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The Hispanic Heritage and Culture in North America

When it comes to Hispanic heritage and culture in North America, it can be easy to forget that it’s at the roots of what we call the Americas today. This is not some recent development or a fringe group on the outside. Hispanic heritage is central to understanding how these countries formed. Indeed, thinking about America, things like cowboys, mustangs, chili, barbeque or even the dollar sign, all have their roots deep in the Hispanic foundation of these nations.

The United States

Let’s take a quick look at the United States as an example. While many states have names taken from native cultures or that were references to Europe, five of them have Hispanic roots. Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Florida and California are all Spanish names. Four more them have names that are actually Hispanic versions of native names: Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas).

This makes sense, of course and sheds light on how far back the Hispanic tradition in this country goes. Until about the mid-19th century, these states were all part of what was known as New Spain. After independence, they were then a part of Mexico. So long before they were United States, they were Hispanic ones.

The Spanish Language

Technically, the Hispanic language and culture were both part of the modern American fabric as soon as the US started growing west of the Mississippi and south of North and South Carolina.

For more than 80 years, the country continued moving into the Hispanic sphere of the Americas. Each time it did, the cultures mixed and the Hispanic roots became more and more a part of what we know today as Americana. During this time period, the country annexed or otherwise occupied Florida, Texas, Northern Mexico, Puerto Rico and the Panama Canal Zone.

Interestingly enough, the oldest transcripts we have about European explorers settling the Americas are in Spanish and they predate any of the territories we just mentioned. 42 years before Europeans founded Jamestown, St. Augustine—still the oldest European town—located in Florida was started (1565).

The Dollar

Perhaps one of our most enduring symbols, the dollar, actually has Hispanic roots. Until the mid-19th century, international commerce depended on Spanish currency, which served as a de facto but consistent form for trade purposes.

Even the US dollar sign may have the Spanish to thank. It’s believed by many that it comes from symbols that were used on Spanish currency, which would have been circulated all over the country centuries ago.

Hispanic Heritage Week

One way that the Hispanic heritage of America is remembered is with Hispanic Heritage Month. It begins on September 15th, which is interesting because you might expect that it would begin on the 1st, as these months always do. This day was chosen because it’s independence day for five different Spanish speaking countries in the Americas. These include Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Mexico celebrates their independence from Spain the next day and Chile holds theirs on September 188th.

Technically, this type of celebration has been going on long before Lyndon Johnson made the first Spanish Heritage Week (it would become a month twenty years later). It started way back when the Spanish colonies were first made part of the Americas.

The Hispanic Population

Although Hispanic roots go deep into the Americas, the US’s Hispanic population really began growing during the last quarter century or so, though this probably has more to do with improvements in tracking immigration numbers.

The country first added “Mexican” to its list of ethnic origins back in 1930. Ten years later, they would add the designation of “persons of Spanish mother tongue.” Finally, in 1980, the term finally became broad enough to fit people of all Hispanic backgrounds by creating the “Spanish/Hispanic” designation.

Today, we actually know that there are more people of Hispanic ethnicity in the US (and certainly the rest of the Americas) than there are in all of Spain. However, only Colombia and Mexico have greater Hispanic populations than the United States does.

To consider how much this number has grown in such a small period of time, consider that back in 1970, the US was home to some 9.6 million Hispanics according to the Census Bureau. Fast forward 30 years and that number has grown to 35.5 million people. That’s roughly 12.5% of the population. By 2006, that number became 15%.

Hispanics Today

Unfortunately, many people of Hispanic descent in the Americas today are facing poverty. Part of this has to do with how bad the economy has been for close to a decade now. However, people of Hispanic descent have long been over-represented by statistics regarding the impoverished in the Americas.

Part of the problem is simply that many come from impoverished families, so it becomes difficult to grow up and grow out of these situations. Many may even be suffering from poor financial habits brought on by their parents.

Another handicap they face is that most are the children of parents who never went to college. As such, statistically, they’re less likely to go to a four year school. The problem may start much earlier though, with high school programs that aren’t designed to meet the needs of our Hispanic youths, especially those who may face special challenges (as many of America’s children do).

Obviously, these problems then compound themselves when it comes time to enter or thrive in the workforce. Without the skill set they need, many Hispanic adults either go without work or take on jobs that pay less than they should be making, given their skill level.

Here at Hunter Don Hispanos, we promote well being amongst the underprivileged Hispanic sections in the Americas. Given their huge contributions to these countries, it would be a shame if Hispanic people were not able to better themselves. Fortunately, we believe in the Hispanic spirits of these nations and are confident they will pull through, endure and even thrive. If the past is anything to go by, it’s happened before.

JG

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