Challenging SB1070 in Arizona

On April 25, 2012, the US Supreme Court heard the case brought by the US Department of Justice against the State of Arizona’s SB1070 anti-immigrant law.  The controversial law has been heatedly debated throughout the nation.  The following is the opening statement, as prepared for delivery, by US Congressional Representative Luis V. Gutierrez: “The Obama Administration’s case against Arizona’s SB1070 is an important effort by the Attorney General and the President to take a stand against racial profiling. They are showing that when injustice is condoned by individual states in express violation of the Constitution, the federal government can and will take action to protect the rights of its people.”  (Photo by Arasmus Photo)

Hispanicize 2012

Hispanicize 2012 opened on April 10, 2012 in Miami, Florida.  Their web site describes the event as:  “Hispanicize 2012 brings brands, media, marketers, celebrities, filmmakers, innovators and bloggers together in a unique creative environment focused on creative ideas and best practices. The conference is a launch pad for creative endeavors, new products, technologies, marketing campaigns, films, books and more targeting Latinos.” As of 2017, Hispanicize is in its 8th year, continuing to inspire Latinos and Latinas in the Media.  Please visit the Hispanicize FaceBook Page.

Billboard’s Spirit of Hope and Lifetime Achievement Awards 2010

On April 29, 2010, Puerto Rican pop superstar Marc Anthony received Billboard’s Spirit of Hope Award, and the iconic Mexican group Los Temerarios earned Billboard’s Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Anthony was awarded the Spirit of Hope Award for his philanthropic efforts, including his work for the Children’s Health Fund, Make-a-Wish Foundation and ING’s Run for Something Better school-based fitness program. Los Temerarios were recognized for their 30-year cross-cultural career and for expanding the appreciation of Latin music.  Los Temerarios has earned 39 titles on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, more than any other act in the chart’s history.

Alejandra Castillo, US Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

On April 12, 2010, Alejandra Castillo was appointed by the Obama Administration as National Deputy Director of the US Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA).   The MBDA serves minority entrepreneurs across America who are building and growing businesses.  Castillo writes, “My advice to young Hispanics just starting out would be to pursue your dreams, follow your passion and strive to be the best in every aspect of your professional pursuit.  It is critical that as Latino/Hispanics we place education at the core of one’s foundation for growth and advancement.  … I live through my Abuela’s refranes, especially “haz bien y no mires a quien. (Do good onto others without regard to who they are.)”

“Selena Vive!”

“Selena Vive!” aired live on April 7, 2005, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of Selena Quintanilla-Pérez.  Jennifer Lopez starred as Selena.  According to Nielsen ratings, the show earned a 35.9 Hispanic Television index rating, which translates into 3.9 million viewing households.  It was the highest rating ever for a Spanish-language TV special. “The Selena legacy continues unabated,” stated Jorge Pino, president/ chairman of EMI Music US Latin. “And what we were able to see in the concert is that her fan base is made up of older and younger people.”

Hispanic Business Magazine 2005 Woman of the Year

Hispanic Business Magazine, a leading English language publication, announced on April 4, 2005, that attorney Brigida Benitez won their 2005 Woman of the Year (WOY) Award.  Benitez was one of the principal attorneys for the University of Michigan in the affirmative action cases that were heard by the Supreme Court in 2003. These affirmative action cases were in courts for six years.  Benitez worked on the project from the first filing in Michigan to the final oral arguments before the Supreme Court, winning a landmark case for diversity in the US. Benitez now serves as Chief of the Office of Institutional Integrity of the Inter-American Development Bank.

Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera

On April 26, 1998, Monsignor Juan José Gerardi Conedera was beaten to death, two days after releasing a four-volume report on atrocities by the Guatemalan military during the decades of the Guatemalan Civil War (1960 to 1996).  Conedera was a Guatemalan Roman Catholic bishop and human rights defender, who was viewed as a moderate reformer.  A United Nations-backed peace accord formally ended the 30-year conflict in 1996.  Over 200,000 civilians had died, more than 90% of them killed and often tortured by the army.  Retired Guatemala Colonel Byron Disrael Lima Estrada, who attended the US School of the Americas in the 1960s, was arrested for involvement in the crime.

“Selena Day” (1995)

Former US President George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, declared April 16, 1995, as “Selena Day”, two weeks after the death of Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Selena born in on April 16, 1971 in Lake Jackson, Texas.  Her father recognized her talent at age 6. She won her first Grammy in 1993 for Best Mexican American Performance for her album “Selena Live”. In addition to her fabulous voice and charismatic stage presence, Selena was an activist in anti-drug and AIDS Awareness causes.  Her death was mourned throughout North America.

Emily Clara Rios

Happy Birthday to Emily Clara Rios, a Mexican-American actress and model born in Los Angeles, California, on April 27, 1989.  Rios has starred in numerous television and film roles.  She played the lead role in the acclaimed indie movie, “Quinceañera”, a story of a young Latin American woman’s coming of age in our turbulent, cross-cultural times.

“Fernandomania” (1985)

With the whisper whip of a speeding baseball cutting through the air on April 28, 1985, Mexican American Fernando Valenzeula pitched the conclusion of five shutouts during an eight-game winning streak to start the season. “Fernandomania” became a national epidemic.   The 20-year old Valenzeula is left-handed, with an incredible screwball pitch that confounded the pros of his time.  After a Major League career from 1980 to 1996, Valenzuela retired as the leading Mexican-born pitcher in Major League history.  In 2003, he returned to assist his former team, the Dodgers, as a Spanish-language color commentator.

America Georgina Ferrera

Happy Birthday to America Georgina Ferrera, the Hispanic American actress best known for her lead role in the television comedy series, “Ugly Betty”.   California-born Ferrera is the daughter of Honduran immigrants.  In an interview with Back Stage West, she related that her mother had immigrated “for the sole purpose that my siblings and I could get an education, could have every opportunity in the business world, and whatever we wanted to pursue would be at our fingertips.”  Ferrera studied theater and international relations at the University of Southern California.  She starred in numerous and diverse roles in her young life, including “Real Women have Curves”, “How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”.

US CIA meddling in Central America (again)

On April 10, 1984, the US Senate formally condemned the mining of the harbor of Nicaragua.  As part of their effort to assist the Contras, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) placed explosive mines in the Nicaraguan harbor in a covert operation, without permission from the US government.  (As a certain former Texas Governor would say, Oops!)  Nicaragua sued the US in the World Court, and in June 1986 the World Court ruled that the US was guilty of violating international law.

Henry Cisneros, Politician

Henry Cisneros was elected as mayor of San Antonio on April 4, 1981, the first Hispanic mayor since Texas joined the US.  He earned a BA from Texas A&M University, an MA from Harvard University, and a Ph D in public administration from George Washington University.  In 1975, he was selected as a White House Fellow.   President Bill Clinton appointed him to the Cabinet level post of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1993.  Cisneros was later tarnished by a scandal involving payments to his mistress.  In 1997, Cisneros was named to lead Univision Communications, a leading Spanish language media company.

Carlos Iván Beltrán

Happy birthday to Carlos Iván Beltrán, a leading baseball outfielder from Puerto Rico.  Beltrán has played for the Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants.   He was the eighth player in Major League Baseball history to have a 3 2-run HR game (2011).   With his hard earned millions, Beltrán founded and funded a nonprofit in Puerto Rico, stating that, “My mission is to give young people opportunities and allow them to become well-rounded individuals while providing them with the necessary guidance to take control of their future while using both sports and education as their main tools to achieve their goals.” (Photo by Carlos Beltran Academy Web site.)

General Juan Alberto Melgar Castro

On April 22, 1975, General Juan Alberto Melgar Castro took power in an overthrow of the government in Honduras.  His predecessor was implicated in a bribery scandal with the United Fruit Company, a US corporation.  Castro was a graduate of the US School of the Americas, which has educated a number of less than stellar pupils, including Manual Noriega.  Castro was in turn overthrown by the Honduran military in 1979.

Penélope Cruz Sánchez, Hollywood Actress

Happy Birthday, Penélope!  On April 28, 1974, Penélope Cruz Sánchez made her debut in Madrid, Spain.  Her mother recognized her talent, and enrolled her in dance classes at age five.  Since her acting debut at age 16, the talented actress, dancer and singer has starred in film and television for a worldwide audience.  Cruz is the first Spanish actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Far more than a pretty face, the intelligent and compassionate Cruz has worked as a volunteer in Uganda and supports the nonprofit Sabera Foundation.  This Foundation provides a home, school, and clinic for homeless girls and people suffering from tuberculosis in Calcutta.  (Photo by Joelle Maslaton)

Mar y Sol (Sea and Sun) International Pop Concert

The three-day Latino Woodstock began on April 1, 1972, as over 30,000 music fans rocked the Mar y Sol (Sea and Sun) International Pop Concert in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico.  Performers included Alice Cooper, Elton John, Dave Brubeck, Billy Joel, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  The festival experienced the controversy and incidents that characterized other large gatherings of rock music and fans, and the festival’s organizer departed early to avoid arrest.  According to the New York Times, the audience viewed it as a wonderful success.

Civil Rights Act of 1968

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April 11 of that year.  This Act, also known as the Fair Housing Act and the Indian [Native American] Civil Rights Act, prohibited discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing for race, religion and national origin.  (Gender and physical disabilities were added later.)  The Act added federal enforcement to the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón), Cuba

In the dark tropical night of April 17, 1962, 1,400 Cuban Americans landed at the Bay of Pigs (Playa Girón), Cuba, in a disastrously unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro.  The Cuban Americans were political exiles trained and armed by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  These enemy noncombatants were accompanied by CIA agents and a US Underwater Demolition Team.   The invaders were defeated after three days of fighting.  Life Magazine wrote that the Cuban government “gleefully reported” on the background of the invaders against the Communist regime, who included plantation owners, businessmen, and factory owners.  Although President Dwight Eisenhower had approved and financed the invasion, it was launched during President John F. Kennedy’s first three months as president.  Che Guevera, one of the leaders of the Cuban Revolution, later sent a note to Kennedy that read, “Thanks for Playa Girón. Before the invasion, the revolution was weak. Now it’s stronger than ever.”

Happy Birthday, George Lopez

Happy Birthday, dear George, Happy Birthday to you.  The very talented writer, producer, movie and television star George Lopez was born in California on April 23, 1961.  He was the leading comedy man in the “George Lopez” show from 2002-2007 on ABC and the late-night talk show host of “Lopez Tonight” from 2009-2011.  Lopez had a challenging childhood, abandoned by his parents and raised by his grandparents.  In an interview, Lopez stated that he could never remember having a birthday party as a child.  With millions of fans worldwide, we hope that George feels celebrated and special today.

Saundra Santiago, Actress

Happy Birthday to actress Saundra Santiago, the talented daughter of a Cuban father and Puerto Rican mother.  Santiago was born in The Bronx in New York on April 13, 1957.  Her family later moved to Florida, where Santiago was an All-American girl:  cheerleader, homecoming queen, and class president.  After earning her MFA from Southern Methodist University in 1981, she moved back to New York and worked as – guess what? – a singing waitress while she auditioned.  (What did we mention about Latino waiters/ waitresses?  Please see Andy Garcia, April 12.) While Santiago is famous for her television role on “Miami Vice”, she has starred in numerous stage roles, from the serious “A View from the Bridge” to the musical “Nine”.   When she is not dazzling audiences, Santiago volunteers for community work with the Miami police department.   (Photo by David Vance)

Andy Garcia, Award-Winning Actor

On April 12, 1956, Andy Garcia was born in Havana, Cuba.  The acclaimed actor grew up in Miami, learning English as a second language.  He studied acting at Florida International University and performed in regional theater productions until he moved to Hollywood in 1978.  There he worked as – guess what? – a waiter while auditioning.  In one of his most famous roles, he played an Italian-American in “The Godfather” movie series.  Garcia has won numerous awards for his talent and his cultural contributions, including the Star of the Year Prize from the National Association of Theater Owners, the Harvard University Foundation Award, and a Grammy nomination for an album.  The moral of the story:  Be polite to Latino waiters – you never know when you’ll be asking them for their autograph.

 

Miguel Bosé, Spanish Musician and Actor

The amazing voice of Miguel Bosé, Spanish musician and actor, was first heard on April 2, 1956, during his birth in Aries, Panama.  His mother was an Italian actress and his father was a Spanish bullfighter.  The famous Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, was his godfather, and North American writer Ernest Hemmingway was a family friend.  In 2001, he earned a Latin Grammy Award nomination for Best Album by a Male Vocalist. Well-known for his diverse interests, Bosé wrote in an online interview, “I believe that we should be engaged with all of these things, because they affect our existence. We can’t pretend to be separate from politics, the economy, science, religion, and the environment. One way or another, all of these things are going to touch us.” (Image by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

Franklin R. Chang-Díaz, Astronaut

Happy birthday to Franklin R. Chang-Díaz, a Costa Rican-born engineer, physicist, and NASA astronaut.  Díaz immigrated to the US when he was eighteen, and learned English during his senior year of high school.  His goal was to become an astronaut.   He earned a BA in mechanical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a Ph D in applied plasma physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  In 1981, Chang-Díaz became a NASA astronaut.  He has flown on six space shuttle missions, including the launch of the Galileo spacecraft to Jupiter in 1989 and the final shuttle visit to the Russian Mir space station in 1998.

“La Violencia” (1948)

On April 9, 1948, populist politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Ayala was assassinated in Colombia, igniting riots in the streets and 10 years of political unrest known as “La Violencia”.  Ayala was a former Education and Labor Minister, and was elected Mayor of Colombia’s capital city of Bogota.  Gaitán earned national prestige through his congressional investigation of the workers’ strike and revolt in the Santa Marta banana zone in 1929.  He documented the excesses of management and the army’s repressive intervention, making him a hero to Colombian rural voters. He was assassinated during his campaign for the presidency.

Carlos Salinas de Gortari, President of Mexico

April 3, 1948 is the birthday of Carlos Salinas de Gortari.  He was born in the small town of Agualeguas, Mexico, about 25 miles south of the US border.  In the mid-1970s Salinas studied at Harvard, where he earned a doctoral degree in political economy and government.  Salinas was elected President of Mexico in 1988, and served until 1994.  During his administration, Mexican government policy moved toward an economy based more on free market principles than on state control and toward better economic relations with the US. Salinas played a critical role in negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Pedro Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico

Happy Birthday to Pedro Rosselló, a former Governor of Puerto Rico, born on April 5, 1944.  Rosselló has enthusiastically and (so far) unsuccessfully campaigned for Puerto Rican statehood.  Puerto Rico is currently a territory of the US, taken from the Spanish in the 1898 Spanish American War.  Rosselló was a pediatrician by training, graduating from Yale University Medical School in 1970 as president of his class.  After moving back to The Island, he taught at the University of Puerto Rico’s medical school, where he earned a master’s degree in public health in 1981.  During the 2000 Presidential election, Rosselló served as chair of the Puerto Rican fund-raising committee for Democratic Party candidate Al Gore.

Homero Aridjis, Environmentalist, Writer, and Diplomat

April 6, 1940 is the birthday of Homero Aridjis, Mexican writer and diplomat.  Aridjis has published 41 books of poetry and prose with worldwide popularity.  Many of his works are translated into over a dozen languages and have won numerous awards.  Aridjis is a passionate defender of the environment; his causes include Monarch butterflies.  Aridjis said that his support for the beautiful orange and black butterflies has been the “environmental cause of my life.”

Dolores Sanchez

April 3, 1936 is the birthday of nurse-and-grocer-turned-media entrepreneur Dolores Sanchez.  Sanchez is the first Hispanic American to own a newspaper chain in the US.  California-born Sanchez focuses on community affairs; her Eastern Group Publications operates a chain of 10 bilingual community newspapers with a combined audited circulation of 104,000 households and businesses.  In 1980, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Sanchez to lead the transition team to evaluate the California Employment and Training Act and to write the inclusive Job Employment Training Program.

Oscar Zeta Acosta, Chicano Writer and Activist

Oscar Zeta Acosta began his turbulent, controversial life on April 8, 1935, in El Paso, Texas.  Acosta was a Chicano writer, attorney, and political activist who began his career defending Hispanics in discrimination cases.   He wrote “The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo” and “The Revolt of the Cockroach People” in the early 1970’s.  Notorious for his friendship with the even more notorious writer Hunter S. Thompson, he renounced drugs and alcohol later in his life.  He began to explore his Mexican roots, until his unresolved and unexplained disappearance in the mid-1970s.

America’s Original FaceBook Site

Here’s a family photo from America’s original FaceBook site, the US Library of Congress. The photo of two young American girls of Mexican heritage was taken in April 1934 in San Antonio, Texas, and is part of the Lomax Collection of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  The Lomax Collection of photographs depicts folk musicians, primarily in the southern US and the Bahamas during the Great Depression.  The collection, along with many other wonderful images, is available online at www.LOC.gov.

Fernando Botero, Colombian Artist

April 19, 1932 is the birthday of iconoclastic Colombian artist Fernando Botero.  Known for his highly stylized figurative portraits and sculptures, Botero studied art in Madrid and Paris.  His subjects range from everyday portraits of men and women engaged in everyday life to highly politicized portrayals of searing events, including the violence of Colombia’s drug wars and his 2005 portrait of a prisoner abused by US forces at Abu Ghraib, Iraq.

Dolores Huerta, UFW Co-Founder

Happy Birthday to Dolores Huerta, born on April 10, 1930.  Together with Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farmers Workers (UFW) of America, and is one of the most prominent and influential labor organizers of our time.  Huerta was born in Dawson, New Mexico, the daughter of a coal miner, political activist father and an entrepreneurial mother who worked two jobs waitressing and in a factory to support her children during the Depression.  As a young girl, Huerta was very active in the radical organization known as the Girls Scouts.  She has been arrested on more than 20 occasions, and in 1988, she suffered a life-threatening injury at the hands of the San Francisco Police. Among her many accomplishments, Huerta has received the Martin Luther King Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Roger Baldwin Award from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Raquel Meller (Francisca Marqués López)

On April 26, 1926, Spanish singer and actress Raquel Meller (Francisca Marqués López) was featured on the cover of USA’s “Time” Magazine.   Meller was born in Tarazona, Spain, and began singing in a cabaret at age 13.  She rose to be an international performer throughout Europe and the Americas.  In Hollywood, she friended and impressed stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Sarah Bernhardt.  (Photo from Time.com)

Ernesto Antonio “Tito” Puente, Grammy Winner

April 23, 1923 is the birthday of Puerto Rican musician Ernesto Antonio Puente, affectionately known as Tito Puente.  He was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents.  He studied piano and percussion as a child, and began playing professionally in his teens.  He was drafted into the Navy during World War II, and after returning safely, he studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music with the GI Bill.  He formed his own band in 1948.  Tito has recorded over 50 albums and has won 5 Grammies.  (Photo by Raul Rodriguez, Jr.)

Antonio Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn, Academy Award Winner

April 21, 1915 is the birthday of Antonio Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn, the son of freedom fighters in the Mexican Revolution. Later known as the Academy Award winning actor, Anthony Quinn, he was literally conceived in a battlefield, and his mother’s field officer ordered her to return to Chihuahua, Mexico by train when he learned of her pregnancy.  The family later settled in El Paso, Texas.  His father died when he was 10 years old, and Quinn worked as a water boy on construction sites to help support his family.  A diversely talented man, he had aspired to be an architect, which eventually led to his first roles in Hollywood.  (It’s complicated.)  Quinn starred in over 100 films and won two Academy awards.  His hallmark role was as the exuberant Zorba the Greek, an apt metaphor for his exuberant life.

Bombing of Vera Cruz (Guess who did it?)

The US invaded and bombarded the Mexican port of Vera Cruz on April 21, 1914.  The murky reasoning for the invasion was the arrest of nine US sailors by the Mexican government for violating Mexican law and rumors of weapons shipments to Germany.  The weapons were actually being shipped through Mexico to Germany by an American company trying to avoid the arms embargo against Germany during World War I.   (Oops!)  However, this mix-up was sufficient reason for an invasion, and the Marines stormed the waterfront and then the city.   The fighting continued until April 24.  Argentina, Brazil and Chile were able to broker a peace agreement between the US and Mexico, and the undocumented US soldiers withdrew on November 23.

Fighting in the Mexican Revolution

On April 9, 1914, one of the world’s first naval / air skirmishes was fought during the Mexican Revolution on the coast of western Mexico.  Captain Gustavo Salinas Camino flew his biplane over the armed warships, and determinedly tossed bombs over the side.  Although the bombs failed to hit their targets, the attack was regarded as an innovation in warfare. The revolution was led by Francisco I. Madero against the 35 year regime of Porfirio Diaz.  After a long struggle, the Mexican people and politicians finally produced the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

Jorge Luis Córdova Díaz , Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico

Jorge Luis Córdova Díaz was born in Manati, Puerto Rico on April 20, 1907.  Díaz graduated from The Catholic University of America in 1928 and received an LL B (law) degree from Harvard University in 1931.  He served as Resident Commissioner in the 91 and 92 Congresses in 1969-1973.   Díaz was deeply committed to alleviating drug abuse.  He introduced legislation to support programs for drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

Mercedes O. Cubría, An Officer and A Gentlewoman

April 15, 1903 is the birthday of Mercedes O. Cubría (1903-1980).  Cubría was the first Cuban born woman to achieve the rank of US Army officer.  During World War II, she served as codes officer in England, and during the Korean War, she served in Japan as an intelligence officer.  Known as “La Tía” (The Aunt) for her work with Cuban refugees, she helped the new arrivals find jobs and housing.

Jesús Piñero, Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico

April 16, 1897 is the birthday of Jesús Piñero, Resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico at the US 79th Congress in the mid 1940’s.  Piñero attended the School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  In 1940 Piñero was one of the founders of the Popular Democratic Party.  Piñero resigned as Resident Commissioner in September 1946 when US President Harry S. Truman appointed him the first Puerto Rican Governor of the Island, a position he held until December 1948. (Photo credit US Library of Congress)

Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr., Hero of the World Wars

April 1, 1888 is the birthday of Terry de la Mesa Allen, Sr., who fought in both World War I and World War II.  Mesa commanded the First Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily.  Despite flunking out of West Point twice, Mesa rose to the rank of Major General.   Legendary for his unorthodox methods, he was warmly regarded by his soldiers, and kept his command post as close as possible to them in the field.  When one junior office complained that a proposed mission was suicide, “Terrible Terry” shot him in his ass, to relieve him of having to fight. (Yes, really.) The mission was a success, with minimal casualties.  Mesa was the grandson of Colonel Carlos Alvarez de la Mesa, a Union officer who fought in the Civil War,.  De la Mesa tragically lost his own son in the Vietnam War.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

“Damn the torpedoes. Four bells, Captain Drayton, go ahead. Jouett, full speed”, commanded David Glasgow Farragut on April 24, 1862.  He shouted this now famous tweet during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay, and the condensed version of his words have become a fixture in American language to connote courage and decisiveness.  (“Drayton” and “Jouett” refer to two men under Farragut’s command.)  Farragut was a Hispanic American and son of a Spanish American Revolutionary War veteran.  Farragut won a great victory for the American Union at this naval battle. The city of Mobile, Alabama, was then the Confederacy’s last major port open on the Gulf of México.  Farragut was the first North American officer to earn the ranks of first rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral in the US Navy.

Union Officer Fernandez Cavada

Soaring through the air in a hot air balloon over the dangerous, flaming battlefield on April 19, 1862, Union officer Fernandez Cavada quickly and accurately sketched the deployments of enemy Confederate troops on the Virginia peninsula.  Cavada was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, to a Cuban father and North American mother.  After her husband’s death, Cavada’s mother moved her three sons to her native city of Philadelphia.  Cavada did not lead a ho-hum life.  In addition to his courageous service documenting enemy positions for the Union Army, he fought and was captured at Gettysburg, served as an engineer for the construction of the Panama Canal, and fought in Cuba’s Ten Year war of independence against Spain, rising to Commander-in-Chief of Cuban forces.  He was captured and shot by firing squad.

Néstor Montoya, Editor and Politician

April 14, 1862 is the birthday of editor and politician Néstor Montoya in Old Albuquerque, New Mexico.   Montoya worked tirelessly for the inclusion of Hispanics in the political and social life of New Mexico. In 1889, he founded the weekly Spanish-language newspaper, “La Voz del Pueblo”, which advocated statehood for New Mexico.  In 1910 Montoya was elected as a delegate to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention, and two years later New Mexico became a state.  Montoya helped write provisions into the Constitution of New Mexico to protect the rights of Hispanics in the areas of civil liberties, voting and education.  He died in office in 1923.

Mexico’s War of Reform (1857 – 1861)

On April 6, 1859, the US government officially recognized the Liberal government in Mexico’s War of Reform.   Mexico’s War of Reform is part of the long struggle in the 19th century between Liberal and Conservative forces.  The Liberals wanted a federalist government that limited that authority of the military and the Catholic Church.  The Conservatives wanted a centralist government, with the Church and the military maintaining their traditional roles and powers.

Juan Santamaria, National Hero of Costa Rica

Juan Santamaria, a national hero of Costa Rica, was killed at the Battle of Rivas on April 11, 1856.  Santamaria was the son of an impoverished single mother.   The young Santamaria enlisted as a drummer boy.  He courageously braved enemy fire and torched the hostel where North American William Walker and his enemy combatants were taking shelter.   The San Jose International Airport in Costa Rica is named for his memory.  (Please also see Pancha Carrasco, April 8.)

Juan Maria Montalvo, Ecuadorian Political Activist and Writer

On April 13, 1832, Ecuadorian author Juan Maria Montalvo was born in the provincial town of Ambato.  Montalvo was a leading liberal polemicist who challenged dictators in his native country.  (A polemicists is a person with argumentative and controversial views; in the 21st century he would be a talk show host on MSNBC.)  When one of the dictators was hacked to death by a vengeful, machete wielding assassin, Montalvo exclaimed that, “My pen killed him.”  Under political pressure, Montalvo spent a number of years in exile, until his death in Paris in 1889.

 

Pancha Carrasco, Woman Warrior

Costa Rican military heroine Pancha Carrasco was born on April 8, 1826.  Armed with a loaded rifle and an apron full of bullets, she joined her countrymen at the Battle of Rivas in 1856.  Carrasco defended Costa Rica against William Walker, the terrorist invader from the North.   Walker was trying to establish a slave holding territory within the Costa Rican nation.  Carrasco is an honored person in Costa Rican history, with a postage stamp and Costa Rican Coast Guard vessel named in her honor.

Marching in the USA’s first Inaugural Parade (George invited him)

On April 30, 1789, Spanish Ambassador Diego Maria de Gardoqui marched in the Inaugural parade of his colleague and friend, newly elected President George Washington.  Gardoqui had assisted Washington and the rebel army throughout the American Revolutionary War, sending shipment after shipment of supplies financed by himself and the government of Spain.   After the Revolution, when Washington had returned to his farm at Mount Vernon, Gardoqui sent him a Spanish-Arabian stallion.  He also introduced Washington — who was a GQ kind of guy– to vicuña wool from wild South American herds.  A delighted Washington wrote that the cloth was “of a softness and richness which I have never seen before, and is truly worthy of being called his Majesty’s true manufactured cloth.”

Helping to win the American Revolutionary War (1777)

On April 17, 1777, the rebel American ships Alexander and Charlotte with Captains Williamson and Saint Clair slipped out of the Spanish harbor in Bilbao and outran the British blockade to land in the rebel colonies.   The vessels carried supplies for the US Continental Army, including blankets and cloth for uniforms.  The shipments were arranged by Diego Maria de Gardoqui and the supplies were paid for by the Spanish government.  A plaque and statue to Gardoqui are displayed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; please stop by and say gracias. For more information on how the Spanish and Latinos aided the North American Revolution, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com

Paul Revere and the Hispanic Connection

In the cool dark of night on April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and his social network of riders galloped through the Massachusetts countryside.  Their mission was to warn the local citizens that British troops were on their way to seize stores of gunpowder, a precious imported commodity.  The lack of this crucial commodity plagued the rebels throughout the war, and was one of the key supplies that the Spanish and Hispanic Americans smuggled through British blockades for them.  The three key smuggling routes were from Spanish Nuevo Orleans up the Mississippi River, from northern Spain across the Atlantic Ocean to New England, and from Havana to Philadelphia and other Eastern seaports.  For more information on how the Spanish and Latinos helped to win the American Revolutionary War, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com.

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El Greco, Master Painter

April 7, 1614 marks the death of one of Spain’s most famous and beloved painters, who was actually Greek:  El Greco.  Born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in Crete in 1541, El Greco arrived in Spain in 1577.  He settled in Toledo where he was commissioned for a number of major religious paintings and portraits.  His paintings inspired artists worldwide.  One of his masterpieces, “The Opening of the Fifth Seal”, is displayed in the New York Metropolitan Museum.

“The Last Conquistador”

On April 30, 1598, explorer Juan de Oñate forged the El Paso River  and claimed all of New Mexico beyond the river for Spain.  Oñate was born in Zacatecas, Mexico to Spanish-Basque colonists and silver mine owners.  He married Isabel de Tolosa Cortés de Moctezuma, the great granddaughter of the Aztec Emperor.  Oñate ruthlessly suppressed the uprisings of the Native Americans against their Spanish invaders.  He was tried, but eventually acquitted, for cruel conduct.  His horrific behavior was documented in the PBS POV series, titled “The Last Conquistador”.  Centuries after his death, Oñate’s behavior is still protested by Native Americans.

First Spanish settlement in the Philippines (1565)

On April 27, 1565, Cebu was established as the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines.  By the 17th century, the Spanish colony had grown to the world’s mega-mall, with traders and merchants from Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas gathering to wheel and deal.   For over a century, Cebu was a hub for one of the leading trade routes for the huge Spanish galleons that crossed the Pacific from the Philippines to the western coast of Mexico during the golden age of the Spanish empire.

Bartolomé Ferrelo, Spanish Explorer

On April 14, 1542, Spanish explorer and pilot Bartolomé Ferrelo and his crew landed at La Natividad, California.  Ferrelo was the pilot for Captain Juan Rodrigo Cabrillo, who was sent by the viceroy of Mexico to explore Northern California.  This expedition was the first European exploration of the West Coast.  Cabrillo died during the expedition, and Ferrelo succeeded him in command.  The crew suffered from lack of provisions, sickness, and problems with their ships, but completed their expedition.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Spanish Explorer and Writer

On April 15, 1528, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the first European explorer and chronicler of the southwest, landed near Tampa Bay Florida.  After separating from the main expedition, Cabeza de Vaca spent the next eight years exploring Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico.  He traveled more than 5,000 miles of country that had never before been seen by a European. His account was published in Spanish and later in English, titled “Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America” and was the first best seller about the newly discovered world.

Ponce de Leon lands in Florida (1513)

On April 2, 1513, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.  De Leon was from a noble but financially broke family in Spain.  He sailed to the New World for economic opportunity.  After brutally suppressing a Native American revolt in 1504, the Native Americans, hoping to be rid of him, told him that gold was on the island of Boriquien (Puerto Rico). Four years later, de Leon conquered the island.  Using the same technique, the Native Americans of Puerto Rico told de Leon that the spring of eternal youth was located in Florida.  The ruse worked, and de Leon set off for Florida to annoy the Native Americans in that territory.

Queen Isabella I of Castille and Spain

April 22, 1451 is the birthday of Queen Isabella I of Castille and Spain.   An early “power couple”, Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand II, a local royal guy from neighboring Aragon, began the modern political state of Spain.  A working mom with five children, Isabella inherited a kingdom beset with problems of crushing debt (sound familiar?) and social disorder, and devoted herself to improving her country.  A staunch Catholic, she was not a champion of diversity, and harshly expelled the Moors and Jews.  Isabella financed Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the Americas, changing the modern world forever.

The Moorish Empire begins

On April 29, 711 (the year, not the store), the Moorish leader Tariq ibn-Ziyad departed for the Iberian Peninsula to begin the Moorish conquest of Spain and Portugal.  The Jews in Spain were persecuted by the Christians, and some openly assisted the Muslim campaign.  The Muslims ruled Spain and Portugal for over 700 years, with enlightened policies of diversity management.  Muslim scholars continued their advances in science, medicine and mathematics, sparing the Iberian Peninsula from the brunt of the Dark Ages in Europe.  After the re-conquest in the 15th century, Spain and Portugal were well positioned to lead Europe in state formation and in voyaging to across the seas to the New World.