National Hispanic Heritage Month

From mid-September to mid-October, this time period annually is set aside to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of those Americans with an Hispanic heritage. There will be numerous programs put on by the Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Gallery of Art. The continual theme is that of ‘many backgrounds, many stories … one American spirit’. It recognizes the ancestors who came from Spain, Mexico, South American, the Caribbean and Central America.

Over the centuries that the United States has existed, there have been numerous notable individuals who made huge cultural, scientific, military, political and artistic contributes to the American society. Some notable individuals artist Diego Rivera, actresses Rita Moreno and Rita Hayworth, David G. Farragut of the Navy, Carlos Noriega an astronaut, Diaz Arnaz in television, Severo Ochoa a Nobel prize winner in medicine, Sammy Sosa the baseball player, Geraldo Rivera in television, boxer Oscar de La Hoya, Anthony Quinn an actor, singer Joan Baez and Sonia Sotomayor a justice of the US Supreme Court.

The Hispanic heritage extends back to St. Augustine in Florida in the 1500s to the areas in New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California in the 1600s. The city of Santa Fe, New Mexico was founded by the Spaniards in 1610.

They have been a part of the major historical events over the years. Names like Bernardo De Galvez was a patriot during the American Revolutionary War in the 1770s helping to capture Baton rouge from the British in 1779. Many Hispanics were in Confederate and Union military units during the Civil War. It was Philip Bazaar and John Ortega who earned Medals of Honors serving in the Union Navy in the 1860s. During World War One there were 200,000 Hispanics fighting and some half a million Hispanic fought in World War II for America.

Across the nation today are many citizens of Hispanic lineage, some 48 million, making it the largest ethnic minority and most of Mexico lineage. In East Los Angeles, California there is a high overall percent of the population of Hispanic background. Additional areas with large numbers are in South Florida, Southern Texas, Southern California and in New Mexico.

Many locations in America have Spanish names; such as Alcatraz Island near San Francisco means pelican, Las Vegas in NV means meadows, Santa Fe means holy faith, Montana means mountain, Las Cruces, NM means crosses, Florida means flowery and Colorado means reddish for the mud color in the Colorado River.

There can easily be some Hispanic surnames in your family tree. The most common Hispanic family names in America are Garcia, Rodriguez, Martinez, Hernandez, Lopez, Gonzalez, Perez, Sanchez, Ramirez, Torres, Flores, Rivera, Gomez, Diaz, Reyes, Morales, Cruz, Ortiz, Gutierrez and Chavez. (NOTE -check the surname listing on for these and other Spanish surnames.)

Common words originally from Spanish and now part of the English language include mustang, mosquito, renegade, tuna, cargo, rodeo, cafeteria, tomato, jaguar, ranch, tobacco, hammock, cigar, patio, guerrilla and comrade.

So there is a good deal to investigate in your family lineage and see what ancestors had Hispanic ties.

Photo: Admiral David G. Farragut – 1863

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