Hispanic Heritage Month: Dedication to Civic Duty

by Danny Turkel, Digital Coordinator, NCLR

From helping defeat the British during the Revolutionary War to sitting on the Supreme Court, Hispanics have been an important presence in the civic fabric of the United States since before its founding. Part of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is recognizing Hispanic work and contributions to American society and government. Despite repeated attempts to smear and mischaracterize the Latino community as lazy or as interloping freeloaders, it would be a mistake to deny the instrumental role Latinos have had in the creation and support of the United States as we know it.

As the Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez would go on to play a major role in the fight for American independence from Great Britain. Providing much-needed supplies to the American colonies, which were under a British blockade, Gálvez helped prolong the American cause and prevented the British from surrounding the revolutionaries. Gálvez would later help draft the Peace of Paris, the formal end of the American Revolution. Afterwards, President George Washington honored him before the newly established American Congress.

For most children, growing up in a housing project with a single parent would be a major hindrance, but Sonia Sotomayor was determined to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer, famously saying, “I was going to college and I was going to become an attorney, and I knew that when I was 10. Ten. That’s no jest.” She did much more than that, becoming the first Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic descent on August 8, 2009. Since then, Sotomayor has been a staunch advocate on the bench for equality, civil liberties, and immigration reform.

Although these two people are separated by almost 170 years, their contributions to the United States illustrate the millions of Latinos who have worked to strengthen this country since before its founding. While some may try to deny it, Latinos are as much a part of the American story as Benjamin Franklin, Babe Ruth, and apple pie. To overlook that heritage is to ignore an integral part of what it means to be American. NCLR thanks all who have made positive impacts on the United States and we dedicate this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month to them.

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