By Ryan M. Ide, Director of Strategy and Future Requirements, Navy Region Hawaii
The 2014 Theme for the National Hispanic Heritage Month is, “Hispanics: A Legacy of History, a Present of Action and a Future of Success.” This week-long observance, enacted by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968, was expanded to a month-long event by President Ronald Reagan on Aug.17, 1988 by the approval of Public Law 100-402 and now runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year.
During this time, Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of current citizens of Hispanic and Latino American ancestry. The term Hispanic or Latino, refers to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, Mexican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.
The peculiar start date of the observance, since it does not coincide with a calendar month, is based on significant events in Hispanic history.
Sept. 15 marks the anniversary of independence of the Latin American countries, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Sept. 16 is the Mexican anniversary date, and Sept. 18 is the day Chile celebrates their independence. Columbus Day or Dia de la Raza, falls on Oct. 12, which closes out the 30 day period.
Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of notable Hispanic achievements. Possibly the most visible of U.S. Navy Hispanic achievements are those of David G. Farragut, who was the first U.S. naval officer to be promoted to the rank of rear admiral in 1862. He was also the first to be promoted to vice admiral and admiral. He is credited with shouting the famous order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
A prominent Air Force general officer was Elwood R. “Pete” Quesada, who was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1940. Through his achievements and success in command, he eventually achieved the rank of lieutenant general in 1947.
Hispanics have also held prominent positions in American government and culture including U.S. Senate and U.S. Representative seats, U.S. Treasurer, U.S. attorney general, secretaries of transportation, housing and urban development, surgeon general and U.S. Supreme Court Justice. There have been astronauts, Nobel Prize winners in physics and in medicine, Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winners. American athletics has also benefited from Hispanic contributions, most notably, baseball Hall of Fame player Roberto Clemente.
Through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service, Hispanics have contributed in immeasurable ways to creating and maintaining the positive fabric that makes the United States of America so great.