September 29, 2000

Our Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when we pause to remember and bring to memory the role of our forefathers, the Hispanos, those with whom we share a common language, culture, and heritage. This is the common thread that encompasses and unites the various subgroups, nationalities and ethnic groups throughout the world.

Often times, in our country, we are chided for not calling ourselves "Americans." The inference is that only the United States of America is the only country that is America when in fact the entire continent was labeled and defined as America by the early founders of the continent. In a sense, what our nativist non-Hispanic citizens are asking us for us to ignore or forget over 2,000 years of our history.

The term Hispanic is not of recent origin. It comes from the noun Spania that was given by the ancient Carthaginians, who colonized the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) around 500 BC! Later, the Roman Empire occupied the peninsula during the first century A.D. The Romans brought state authority, law, education, and commerce, architecture, roads, livestock and Roman Catholicism.

The language of Roman Spania became Latin and the peninsula was known as Hispania. The Roman `Latin' formed the basis for the Romance languages that evolved from: Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian.

The term Latino came from the Spanish language that evolved from the Latin language. Latino is often used to describe who we are in contemporary U.S.A. It is only partially correct.

It is irrational to ask us to deny 2,000 years of Spanish history and culture. We are not only the children of the Spanish conquest we are also the children of the Huichol, Yaqui, Huasteca, Maya, Tarahumara, Zapotecan, Azteca, Olme-can, Tehuacan, Tolteca, Taino, Inca, all ancient indigenous civilizations that lived in what became known "the Americas."

We are the children created in that vast cauldron of history and culture that came about with the colonization of the Americas and the mating of the indigenous tribes and the European Hispano. We were named Mestizos. Within us were the seeds of the Hispanic culture and language co-mingled with that of our indigenous origins. Our country of origin identifies us; those whose linage is the country of Mexico are Mexicano/Mestizo. We share the Spanish and Indigenous traits with those of Mexico. Our place of origin clearly defines who we are.

Someone from Colombia is a Colombiano whose distinctive indigenous cultural traits make him different from the Mexicano. But we all share our common Spanish ancestry. It is that which binds us into one Raza.

Today, as we share our Hispanic Heritage, let us not forget that today's Latino, Hispano, Mexicano, Chileno, and all of us whose origins are based in Latin America (geographical areas of the Caribbean, Northern, central, and south America,) are joined together in the greatest formation of the new "Mestisaje" since the Spanish conquest. We are now intermixing our Spanish/indigenous being with that of France, England, Germany, Ireland, Holland, Italy, in a word with all other verities and types of peoples that reside in the United States and creating the new Mestisaje of all the peoples of the Americas.

The results of this new Mestisaje will define The United States of America as well as all the countries of the Americas for centuries to come. Clearly, the future will bring wonders that few can imagine or contemplate. We will become a new Race! And the United States will have in place a clearly defined Race of people that will become identified with its geographical location.

In a sense during the month of September and October, we are celebrating the heritage of the future Americans.

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