By Steve Walker
Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran, former Justice of the Peace and Journalist
For ten more days, we will continue to celebrate the contributions of Hispanics in the US and here in San Antonio, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to our country’s history.
Five Latin American countries—Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras—are countries from which many Latin Americans in the US and their ancestors have immigrated.
We recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate their heritage and culture.
Hispanics have had a pro- found and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multi-ethnic and multicultural customs of their community.
The term Hispanic or Latino, refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. On the 2010 Census form, people of Spanish, Hispanic and/ or Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”
Today, 57.5 million people or 18% of the American population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at
35.3 million or 13% of the total U.S. population. It should be noted that more than 300,000 Latinos enlist- ed in the American military and fought in World War II. On a personal note as a retired school teacher from Harlandale ISD and who also taught at “La Techla, SAISD, and La Memorial in Edgewood ISD, my 26 six years of teaching in the Hispanic community gave me a great appreciation for the Hispanic community. A number of my Hispanic stu- dents went on to be admitted to Yale, Harvard and other prestigious colleges. Notable Hispanic and Latino Americans include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Soto- mayor, Civil rights activists Dolores Huerta, (who I have marched with) Cesar Chavez. (I had the honor of interviewing him for KENS 5)
Many people forget that numerous Hispanics perished in the 9-11 terrorist attack in 2001 in New York. The Dominican community contributed the highest quota of fatalities, (25) among all the Hispanics who died in the carnage that fateful day. But today, 18 years after the terrorist attack, very few remember many of those victims and how it continues to affect their loved ones.
There are many examples of bravery that Hispanics were involved in over the years. Did you know 136,000 His- panic soldiers served in the United States Army? Did you know that Sixty one people of Hispanic heritage have been awarded the Medal of Honor?
Did you know the representation of Hispanic-Americans on active duty has increased by 10 percent during the past 30 years? In 1985, it was three percent, and in 2016 it is 13.7 percent. How about a Hispanic Medal of Honor Recipient from San Antonio, Cleto Rodriguez?
The words of President Franklin Roosevelt when Pearl Harbor was bombed, ring loud and clear many years later quote: “It is a day that will live in infamy.” It certainly applies to September 11th, 2001 for Hispanics as well as other citizens.
On a positive note closing in on the finale of National Hispanic Heritage Month, remember Hispanics have much to celebrate and much to reflect on to make the world a better place.
As always, I write “Just a Thought.”