Honoring Hispanic
American Heritage

Special VOICES Web
Hispanic American Heritage

"We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community - and this nation."

"It is not enough to teach our young people to be successful... so they can realize their ambitions, so they can earn good livings, so they can accumulate the material things that this society bestows. Those are worthwhile goals. But it is not enough to progress as individuals while our friends and neighbors are left behind."

~Cesar Chavez


[Hispanic American Heritage]
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Honoring Hispanic American Heritage

In 1968, Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, this celebration was extended to a month. Because of this, many American’s believe that the influence of Hispanic Americans is recent. Longer than America has been a nation, however, Hispanic settlers have greatly impacted the culture and history of the “New World.”

The term “Hispanic” does not refer to a nationality or country, but rather cultural or ethnic roots. More than 400 years ago, millions of people have come to this land from Caribbean regions, Central America, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South America, and Spain. The cultural heritage of Hispanic bloodlines includes Mayan, Aztec, Spanish, Mexican, and more than 20 nations.

Like most of those that risked the journey and uncertainty of relocating to an emerging nation; freedom, peace, and economic prosperity were the primary motivators. In a world with much more limited technology and transportation options, no one made the decision to uproot their lives and family lightly. The trip demanded serious commitments, strong work ethics, dedication to family values, and willingness to build community building. In many ways, these attitudes and beliefs are the foundation of the American Dream.

After all, what sets America apart from the rest of the world are the different cultural heritages of diverse people. Each group brings unique perspectives and strengths to the fabric of this nation. Yes, celebrating diversity does mean looking at how different groups make us stronger. It also means recognizing the values we share. Today, immigration issues dominate many political discussions. Today, when politicians and pundits talk about “immigration,” they are usually referring to Hispanics – often from Mexico.

This past spring in major cities all across America, hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans and recent immigrants took to the street to show America the vibrant and dramatic impact they have in our culture and economy. These are real people, not faceless, nameless beings to be exploited for political purposes.

Like most people trying to find acceptance in a new land, the family unit is important. Loyalty to the extended family is probably the most powerful tool to survive and thrive. The family has to come first as does the well-being of the community as a whole. American history is full of rich stories of different ethnic groups taking their place in our culture, but it all starts with family and community.

Each group brings its own traditions, celebrations, cuisine, spirituality, and heritage. Clearly, most Americans enjoy watching and participating in the assimilation of these attributes – just look at how popular different styles of foods, fashion, and music creates bridges between Americans.

Hispanic influence has had a profound effect on this nation in the past two generations. Hispanic Americans represent the fastest growing segment of our population, an increasing share of our economy, and an important segment of the U.S. labor market. In the process, this change in America’s structure will change American culture, politics, economics, education systems, and government.

Let’s celebrate the diversity of each group of Americans and work together to make sure that ALL Americans have the opportunities and resources to raise their families in dignity. Let’s do what we can to enable ALL Americans to make positive contributions to this nation. Reflecting on the contributions of different groups of Americans and celebrating that heritage unites us and makes us strong.

By Bill Breitsprecher
©2006, Breitlinks.  All Rights Reserved

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Research Guide:  
Hispanic American Heritage

Here are some resources to learn more about the contributions of Hispanic Ameridcans.  Conducting a search for information in an organized manner will help us locate what we need with the least amount of work.  It also helps ensure that we start projects with good information.  To see an easy to follow outline to help organize a research project, check our Mr. B's "Take Five" Research Process.   To see more about writing, please look at Mr. B's Writing Quick Tips for "tips & tricks" and links to other Websites that cover virtually ALL aspects grammar and writing.  

Topic:  Long before the present-day United States was founded, Hispanic people and heritage have shaped world history.  The rich contributions of those from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Caribbean regions, Central America, South America, and Spain profoundly influence America.  The term "Hispanic" does not refer to people from a single, common culture.  It reflects an appreciate of similarities and contributions of diverse groups that share Latin-American or Spanish descent.

Library Subject Headings.  Understanding the difference between keyword and subject heading searches is important.  Keywords represent text that appears in a document.  Subject headings are assigned by an information specialists to help researchers identify resources that cover similar topics.  A powerful tool, subject headings create connections between sources and allow a user to benefit from someone else's work classifying information. 

Computerize library catalogs, can be searched with keywords, just like most Internet search engines.   Many useful resources, however, do not share keywords -- this means they will not be located by keyword searches.  Subject headings, however, identify documents that contain information about similar topics even when those documents do not share keywords.  Here is a listing of common subject headings (Sears), typically used in public and school libraries.

bulletHispanic Americans
bulletLatin Americans
bulletMexican Americans
bulletSpanish Americans

Note:  Combine any of the above terms with the headings below to find topic-specific resources.  For example:  Hispanic Americans -- Attitudes; Latin-Americans -- Businesspeople; Mexican Americans -- children; Spanish Americans -- Scholarships, fellowships, etc.

bullet-- Attitudes
bullet-- Biography
bullet-- Biography -- Juvenile literature
bullet-- Businesspeople
bullet-- Children
bullet-- Education
bullet-- Civil rights
bullet-- Scholarships, fellowships, etc.
bullet-- Cultural assimilation
bullet-- Drama
bullet-- Employment
bullet-- Ethnic identity
bullet-- Fiction
bullet-- Genealogy -- Handbooks, manuals, etc.
bullet-- Health and hygiene -- Wisconsin -- Statistics
bullet-- History
bullet-- Bibliography
bullet-- Juvenile fiction
bullet-- Juvenile literature -- Bibliography
bullet-- Politics and government
bullet-- Race identity
bullet-- Scholarships, fellowships, etc. -- United States -- Directories
bullet-- Social conditions
bullet-- Social life and customs
bullet-- Social life and customs
bullet-- students
bullet-- Wisconsin
bullet-- Women

Decimal Numbers

Note:  Classification of Hispanic American topics by Dewey Decimal numbers is complex because the term "Hispanic" does not actually refer to a specific ethnic or cultural group.  While some Dewey Numbers are suggested below, be sure to search the on-line catalog using the subject headings identified above to see how a specific library has used to Dewey Decimal System to organize its collection on its shelves. 

If you need more help, please ask your local librarian - they will be more than happy to assist you.

bullet305.868 Hispanic American
bullet810 American Literature, Hispanic Authors
bullet860 American Literature, (Spanish)
bullet860 Latin American literature
bullet920 Latin Americans
bullet973 General Biographies
bullet980 Biographies, Latin Americans

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