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Many Americans Connect With Their Roots During National Hispanic Heritage Month… A Hispanic World Of Difference… Leaders Reflect On U. Florida's Hispanic Heritage

A Special Part Of Our Culture Many Americans Connect With Their Roots During National Hispanic Heritage Month


September 13, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Atlanta Journal - Constitution. All rights reserved.

During the next four weeks, we will be celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. But before we get started, let's look at a few reasons why this time is important.

The people in the United States are very diverse, which means we have differences.

First of all, we look different. We are of many races. The U.S. Census Bureau, which keeps track of such things, lists people according to these groups: "White, Black or African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, or Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander." But often the races have blended.

Second, we come from different parts of the world. Our families, recently or long ago, may have come from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, Australia or elsewhere in the Americas.

Third, we speak different languages. Although the main language of the United States is English, many citizens speak other languages.

Fourth, we have a variety of family customs. One family may go out to a restaurant to celebrate a birthday, but another might think it is very important to have a favorite home-cooked meal on that special day.

All these things (plus a whole lot more) make up what we call culture, or heritage. They help make us who we are.

Over the past 500 years, people from many cultures have moved here. The early explorers thought they had discovered a New World. But the tribes they met had ancestors who had been living in what we now call the Americas --- for thousands of years!

Sometimes these people are called Indians because the early explorers made a mistake. The explorers had been trying to get to India --- and thought they had arrived.

All of this is important to remember during National Hispanic Heritage Month. We are not celebrating the language or country or race of a people, but a part of our own culture.

The word Hispanic describes someone who has a family link to Spain --- even if it's from long ago. That means that somewhere in their personal history there is someone who could trace their roots to the early explorers or to countries where Spanish is spoken today.

It's hard to imagine what this country would be without Hispanic heritage. Our Hispanic brothers and sisters help make our great land what it is today. During the next few weeks, you can learn more about this in our Spanish for Everyone column.


The coqui --- a little frog --- is very popular in Puerto Rico. At night, it can be heard making a timid "ko-kee" sound. That's how it got its name. The male coqui begins an all-night serenade when the sun goes down. You can find the coqui almost everywhere on the island.


When people talk about Panama, they usually think of the modern canal that allows ships to travel between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. However, the narrow strip of land has served as the land bridge between the continents of North America and South America for thousands of years. Because of this, trade and commerce have been important to the people of Panama. By the mid-1800s, one of the most popular items to buy in Panama was what we know as the Panama hat. But it did not start in Panama. It originated in Ecuador. Can you find it on the map? (Hint: It's between Colombia and Peru.)


Mariachi bands are a famous part of Mexican culture. They started in the 1800s in the state of Jalisco in southern Mexico. The lively songs they play include one you may have heard, "La Cucaracha," which means "The Cockroach."


You may be surprised, but the potato first was grown in Peru thousands of years ago. It was a crop in the Andes Mountains. It was not known in Europe until Spanish explorers introduced it in the 1500s.


This is the second-largest country in South America. It is known for its cattle and cowboys, who are called gauchos.


SPANISH EXPLORERS were introduced to many foods they had never seen before.

Here are some of the great New World foods they tried: tomatoes, chocolate, avocados, squash, pumpkins, peanuts and corn.

On the flip side, the explorers introduced some Old World foods to people in the Americas. One of them, a fruit called the ''coco,'' is in this Spanish tongue twister --- or trabalenguas:

Como poco coco, poco coco compro.

(KOH-moh POH-koh KOH-koh,

POH-koh KOH-koh KOHM-proh)

So what is a coco?

Answer: A coconut!

Here is what the tongue twister means in English: "Since I eat little coconut, little coconut I buy." Map A colorful map of Mexico, Central America and South America. Included are illustrations of things mentioned in the story: a gaucho on horseback in Argentina, a coqui --- a little frog --- in Puerto Rico, a boat on the Panama Canal, a Mariachi performer in Mexico and a potato in Peru. / DALE DODSON / Staff Photo A coconut Photo A peanut Photo A tomato Graphic HERITAGE CONTEST! WIN A BIG PRIZE

IF YOU'RE IN fourth through eighth grade, you can enter the Hispanic Heritage Art Contest. Here are the prizes: a $2,250 savings bond for first place; a $1,000 savings bond for second place; a $500 savings bond for third place; and a $250 savings bond for honorable mention.

The contest is sponsored by News for Kids and the Ford Motor Co.

You'll need to take a photo or make artwork of someone of Hispanic descent. Then explain in four paragraphs or less why you chose that person.

Complete rules and the entry form you must use are on Page E3.

Entries must be received by Oct. 15.

A Hispanic World Of Difference

By Raul A. Reyes

September 21, 2004
Copyright © 2004
USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

Growing up, I looked forward every Friday to The Brady Bunch and its idealized depiction of a typical American family.

I liked the firm, yet kind, parents, Mike and Carol. I empathized with Jan, a fellow middle child. I giggled at the wisecracking housekeeper, Alice. Although my enjoyment of the television show was tempered by the realization that there was no room on its trademark grid of smiling faces for a brown face like mine, I loved the Bradys nonetheless.

In contrast, I often thought my own familia was a drag. My Dad wouldn't let us eat grapes or lettuce because he was boycotting them in support of Cesar Chavez's efforts on behalf of underpaid field workers. Mom served rice and beans - which I didn't like - at most meals. And my aunts insisted on speaking to me and my brothers in Spanish, in a vain attempt to make us bilingual. I didn't appreciate their efforts. I didn't want to be called mi'jo. I just wanted to be like other kids.

However, when I watched TV or movies or read the newspaper, I had a distinct feeling of being different in a not-so-good way. Back then, I rarely saw Latin people on television, with the exception of Desi Arnaz (on I Love Lucy reruns) and Charo (on The Love Boat).

In films, Hispanic characters were usually maids, prostitutes or scary drug dealers. On the news, whenever Mexicans were mentioned, it was in connection with illegal immigration or gangs. Sometimes I wondered whether other people thought we were all lowlifes or spoke with an accent.

Every year, when Hispanic Heritage Month rolls around (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15), I think back to my culturally conflicted childhood. I grew up in Southern California in a diverse community where I never felt like a "minority."

At school, I studied alongside white, Asian and other Hispanic kids, so ethnicity usually was not an issue. It was only when I looked beyond my home and my community that ambivalence took root and threatened the self-esteem my parents had worked so hard to nurture.

While Dad and Mom encouraged me to be proud of my background, a disconnect persisted between what I was told at home and what I saw in the real world.

Nowadays, the world has changed, and the Hispanic influence in this country is booming, wrapped up in economic power, political influence and pop-culture accolades.

Population: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, we've become the nation's largest minority group, 39 million strong. From 1990 through 2000, in fact, the increase in the Hispanic population was a whopping 58%.

Immigration: Latino immigrants to the USA are estimated at 400,000 annually, the largest flow in U.S. history.

Economy: Latino purchasing power also is on the rise. The 2000 Census reported a median Hispanic income of $33,000, the highest ever. Corporations have rushed to embrace the burgeoning Hispanic market.

Pop culture: Entertainers and athletes (think J. Lo and A-Rod) have become household names and, more than that, role models and icons for children of all races.

Most important, though, Hispanics have made historic headway in American politics.

A new generation of political players has emerged, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, and Reps. Linda and Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., the first sisters ever to serve in Congress.

Just last week, President Bush and Democratic contender John Kerry dueled over who would do more for Hispanics, the voting bloc that might determine the next occupant of La Casa Blanca.

Both parties have mounted outreach efforts aimed at Latinos: "Viva Bush" and "Unidos Con Kerry." Bush has cozied up to Hispanics with his guest-worker proposal for immigrants, while earlier this year, the Democrats aired the first-ever Spanish rebuttal to the State of the Union address. Both sides are spending record amounts on Spanish-language advertising.

So after being overlooked for so long, suddenly it's hip to be Hispanic. As a kid, I resolved my identity issues right at our dining-room table. On Sunday evenings, my relatives - teachers, nurses and social workers - would gather for my mother's delicious enchiladas and chile rellenos. They told stories about the old days, before they all attended college, back when they lived in el barrio.

Aunt Emma liked to remind everyone that she was the first Latina on her college tennis team. Aunt Lola told me how my Grandpa escaped the Mexican Revolution, chased by Pancho Villa, and started over in Texas. Dad would play his Vikki Carr records, and if it was someone's birthday, we celebrated with a piñata.

On such nights, surrounded by living proof of Latino achievements, I learned to appreciate my cultural inheritance. In our own way, I realized, we were as all-American as Los Bradys.

Raul A. Reyes is a writer and attorney in New York City.

Leaders Reflect On U. Florida's Hispanic Heritage

By Gavin Baker, Independent Florida Alligator (U. Florida)

17 September 2004


(c) 2004 U-Wire. All Rights Reserved.

(C) 2003 Independent Florida Alligator Via U-WIRE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In 1822, America's newest territory -- a backwater Indian hideout called Florida -- elected its first delegate to Congress. Joseph Marion Hernandez thus became the first Hispanic to serve in the U.S. representative body.

The intervening 182 years have reshaped Florida, but the Latin spice has remained.

In recognition of the contributions Hispanics have made to America, Congress declared a National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. Twenty years later, it was expanded to Sept. 15 through Oct. 15.

Today, Hispanic-Latino Heritage Month reigns at UF, as a flurry of events bloom across campus.

UF has one of the largest and most diverse Hispanic student populations of any U.S. university, as well as the most Hispanic-based student organizations, said Leticia Martinez, director of the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures.

"Hands down, no one comes close," she said.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the institute, or La Casita --

a home away from home for Hispanic students.

"I came here straight from Puerto Rico, and I was lost," said Kristymarie Flores, a UF student and student outreach director for this year's Hispanic Student Assembly.

Flores said that while restaurants such as Fritanga Latin Grill and Emiliano's Cafe provide a familiar environment, the real place where Hispanic students meet is La Casita.

"Everything you need is here," she said.


One person with firsthand experience of UF's Hispanic legacy is Manny Fernandez. Born in Cuba, Fernandez came to UF in 1964 as a student. He's now the chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Fernandez said he was part of the significant Cuban population at the time, but due to the lack of Hispanic-oriented resources he was expected to integrate with the non-Hispanic community -- an inclusiveness he said was beneficial.

UF was "the perfect melting pot for me," Fernandez said.

He pointed out that the "great amount" of financial aid aimed at Hispanics enabled many of his peers to complete their educations at UF.

Fernandez said UF must continue the tradition of financial aid in order to compete with other top-fleet universities for well-qualified students, particularly minorities.

He added he is proud of the university's minority recruitment.

"We have made tremendous progress in the last 4 to 5 years," he said.

Hispanic enrollment at UF still is not proportional to state population, he said. UF must continue proactive recruitment to create a "fully diverse" environment of both students and faculty, he said.

"Bernie (Machen) is doing a fabulous job," he said of the UF president's commitment to diversity.


A generation apart, Jared Hernandez has his sights set squarely on Nov. 2.

"I'm the generation that's just begun to reassert our cultural heritage," said Hernandez, a UF student of Puerto Rican descent and executive director of Chomp the Vote, an initiative aimed at increasing voter registration among students.

"Hispanic-Latino voting is something that's very personal to me," he said.

He requested Spanish-language voter registration cards as part of the initiative and had a representative from Chomp the Vote at Monday's Hispanic Student Assembly.

Hispanic students in particular have "the potential to be a very decisive group" in the upcoming Nov. 2 elections, Hernandez said.

In response to hearing there are more Hispanic students at UF than there are Hispanics registered to vote in Alachua County, Fla., Hernandez said, "It's a shame."

He called it disappointing but not surprising and described it as work yet to be done.

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