May Day 2013

May 1 is celebrated as May Day, International Workers Day, and Día del Trabajo in many countries around the world.  It is an official holiday in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela – among other South and Central American countries.  On May 1, 2006, Latino, Catholic, and immigrant rights groups organized the Great American Boycott to protest proposed bill HR 4437.  The bill’s objectives were to make residing in the US illegally a felony and to impose harsher penalties for knowingly employing or harboring non-citizens.

Pachanga Latino Music Festival

On May 11, 2012, the fourth annual Pachanga Latino Music Festival opened in Austin, Texas.  The Festival featured international, national and local artists such as Los Lonely Boys, Chico Trujillos, Ana Tijoux, Alejandro Escovedo, Forro in the Dark, Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution, La Santa Cecilia, and Girl In A Coma.  Niños Rock Pachanga is also celebrated, and is an interactive festival for children to experience Latin culture, art and music.  For information on the next Pachanga Fest, please visit their FaceBook Page.  (Photo from Pachangafest.com)

Dr. Alicia Abella, Presidential Appointee

On May 31, 2011, President Barak Obama appointed Dr. Alicia Abella to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.  Abella is the Executive Director of the Innovative Services Research Department at AT&T, where she manages research on data mining, user interfaces, IPTV, mobile services, and SIP/VoIP technology. Abella earned her PhD and MS in computer science from Columbia University and a BS in computer science from New York University.

Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009

On May 19, 2011, Frankie Maybee of Green Forest, Arkansas, was convicted by jury of five counts of committing a federal hate crime.  In June 2010, Maybee and his accomplice targeted five Hispanic men in a gas station parking lot. Though Maybee did not know the men and the five did not do or say anything to provoke them, Maybee yelled racial epithets at the men.  Assuming, of course, that all Hispanics are from Mexico, he told them to “go back to Mexico.”  When the victims drove away, Maybee and his accomplice pursued them in Maybee’s truck. Maybee rammed into the victims’ car repeatedly, causing the victims’ car to crash into a tree and ignite. The victims were badly injured; one sustained life-threatening injuries. According to the Justice Department, Maybee and his accomplice were the first defendants in the nation to be convicted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

The Death of Brisenia

In the cool hours of the dark desert night on May 30, 2009, three Arizonans in the self-proclaimed Minutemen American Defense broke into the home of the Flores family.  In cold blood, they shot and killed 29-year-old Raul “Junior” Flores and his 9-year-old daughter Brisenia. They tried to kill the child’s mother and Raul’s wife, but she managed to dial 911.  The Minutemen, one of whom was a woman, were captured and convicted of first degree murder. A press release from the community organization, Presente, noted, “Though we received a verdict that condemned these atrocious murders, we also recognize that the Brisenia Flores’ case is not the isolated incident that some media reports make it out to be. Rather, it has galvanized the attention of the entire Latino community across the country as it reflects the anti-immigrant, anti-Latino hatred organized by extremist groups.”  Brisenia, we will not forget you.

Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor

On May 26, 2009, Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Barack Obama as a Supreme Court Justice.  Sotomayor was the first Latina woman to receive this nomination and appointment.  Sotomayor was raised in a housing project in the Bronx, New York, with a mother determined to educate her children. Sotomayor recalled that, “…we were the only kids I knew in the housing projects to have an Encyclopedia Britannica.”  Sotomayor earned a BA at Princeton University and her law degree from Yale Law School.  She was the first Latina and the third woman on the Supreme Court.

Jimmy Smits, ALMA Award Winner

On May 6, 2006, Hispanic American Jimmy Smits won the ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) Award for outstanding actor in the television series, “The West Wing”.  ALMA honors programming that shows positive images of Latinos in the arts. In “The West Wing”, Smits played the role of Congressman Mike Santos, who ran for President in the series. In the 1980s, Smits was one of the first actors playing a positive image of a Hispanic character on a prime time television network.  Smits portrayed committed, principled Victor Sifuentes in the Emmy-winning NBC drama LA Law. Smits helped found the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. 

Antonio Villaraigosa, first Latino Mayor of Los Angeles

On May 17, 2005, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected as the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles, California, in over 100 years. His Mexican immigrant father was an alcoholic who abandoned the family, and Villaraigosa had a troubled adolescence.  He was expelled from high school for fighting, and later was charged with assault against a man who had used racial slurs about his mother.  He completed high school at night classes.  He then graduated from UCLA and next earned a degree from People’s College of Law. In an interview with US News, Villaraigosa stated, “I’m a guy who has fallen down my whole life, but I’ve gotten up and wiped the blood off my knees every time.”

First Latino Owner of Major League Baseball Team

On May 15, 2003, Arturo “Arte” Moreno became the first Latino to own a Major League Baseball team, the Anaheim Angels.  Moreno is a fourth generation Mexican American born in Tucson, Arizona.  He and his ten brothers and sisters were raised in a two-bedroom, one bathroom home.  Moreno made his wealth the old fashioned way — he earned it.  He entered a partnership for an outdoor billboard company, building revenues from $500,000 to $90 MM.  He and his original partner later sold the business for $8 billion.  He expressed his team ownership philosophy in an interview with USA Today, “The fans own the team.  I’m the economic caretaker.”  (Photo by Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Latinas in Space!

May 29, 1999 was a momentous day for the space shuttle Discovery, when it docked with the International Space Station for the first time.  Latina Ellen Ochoa was on board and working during the event as mission specialist and engineer.  Her responsibilities included coordinating the transfer of nearly two tons of supplies from one vessel to the other, to prepare for the first crew to live on board the space station in 2000.  Ochoa assisted two of her fellow astronauts during their lengthy spacewalk, operating the remote robotic arm.

 “My Family”

“My Family”, the award winning film about three generations of Mexican Americans, was released on May 3, 1995. The film was directed by Gregory Nava, and featured Latino stars Jimmy Smits, Edward James Olmos, Jennifer Lopez, and Esai Morales, among other talents.  The emotionally complex drama begins with the life of the eldest brother, who was born in California when it was still part of Mexico, and chronicles the family’s lives in Mexico and East Los Angeles.

Dayanara Torres, Miss Universe 1993

On May 23, 1993, 18 year old Dayanara Torres from Puerto Rico was crowned as the 42nd Miss Universe.  Torres then launched her career as a singer, actress, writer, and model, and has appeared in several US television series and movies in the Philippines. Torres authored the self-help book, “Married to Me” after her divorce from Latino singer Mark Anthony (pre-J-Lo).  She actively assists the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Covenant House CA, and Ronald McDonald Charities.

First Latina Miss USA (1985)

On May 13, 1985, beautiful, talented Laura Elena Martinez-Herring was crowned as Miss USA, the first Latina to win the honor.  Martinez was born in Los Mochis, a city in western Mexico.  Her family later settled in Texas, the state that she represented in the Miss USA competition.  Martinez studied at Aiglon College, a Swiss boarding school.  The adventurous Martinez worked in India and traveled through Asia after graduation.  Martinez began working in the film and television industry, where her career suffered from the dearth of quality roles for Hispanic actresses.  Under the name Laura Harring, she starred in the “General Hospital” TV series and films such as “Rio Diablo” and “The Alamo, Thirteen Days to Glory”.

Justice for Nicaragua?

On May 10, 1984, the International Court of Justice in the city of The Hague in the Netherlands ruled that the US should cease its blockade of Nicaraguan ports and stop laying mines in the Nicaraguan harbor.  The court held that, “The right to sovereignty and  to political  independence possessed by the Republic of Nicaragua, like any other S t a t e of the region or of the world, should be fully respected and should not in any way be jeopardized by any military and paramilitary activities which are prohibited by the principles of international law….”  The mining of the harbors was part of the US CIA’s attempt to undermine the leftist Nicaraguan government, which had somehow managed to be democratically elected.

Jaime Roldós Aguilera, President of Ecuador

A violent, fiery plane crash into a mountain on May 24, 1981 ended the life of Jaime Roldós Aguilera, then President of Ecuador.  Aguilera was an educator, author, and politician.   At 39 years old, he was the youngest President elected in the Western Hemisphere.   He took office following a difficult nine-year period of military and civilian dictatorship.  Aguilera worked to restore freedom of the press and granted amnesty to political prisoners.  He initiated labor law reforms and agricultural improvements, with the goal of leading the country to democracy.  His ‘accidental’ death was viewed with great suspicion, with (guess who) the US CIA as prime suspect. 

Enrique Iglesias, Spanish Singer

Happy Birthday to Enrique Iglesias, born May 8, 1975 in Madrid, Spain, to a Spanish father and Philippine mother. Iglesias grew up in Miami and studied at the University of Miami.  He cites his musical influences as artists such as Dire Straits, John Mellencamp, and Fleetwood Mac. Iglesias has sold over 100 million records worldwide, and is one of the best selling Spanish language artists of all time. He has earned 55 number-one hits on the various Billboard charts. Iglesias also co-produced an off-Broadway musical and starred in small roles in movies and television commercials.

Angel Cordero, Jr., The “King of Saratoga”

Jockey Angel Cordero, Jr., riding the racehorse Cannonade, burst over the finish line on May 4, 1974, winning the 100th Kentucky Derby.  Cordero is a native of Puerto Rico, and the only jockey from The Island inducted into the US Racing Hall of Fame.  Cordero is regarded as one of thoroughbred racing’s lead competitors.   Nicknamed the “King of Saratoga” for his winning streak on that turf, Cordero had an overall win percentage of 18.3%, with over 7,000 wins.

Gabriela Beatriz Sabatini, Star Athlete

Happy Birthday to Gabriela Beatriz Sabatini, born on May 16, 1970.  As amateur in 1984, Sabatini was youngest player ever to win a round at the US Open.  That same year, she was ranked as the top Junior player in the world.  She turned pro in 1985 at the age of 14, and set another record as the youngest player to reach semi-finals of the French Open.  Sabatini was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and is regarded as a national treasure.  Argentina was undergoing tremendous political and economic turbulence during the 1980s.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated in 1988, her coach said, “Suddenly in the middle of all the depression and bad news, when everything seemed to be wrong in Argentina, there comes this little angel who makes only good news. I think that is what made her an idol.”

UFW Boycott Day Proclamation

On May 10, 1969, the United Farm Workers issued their Boycott Day Proclamation: “We, the striking grape workers of California, join on this International Boycott Day with the consumers across the continent in planning the steps that lie ahead on the road to our liberation…. If this road we chart leads to the rights and freedoms we demand, if it leads to just wages, humane working conditions, protection from the misuse of pesticides, and to the fundamental rights of collective bargaining; if it changes the social order that relegates us to the bottom reaches of society, then in our wake will follow thousands of American farm workers.  Our example will make them free.” By 1970, an estimated 17 million North Americans had joined by boycott.

Poor People’s March on Washington, DC (1968)

The Poor People’s March on Washington, DC on May 12, 1968.  The march was planned and organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  (King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.) Latino activist Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez joined the march, and issued his manifesto, “Demandas de la Raza” (Demands of the Race).  The Demandas focused on better education and housing for Latinos, as well as civil rights and land reform.  Gonzalez is a social activist, boxer, and poet

US Army Sergeant Roy Perez Benavidez

During intense enemy fire on May 2, 1968, US Army Sergeant Roy Perez Benavidez valiantly rescued his fellow soldiers at Loc Ninh, Vietnam.  (The Vietnam War was from 1955 to 1975.)  Benavidez was severely wounded during the rescue, and courageously continued to carry soldiers to safety and to destroy classified documents, preventing their capture by the enemy.  On that dangerous day, Benavidez saved the lives of at least eight US servicemen.

Queen of Spain (1962)

On May 14, 1962, Princess Sophia of Greece married King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and the couple reigned in Spain until 2014.  Juan Carlos and Sophia have governed during turbulent times.  The King managed the transition from Franco’s dictatorship to a constitutional government in the mid-1970s.  The couple has three children and eight grandchildren.  Juan Carlos is a descendant of Carlos III, who ruled during the years of the American Revolutionary War in the late 18th century. Carlos III provided substantial military and economic assistance to the struggling US colonies. (We really do not understand why the US Media focuses almost exclusively on the British Royal Family.  The Spanish Royal Family is much more interesting, and better looking.)

“The revolution has no time for elections.” ?Really?

On May 1, 1961, Fidel Castro officially abolished multiparty elections and declared that Cuba was a socialist state.  Castro stated that, “The revolution has no time for elections. There is no more democratic government in Latin America than the revolutionary government.”  Really?!  A BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) journalist reported that Castro’s revolution seems to be popular with the 99% – but not the wealthier classes whose land and property were confiscated.  The announcement was made shortly after Castro’s victory at the disastrous US-led Bay of Pigs invasion.  (Photo by BBC)

We loved Lucy Ricardo

May 6, 1957 was the final series broadcast of the “I Love Lucy” show on CBS television.  The show started its run in 1951, and featured Lucille Ball and her Cuban born real-life husband, Desi Arnaz.  “I Love Lucy” became a huge success as North American viewers laughed at the stories and antics of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.  More viewers watched the television birth of their son, “Little Ricky”, than President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration on the same night. The show was the first in television history with an audience of more than ten million homes.

Archbishop Patrick F. Flores

Archbishop Patrick F. Flores was first ordained as a priest on May 26, 1956. Flores’ parents were Mexican immigrants and migrant farm workers living in Ganado, Texas.  He was the first Mexican-American Catholic Archbishop in the US.  Flores helped to establish the National Foundation of Mexican American Vocations and the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund.  He received numerous awards for his public service.

Vicki Lynn Ruiz, Writer, Scholar, and Professor

Happy Birthday to writer, scholar, professor and activist Vicki Lynn Ruiz.  Ruiz was born in Atlanta, Georgia to a Mexican mother and a North American father, whose parents disowned him for marrying a Mexican. Ruiz earned her master’s degree and doctorate in history from Stanford University.   Her doctoral dissertation studied Mexican American cannery workers and their subversive pursuit of unionization.  She continues to research and write Mexican American women’s history in the contemporary US, and has received numerous honors for her work.

Alfred Molina, Actor

Happy Birthday to Alfred Molina, a British born American actor with a Spanish father.  One of Molina’s greatest bursts of artistic inspiration was fellow Brit Anthony Hopkins.  In an interview with “Back Stage West”, Molina recalled that, “the way he [Hopkins] worked, his demeanor onstage–he looked like a regular guy. And I thought, People like me can do this. My dad was a waiter. My mother cleaned rooms in hotels. So it was a big sort of eye-opening moment.”  And a person like him has done this.  Molina has starred in commercially successful films such as Frida, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Spiderman 2, The Da Vinci Code, and cross culturally on Broadway as the Jewish Fiddler on the Roof.  Our favorite is Molina’s role as the stuffy, judgmental mayor who is ultimately enlightened by chocolate and humanity in the film, Chocolat.

Antonia Hernández, MALDEF President

Happy Birthday to Antonia Hernández, born on May 30, 1948 in Coahuila, Mexico.  Hernández immigrated to the US with her family when she was 8 years old.  Her mother stated in an interview with Parent magazine that, “In my time, women didn’t have the freedom that women have today, but I wanted my daughters to have that, to learn, to travel, to work, to do whatever they wanted to do.”  Hernández is a graduate of the University of California (UCLA) Law School.  She served as president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a Latino civil rights organization,

Frank del Olmo, Writer and Editor

May 18, 1948 is the birthday of Frank del Olmo, writer, editor, and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Olmo earned a BS in journalism from California State University.  He raised awareness of Latino issues and advocated increased hiring of Latino reporters.  Olmo received an Emmy Award for The Unwanted (1975), a documentary about the border between the US and Mexico and a Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for his series about Latinos in Southern California.  In 2004, he collapsed from a heart attack while working in his office, and died at age 55.

Esmeralda Santiago, Author, Editor and Documentary Filmmaker

Happy Birthday to author, editor and documentary filmmaker Esmeralda Santiago, born on May 17, 1948 in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Santiago immigrated to the US with her family when she was 11 years old.  She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College. Santiago’s writings capture the emotional, psychological and intellectual conflicts of human beings living in two cultural worlds.  In her book, “When I was Puerto Rican”, she wrote, “I was told I was no longer Puerto Rican because my Spanish was rusty, my gaze too direct, my personality too assertive … Yet in the United States, my darkness, my accented speech, my frequent lapses into confused silence between English and Spanish identified me as foreign, non-American.”  Her books include “América’s Dream”, “Almost a Woman”, and “Conquistadora”.

Tania Leon, Composer, Conductor, Music Director and Musician

Happy Birthday to Tania Leon, the Cuban born, multi-talented composer, conductor, music director and musician.  In Cuba, Leon studied piano, violin, and music theory, earning multiple degrees music.  She was the first Music Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York, inspiring the troupe from 1969 until 1990.  Her appearances as a guest conductor and composer include Harvard University, Yale University, the Cleveland Institute, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and the Bellagio Center in Italy.  In an interview, Leon stated her philosophy of music and life, “My chosen purpose in life is to be a musician, a composer, a conductor. This is the way I am making my contribution to mankind.”  For an overview of her musical philosophy narrated by Leon, please visit her YouTube video.

Carmen Contreras Bozak, Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps

The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) was established during World War II on May 15, 1942, to “[make] available to the national defense the knowledge, skill and special training of the women of the nation”.  Carmen Contreras Bozak was the first Hispanic woman to enlist, serving as interpreter and in administrative positions to manage communications and cryptography.   She volunteered to go on the first WAAC deployment overseas, risking her life in North Africa. Contreras was born in Puerto Rico, and her family immigrated to New York when she was a child.

Richard Steven Valenzuela

The electrifying voice that sang “La Bamba”, the rock and roll version of a traditional Mexican ballad, was first heard on May 13, 1941, with the birth of Richard Steven Valenzuela.  Later known as Ritchie Valens, he was a Mexican-American singer, songwriter, and guitarist whose brief but brilliant career influenced a generation of musicians, including the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Valens was discovered at age 16 by Del-fi Records.  In October 1958, Del-fi released “La Bamba” with a love song entitled “Donna” on the flip side. Valens had written the love song about his high school sweetheart, who was forbidden by her father to date a Mexican. “Donna” sold over a million copies and reached second place on the nation’s charts while “La Bamba” only climbed as high as number 22.  Valens was touring with Buddy Holiday, and the two men were killed in a plane crash in 1959.  The headlines that morning read, “The Day the Music Died”.  (Next year, we promise a podcast.)

“The Conquistador” 1933

On May 3, 1933, American poet Archibald MacLeish won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his epic work, “The Conquistador”.   The poem is in the voice of Bernal Diaz, an old man who in his youth was a soldier with Cortez’s invading army in the war against the Aztec empire.  To research the background for the poem, MacLeish traveled through Mexico, retracing Cortez’s route. A review by The Poetry Foundation notes that, “In Montezuma, Cortez, and Diaz, the poem offers three figures—god, hero, and man—who share the reader’s attention and good will and who are examined in an ironic context of human blood and natural beauty, greed for gold and sun-worship, political intrigue and heroic quest.”  (Please visit www.PoetryFoundation.org, and download their free app.  It rocks!)

José Montoya, Poet, Activist, Teacher and Painter

Happy Birthday to José Montoya, poet, activist, teacher and painter, born on May 28, 1932.  Montoya’s grandparents from Mexico received a land grant from the US government.  They settled near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Montoya was born.  Montoya earned his MFA at Sacramento State University.  He helped to found the Mexican American Liberation Art Front (MALAF) and the Rebel Chicano Art Front (RCAF).  Montoya is regarded as one of the most important bilingual Chicano poets, and served as the Poet Laureate of Sacramento, California.

Manuel Luján, Jr., Congressman

May 12, 1928 is the birthday of Manuel Luján, Jr., born on a small farm near San Ildelfonso, New Mexico.  In 1968, Luján was elected to Congress.  In the 1970’s and early 1980’s Luján was one of the few prominent Hispanic Republicans, and the only Republican member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  He usually supported the Reagan administration, but in 1986 he sided with Hispanic leaders and opposed legislation that sanctioned employers if they hired illegal immigrants. In 1989 Luján was appointed as Secretary of the Interior by President George Bush.

Richard Alonzo Gonzales

Happy Birthday to Richard Alonzo Gonzales, nicknamed “Pancho”, apparently because his non-Hispanic childhood friends did not know any other Mexican names.  Gonzales’ parents immigrated to the US from Chihuahua, Mexico. His father worked as a house painter and his mother as a seamstress.  His mother bought him his first tennis racket for 51 cents.  Gonzalez was an eight-time World Pro Tennis champ.  In his first round at Wimbledon, the 41 year old Gonzales was matched against 25 year old Charlie Pasarell from Puerto Rico.  Gonzales and Pasarell played the then longest match in Wimbledon history, for five hours and 20 minutes.  One of Gonzales’ books is, “Tennis Begins at Forty: A Guide for All Players Who Don’t Have Wrists of Steel or a Cannonball Serve, Don’t Always Rush the Net or Have a Devastating Overhead, but Want to Win”, demonstrating that there is life after 40.  (Photo by UPI/Corbis-Bettmann)

Graciela Olivárez, Lawyer, Social Activist, Professor

May 9, 1928 is the birthday of Graciela Olivárez, lawyer, social activist, professor, and political appointee.  Olivárez was born in Phoenix, Arizona. Although she initially dropped out of high school, Olivárez graduated from the Notre Dame School of Law in 1970. The then 42-year old Olivárez was the first woman to graduate from this prestigious law school.  She worked as the State Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) for Arizona in 1965 (back then, Hispanics were allowed to do those things in Arizona). President Jimmy Carter, President from 1977 to 1981, appointed her as director of the Community Services Administration in 1977.  Olivárez was the highest-ranking Hispanic woman in Carter’s administration.

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey”

On May 7, 1928, all-American writer Thorton Wilder won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Bridge of San Luis Rey”.  According to a review by Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers, the book was “a stylized fable set in colonial Peru, where a famous rope bridge over a deep chasm collapses while five travelers, all of whom just seemed to be starting to make new lives for themselves after wasted years, fall to their deaths. A scholarly monk piously sets out to learn all he can of their histories in an effort to determine whether the fall can be attributed to divine design or accident, but for his trouble both he and his work are burned by the Inquisition.”

Roberto José Suarez y de Cardenas

May 5, 1928 is the birthday of Roberto José Suarez y de Cardenas, a distinguished journalist, editor, and publisher.   He was the publisher of El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish language newspaper published by the Miami Herald. Cardenas was born in Havana, Cuba, and in his youth he played basketball with Fidel Castro.  He became disillusioned with the Cuban Revolution, and eventually settled with his family in the US.  His first job with the Miami Herald was as a part-time mailroom clerk.  Under his leadership, the struggling El Nuevo Herald grew to be one of the most successful Spanish language newspapers in the US.  (Photo Jeep Hunter/MCT, via Miami Herald)

Emergency Immigration Act of 1921

On May 19, 1921, the Emergency Immigration Act of 1921 was passed.   This Act limited the number of immigrants allowed to enter the US during a single year, and was the first such Act in US history.  This legislation limited immigration from Europe to 3% of each European nationality present in the US in 1910.  The Act did not have quotas for people born in the Western Hemisphere (which included Central and South America).  People who had lived the Western Hemisphere for at least one year could immigrate freely if they were otherwise eligible.

Meyer v. Nebraska 1923

On May 25, 1920, schoolteacher Robert T. Meyer taught one of his fourth-grade pupils to read the Bible in the German language.  (There goes the neighborhood!)  An attorney from Hamilton County learned of the highly subversive incident, and charged the teacher with shockingly violating a Nebraska law that prohibited teaching foreign languages to elementary school pupils.  Meyer was tried, convicted, and fined $25.  Meyer appealed his conviction.  In 1923, the US Supreme Court ruled in Meyer v. Nebraska that the 1919 Nebraska law violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Evita

May 7, 1919 was the beginning of the passionate, unpredictable life of María Eva Duarte de Perón, known throughout the world and in the Broadway musical as Evita.  Evita was born in poverty in Argentina, and at the age of 16, she went to Buenos Aires, the capital city, to become a successful actress.  After her husband’s election as President, Evita became increasingly influential in politics, campaigning for women’s rights and for the poor, known in Argentina as the descamisados.  (Descamisados translates as the shirtless ones, like the 99% in the US, except that we usually do have at least shirts.)  Evita supervised the newly created Ministry of Health that constructed many hospitals and established a remarkably successful program to eradicate diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and leprosy.  (No, it wasn’t called Evitacare.)  In the 1951 election, Evita was nominated as Vice President, but was unable to complete the campaign given her illness with cancer.  She died in 1952 at the terribly young age of 32.

Humberto Noé “Bert” Corona, Union Leader and Civil Rights Activist

May 29, 1918 is the birthday of Humberto Noé “Bert” Corona, a union, political and civil rights activist who spent over 70 years of his life in public service.  Corona was born in El Paso, Texas, to Mexican parents.  He received a basketball scholarship to the University of Southern California, but dropped out to work full-time in labor organizing.  Corona worked in numerous organizations, including the Longshoremen’s Union, La Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Community Service Organization, and La Asociación Nacional Mexico-Americana (ANMA).  In the book “Memories of Chicano History”, he wrote, “I never planned my life. It just happened the way it did. I’m proud that I was able at certain times to help organize a plant or a community group and that these organizations helped people struggle to better their lives.”

Lydia 1916

Before Selena and J-Lo were known only by their first names, there was Lydia.  May 21, 1916 Lydia Mendoza was born on May 21, 1916 in Houston, Texas.  Accompanied by her 12 string guitar, Lydia was a pioneer of the Tejano music movement.  She recorded more than 200 songs in the first 6 years of her career and over 800 songs by the end of her 50 year career.  Lydia sang for US President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration in 1977.  She received the National Medal of the Arts in 1999.  President Bill Clinton praised her as “the first rural American woman performer to garner a large following throughout Latin America.”

The Grande Dame of New Mexico

May 20, 1910 is the birthday of the Grande Dame of New Mexico, Concha Ortiz y Pino de Kleven. Pino was born in Galisteo, New Mexico, and her ancestors in the Pino and Ortiz families were among the earliest European settlers of New Mexico.  One of these ancestors, Nicolas Pino, was a leader of a rebellion in 1846, shortly after the US conquest of New Mexico. After losing the rebellion, Nicolas resolved that once the family learned English and understood the new form of government, a member of every generation of the Pino family would run for election to the state legislature.  Concha was elected to the state legislature for three terms, and devoted her life to public service and humanitarian causes.  Five US Presidents appointed her to national boards, including the National Commission on Architectural Barriers to the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr.

May 16, 1910 is the birthday of Admiral Horacio Rivero, Jr. the first Puerto Rican four-star Admiral and second Latino to become a full Admiral in the modern US Navy.  Rivero graduated from the US Naval Academy, ranking third in his class of 441.  He served in World War II in the Pacific theater, earning the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” and the Legion of Merit.  In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Rivero served in the blockade of Cuba.  His last position in his 45 year career was as Commander-in-Chief of the allied forces for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  In 1972 President Richard Nixon appointed Rivero as Ambassador to Spain; he was also the first Hispanic in this office.

Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos, El Maestro

May 25, 1906 is the birthday of Martín Magdaleno Dihigo Llanos, born in Matanzas Province, Cuba.  Dihigo was a baseball player in the Negro and Latin American leagues.  He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.  According to the Hall of Fame, “Martin Dihigo was perhaps the most versatile player in baseball history. Known as “El Maestro”, he played all nine positions skillfully.“

Salvador Dali, Spanish Artist

On May 11, 1904, our contemporary world became more colorful and eccentric with the birth of artist Salvador Dali in Figueras, Spain.  Dali became one of the most influential and well-known painters of the 20th century – partly due to genius and partly due to his self-described exhibitionism and delight in shocking the public.  His antics were legendary; he rode to one press interview in a limousine full of cauliflower and once sent his horse to stand in for him at an exhibition.  His art was Surrealistic, which focused on un-concealing suppressed images from the unconscious to create new and fabulous realities.  (Image by New York Museum of Modern Art)

The Platt Amendment 1903

The Platt Amendment was approved by the US Congress on May 22, 1903.  The Amendment stipulated the conditions for the withdrawal of US troops that remained in Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War.  A key provision of the Amendment was the perpetual lease of Guantanamo Bay, a 45 square mile area of southeastern Cuba.  Needless to say, the Cubans are not happy with the arrangement.  Fidel Castro and the Cuban government have unsuccessfully attempted to sue the US government in international courts to evict the undocumented and unwelcome US.

Lydia Cabrera, Matriarch of Letters

May 20, 1900 is the birthday of Lydia Cabrera, considered by contemporaries as the premiere Cuban ethnologist and Cuba’s matriarch of “letters”.  (In the 20th century, people wrote thoughtful, lengthy communications by hand with pen and ink on paper, called “letters”.) Cabrera focused on Afro-Cuban history, and wrote scholarly volumes and entertaining fiction, including work on santeria, the hybrid of Catholicism and African religions that developed in the Caribbean. A reporter from the Miami Times observed, “She befriended old, former slaves in Havana and Matanzas, in the fields and hills.  On their porches, inside their thatched-roof huts known as bohios, she heard their stories and translated them into tales, fictional stories based on folklore rooted in Africa and passed down from generation to generation.”

Juan Alamia of the Rough Riders

On May 27, 1898, Texas native Juan Alamia volunteered for the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry in San Antonio, Texas.  This unit was later known as the “Rough Riders” under the leadership of the charismatic Colonel Theodore Roosevelt.  (Theodore Roosevelt served as US President from 1901-1909.)  As a soldier in the Rough Riders, Alamia fought with his fellow Americans against the Spanish in Cuba.  In 1913, he was killed during the Mexican Revolution.

US Marines Invade Nicaragua, again

On May 2, 1896, US Marines invaded the sovereign nation of Nicaragua, ostensibly “to protect US interests” during a period of political unrest.  The undocumented Marines landed at Corinto on the Pacific coast of the country. Corinto is now a small, peaceful beach town, and one of Nicaragua’s largest ports and a popular stop for cruise ships.  (Map by welt-atlas.de)

 The Chinese Exclusion Act 1882

The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into US federal law on May 8, 1882.  The Act was the first major immigration legislation based on nationality.   It was designed to reduce the number of Americans of Chinese descent and to disenfranchise as many as possible through measures such as removing the right to naturalization.  Chinese immigrants were initially tolerated as laborers during the 1848 California Gold Rush, but after the economic downturn of the 1870s, these workers were persecuted.  Although the Chinese comprised less than 1% of the US population in 1882, the law was supported by many labor union leaders and politicians.

US invades Mexico, again

On May 18, 1876, American troops landed in Matamoras, Mexico, ostensibly “to police the town of Matamoras” while it was temporarily without a government.  Matamoras is located on the north eastern Gulf coast of Mexico, near the border with Texas.   Presumably, the US troops had their passports and work visas in order.  Or maybe not?

Panchita Sánchez Miot, Confederate Spy

During the US Civil War at the Battle at Horse Landing on May 22, 1864, Confederate soldiers were assisted by Cuban-born immigrant Panchita Sánchez Miot.  Sánchez and her sisters spied for the Confederacy, and the local Union intelligence never suspected that the little brown women were outwitting them.  On a balmy night in May, Union officers visited the Sánchez family home in Palatka, Florida.  Sánchez overheard them discussing a raid against the Confederacy.  She hiked over to the Confederate camp, and warned Captain John Jackson Dickison of the raid.  The Confederates defeated the Union soldiers in a surprise attack, and also captured the USS Columbine, a Union ship.  The Confederates named a pontoon for Sánchez and her sisters, christening the vessel as “The Three Sisters”.  After the Civil War, Sánchez married a Confederate officer and lived in South Carolina.

Garibaldi Brigade

On May 28, 1862, the newly formed Garibaldi Brigade (39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment) marched out of the state of New York to defend the struggling US Government.  The bloody Civil War (1861 to 1865) between the northern and southern states was raging, and many immigrants enlisted to support the Union.  Many of the units in the Brigade were manned by immigrants who volunteered to defend their new home country, including one company of Spanish and Portuguese volunteers.

Mexican Independence Day?

Mexican Independence Day?  Not exactly.  May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, celebrates the 1862 Battle of Puebla, in which the Mexican Army defeated the French Army.  What were the French doing there?  It’s complicated.  After costly civil wars, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium suspending all foreign debt payments for two years.  Their impatient French, British and Spanish creditors were unhappy, and decided to invade.  (Let’s hope that the bankers in Beijing do not read this.)  Although heavily outnumbered and out-armed, the determined Mexican troops were victorious.   Please continue to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, and also join the Mexicans for their Independence Day Celebration on September 16.   Mexican-Americans would love to host you on both occasions.

The Woman Warriors (1812)

On May 27, 1812, hundreds of freedom fighting women of Cochabamba, Bolivia, joined in the May 27, 1812 Battle of La Coronilla.  The women (and men) were fighting against the Spanish rulers in the Bolivian War of Independence.  The Bolivian War of Independence began in 1809 and lasted until 1825.  Bolivians celebrate Mother’s Day on May 27, to commemorate the valor of these women.

Manuel Quimper Benítez del Pino, Peruvian Explorer

On May 31, 1790, Peruvian cartographer and naval officer Manuel Quimper Benítez del Pino explored and charted the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  This Strait is the wide waterway stretching from the Pacific Ocean on the west to the San Juan Islands on the east, with Vancouver Island, Canada to the north.  The international boundary between the United States and Canada runs down the center of the Strait.  The Spanish extensively explored and mapped the western coast of the US and southwestern Canada.

 

Miguel Eduardo Antonio, Spanish Agent and Spy

On May 23, 1776, shortly before the July 4 Declaration of Independence was signed, the Cuban vessel, the Santa Barbara, was captured by a British warship in the Delaware Bay.  On board was Miguel Eduardo Antonio, sent by the Spanish government in Havana to make contact with the North American rebels.  He was traveling under the guise of merchant.  The British searched the ship, found 12,000 silver pesos, and accused Antonio of being a spy coming to aid the rebels (which he was, actually).  Antonio was taken prisoner, but given his fluency in English and charming personality, he was soon invited to dinners with the British officers.  He had several interviews with James Murray, Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of Virginia, all of which he reported to the Spanish military commanders in Havana when he eventually returned. 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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“Inter caetera” (1493)

On May 4, 1493, Roman Catholic Pope Alexander VI brazenly issued the document “Inter caetera” that divided the continent of South America between Spain and Portugal.  No consideration was given for the Native American nations that had settled and lived in the continent for more than 30,000 years.   The “Inter caetera” continues to be protested by Native American rights groups to this day.  Pope Alexander VI was originally from Spain, and is known as the Borgia Pope.  His reign was marred by debauchery, corruption, and cruelty.  As of 2011, the handsome, talented British actor, Jeremy Irons, portrays His Wickedness in the TV series, “The Borgias”.  (For some unknown reason, no wicked Hispanic actors were available for casting.)