Florida, the Southwest and Puerto Rico.
Historians have generally ignored the fact that the first European settlement in North America was San Miguel de Gualdape, founded in Georgia in 1526, 81 years before Jamestown, which was settled in 1607.
We have learned a great deal about the great explorations of this continent by Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone and Zebulum Pike. But how many of us know about the equally great explorations that Hernando de Soto led in 1539 through present-day Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana? After reaching the mouth of the Mississippi River, de Soto’s expedition continued on through Arkansas and Texas until it reached Mexico. Shortly afterwards, another Spaniard, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, led an expedition through the present-day states of New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas.
In 1976, we celebrated the Bicentennial of our independence. How many of us know about the role that Hispanics played in helping us win that independence? For starters, King Carlos of Spain granted a credit of one million pounds--a large sum at the time--to the American colonists. The Spanish towns of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and others paid a special tax, levied by the Spanish Crown, which went to the Continental Congress to support the war effort.
Spanish was the first European language spoken in North America, and today, the U.S. is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
In addition to the names of rivers and mountains, there are 2,000 or more cities and towns in the United States with Spanish names, which appear in every state in the union. The state names of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Montana and Florida are Spanish..
America has been called the “breadbasket” of the world because our grains and produce have fed people throughout the world when they have been unable to feed themselves. But who first made this possible? Have we recognized the original leading role that Hispanics played in this essential area of food production?
Some statistics will help put this subject in perspective. About 80% of the world’s food plants originated in the New World. Of the 112 species of plants found north of Mexico, all but 9 were developed, cultivated and improved in Latin America, of which the potato and corn are probably the most important.
Hispanic Heritage Month (which is celebrated September 15 - October 15 in the United States) and its emphasis on Hispanic contributions to this country is profound and timely. It enables our society to become aware of what Hispanics have done and of their capacity to do even more. Also, it instills in the new generation of Hispanic Americans a pride in their heritage, out which a renewed spirit and confidence will emerge, as a harbinger of even greater things to come.
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