Dia de los Muertos / DOTD + DIY

Today, we’re blending the practical North American tradition of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) with the spiritual South American tradition of DOTD (Day of the Dead).  During the DOTD, or Dia de los Muertos, Americans honor friends and family members who have passed from this world by building “ofrendas” or altars.  According to the city of San Antonio’s Centro Cultural Aztlan, the altars welcome returning spirits who drop by for the Holiday.  Building your altar starts with a photo of your loved one (the Aztecs had a very early version of Facebook), and continues with adding fruit punch (this is a favorite with spirits – who knew?), sweet “pan de muerto”, which is a round loaf topped with skull and cross bones, and a number of symbolic presents and mementos from the deceased person’s life.  For a complete DIY for your DOTD, please visit the Texas Monthly.  For a complete tour of the celebration, please view the online DOTD exhibition at the Smithsonian Latino Center.  (Illustration by Marc Burckhardt for the Texas Monthly)

Birth of A Mayan King

Within the beautifully carved walls of a Mayan royal residence, the future ruler, Radiant Snake Jaguar, was born in Palenque, Mexico, on September 18, 524 in the Western Calendar.  Palenque was a Maya city state in southern Mexico, with ruins that date from 226 BC to its fall in about 1123 AD.  Chan Bahlam, as he was known in the Mayan language, ascended the throne in September 524.  (Image from “Maya Royal Dynasties, revised by Inga E. Calvin, 2012)

Feast day of the Virgen de las Mercedes

Today is the Feast day of the Virgen de las Mercedes (Virgin of Mercy) and the day to honor the Santeria god Obatalá.  The Virgin is honored throughout South and Central America and in Spain and Portugal.  Obatalá is honored in Cuba and Brazil, and is also considered as part of the Yoruba religion.

Start of Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 is the official start of our nation’s annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which continues through October 15.  Hispanic Heritage Week was initially approved by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, and in 1988 President Ronald Reagan extended it to a month of celebration.  September 15 was selected since five Latin American countries celebrate their independence on this day. (Image by Purdue University Latino Cultural Center)

Feast of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

September 8 is the annual Feast of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Virgin of the Charity of Copper).  The Virgin is nicknamed “Cachita”  and she is highly revered in Cuba.  During colonial times, the Virgin is believed to have intervened on behalf of native Cubans, saving them during a violent storm as they fled from the Spanish.  The Virgin then took up residence in the mountains in an area with copper mines, where she is honored with a shrine.   Practitioners of Santería (an AfroCaribbean religion) honor and celebrate their goddess of love, Ochún, on this day as well.  (Photo by Rafael de la Osa)

New Exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The exhibition “Not Lost in Translation: The Life of Clotilde Arias” premiered at the US Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  Arias was a Peruvian immigrant who arrived in New York in 1923 during the Great Depression, at the age of 22.  Arias became an accomplished composer, musician, journalist, activist and educator.  Her musical composition, Huiracocha, was celebrated worldwide. In 1946, the US State department commissioned her to provide an official Spanish translation of “The Star Spangled Banner”, the US National Anthem.

American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation New Campaign

On September 18, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) announced a new campaign to combat racial profiling during police traffic stops in North Carolina.  The ACLU spent years investigating reports of racial profiling and racially biased policing in traffic stops across the state. A recent report from a University of North Carolina professor found that in North Carolina, African American drivers are 77% more likely than white drivers to be searched after a traffic stop, while Hispanic drivers are 96% more likely than white drivers to be searched

Winners of the National Medal of Science

Richard Alfred Tapia is a highly respected American mathematician who has championed minority students in the sciences.  On September 28, 2011, US President Barack Obama awarded Tapia and 11 other scientists the National Medal of Science.   Tapia created four day workshops on computational science for teachers from schools with high minority enrollments.  He has also mentored minority PhD students in science.   (Please see March 25, 1939 for more information on Tapia).

Mexican Museum Opens a New Exhibit

The Mexican Museum in San Francisco opened the Tequila Don Julio Collection on September 23, 2011.  This art collection reflected the modern, dynamic artistic expression of Mexican and Mexican-American people.  The Mexican Museum was founded in 1975. (www.MexicanMuseum.org)

Gael Garcia Bernal Interviewed by NPR

Mexican actor and Hollywood star Gael Garcia Bernal interviewed with NPR (National Public Radio) News to discuss “The Invisibles”, a series of short documentaries on Central American people traveling through Mexico to reach the US.  The Central Americans are victimized by criminal and drug gangs in Mexico, and many who cannot pay ransoms or secure funds are murdered.  Bernal spent time interviewing migrants and the Mexican people who work to assist them, saying that, “I think I’ve seen the best of humanity in terms of fraternity, the people that travel – that do this journey together. They are embarking themselves on the biggest adventure of their lives and they are doing it for the better of their kids and their families. There’s no other interest other than this.”

First biannual Celebración Artística de las Américas

With music, song and art, the first biannual Celebración Artística de las Américas (CALA) Festival was celebrated in Arizona on September 14, 2011. The CALA Alliance is an Arizona community-based organization dedicated to educating and inspiring all Arizonans about the richness of the Latino cultural heritage.  The Festival includes performances, exhibits, in-school activities, food, and events over a period of about two months in multiple venues across the state.  More information about these courageous souls and their mission is available at www.CalaAlliance.org

Launching of Historias

The renowned keeper of our spoken stories, StoryCorps, launched Historias on September 24, 2009.  Historias is a new program to preserve the experiences of Latinos in the US and Puerto Rico.  The program, which already exists in English, records informal conversations between family members or close friends who share their life experiences and stories with each other.   StoryCorps is a partner with National Public Radio.

Kenny Ortega Interview with a Leading Australian magazine

“Musicals are my greatest love, without question,” choreographer and director Kenny Ortega declared in an interview with a leading Australian magazine in September 2006.  His earliest memories are of his parents’ laughter as they danced in their family living room.  Ortega’s parents were Spanish and Cuban; he was born in Palo Alto, California.  In his decades long career, Ortega has shared his love with audiences across stage, television, movies, and spectacles such as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic games.  He is the choreographic genius behind the wildly successful Hollywood hits “Dirty Dancing” and “High School Musical”.  Ortega has earned numerous awards, including an Emmy, ALMA Award, and Director’s Guild of America Award.  (Image by Mark Mainz/ Getty Images for NCLR)

Rally for the Worst

Yes, they are still here.  On September 2, 2006, members of the World Order of the Ku Klux Klan rallied at the Battle of Gettysburg National Military Park, the site of a decisive Civil War battle.  (Apparently, the Klan has not quite gotten over the end of slavery.)  While continuing to harass African-Americans, these hate groups are now also targeting Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Bradley C. Bower)

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An American Tragedy

Latinos shared the nation’s tragedy as 258 Hispanic Americans were killed in New York on September 11, 2001, when two hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center. Among the 177 men and 81 women were 21-year old Marlyn C. Garcia, a college student who aspired to work at the United Nations, and 28 year old Mario L. Santoro, an emergency medical technician, volunteer basketball coach and new father. (Photo by Voxxi/Griselda Nevarez)

”Macarena” Broke Into the Top 100 of The Billboard 200

The day of the Mac attack!  On September 7, 1996, Los Del Rio’s hit song ”Macarena” broke into the top 100 of The Billboard 200.  Antonio Romero and Raphael Ruiz, the two Spaniards in the Del Rio group, were pleasantly surprised by their song’s success.  It quickly became a cultural fixture, played at weddings, family reunions and bar mitzvahs – former Vice President Al Gore even danced to it at the Democratic Convention.  “‘Macarena’ is a revelation of happiness, and that happiness is captured in the rhythm of the song,” said Romero. “It puts the world in agreement to dance and celebrate.”

Ed Pastor Gets into Office

Another first for Hispanics was earned by Ed Pastor, when he became the first Latino from Arizona to be elected to US Congress.  Pastor was born in a small mining town in Arizona.  He earned his BA at Arizona State University and his law degree from Arizona State College of Law.   After serving as a County Supervisor, he was elected to Congress and began his term on September 25, 1991.  Pastor currently serves on the Agriculture Committee, and on the Committee on House Oversight.

Happy Birthday to Stefanía Fernández Krupij

Happy Birthday to Stefanía Fernández Krupij, born in Venezuela on September 4, 1990.   Fernández was crowned as Miss Universe in 2009.  While she is 100% Venezuelan and Latina, her heritage is Ukrainian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.

Lauro Fred Cavazos was sworn in as Secretary of Education

On September 20, 1988, Lauro Fred Cavazos was sworn in as Secretary of Education in President Ronald Reagan’s Administration.  Cavazos was the first Hispanic to serve in the US Cabinet.  Cavazos is a sixth-generation Texan born in Kingsville, Texas.   Cavazos’ father strongly encouraged his education, and after he served in World War II, Cavazos earned a BA and MS from Texas Tech University and later a medical degree from Iowa State University.  In 1980, he was appointed as President of Texas Tech University and its Health Science Center.  After serving as Secretary of Education, he returned to teach at Tufts University.

Katherine Davalos Ortega Appointed to Office

US President Ronald Reagan announced his appointment of Katherine Davalos Ortega on September 12, 1983 as US Secretary of the Treasury. “She is symbolic of the values the Hispanic community represents, and I am honored that she is to become a part of this administration,” stated Reagan. Ortega was born in Tularosa, New Mexico, and Spanish was her first language.  She earned a BA at Eastern New Mexico State University, and also served as on the Presidential Advisory Committee on Small and Minority Business Ownership.

Manuel Orantes Wins US Open

To the surprise of cheering fans, Manuel Orantes upset leading US tennis player Jimmy Connors to win the US Open.   Orantes’ win was regarded as one of the greatest Grand Slam matches in tennis history.  Orantes was born in Granada, Spain, and has a reputation for being a true gentleman.  In 2012, he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Premiere of the Comedy Series “Chico and The Man”

US television history was made on September 13, 1974, with the premiere of the comedy series, “Chico and The Man”.  This was the first US television series set in a Mexican American neighborhood. The series featured Jack Albertson as the grumpy owner of a repair garage in East Los Angeles, and Freddie Prinze (born Frederick Karl Pruetzel) as the optimstic Chicano man who works for him.  The hilarious chemistry between the two actors propelled the sitcom to the status of a major hit for several seasons, until Prinze’s tragic suicide in 1977.

The End of an Era in Chile

In the terrible blast of bullets and artillery that raged through the Presidential Palace on September 11, 1973, democratically elected President Salvadore Allende was finally defeated.  In 1970 Allende was elected as President of Chile with a leftist coalition called Unidad Popular,or Popular Unity. Allende and his coalition planned dramatic social, economic and political reforms.  In response, dissenters in the military staged a coup.  The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was rumored to have supported his overthrow.  As the palace was stormed, Allende refused to surrender and the debate still rages as to whether he committed suicide or was murdered.  In his last broadcast to the Chilean people, Allende offered the inspiring words that they would need for the years of brutal dictatorship that followed, “I have faith in Chile and in its destiny. Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment, when treason stands to conquer. May you go forward in the knowledge that, sooner rather than later, the great avenues will open once again along which free citizens will march in order to build a better society.” (Bumper sticker image from www.Zazzle.com)

Happy Birthday to Maria Canals Barrera

Happy Birthday to actress Maria Canals Barrera born on September 28, 1966 in Miami, Florida.  Canals’ heritage is Cuban and Catalonian (Spanish).  She has starred in numerous television series and several films.  Canals is best known for her roles in the “Wizards of Waverly Place” and “Camp Rock” and its sequel.  She won ALMA (American Latino Media Arts Award) Awards in 2002 and 2011.  (Image by UPI Photo collection)

Happy Birthday to Maria de la Soledad O’Brien

Happy Birthday to Maria de la Soledad O’Brien, born on September 19, 1966 in Saint James, New York.  O’Brien’s parents were both immigrants; her mother is Afro-Cuban and her father is Irish-Australian. Her complex interracial heritage has influenced her profession.  O’Brien said of her work at CNN, “One of the things that has been a real strength, and a real value in our ‘Black in America’ and ‘Latino in America’ series is that we push on those uncomfortable questions.”  O’Brien’s breakout project was hosting the Emmy-award-winning cable television program, “The Site”. The globe-trotting anchorwoman hosted CNN’s daily “Starting Point” morning news program.  The Harvard graduate has received many accolades for her work, including the George Foster Peabody award and the President’s Award from the NAACP.  (Image from CNN Starting Point)

Happy Birthday to Salma Hayek

Happy Birthday to beautiful and talented Salma Hayek, born in Veracruz, Mexico on September 2, 1966.  Her mother is Spanish and her father is Lebanese, part of the Lebanese diaspora that has graced Latin America in the 20th century.  Hayek’s initial inspiration for acting was the Hollywood movie “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Since then she has starred in numerous Hollywood blockbusters and artsy indies including “Frida”.  In 2006, she went behind the camera as the executive producer of “Ugly Betty”, a widely popular television series. Stay tuned!

Mafalda’s Debute

On September 29, 1964, Mafalda made her two-dimensional debut in printed comics.  Mafalda is a precocious six-year old Argentinian girl, who continually plagues her parents with questions on weighty world affairs.  Compassionate Mafalda is genuinely concerned about the fate of humanity and world peace.  The comic strip was very popular in South America and Europe.  Mafalda’s escapades were in print from 1964 to 1973 and inspired two animated cartoon series and a movie.

National Farm Workers Association is Founded

On September 30, 1962, Mexican-American labor leaders César Chávez and Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers.  Throughout its history, the union has campaigned for fair wages and humane working conditions for American workers in the agriculture industry.  In the 1960s, under the black, red, and white flag of an Aztec eagle, the union launched a ground-breaking, nationwide boycott for workers in the grape industry, and received strong support from North American consumers.  (Image from thinkquest.org)

Happy Birthday to Janet Murguia

Happy Birthday to politico, lawyer, and human rights activist Janet Murguia.  All American Murguia was born in Kansas City, Kansas, and currently serves as president and chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).  Applauded by most and demonized by some, NCLR is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the US. Her Mexican American parents’ education was limited to elementary school; Murguia achieved two BAs and a law degree.  Murguia served in the White House during the Clinton Administration and as chancellor at her Alma Mater, the University of Kansas.  In an interview in 2006, Murguia stated, “I’ve seen the American dream be a reality, and I want to make sure we can make it a reality for others as well.” (Image by Michael Buckner/ Getty Images for NCLR)

West Side Story

As the curtain finally closed, cheers and applause rang through New York’s Winter Garden Theatre as the beloved musical “West Side Story” premiered on Broadway.  The play is homage to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, set in the 1950s with New York street gangs.  Tony, a gang member, falls in love with Maria, the brother of a rival Puerto Rican gang member.  Tragedy ensues for the star-crossed lovers as they pursue their romance (you’d think that we’d learn our lessons, but nooooo).   The play was recreated as a musical in 1961, sweeping the Academy Awards that year with 10 Awards, including for “Best Picture”.   One of the memorable songs is “Somewhere”, which begins, “There’s a place for us /Somewhere a place for us / Peace and quiet and open air/ Wait for us somewhere”, which is still a plaintive theme song for many Latino immigrants.

  

Happy Birthday to Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan

Happy Birthday to singer, songwriter, and actress Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan.  Known to the nation as the Queen of Latin Pop, Estefan and her happy family are the song of the American Dream.  Born in Havana, Cuba, she immigrated to Miami with her family at a young age.  The family endured the hardships and challenges of starting over in a new land, as well as the tragedies of her father’s disabilities contracted while serving his adopted country in the Vietnam War.   Music was her solaceThe shy and overweight Estefan overcame her severe stage fright, and in the 1980s and 1990s reigned over the norteamericano airwaves as the US smiled to her Latin beat.  Estefan and Emilio, her husband and musical collaborator, married and live in Miami with their two children.  Her numerous awards include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Medallion of Excellence for Community Service, the Berklee College of Music honorary doctorate, and Person of the Year by the Latin Grammy Awards. (Image of album cover)

Happy Birthday to Lorraine López

Happy Birthday to professor, poet and writer Lorraine López, born on Los Angeles, California.  López earned her BA at California State University and her MA and Ph D at the University of Georgia. Known for her insightful cross cultural literature, her works include “Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories” and “The Gifted Gabaldón Sisters”.  Lopez noted in an interview that, “The role of literature is the same as the role of art which is to expand upon a person’s store of knowledge and experience in such a way that the person perceives the world differently, more comprehensively. Obviously, the role of Chicano literature is the same for me.”

Happy Birthday to Cesar Rosas

Happy Birthday to Cesar Rosas, guitarist, singer, and member of the iconic Mexican American rock band, Los Lobos (The Wolves).  Rosas and his fellow band members met in high school, and their band has entertained and inspired audiences for over 30 years.  Their music is a unique blend of Mexican folk and American rock, blues, and jazz.  While best known for their 1987 hit single, “La Bamba”, their mission was to revive Mexican folk music for the next generation.  Their remarkable albums include By the Light of the Moon (1987), The Pistol and the Heart, (1988), and Kiko (1992).  (Image by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Entertainment)

Puerto Rico in the Korean War

On September 30, 1950, the 65th Infantry Regiment, an infantry regiment of soldiers who were all from Puerto Rico arrived at Pusan, Korea, to fight for their country in the Korean War.  Puerto Ricans volunteered in huge numbers for the war.  The Puerto Rican regiment fought in nine major campaigns over three years, earning medals and distinctions.  A documentary on this regiment, known as the Borinqueneers, is at www.Borinqueneers.com

Happy Birthday to Pedro Almodóvar Caballero

Happy Birthday to brilliant and iconoclastic Spanish film maker Pedro Almodóvar Caballero, born on 25 September 1949 in Calzada de Calatrava, Spain.  Almodóvar stated that his strong willed mother influenced his art, and his female characters are strong and eccentric.  He began shooting with a super-8 film camera  that he’d saved up for, and started building his reputation as a filmmaker with surreal settings and passionate imagery.   His extensive filmography has been acclaimed worldwide.  Among his numerous awards, he received an Oscar for original screen play for “Talk to Her”, released in 2002.  As he said of his career, “It’s an extraordinary gift to be able to represent your own fantasies and give them life. Not just your dreams, but everything that excites you and interests you. It gives your life a lot of meaning.”

Happy Birthday to Rodrigo Reyes

Rodrigo Reyes was a journalist and social activist during the enlightening and tumultuous 60s and 70s in San Francisco, California.  His parents were migrant farm workers from Mexico and he was born September 24, 1945 in Weslaco, Texas.  Reyes was one of the founders of the Gay Latino Alliance (GALA), which became an important organization in addressing racism in the gay movement and homophobia in the Latino community.  In 1981, he authored the article “Latino Gays: Coming Out and Coming Home” which was published in the national Latino Nuestro magazine, inspiring a nationwide discussion on the issue of acceptance in the Hispanic American community.

Happy Birthday to Jose Feliciano

If you’re sufficiently mature (read, old enough) your first introduction to Latino music may have been the Christmas carol “Felize Navidade” by Puerto Rican singer Jose Feliciano.  Born in Puerto Rico on September 10, 1945, Feliciano was a trail blazer for Latino music.  In 1968, he won Grammy awards for best new artist and best contemporary male pop vocal performance for a nontraditional version of “Light My Fire”, which he performed with a warming Latin rhythm.  Visually impaired since birth, Feliciano was a master of the acoustic guitar, and a virtuoso of the bass, banjo, mandolin, and various keyboard instruments.  Felize cumpleaños, Jose!

Founding of The Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education

The Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, one of the largest and most respected private universities in Latin America, was founded in Monterrey, Mexico on September 6, 1943.  The Institute has 31 campuses in 25 cities throughout Mexico, as well as international programs throughout the world for diverse disciplines such as law and chemical engineering.  Its OneMBA degree is offered in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Rotterdam School of Management of the Netherlands, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Getulio Vargas Foundation of Brazil

Happy Birthday to Óscar Arias Sánchez

Happy Birthday to peacemaker, politician, writer and Noble Prize Winner Óscar Arias Sánchez, born in Heredia, Costa Rica.  Arias graduated from the University of Costa Rica and earned a PhD from University of Essex (England).  He worked hard to create peace during the bloody decades of war that raged in neighboring countries in Central America. Arias was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1987.  With this award, he funded an endowment to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, an organization devoted to building just and peaceful societies in Central America.  Arias was elected as President of Costa Rica, serving from 1986 to 1990.

Everyday Life of Chico Real and Lolo Mendoza

From our nation’s family photo album at the Library of Congress, Mexican Americans Chico Real and Lolo Mendoza pose with their guitars in Kingsville, Texas.  The photo is from the Lomax Collection of folk musicians.  (Image from Lomax Collection at the US Library of Congress)

 

Birth of Jorge Mas Canosa

September 21, 1939 was the birthday of the controversial business and political leader Jorge Mas Canosa, born in Santiago, Cuba.  Mas was educated at Presbyterian Junior College in North Carolina, and studied law in Cuba at the University of Oriente.  After being arrested for opposing the Batista regime in Cuba, Mas and his family immigrated to Florida.  Mas began by washing dishes, and in true American Dream style became the highly successful owner of communications and construction businesses.  From Florida, he was the leader of the opposition to Fidel Castro.  In 1961, he participated in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba that was backed by the US Central Intelligence Agency.  Mas became a leading donor to the Republican Party, and actively supported the embargo and restrictions against Cuba.  A tenacious man, Mas once challenged a political opponent to a duel with a choice of pistols or swords; fortunately, his opponent calmly insisted on water pistols.  His death at age 58 was mourned in the Cuban exile community in Florida and celebrated in Cuba.

Happy Birthday to Antonio Colorado

Happy Birthday to lawyer, professor and statesman Antonio Colorado, born on September 8, 1939 in New York City.  After completing his early education in Puerto Rico, he received a BA from Boston University and law degrees from Harvard University and the University of Puerto Rico.   Colorado served as Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the 102 Congress in 1992-1993.

The Start of A Revolution

Economic and political unrest rocked Cuba during the mid-20th century.  On September 3, 1933, a group of sergeants, corporals and enlisted men in the Cuban armed forces met to discuss their grievances, which they hoped to present to their senior officers.  When the senior officers refused to meet with the men, the conflict escalated into the “Sergeant’s Revolution” led by Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar.  Batista eventually became the island’s virtual dictator, remaining a political force until he in turn was overthrown in the 1958 Cuban Revolution by Fidel Castro and Che Guevera.

Happy Birthday to Carlos Romero-Barceló

Happy Birthday to politician and public servant Carlos Romero-Barceló, born in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Barceló is the first former Governor of Puerto Rico who also served in the US Congress.   His position in Congress was as Resident Commissioner, which is the only voice in Congress for the 3.7 million citizens of Puerto Rico.  Barceló graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy, earned a BA from Yale University and a law degree from the University of Puerto Rico.  In the 103rd Congress he served on the Committee on Education and Labor and in the 104th Congress he was elected as First Vice-Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Happy Birthday to Eligio de la Garza

Happy Birthday to politician and public servant Eligio de la Garza, born on September 22, 1927 in Mercedes, Texas.  Garza’s family traces their roots in the homeland to the 1700’s.  Garza served in the US Navy and Army, and earned a law degree from St. Mary’s University.  He served six terms in the Texas House of Representatives, and was elected to the US Congress in 1964.  “Kika” as he was known to his constituents, focused much of his legislative efforts to support US agriculture, encourage rural economic development, and improve human nutrition.   He also worked to facilitate US-Mexican trade and legislative relations.  In 1978 Garza received the Order of the Aztec Eagle, one of Mexico’s highest ho

Happy Birthday to Reies Lopez Tijerina

On September 21, 1926 in a one-room adobe near Falls City, Texas, Reies Lopez Tijerina began his turbulent, brilliant, controversial life.  Tijerina’s family started as sharecroppers but were reduced to migrant workers, and he spent his early life working in the fields.  His experiences with discrimination inspired his life as a social activist; as he stated in an interview, “We were happy in poverty. Earthly possessions didn’t bother me, but I was always attracted…by that fascinating power that is justice.”  His radical acts of civil disobedience over land grant restoration in New Mexico led to a felony conviction and imprisonment on several occasions.  In turn, Tijerina unsuccessfully tried to apprehend US Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger in a citizen’s arrest for “decisions detrimental to the civil rights of minority groups”.  Tijerina continues to advocate for the Chicano movement and on behalf of the Hispanic American holders of land grants who were dispossessed after the Mexican American War.

Happy Birthday to Américo Paredes

Happy Birthday to folklore scholar, poet, author, professor and historian Américo Paredes, born on September 3, 1915 in Brownsville, Texas. Paredes’ life was a bridge between the two worlds of the neighboring borderlands of the US and Mexico.  For over 30 years, he was a professor of English and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he developed programs on Chicano literature and Mexican folklore.  Paredes traveled to Japan with the US Army in the mid-1940’s, serving as editor of the “Stars and Stripes”, and also edited the “Journal of American Folklore” for a number of years. Paredes was a prolific writer and scholar, collecting and preserving stories and folklore that illuminated the collective hearts and histories of a truly American region.

Happy Birthday to Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán

Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, the second elected President of Guatemala, was born in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala on September 14, 1913.  Arbenz lived through the turbulent period of Guatemala’s early democracy. In 1950, he was elected by 60% of the vote.  Arbenz continued the agricultural reforms and land redistribution started by his predecessor, to the anger of the United Fruit Company, a North American business that was a large landowner.  Soon, the Guatemalan government was labeled as Marxist and a “Soviet satellite”, dangerous talk in the Cold War of the 1950s.  Arbenz was overthrown by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1954.  Arbenz and his family were able to leave the country, and he died of natural causes in Mexico in 1971.

Panamanian independence

Panama had been part of the nation of Colombia, until its successful rebellion.  The US had attempted to negotiate a lease with the Colombian government that would allow the US a perpetual lease of the valuable territory that eventually became the Panama Canal.  When Colombia refused the terms of the lease, the US decided to encourage Panamanian independence.  From September 17 to November 18, 1902, the US placed armed guards on all trains crossing the Isthmus of Panama to keep the railroad line open, and stationed ships on both sides of Panama to prevent the landing of Colombian troops.  Needless to say, this had the intended impact on the Panamanian rebellion, which formally succeeded in winning independence in November 1903.   (Image from LOC.gov)

Happy Birthday to William Carlos Williams

September 17, 1883 is the birthdate of William Carlos Williams, a renowned poet and medical doctor.   Williams’ mother was a Sephardic (Spanish) Jew, and she was a tremendous inspiration for his work.  Williams was born in Rutherford, New York, and educated in Geneva, Switzerland and at the University of Pennsylvania.  Williams practiced as a pediatrician for over 40 years, and wrote his brilliant, evocative poetry in his spare time.  Williams memorialized his mother in his work, “I Wanted to Write a Poem”, about her ordeals as a woman and as an immigrant.  Williams’ powerful imagery and modernism in turn influenced a generation of American poets.  Please visit www.PoetryFoundation.org and download their wonderful app, which includes Williams’ poems.  (Photo by Lisa Larsen, Time & Life/ Getty Images)

Puerto Rican Rebellion

The Grito de Lares, (Cry of Lares) was the start of the first Puerto Rican rebellion against Spain, on September 23, 1868.  About 1000 rebels took control of the town of Lares and proclaimed themselves as the independent.  Unfortunately, the rebels were quickly overpowered by the Spanish Royalist forces.  (Poster Image from www.Zazzle.com)

US Forces Return to Panama

On September 27, 1860, US forces landed in Colombia at the Bay of Panama, to protect North American interests during a revolution.   At least, that was the North American perspective.  The Colombian perspective was that the US was interfering with their sovereignty while the Colombians legitimately defended their nation from insurrection by enemy combatants.  (No watermelons were implicated or harmed in this invasion – please refer to September 19, 1856.)

Death of William Walker

To the great relief of millions of Central American and Mexican citizens, terrorist and enemy combatant William Walker was killed on September 12, 1860 in Trujillo, Honduras.  For a long decade, Walker had invaded various countries, attempting to reestablish slavery for African Americans and enslave the Native Americans in undemocratic dictatorships headed by himself.  Walker was born in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned a medical degree and practiced law in his early career. While he is listed in US history books as an “adventurer”, we didn’t want to print the words by which he is remembered in Hispanic history.

US Forces Invade Panama 1856

On September 16, 1856, US troops landed in Panama, remaining until September 22.  The stated reason was to “protect American interests during an insurrection.”  The “insurrection” was actually a riot that had occurred in April of that year, involving a number of inebriated tourists and an unpaid bar tab and a serving of watermelon.  One of William Walker’s enemy combatants was killed in the melee.  (Please see September 12, 1860 for more on Walker.)  Despite a delay of five months, the US government still thought that the incident justified an invasion, and 160 soldiers arrived, took over the railway station, and eventually left – without firing a shot.  No, really, we are not making this up. (Image by www.Free-Extras.com)

California Joins the US 1850

With grand celebration, California was admitted to the US as a state on September 9, 1850, now remembered as California Admissions Day.  The area was explored by the Spanish in 1533, much to the consternation of the native American nations who were living there for thousands of years.   At the end of the Mexican American war in 1848, the California territory was “ceded” to the US (or stolen by the US, depending on your point of view).  The initial entry of the now great Golden State was humble.  The capital was first situated in San Jose, but the winter storms turned the roads to mud, to the dismay of the state legislature.  Fortunately, former General and State Senator Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo donated land in the future city of Vallejo for a new capital. The legislature convened there for one week in 1852 and again for a month in 1853.

US Attacks Mexico City

US troops under the command of General Winfield Scott reached the outskirts of Mexico City, and began bombarding the city with artillery.  Thousands of civilians were killed and injured during the invasion on September 14, 1847.  Scott initially reported 1000 soldiers killed and 1700 wounded in the fighting in the city streets.  US forces set up a reign of terror and forced the inhabitants to pay $3 million in gold and platinum.

Joseph Marion Hernández Began His First Term

Joseph Marion Hernández, the first Hispanic to serve in Congress and the first Delegate from the territory of Florida, began his term on September 30, 1822.  Hernández was born in St. Augustine Florida, and had served in the US Army during the Florida Indian Wars, earning an appointment as brigadier general of the Mounted Volunteers.

Brazilian Independence

On September 7, 1822, the nation of Brazil declared its independence from Portugal.  Brazil is the largest country in South America and is the world’s fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population, with over 193 million beautiful, sun-tanned people.

Multiple Independence Days in the Americas

On September 15, 1821, the nations of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and El Salvador declared independence from Spain.  The nations briefly formed the United Provinces of Central America, but this union dissolved in 1840.  The populations of these countries are multiethnic, and many people are descended from the sophisticated Mayan civilization that dominated most of the region prior to the arrival of the Spanish.   Several other South American countries celebrate their independence during this time period – Mexico (September 16), Chile (September 18) and Belize (September 21).   Thus, September 15 was selected as the start of our National Hispanic Heritage Month.  (Image from LOC.gov, 1815 map of Central America by W&D Lizars)

Mexican Independence Day

In the dawn hours of September 16, 1810 in the small town of Dolores, Mexico, Spanish priest-turned-rebel leader Miguel Hidalgo declared Mexico’s independence from Spain.  The movement was initially known as the “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”).  As church bells rang, Hidalgo urged his people to revolt.  The first major engagement of the Mexican War of Independence was four days later in Guanajuato.  After almost 10 years of war, the Mexicans succeeded in defeating the Spanish.  Mexican Independence Day is celebrated on September 16, with the ringing of bells and the roll call names of the Mexican heroes of the rebellion.

Spanish Aid to the Continental Army

After seven long difficult years of rebellion, the North American Revolutionary War finally ended on September 3, 1783.  The British signed treaties with representatives of the newly independent US and separately with representatives of Spain and France.  The Spanish had aided the US Continental Army throughout the entire rebellion, starting with supplying crucial military equipment and then with military campaigns in the American South.  The Spanish also collaborated with the French in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, the last major fight of the War.  Please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com for more stories about the contribution of the Spanish and Hispanic Americans to the American Revolutionary War.

The Battle of the Chesapeake Capes

On September 5, 1781, one of the most important battles in the history of the US was fought, without any Americans.  The Battle of the Chesapeake Capes in Virginia was fought by the French Navy, aided by Spanish funds and logistical support.  This naval victory prevented reinforcements from reaching the British who were soon trapped at the Battle and Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in October 1781.  This Siege, financed in large part by the Spanish and Cubans, was the final battle of the American Revolutionary War, and forced the British to the negotiating table.

Founding of Los Angeles 1781

Originally christened as “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula”, the city of Los Angeles was founded by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve and 44 Spanish settlers on September 4, 1781.  Los Angeles became part of Mexico in 1821, and was later taken by the US in 1848 in the settlement of the Mexican American War.  Today, the bustling metropolis of 3.9 MM people is about 48% Latino.

The Scorpion Departs to Aid the Rebels

The American ship Scorpion with Captain Ivis departed from Spain to the rebel colonies in North America, with supplies for the Continental Army.  This equipment including blankets, quinine, and cloth for uniforms, which were badly needed throughout the American Revolutionary War.  Shipments were arranged by Diego Gardoqui, a Spanish Basque merchant and first Ambassador from Spain to the United States.  The supplies were paid for by the Spanish government.  Please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com for more information on the contribution of the Spanish and Latinos to the American Revolutionary War.

Spanish Aid Shipments to US Rebels

The American ship “Hawke” commanded by Captain Brazilla departed from Spain to the US on September 16, 1778.  The ship carried supplies for the North American rebel Army, including blankets, quinine, and cloth for uniforms.  Shipments were arranged by Diego Gardoqui, a Spanish Basque merchant, first Ambassador from Spain to the US, and friend of George Washington.  The supplies were paid for by the Spanish government.  For more information on the contribution of the Spanish and Hispanic Americans to the American Revolutionary War, please visit www.OurAmericanHistory.com.

Founding of the Mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa

In the autumn breeze on the beautiful coast of California, Spanish friar Junipero Serra founded the mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on September 1, 1772.  This was the fifth mission in the chain that Serra founded, and he named it after a French Archbishop.   The mission is still open in the heart of San Luis Obispo today, and is a Catholic parish with elementary and high schools.

Founding of the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

In the early autumn light of southern California, two Spanish friars founded the Mission San Gabriel Arcángel on September 8, 1771.  The mission was the fourth in the series of Spanish missions that stretched along El Camino Real on the California coast.  The mission is now a Catholic parish that ministers in English, Spanish and Vietnamese languages.  The mission is rich with historical artifacts:  the altar was handcrafted in Mexico City and brought to the Mission in the 1790’s; six polychrome wooden statues were carved in Spain and arrived in 1791, and the hammered copper baptismal font was a personal gift from King Carlos III of Spain.

Issues with Antigua, Guatemala

The earth rumbled through the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala on September 29, 1717, destroying much of the city’s stunning Baroque architecture.   But the city’s inhabitants persisted, and today Antigua is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The city is surrounded by three volcanoes that provide a dramatic vista, while the city center hosts plazas, churches, museums and markets.  With over a dozen language schools, Antigua is once again a global destination.   (Photo at Hotel Santo Domingo)

A Conquistadors Regret

Pained with regret and remorse, the last survivor of the original Spanish conquistadors of Peru, wrote his last will remembering the impact of the conquest.  Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo wrote in his will:   “[W]e found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such [wisdom] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there law suits respecting it … the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives.”

The First Explorers of America

The Spanish had explored and navigated the Virginia waterways decades before the English established their first permanent settlement at Jamestown.  In a letter dated September 12, 1570 the Spanish in Virginia reported to headquarters in Havana, detailing their voyage from Florida and the scenario in Virginia.  At this time, the Virginia territory had experienced several years of drought, and the Spanish wrote of the dire effects on the Native Americans whom they met.  The explorers asked for shipments of corn to be sent from Havana, so that they could give seeds to the Native Americans to farm in the upcoming season.   (Letter is available at VirtualJamestown.org)

Attack Against Their Enemies

The French and Spanish initially battled over the territory in the southern US.  French Huguenots, religious followers of John Calvin, constructed a fort near Caroline, Florida, near the mouth of the St. Johns River.  In the rainy dawn of  September 20, 1565, Spanish officer Pedro Menendez de Aviles led an attack against the French.  Women and children were spared, but the men were killed as heretics.  Aviles then renamed Caroline as San Mateo.

Discovery of San Diego, California

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer working for the Spanish government, was the first European to navigate the area that became San Diego, California.  Cabrillo and his crew arrived on September 28, 1542, during their voyage to document the coast of California. The Cabrillo National Monument now commemorates this event near modern San Diego, located at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula.

The Voyage around the World 1522

The last of the ships of the grand vision of circumnavigating the world finally arrived in Spain on September 6, 1522.  King Charles I of Spain supported the voyage in search of a westward route to southeast Asia.  The fleet was led by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who worked for the Spanish.  Magellan perished on the long, difficult voyage, but his crew completed his mission to sail around the world for Spain

Mayan Writing

The peoples of the sophisticated Mayan civilization began to write with their alphabet before the European civilizations, in the year 302 .  The complex pictograms were not understood by Europeans until the mid- 20th century.   This pictogram is from the Mayan Early Classic period, denoting the date of September 15, 320 in our Western calendar and detailing a Serpent Bar.  For more information, please visit the online collection of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies at www.FAMSI.org.  (Image Copyright © 2000 John Montgomery)