Part one of Six:
When people from Spain arrived in the Caribbean and then into North America, they were amazed by the beauty and the abundance of what they saw. Books such as “The Conquest of Paradise” and “1491” describe the travelers as delighted by the number of forests and animals which were not seen in Europe. Many times, when we hear of those years, the writings or discussions turns negative. As Hispanic Americans we have experienced these many times, but in his book “Our Hispanic Roots” by Carlos B. Vega, the author confronts this blight on society.
“How did it all begin? What made the United States the great nation that it is today? Many people would say that it all began in 1607 with the arrival of the English and, therefore, give full credit to England for forging the nation while perhaps acknowledging the contributions of other European nations, namely Germany and Holland. This has been the consensus for over 200 years continuing through today. However, this is not how the distinguished American historian Charles F. Lummis interpreted it when he wrote: If Spain had not existed 400 years ago, the United States would not exist today.”
Part Two of Six:
After a year of fighting to keep England out of North America, the U.S. in 1777 needed supplies and funding. Also, the morale of the American troops needed a boost. That is when Spain stepped up to assist the United States. The following from historian, Robert H. Thonhoff:
“Yes, indeed we all want the facts presented to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Unfortunately, the facts about Spain’s vital role during the American Revolution have been grossly overlooked and misrepresented for far too many years. Fortunately, relatively recent scholarship has brought to light new information from Spanish archives that would corroborate Anthony Burden’s presentation.”
When reading of Spain’s role in the War of 1776; this much is known. Spain was in control of Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Spain sent Mexican, Cuban, Dominican, El Salvadoran etc. soldiers to fight for America. History has documented how the wealthy women of Cuba and Mexico donated their jewelry to help support the fight against the English.
From John P. Bridge, Katy, Texas “During the course of the Revolution, the Colonies did ask for and received, several small loans from Spain which were ultimately repaid.” Rebuttal by Robert H. Thonhoff “On the contrary, the American Colonies requested and received loans of not only large amounts of money, (millions of pesos—the currency standard of the times) but also outright gifts of great amounts of food, uniforms, blankets, shoes, stockings, medicines, muskets, bayonets, cannons, cannon balls, musket balls, musket flints, lead, gunpowder, and other items, most of which was never repaid or paid for.
Part Three of Six:
John Tyler was Vice President of William Harrison. Harrison died in office in 1841, and Tyler became president. Tyler was pro-slavery, wanted to extend the political power of southern slave states and believed that annexation of Texas would help by adding another slave state to the country. Using the idea that it was God’s will for the U.S. to expand its territories, “Manifest Destiny” was used as a popular theme among southern politicians to set is goals on Mexican territory. Future President Abraham Lincoln as a U.S. Representative in the Illinois house of Representatives, strongly opposed the plan. The U.S. invaded Mexico in 1846. This move was unexpected by a at the time a weakened country. The U.S. would acquire a large amount of land from Mexico from the Southwest to as far north; including the tip of Kansas. This left the Mexican people living in the new territories subject to the laws and cultures of the Anglos who would soon take over their land. The southern culture of superiority over non-whites would cause the Mexican people now living in the U.S. a life of the second-class citizen and in many instances the loss of their land. Most did not speak nor understand English, but the rule of law was now in English. Mexico never did declare war on the United States in the War of 1846/1848; soon the southern politicians would begin planning a secret take-over of the United States. Many of these same military officers would in 1861 turn against their fellow-officers. The U.S. Civil War was a deadly war, fought by the South in order to continue the right to own slaves.
Part Four of Six:
The PBS video “Justice for my People” gives account of the story of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, who in March 1948 would make his presence known in the area of Civil Rights. Other Hispanics came before him, but his biography is vast and covers several pages, but briefly:
1942-46: Served in World War II as an infantry officer, Engineer and Medical Corps officer. He was awarded the Bronze Star with six battle stars.1948: Founded the American GI Forum of the United States of America – Veteran’s family organization.1952: Awarded “Medalla Al Merito” for work among Mexican Americans by the American GI Forum of Texas.1960-64: Served as National President of the Political Association of Spanish Speaking Organizations.1961: Representative of President Kennedy and member of American delegation signing treaty concerning Mutual Defense area Agreement between the United States and the Federation of the West Indies. Cesár Chavez was a U.S. Navy veteran and also was a student of Dr. Garcia, but Cesár had deep interest in the Farmworker and went on to found the United Farmworkers Union. Dr. Hector Garcia knew many Mexican American veterans in Texas. He would encourage them to join him in speaking up and to implement their own skills to bring the Hispanic into the mainstream of America.
Part Five of Six:
In 1924, the school district in Kansas City, Kansas would not allow Mexican children to attend the local high school. As a means of passive resistance, parents held their children out of school for a year. The County Attorney, Harry Hayward, took up their cause, stressing the legal requirement to provide separate but equal education. The case was brought before the Mexican Consul in Kansas City who threatened to bring in the United States State Department. Finally, the two Alvarado children and Marcos de Leon entered Argentine High School in the fall of 1926. Although many parties were involved in the victory, it is generally agreed that Saturnino Alvarado was the main force in the campaign.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) was founded in Corpus Christi, Texas in February 1929. In 1930 the Mexican community of Lemon Grove, California would not allow their children to be sent to a separate school, in 1947 Gonzalo Mendez court actions in Westminster, California would result in no more Mexican or any other separate schools in California. In March 1948 Dr. Hector P. Garcia founded the American GI Forum, a Hispanic Veterans, Family National Organization. On May 3, 1954 A group of Mexican American attorneys from Texas won in a U.S. Supreme Court landmark case. Two weeks later African Americans won in Washington DC in the Brown Vs. Topeka Board of Education Case.
In December 1955, Rosa Parks would be on the evening news for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus in Alabama. In 1960, African Americans began their Civil rights movement in earnest.
Part Six of Six:
In 1928 Lyndon B. Johnson taught the 5th, 6th and 7th grade in Cotulla, Texas. Johnson had a deep sympathy for his Hispanic students and the socioeconomic problems they faced. Unlike President Kennedy who was assassinated, President Johnson, would use his past experiences to assist the long-neglected Hispanic community. He made Hispanics as part of his administration Dr. Hector Garcia would work very hard to help John Kennedy to be elected president in 1960, but these efforts were soon forgotten. President Johnson had grown up with Mexicans in his home state of Texas and he appreciated their value, especially the military veterans. The following administration of President Richard M. Nixon also grew up with Hispanics.
Presidential Executive Order 3869, 1968, Issued by President Lyndon Johnson – Declared Hispanic Heritage Week.
Not to be outdone, the Sixteen-Point Federal Employment Plan, 1970, Issued by President Nixon – issued a comprehensive Plan aimed at increasing Hispanic representation in the Federal workforce. In 1973, the 16-point plan was renamed “Spanish-Speaking Program” to emphasize bilingual skills; and in 1978, the program was again renamed to what it is known as today, the “Hispanic Employment Program” (HEP).
Knowing and appreciating the Hispanic military veteran, the Congressional Action, Pub. L. No. 100-402 and Presidential Proclamation, August 17,1988, issued by President Ronald Reagan – Declared September 15 to October 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Month.