September 29, 2006

Commentary:

Hispanic Heritage Month is a Time to Celebrate

By State Assemblywoman Shirley Horton

Over the generations, many people from different walks of life have pounded in their stakes and raised their children and grandchildren in California. Our diversity makes us unique from other states and brings us tremendous pride. California is a great place to live and the melting pot of different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and individuals are important reasons why.

Hispanic men and women have played a particularly large role in California’s history. From political leaders to war heroes to successful business entrepreneurs, California’s Hispanic heritage is alive and thriving. Just take a look outside. A person doesn’t have to wander very far to notice the influence with local community names such as Bonita, Chula Vista, Jamacha, Rancho Otay, Encanto, or San Carlos.

This month, we respectfully honor the contributions and sacrifices Hispanics have provided by celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15th to October 15th. The month-long special recognition begins on the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries – Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico’s Independence Day is just one day later, on September 16th, and Chile celebrates its freedom on September 18th.

Today, more than 200,000 Hispanic Americans are continuing to advance the cause of independence by serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, defending freedom for our country and our allies throughout the world. Hispanic workers and entrepreneurs also contribute heavily to our economy, ensuring that this country remains financially strong and secure. In California alone, there are more than 425,000 Hispanic-owned businesses creating job opportunities and giving back to our communities.

Hispanic leaders are active at all levels of government, including in President Bush’s Cabinet, where U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez help lead the country. Of course, Hispanics have been active in politics for a long time. In fact, California had a Hispanic governor back in 1875, when Republican Governor Romualdo Pacheco served a short term before going on to be elected to the United States Congress.

Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to teach our younger generations about these accomplishments, so they will learn how these role models worked hard, studied diligently and became successful in so many different endeavors.

In recent years, this special month has been commemorated locally with concerts, pre-game ceremonies at a Chargers game, and even with a “health fiesta” in Chula Vista to encourage people to donate blood. This year promises to feature an equally eclectic assortment of celebrations, with something for everyone. I hope you will join me in observing Hispanic Heritage Month, and in celebrating California’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity all year round.

Assemblywoman Shirley Horton is a Republican who represents the 78th Assembly District, covering portions of San Diego and rural San Diego County as well as the communities of Chula Vista, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley.

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