[Congressional Record: October 15, 2002 (Senate)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
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
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.
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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