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[Congressional Record: October 15, 2002 (Senate)]
[Page S10437-S10438]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                        HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH

  Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, each year between September 15 and October 
15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This tradition began in 1968 
when Congress set aside a week to celebrate Hispanic culture, 
achievements, and contributions to American culture and society. In 
1988, Congress expanded the week to a month-long commemoration.
  Gil Coronado, founder and chairman of Heroes and Heritage: Saluting a 
Legacy of Hispanic Patriotism and Pride, was one of the driving forces 
behind the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month. Mr. Coronado enlisted 
with the Air Force when he was just 16. He served for 30 years in 
Vietnam, Panama, Germany, and Spain before he retired as a colonel. 
During his stellar career, he received over 35 awards, including the 
Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star. Like Colonel Coronado, countless 
numbers of Hispanic Americans have answered the call, defending our 
liberty and freedoms as members of our Armed Forces and in other 
capacities. Twelve Hispanic Americans were among the firefighters 
killed on September 11 as they tried to rescue their fellow Americans 
trapped in the World Trade Center's two towers.
  Hispanic contributions to America date back nearly 500 years to 
Easter, March 27, 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon sighted land, which he 
claimed for Spain and named ``La Florida,'' meaning ``Land of 
Flowers.'' De Leon and his fellow explorers such as Alvarez de Pinela 
and Cabeza de Vaca traversed most of what we now call America's 
sunbelt. Hernando de Soto was the first European to discover the 
Mississippi River, an event depicted in one of the great historical 
canvases which hang in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building. St. 
Augustine, FL, was founded in 1565, 42 years before the English colony 
at Jamestown, VA, and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth 
Rock in Massachusetts. St. Augustine is the oldest permanent European 
settlement on the North American continent. In 1787, St. Augustine had 
the first free, integrated public school.
  America's diverse and vibrant Hispanic population has made enormous 
contributions to our Nation, its culture, and its economy. Former 
Senator Dennis Chavez, union organizers Antonia Pantoja and Caesar 
Chavez, entertainers Gloria Estefan and Jennifer Lopez, actor Martin 
Sheen, and baseball players Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa are just a 
few of the Hispanics Americans who have done so much to enrich all 
Americans' lives.
  My hometown, Detroit, has benefited greatly from Hispanic immigrants 
pursuing the American Dream. Southwest Detroit, known affectionately as 
Mexicantown by its residents, is the fastest growing part of the city. 
Hispanics from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, and other 
Caribbean nations have opened businesses, bought homes, and turned a 
once neglected urban neighborhood into a thriving community and one of 
the city's centers. Maria Elena Rodriguez, president of the Mexicantown 
Community Development Corporation, has been one of the primary 
catalysts of the turnaround.

[[Page S10438]]

  Hispanic contributions to Michigan's businesses abound. The Kellogg 
Company, founded and headquartered in Battle Creek, is the world's 
leading cereal producer. It has millions of customers in over 160 
countries. At present, the chief executive officer is Carlos Gutierrez, 
who started at Kellogg's as a sales representative in Mexico City over 
25 years ago.
  Other prominent Hispanics with ties to Michigan include Antonia 
Novello, who started her medical career at the University of Michigan. 
In 1990, she became the first woman U.S. Surgeon General, and the first 
Hispanic American to hold the post.
  Grammy-winning musician Jose Feliciano, a native of Puerto Rico, made 
his professional debut at the Retort Coffee House in Detroit in 1963. 
He is, perhaps, most famous for his Latin-soul version of the Doors' 
hit, ``Light My Fire,'' a blues-rock rendition of the ``Star-Spangled 
Banner'' performed at a 1968 World Series game between Detroit and St. 
Louis, and the Christmas classic, ``Feliz Navidad.''
  Rebecca Arenas received the ``Caesar Chavez Civil Rights Achievement 
Award'' in 2000 for her work to improve the lives of Hispanics 
generally, and migrant workers in particular. Rebecca's parents brought 
her to Michigan from Crystal City, TX, when she was 5. They were 
migrant workers who chose Michigan because they believed Rebecca would 
get a better education. Rebecca has passed this commitment to education 
on to her children, all seven of whom have received a postsecondary 
education. Rebecca has worked tirelessly to increase Hispanics' access 
to education and health care and to boost their voter registration.
  Hispanic Americans constitute the fastest growing segment of our 
population. Right now, one in eight Americans is Hispanic--about 32 
million Americans. By 2050, one in four Americans will be Hispanic. 
Hispanic Americans are the fastest growing small business owners 
nationwide. Hispanic Americans will purchase $580 billion in goods and 
services this year. By 2007, that purchasing power will increase by 315 
percent to $926 billion.
  Cities such as Los Angeles, San Antonio, New York, and Miami 
traditionally have been centers of Hispanic influence. Increasingly, 
however, Hispanics and Hispanic Americans are moving to other parts of 
the country, such as Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina. This shift 
in migration will spread Hispanic culture and influence throughout the 
  As we celebrate and commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, we must also 
acknowledge the challenges facing the community--and the country--that 
lie ahead. Too many Hispanic American youth are incarcerated. Hispanic 
Americans have a lower rate of educational achievement than the 
national average. A higher than average number of Hispanic Americans 
live in poverty.
  Congress can and must help Hispanic Americans by pursuing fair and 
meaningful immigration reforms; supporting Hispanic education programs, 
increasing access to higher education, helping the economy to create 
good jobs at decent wages, and restoring benefits to legal immigrants 
under the Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program--
  So, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate what has been 
accomplished and recognize what still needs to be done. I congratulate 
Hispanic Americans in Michigan and across America for their wonderful 
contributions to our country. And I pledge my efforts to ensuring that 
more Hispanic Americans have access to the great opportunities our 
country has to offer.


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