On Hispanic Heritage Month & Contributions of Latino-Americans

Unlike 5 de Mayo, Hispanic Heritage Month has a history based in traditions. During that month (Sept.15-Oct.15) , many Latin American countries celebrate their independence and if you know where to go in the Georgia, you will be able to find celebrations, festivals and events pretty much every day in the week during that period of time.

With this election year hateful rhetoric; it is all too easy to forget about the many contributions Hispanic-Americans or Latin-Americans have given to this country and specifically Georgia.thumb

From Christopher Columbus first arriving to Dominican Republic and “discovering” America to the thousands of individuals responsible for making Vidalia a synonym of delicious sweet onions and Dalton, GA, the carpet capital of the US;  Latin-Americans are at the very core of everything we do in this country

While Jamestown, Virginia is considered the first permanent settlement in America, few know that the very first settlers were Spaniards staying in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida in the 1500’s.  In fact, San Miguel de Guadalupe was the first ever settlement in the US, right here in Georgia.sl0505b4516a

One can only imagine how would our country look if those settlements had evolved into cities and we would all be speaking Spanish…

One of the first currencies in the country was the Spanish dollar.  It remained the official tender until 1857 and it was so popular that we kept the name.

Today, Latin Americans and Hispanic-Americans represent close to 60 million individuals in the United States of America.  Most of us, close to 65% are US born citizens and many of our families have been in this land before the US looked like it looks now.  Let’s not forget that New Mexico, California, and Texas were originally part of Mexico  and so we literally never crossed  a border (or a wall), the border crossed us.Still, when we talk about Latinos, we often forget the immense diversity within us.  We represent 20 countries or origin, people from all walks of life, ethnicities and cultures.  From Afro-Latinos that embrace African traditions and cultures to White-Latinos that come from a long lineage of Eastern European descent and all colors, shades and heritages in between.

From the andes and the jungles of the Amazon to the coast and desserts of South America to the over 550 languages spoken; from Mexico to Chile and Argentina and the many religious and beliefs that drive our families and decisions, our diversity enriches our families and while we have big differences, there is more that unites us.

The Latino/Hispanic community, is a proud, resourceful, creative, strong and hard working group.  We are a collectivistic culture and therefore family unity is incredibly important.plazalatina3_0

Latinas in Georgia, are the fastest growing segment opening businesses in the country.  While other groups open businesses at a much slower pace (34%), the number of Latino women-owned businesses in Georgia has grown 325% between 2007-2015. In general Latinx-owned businesses grow at 2x the national average.

It is also estimated that creating a path to citizenship and expanding the visa program, would add a total of more than $909 millions to the gross state product.  This number does not exclusively include Latinos/Hispanics but it is telling of the value we add to the economic development of Georgia.

Our community, if giving the tools and opportunity, can help prevent over $140 million losses in agriculture EVERY SINGLE YEAR.bae2756d-48d0-4be2-9966-0d785db35819-large

Our businesses have repaired the runway of Peachtree Dekalb Airport and improved the drainage of the Valdosta Airport, we provide maintenance of the Robins Air Force Base, we help build the new Braves stadium, we partner up with CDC to provide support services for the Zika virus research project, our lawyers are probably representing you and one state court judge with a proven
track record of fairness, efficiency, and a great deal of respect for the law may be looking at your casegoizueta-roberto-620x480

The Coca-Cola Company iconic CEO and main funder of the Emory Business School was the incomparable Roberto C.Goizueta from Cuba.  The Provost of Georgia Tech is Puerto Rican Rafael L. Bras.  Dorothy Leone-Glasser leads the fight to provide full access to medications and care for all Georgians.

The Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville is the fastest growing professional theatre in Georgia; producing 600 events annually and reaching 70,000 visitors, led by Anthony Rodriguez and Carol-Ann Pence, the theater is the perfect example of public, business and non-profit collaboration.arxc_and_vol_1

We lead businesses, non-profits and universities and now we even have a Latina joining for the first time in history the state legislature. Brenda Lopez.

Our malls were busiest during the recession when all other businesses were closing; our food is ever present (some people say soon in every corner), nothing says celebration like a cold Margarita.  All hips move to music of Ricky Martin and we all wonder at the poignant talent of Frida Kahlo, Vik Muñiz and the genius of Lin Manuel Miranda to name a few.13-0122-barbara

Our contributions are present in your every day life, in the corn-on-the-cob you ate last weekend, in the potatoes (fried or not) you just chose from that restaurant menu; in the rum you added to that Long Island Tea; behind the reason you decided not to buy that spray can (because a Mexican-American discovered that it hurts the ozone layer) or in that cool picture from the last expedition from MARS led by Orlando Figueroa from Puerto Rico.

You may not even notice but you might be walking on Ponce de Leon Avenue, that famous Spanish explorer  who became the first governor of Puerto Rico and named “La Florida”, our southern neighbor


About Hispanic Heritage Month

In 1968, the observation of Hispanic Heritage Week became official under President Lyndon Johnson.  Later, it was expanded to a month (from September 15- October 15) by President Reagan.

Published by

Gilda (Gigi) Pedraza

Executive Director and Founder Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) Social Entrepreneur, Community Advocate, Latina, Mom, Wife. Lover of Life.

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