Hispanics- Long-Time A Part of American Culture

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October 15th marks the end of the national celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Over the past month in many cities and towns throughout the country people have come together to celebrate the Hispanic/Latino culture, which has been a part of American culture for a long time

Hispanics have populated in what is now the United States since the 16th century, longer than any group other than Native Americans. Still the topic of immigration, particularly Hispanic immigration, continues to evoke strong opinions. Unfortunately the controversy has blinded our ability to clearly recognize the vital and vibrant role that Latinos have played in American cultural history.

Over a hundred years ago, the great American poet, Walt Whitman said “I have an idea that there is much of importance about the Latin contributions to American nationality that will never be put with sympathetic understanding and tact on the record.” Many years later Whitman’s statement still exposes a great truth.

The list of significant and influential Hispanic/Latinos is long Hispanic and Latino Americans have held important positions at all levels of Government and made many contributions to the United States in all major fields; such as politics, the military, sports, economics and science. Hispanics also have made lasting contributions in the Arts. American literature has felt the Hispanic influence. The English language uses many words with Spanish origins.

Carlos Juan Finlay through his findings of the mystery of what caused yellow fever led in the discovery of a vaccine against this deadly disease.

Severo Ochoa won the Nobel prize in Medicine for his discovery of the process that would allow humans to create RNA in a test tube.

Antonia Novello was the first woman ever to be appointed US surgeon General. Mario Molina who made important discoveries about the danger of chemicals to the earth’s atmosphere. And there are many unsung heroes never noted in history. For example, the tens of thousands Latino heroes deployed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Our Hispanic culture is rich, and infused with a strong emphasis on family networks and loyalty to local communities. So, on the tail end of this celebration of Hispanic Culture it is important to remind us that there is more to the Hispanic Latino people than good food and music. And like other groups who have made their mark in this country, Latino’s contributions have been as valuable.

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