Hispanics, making a positive impact on America

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ray Sandoval
  • 18th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
In September 1988, Congress proclaimed that the U.S. would celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month each year from Sept. 15 thru Oct. 15. 

The term Hispanic is defined as those with hereditary roots to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Central or South America. It is a regional identification rather than one of race. Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated at this time of year because of the independence anniversary for five Latin American countries--Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico declared its independence September 16, and Chile September 18. 

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated not only to share in the festivities and culture but also to embrace the influence and impact this unique group of races has had on the United States. The influence of Hispanic culture in the United States can be seen in the food, music and even our vocabulary. The Spanish language has contributed to over 10,000 words used in the U.S. Foods indigenous to Hispanic countries, which are widely used today, include: chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, beans, squash, avocados, coconuts, corn and tomatoes. 

Hispanics have also made a positive influence in government, economics, the military and science and technology. Those of great influence include former U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzalez who held the highest office by a Hispanic in U.S. history. He was also featured in "Time Magazine" as one of the top 25 most influential Hispanics. Others include Ellen Ochoa, who in 1991 became the first female Hispanic astronaut. Noble Prize Winners include Luiz Walter Alvarez and Severo Ochoa. 

The Hispanic presence in the U.S. military has been felt since the Civil War era, with 39 earning the Medal of Honor and 1.1 million serving their country today. 

The population has grown to nearly 45 million making Hispanics the number one minority in the country. Hispanics have also made a great impact in economics. Nearly two million own businesses which generate more than $200 billion in revenue for our economy. 

Hispanics may come from an array of nationalities, but this time of year they are united in recognition of their culture, heritage and pride for their continued positive impact in American society.