Our Lady of Altagracia

Feast Day of the Patron Virgin of the Dominican Republic, known as Our Lady of Altagracia or Our Lady of High Grace.  This is a portrait of the Virgin Mary painted on a cloth 13 inches wide and 18 inches long, during the early 1500’s in Spain.  Two Spanish brothers brought the portrait to Santo Domingo.   Many Hispanic-Americans from the Dominican Republic make a pilgrimage to the site in their home country on the feast day.

El Dia de los Reyes Magos

El Dia de los Reyes Magos is celebrated in many countries throughout the Americas.  Puerto Ricans celebrate with a caroling block party called alsaltos navideños or parrandas.  While the caroling starts at the beginning of Advent and lasts throughout the season, January 6 is particularly celebrated with song.  Carolers go house to house, enjoying holiday treats such as papaya sweets, Spanish nougat, marzipan, and of course rum, beer, and coquito, spiked Puerto Rican eggnog.  Nuyoricans (that’s Puerto Ricans living in New York) participate in the annual parade hosted by El Museo del Barrio in the Bronx.

Eve of el Dia de los Reyes Magos

Children in Puerto Rico begin to prepare for the celebration of el Dia de los Reyes Magos (The Three Kings or Epiphany).  Since the kings are riding horses and camels (not reindeer), the children gather grass to feed the kings’ animals.  The children put the grass in shoe boxes under their beds on the evening of January 5, hoping that by morning the boxes will be filled with gifts.

¡Feliz año nuevo! / New Year’s Day

Welcome to the Hispanic / Latino Almanac, where we celebrate Latinas and Latinos every day of the year!  During the year, you’ll discover the Latino culture and people that have been part of the United States of America for centuries and on the continents of the Americas for thousands of years.  We appreciate your interest, and promise to deliver thoughtful and inspiring content for you.  Please visit our sites on the contribution of the Spanish and Latinos to the American Revolutionary War at www.OurAmericanHistory.com / www.NuestraHistoriaAmericana.com, and our Facebook Page.

2012 State of the Union en español

On January 24, 2012, President Barack Obama delivered the State of the Union address.  US Congressman Francisco Canseco delivered the Spanish-language Republican Address to the nation following the President’s address.  Canseco was elected in 2010 to serve the 23rd District of Texas. A native of Laredo, Canseco is the son of immigrants from Mexico. Congressman Charles A. Gonzalez, also from Texas, represented Latino Democrats with the following statement, “What the President laid out this evening was a choice– for the leaders of this country as well as the people of America. We can remain entrenched in an unproductive partisan debate or we can unite and work together on the issues necessary to create growth and prosperity. At a time when we see a shrinking middle class, our country needs to restore our values to ensure hard work pays off and that Americans can work and retire with dignity. … Latinos have so much at stake. Caucasians have 18 times more household wealth than their Hispanic peers, but we can help narrow the achievement gap by building an economy that will last for all Americans.”

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, President of Honduras, was inaugurated on January 27, 2010.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and was granted a doctorate by Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.   Lobo’s administration has received mixed reviews, with criticism from Human Rights watch for political oppression and praise from the Obama administration for his work to reconcile the nation, his appointment of a human rights adviser and his inclusion of political opponents in his administration.

Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra

On January 10, 2007, Jose Daniel Ortega Saavedra was inaugurated as President of Nicaragua for the second time.  Saavedra was a pivotal leader in the Cold War politics of Central America in the 1980s; viewed as a freedom fighter by the left and as an untrustworthy communist by the right.  Upon taking office in 2007, he began to tighten Nicaragua’s relationship with the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela.  Saavedra was first arrested at the age of 15, beginning his turbulent commitment to leftist politics in Nicaragua.  Saavedra is still causing controversy in the world theater; during the 2011 Libyan Revolution, Saavedra was one of the very few world leaders to side with the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

President Avo Morales

On January 22, 2006 Evo Morales was inaugurated as President of Bolivia.  Morales is of Spanish and Aymara descent; Aymara is one of the First Nations.  He is committed to reducing poverty and illiteracy in Bolivia, and his policies are characterized as leftist and socialist.  He has implemented land reform and the redistribution of gas revenues.  In 2008, Morales ordered the US Ambassador out of the country, accusing the ambassador of conspiring against democracy. Relations have improved during the Obama Administration, but we can only guess as to what’s next.

“American Family: Journey of Dreams”

January 23, 2002 was the premier of the new series, “American Family: Journey of Dreams”, created and produced by Gregory Nava (please see reference on January 11 – Nava is a busy guy).  American Family was the first family drama series featuring a Hispanic cast to air on broadcast television.  PBS (Public Broadcasting System) later picked up the series, which starred Edward James Olmos, Raquel Welch, Sonia Braga, and Esai Morales.

The Launch of TeleFutura

January 14, 2002 marked the launch of TeleFutura, a Spanish-language broadcast network, by Univisión.   Telefutura became America’s second largest Spanish-language prime time network.  TeleFutura’s programming includes Noticias 41 Al Despertar, its news and public affairs program, talk shows, children’s programming and of course, telenovellas, or soap operas, which demonstrate the same amount of intelligence and good sense as their  US-based English language counterparts.   The company was relaunched as UniMás in 2013.

Dr. Ed Avila, the 1999 Teacher of the Year Award

On January 25, 1999, Hispanic Magazine and Nordstrom Inc. announced that Dr. Ed Avila won the 1999 Teacher of the Year Award. Avila directed the Endeavour Academy, an engineering and applied science preparatory school, where he developed the curriculum and teaches classes.  He contributed to the development of the Youth Aerospace Discovery Program, a weekly one-day seminar for students ages 8 to 15.  Avila earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from the US Air Force Academy, and two Masters degrees and a Ph D in engineering and aeronautics.  (Photo by HispanicBusiness.com)

 

Charter Flights to Cuba

On January 5, 1999, the Clinton administration (Bill, not Hil) approved direct charter flights from New York and Los Angeles to Cuba.  Secretary of State Madeline Albright made the announcement, which was heralded as the most significant change in policy toward Cuba in decades.  Travel was restricted to humanitarian-aid workers, athletes, scholars, teachers, and researchers, but no tourists were permitted.  An estimated 140,000 US citizens were able to visit Cuba in 1999.

Ellen Ochoa , First Latina Astronaut

On January 17, 1990, Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) was selected by NASA for training, and she was the first Latina astronaut in space.   Ochoa received a doctorate in electronic engineering from Stanford University, and after graduation, she worked in research at the Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, California.   Ochoa flew her first mission on the space shuttle Discovery.  In 1994, she was a member of the Atlantis crew. A multi-talented woman, she is pictured here playing her flute in orbit.

Panamanian Dictator Noriega Surrenders

January 3, 1990, the former president of Panama, Manuel Noriega surrendered to the US Army.  Panama was invaded by US forces on December 20, 1989.  President George H.W. Bush cited Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking as one of the leading reasons for the invasion.   This viewpoint was challenged later in the Academy Award winning documentary, “Panama Deception”.

“El Norte”

January 11, 1984 is the release date of the independent film, “El Norte”.  The film is a compassionate, tragic, and sometimes humorous portrayal of the journey of a brother and sister from Guatemala to the US (“El Norte”).  There, they search for work and begin their personal quest of the American Dream.  The film was directed by Gregory Nava, a Mexican American film director, producer and writer. The film won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

A bloody day in Guatemala

On January 31, 1980, a number of Guatemalan indigenous people and their allies occupied Spanish Embassy in Guatemala City.  The people were protesting the killing of civilians by the Guatemalan Army.  The protestors selected the Spanish embassy, since the Spanish were sympathetic to their cause.  The Guatemalan police raided the embassy later that day, and destroyed the building in a blaze of flames.   Thirty-six people were killed, including Vicente Menchú, father of Rigoberta Menchú (please see January 9 for information on Rigoberta).  The Spanish Ambassador escaped by jumping out of a window.  The Spanish broke off relations with Guatemala over the tragic incident, which were not restored until 1984.

Lau v. Nichols, a landmark in civil rights for the education of students

On January 21, 1974, the US Supreme Court decided on the case Lau v. Nichols, a landmark in civil rights for the education of students.  The Chinese American community in San Francisco argued that since their students with limited English skills were not receiving meaningful language assistance for their education, they were discriminated against according to under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This ruling was a basis for Castañeda v. Pickard, filed in Texas in 1978, which furthered the cause of bilingual education for children.

Bilingual Education Act of 1968

On January 2, 1968, US President Lyndon Baines Johnson (1908 – 1973) signed the Bilingual Education Act.  The Act provided assistance to students with limited English language skills. Johnson taught Mexican children in Texas early in his career, and remembered later, “I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.”

Loretta Sanchez, US Congresswoman

Happy Birthday to Loretta Sanchez, US Congresswoman, entrepreneur, and small business owner.  Sanchez represents the 46th district in California.  She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants; her father was a machinist and her mother was a secretary.  Sanchez earned her BA with a scholarship to Chapman University and her MBA at American University.  After working in the public sector, she was elected to Congress in a close match in 1996.  While viewed as a moderate Democrat, she was one of the few members of Congress to vote against the ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2002, once again demonstrating the wisdom of Latina women.  Her sister, Linda, was also elected to the US Congress, and the two women made history as the first sisters to serve simultaneously in the US Congress.

Rigoberta Menchú

Happy Birthday to Rigoberta Menchú, a Quiché Indian woman, born on January 9, 1959 in Guatemala.   Menchú is a civil rights activist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1992 her work on behalf of the indigenous people of Guatemala.  The struggle for indigenous rights has continued since 1492.

Mexican-American Pro Golfer Nancy Lopez

January 6, 1957 is the birthday of Mexican-American golfer Nancy Lopez.  Lopez began playing golf at age 8, and was the women’s champion in her home state of New Mexico by age 12.  She won five professional tournaments in a row, a feat unrivaled in women’s golf, and won 48 LPGA Tour events during her LPGA career.  (Image by Sports Illustrated)

 

Hernandez v. Texas: Impartial Juries

On January 11, 1954, arguments were heard at the US Supreme Court for the landmark case, Hernandez v. Texas.   The case centered on Pedro Hernandez, a Mexican agricultural worker, who was convicted of murder.  Hernandez’s legal team argued that the jury could not be impartial unless members of non-Caucasian races were allowed to participate.  The trial had been held in Jackson County, Texas, where no Mexican Americans had been included in a jury for over 25 years.  The decision held that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups in the US had equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Maria Robledo Montecel

Happy Birthday to Maria Robledo Montecel, born on January 14, 1953.  Montecel is a dedicated educator who has devoted her life to improving educational opportunities for minorities and the poor.  Montecel works to address the steep high school dropout rate among young Latino students.  She earned an M Ed from Antioch College, and a Ph D in urban education.  Montecel has served as the Executive Director of the Intercultural Development Research Association. (Photo from IDRA site)

We all loved Lucy Arnaz

January 13, 1953 was a momentous day in history, as popular US President and war hero Dwight Eisenhower was sworn into office.  But according to the New York Times, more Americans tuned in to watch the birth of “little Ricky” (Desi Arnaz, Jr.) on the even more popular “I Love Lucy” show than Eisenhower’s inauguration.  For those of you too young to remember Eisenhower or “I Love Lucy”, the show starred beloved comedian Lucille Ball and her real life Cuban born husband, Desi Arnaz.

“They are just deportees”

On January 28, 1948, a plane crashed at Los Gatos Canyon, California, carrying 28 deportees and 4 North Americans from California to Mexico.  Folk musician Woody Guthrie wrote a protest song about the event, concerning the racist mistreatment of the deportees.  The song was recorded by many artists, including Dolly Parton and Judy Collins.  The lyrics included:

The skyplane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon
The great ball of fire it shook all our hills
Who are these dear friends who are falling like dry leaves?
Radio said, “They are just deportees”

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles (1928 –2005), made his professional debut on January 23, 1947. Gonzáles was a Mexican American boxer, poet, and political activist.  In 1966, Gonzáles founded La Cruzada Para La Justicia (The Crusade for Justice), to encourage Hispanics to get involved in politics to improve their lives economically and socially.  His epic poem, Yo Soy Joaquín, (I Am Joaquin) is a stunning, spiritual visualization of Chicano history, struggle, and identity.

 

Rigoberto “Tito” Fuentes Peat

On January 4, 1944, Rigoberto “Tito” Fuentes Peat was born in Havana, Cuba.  Fuentes played second base in the Major League for 13 seasons between 1965 and 1978.  Most of Fuentes career was with the San Francisco Giants.   In 1981, Fuentes returned to work with the Giants as a radio announcer, launching the team’s first year of Spanish language radio broadcasts.

Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, first Latinx Astronaut

Happy Birthday to Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, born on January 29, 1942, in GuantánamoCuba.  Méndez was orphaned as an infant, and spent some of his childhood working as a shoeshine and vegetable seller.  He was selected as an astronaut in the Soviet Union’s seventh Intercosmos program in 1978.  Méndez was the first Latinx and the first African-American to travel in space.

Joan Baez

January 9, 1941 is the birthday of Joan Baez, a Mexican-American folk singer, songwriter, and activist for human rights, peace, and the environment.   Her father, Albert Baez, was born in Puebla, Mexico.  Baez’s wonderful accomplishments include founding the US branch of Amnesty International, performing publicly for over 50 years and releasing 30 albums.  And yes, she really did date both Bob Dylan and Steve Jobs.

Four-Star General Richard Edward Cavazos,

January 31, 1929, is the birthday of Richard Edward Cavazos, the first Mexican American to achieve the rank of four-star general in the US Army.  During the Korean War, Cavazos earned the Distinguished Service Cross as a first lieutenant.  He served with great distinction for thirty-three years, with his final command as head of the US Army Armed Force Command.

War Hero Macario Garcia

January 20, 1920, is the birth date of war hero Macario Garcia, one of 17 Mexican-Americans who won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his courage in World War II.  Garcia was born in Mexico and immigrated to the US. In the battlefields of Grosshau Germany, Garcia, acting as squad leader, single-handedly assaulted two machine gun emplacements.   His company was trapped by machine gun and mortar fire, and the badly wounded Garcia continued fighting until the enemy was routed.  Upon his return to the US, while wearing his uniform and the Congressional Medal of Honor, he was denied a cup of coffee in a restaurant in his hometown of Sugarland, Texas.  During World War II, Hispanics volunteered for duty in a greater percentage than any other ethnic group, and earned disproportionately more Medals of Honor.

Hector Perez Garcia

January 17, 1917 is the birthday of Hector Perez Garcia (1914- 1996).  A Mexican American surgeon, World War II veteran and civil rights advocate, Garcia founded the American GI Forum in 1948, to assist veterans returning from the war.  He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, our nation’s highest civilian honor.  Earlier in his life, while fulfilling his medical residency in Nebraska, the FBI investigated complaints about him by local residents, for being a “Mexican” wearing an officer’s uniform.

The Zimmermann Telegram

During World War I, the Germans attempted to ally with the Mexican government to attack the US.  In the Zimmermann Telegram from the German Foreign Secretary, the Germans proposed assisting the Mexicans in the re-conquest of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  The then President of Mexico did not think that attacking the United States was a particularly good idea, and declined the invitation.

 

Esquiel Cabeza De Baca (1864 – 1917)

On January 1, 1917, Esquiel Cabeza De Baca (1864 – 1917) was inaugurated as Governor of New Mexico.  Baca was the second elected Governor and the first Hispanic Governor in New Mexico’s history.  He had served as Lieutenant Governor prior to his election as Governor.   He was a descendant of the original Spanish settlers.  Cabeza De Baca was also a prominent journalist and blogger, and founded the newspaper “La Voz del Pueblo”.

First Hispanic American actor to win an Academy Award

January 8, 1912 is the birthday of José Vicente Ferrer de Otero y Cintrón (1912 –1992), known as José Ferrer.  The Puerto Rican actor was the first Hispanic American actor to win an Academy Award, which he earned in 1950 for his portrayal of Cyrano de Bergerac.  Ferrer was accepted at Princeton University at age 16 and did postgraduate work at Columbia University.  He intended to be a language teacher, but became enchanted with acting while at college.  Ferrer was honored with a US postage stamp in April 2012

Pablo Casals at the White House

On January 15, 1904, the stunningly beautiful music of famed cellist Pablo Casals (1876 –1973) graced the White House, as the talented musician played for President Theodore Roosevelt and invited guests.   Casals was born in Spain, to a Spanish father and Puerto Rican mother.  By the age of 21, Casals was considered a master cellist.  He fled Franco’s fascist regime, and settled in Puerto Rico.  In 1957, he founded the annual Festival Casals in Puerto Rico and assisted in establishing the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra

Sara Perez, truly a First Lady

Standing with every truly great man is a great woman, and the extraordinary life of Mexican Revolutionaries Francisco and Sara Madero is an inspiring example.   On January 26, 1903, Madero married the love of his life, Sara Perez, and Madero soon decided to enter politics.  Madero was the first freely elected President after years of dictatorship.  He dedicated himself to the betterment of Mexico’s citizens.  He was assassinated 10 years later.

Assassination of Narciso Gener Gonzales

On January 19, 1903, Narciso Gener Gonzales was assassinated by James H. Tillman, the Lieutenant Governor whom he had campaigned against.  Gonzales was a Cuban American born in South Carolina.  With his brother, Gonzales founded The State newspaper.  Tillman was acquitted of the murder.  A monument honoring Gonzales stands near the South Carolina State house.

 

Romney Brent, Latino Actor

January 26, 1902 is the birthday of Romney Brent, a Hispanic who you didn’t know was Hispanic.  Born Romulo Larralde in Saltillo, Mexico, Larralde was a Mexican actor, director, and dramatist.  He spent most of his career on the stage in North America, performing in musicals, classics and modern works.  He also starred in television and film, including the swanky film Dinner at the Ritz, and The Adventures of Don Juan.

Manuel Antonio Chaves, El Leoncito

January 30, 1889 marked the death of Manuel Antonio Chaves, known as El Leoncito (the little lion) for his military exploits as a soldier in the Mexican Army and in the US Army on the side of the Union during the Civil War.  As an American soldier, he helped to defeat the Confederates in the Battle of Glorieta Pass in March, 1862.  This battle was decisive in stopping the Confederate’s drive into New Mexico.  Chaves made American literary history when he appeared as a minor character in Willa Cather’s classic novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop.  (You should have read that one in high school, think back.)

Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, Author, Journalist, and Poet

January 18, 1867 is the birthday of poet, author and journalist Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, born in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.  Known as Rubén Darío, he was a child prodigy who learned to read by age 3 and published his first poem at age 13.  His brilliant writing was acknowledged worldwide, and he has had a lasting influence on modern literature.  A globe trotter, he visited the US, and lived in Europe and several countries in South America.  When World War I erupted in 1914, the quixotic Darío launched a world peace tour to New York City and Guatemala giving lectures and poetry readings.

President Benito Juárez

On January 15, 1858, Benito Juárez was inaugurated for the first of his five terms as president of Mexico.  Juárez was a lawyer and politician of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca.  He was the first indigenous national to serve as President of Mexico and to lead a country in the post 1492 Western Hemisphere.

The First Intercontinental Railroad

On January 27, 1855 the first intercontinental railroad opened, running from Isla Manzanillo to Panama City, Panama.  The railroad was built to assist North American travelers who were hurrying to the California Gold Rush.  At that time, it was too difficult and dangerous to travel across the continental United States.  The railroad was a 47.6 miles route that connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans across the Isthmus of Panama.

An All-American Terrorist

On January 18, 1854, North American William Walker (1824-1860) declared the new “Republic of Sonora” in that sovereign territory of Mexico.  Not troubled by morality or legality, despite being a lawyer (or maybe because of it), Walker’s aim was to establish colonies in Latin America that would be incorporated into the US as slave states.  Needless to say, this concept did not go over well with the Mexican government, and Walker was forced to retreat.  Back in California, he was put on trial for conducting an illegal war.  But this was the expansionist era of Manifest Destiny, and the jury acquitted him in eight minutes.  He later invaded Nicaragua and caused more grief.  Stay tuned!

Jose Marti, Cuban Revolutionary

January 28, 1853 is the birthday of the poet and essayist Jose Marti, who founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party and led the struggle for independence from Spain.  During his exile from Cuba due to his revolutionary politics, Marti spent about 15 years in the US, mostly in New York.  His political writings stress both socioeconomic and liberal justice.  In an almost Hollywood ending, he died on May 19, 1895, charging on a white horse against Spanish forces.

Abraham Lincoln protested the Mexican-American WAr

On January 12, 1848, the reedy, determined voice of Congressman Abraham Lincoln filled the US House of Representatives, as Lincoln protested the Mexican American War.  The War was then in its 20th month; the US military had thought it would last only two months (sound familiar?).  Lincoln protested against the deceit of then President James Polk as to the causes for the war: “… I propose to try to show that the whole of this—issue and evidence—is, from beginning to end, the sheerest deception.”   His speech continued in his condemnation of the war, stating that President Polk, “… ordered General Taylor into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, purposely to bring on a war.”  Lincoln was deeply concerned about the Mexican people who were living in the parts of their nation that the US had invaded.

Battle of Cañada at Santa Cruz

The Battle of Cañada at Santa Cruz, New Mexico (January 24, 1847), was part of the popular uprising known as the Taos Revolt in the Mexican-American War.  Abuses by US soldiers against the Mexican citizens and Pueblo Native Americans sparked the fighting.   Charles Bent, the first appointed territorial governor of New Mexico, had earlier requested that the commander “… interpose your authority to compel the soldiers to respect the rights of the inhabitants. These outrages are becoming so frequent that I apprehend serious consequences must result sooner or later if measures are not taken to prevent them.”  The Mexican rebels were defeated by Colonel Spencer Price.

 

The Taos Revolt

January 19, 1847 marked the start of the bloody Taos Revolt, a popular insurrection by Mexicans and Pueblo Native Americans against the US occupation of northern New Mexico during the Mexican-American War.  The rebels were crushed by US troops and militia, and several Mexican and Native American prisoners of war were executed for treason.

 

Caste War of Yucatan, Mexico

Screams and shots rang out on January 4, 1847 as civilians were massacred during the Caste War of Yucatan (1847–1901), Mexico.   Unfortunately, this was one of many tragic days of civilian deaths during this conflict.  The Mayans revolted against the European Spaniards and Americans of Spanish descent in years of terrible conflict.  The Mayans achieved some victories in 1847–1883 and declared an independent state in the Yucatan, which they ultimately lost.  Skirmishes continued through 1933.  The Mayans were one of the last of the First Nations to surrender to the Europeans.

Stealing California

President James K. Polk (1795 –1849) ordered the US Army at Corpus Christi, Texas, to advance to the Rio Grande in Mexican territory on January 13, 1846.  Commanding General Zachary Taylor advanced with about half of the US land Army.  Polk’s objective was to deliberately provoke Mexico into war, since the Mexican government had refused to sell their republic’s legitimately owned lands in California and Texas.   Polk and Taylor knew that their powerful military forces could overpower the Mexicans, and thus the provocation was a strategic tactic to forcibly seize the land that the Mexicans did not wish to sell them.

Treaty of “Limits” 1828

The US and Mexico signed the Treaty of Limits on January 12, 1828, a few decades before the Mexican-American War.  As Mexican historians will attest, given that the US subsequently stole about a third of the Republic of Mexico, the name of the treaty was … well … very ironic.  The treaty was signed by Joel Poinsett, first US Minister to Mexico, who also named the famous Poinsettia flowers after himself.  Poinsett was a botanist and physician, as well as a politician.

 

Francisco de Miranda, A Life of Adventure

One of the first Latinos to visit the newly independent United States was Venezuelan born Francisco de Miranda (1750 – 1816).  He was a huge fan of the American Revolution, and met with George Washington and other notable Americans.  A keen observer of the newly independent America, he attended classes at Princeton University and wrote extensively of life in post-revolutionary America.  In his diary entry for January 16, 1784, Miranda writes of crossing the Delaware from the same spot as Washington’s famous raid on the Hessians on Christmas Eve of 1776.

Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, Our Man in Havana

On January 22, 1781, Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis and Bernardo de Gálvez met for the first time in Havana, Cuba.  Saavedra was a soldier, diplomat and agent sent by Spanish King Carlos III to the Caribbean.  His mission was to assist the North American rebels in our fight against the British in the American Revolutionary War.  Gálvez was already assisting the Americans with covert shipments of arms and ammunition.  Saavedra later assisted the French, also US allies, to prepare for the crucial Battle of the Capes later that year.

Latinos in the American Revolutionary War

On January 2, 1781, Spanish Captain Eugenio Pourré and his soldiers left the Spanish fort in Saint Louis, Illinois, to march over 350 miles in the cold winter to Saint  Joseph, Michigan.  There, they battled against the British who were trying to hold the western states during the American Revolutionary War.  The Spanish quickly captured the British fort, and set fire to the British munitions and supplies.  This campaign was part of the collaboration between the Spanish and the North American rebels throughout the Revolutionary War.  It ended the British threat in the upper Mississippi.

Spanish Assistance to the American Revolution

On the winter day of January 10, 1778, US rebel officer James Willing departed from Spanish owned Nueva Orleáns (New Orleans), with military armaments and supplies for the US Continental Army fighting against the British.  Willing traveled up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to reach the eastern ports.  The military supplies were provided on credit from the Spanish government.   The British Governor in Florida was furious over the Spanish assistance to the rebels.  He sent a demand letter to Bernardo de Gálvez, ending with “I cannot conclude this letter without once more Remonstrating against your Subjects transporting military Stores and Clothing up the River Mississippi destined for the Colonies in Rebellion, under Spanish Colours and Passports.” But the Spanish continued their military assistance throughout the American Revolutionary War. For more information on the important role of the Spanish and Latinos in the American Revolutionary War, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com.

Diego Maria de Gardoqui

In January 1777, Diego Maria de Gardoqui managed the loading of the ship Rockingham with thousands of blankets, tents, and muskets, and sent it from Bilbao, Spain, to the US rebel army fighting the British in the colonies.   Gardoqui was a Spanish Basque merchant who managed the early smuggling operations of the Spanish government to aid the US Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  He also provided his own funds to assist the rebels, beginning during the earliest days of the North American rebellion in Massachusetts. For more information on the key role of the Spanish and Latinos in the American Revolutionary War, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com

Bernardo de Gálvez

Bernardo de Gálvez celebrated the New Year of 1777 with his inauguration as the Governor of Louisiana in Spanish New Orleans.  The Spanish were already shipping covert arms and ammunition to aid the North American rebels against the British Army.   The thirty-something Gálvez continued and greatly expanded the shipments of supplies from the Spanish government.   The Spanish shipped the military equipment up the Mississippi River and onward to the Continental Army in the rebel American colonies.  These supplies were part of the vital assistance provided by the Spanish and Latinos during the entire American Revolutionary War.  For more information on how the Spanish and Latinos helped to win the American Revolutionary War, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com / www.NuestraHistoriaAmericana.com

Juan José Pérez Hernández

With his crew and ship Santiago, Juan José Pérez Hernández (1725 –1775) departed from New Spain (South America) to explore the northwestern coast of North America, part of Spain’s empire.  He reached the state of Alaska, and explored islands around Vancouver.  Perez named a mountain peak in the US State of Washington as Cerro Nevado de Santa Rosalía (“Snowy Peak of St. Rosalia”).  This name was later changed to Mount Olympus.  Juan Perez Sound in the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia, Canada, is named for him.

Juan Bautista de Anza

On January 8, 1774, a Spanish government expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza departed to explore the territory of the Spanish empire in Arizona, New Mexico, and California.  Anza was searching for a route between Sonora and Alta California, to begin colonizing this territory.  The expedition departed from southern Arizona near the area that is now the city of Tucson, and reached its destination at the Spanish Royal Presidio of San Carlos in Monterey, California in May of that year. This was a small expedition of about 35 men, including 20 soldiers.  The route paralleled the modern border between California and Mexico, crossing the Colorado River.  Later in 1775, Anza led an expedition of 240 men, women and children to found San Francisco, California.

Expulsion of the Jesuits

King Carlos III of Spain expelled the Jesuits from North and South America with a decree on January 29, 1767. Carlos believed that the Jesuits were too close to the Spanish Inquisition.  The Spanish Jesuits built missions in Arizona and Baja California, beginning in the late 17th century.  This expulsion opened the way for the Franciscans, led by the controversial Junípero Serra. Serra initiated the establishment the iconic series of missions that still stand in the state of California.  (Image by Tomás Castelazo)

King Carlos III of Spain

Birthday of King Carlos III of Spain, who ruled from 1759 to 1788, during the time of the American Revolutionary War.  Carlos III authorized covert military aid to the struggling North American rebels beginning in 1776 and throughout the seven years of the rebellion.  The Spanish declared war on the British in June of 1779, and put boots on the ground in the South.  The Spanish challenged the British in the southern theater, where the rebels were struggling.  Carlos III was an enlightened and benevolent man, truly concerned about the welfare of his citizens. (At least, his European citizens. The First Nation Revolutionaries such as Túpac Amaru II were treated much less benevolently.) His stated mission during his reign was worthy of 21st century democracies: to balance Spain’s budget, cut taxes and devote all his attention to improving the welfare of his subjects. (US Congress, are you listening?)

Spanish Empire in California

January 3, 1543 marked the death of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer who worked for the Spanish crown.  He sailed along the west coast of North America, and was the first European explorer to navigate the coast of California.  His expedition was part of a series of explorations by the Spanish to map their empire in North America.