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What it Means to Be Hispanic American.

By Marisa Rivera.

This year’s theme for Hispanic Heritage Month is, “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.” When I reflect on the Hispanic American traditions, history and culture, a great sense of pride comes over me. I was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a United States Commonwealth. My mother was from Madrid, Spain and my father was from Vieques, Puerto Rico. I grew up reciting both, the American Pledge of Allegiance and “La Borrinqueña” (national anthem of P.R.) every morning before we started classes. I was never asked to choose between my American, Spanish, Puerto Rican or African roots. Those roots made me who I am today. I am an American of Hispanic descent. I always have felt that being multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual has been an incredible asset.

I look forward to Hispanic Heritage month every year, because it gives us the opportunity to showcase the beauty, the richness, the traditions, the legacy and the accomplishments of our Hispanic brothers and sisters. It is that time of year that we pause to celebrate and honor and highlight the major contributions of Hispanic Americans in this country. It is a time to celebrate our U.S. Hispanic armed forces soldiers and veterans who have so bravely fought for freedom and democracy since the 1800s. A time to celebrate our Hispanic American sports celebrities, entertainers, scientists, doctors, researchers, artists, construction workers, field workers, health care providers, teachers, and all who have been part of forming the backbone of this great nation.

Hispanic Americans and their descendants have had a profound and lasting influence on American history, values, and culture. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with century-old traditions that reflect a history that ties us all together. We are a diverse group. Many tracing their roots to the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, including the Arawak’s, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Mayans, and the Tainos. Many others trace their roots to the Spanish Conquistadores, or Africans who were brought as slaves to the New World.

The truth of the matter is that Hispanics on this continent and in this country, pre-dates the founding of our nation in 1776 by nearly 300 years.

The Spanish colony of St. Augustine was established in 1563, El Paso was founded in 1598, and Santa Fe was established in 1609. The first permanent English colony, Jamestown, was not founded until 1607. Hispanics have been in this country for over 500 years, long before there were any Englishmen. Just think about the many Spanish names of our states and cities, like; California, La Florida, San Antonio, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Cruces-Las Vegas! ALL are Spanish names!

Today, there are over 57 million Hispanics/Latinos living in the U.S., making up 18 percent of the population, with over one trillion dollars in purchasing power. Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group and the fastest growing small business segment in America today.

Hispanics have always played a major role in the growth, development and success of this country. The political, economic, social and cultural implications of this population strength are mind-boggling. For starters, in addition to growing at a rate four times faster than the general population, Latinos are creating new businesses at a rate three times greater than the general population. Latinos are also registering to vote at a rate five times greater than the general population.

It is our time to continue building a strong America with our cross-cultural assets, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic backgrounds as we grow in the world markets. We must play an active role in the nation’s future, economically, politically and socially, as we grow in numbers and influence.

At the end of the day – We are ALL Americanos. We are Americans of Hispanic descent! Let’s celebrate that!

Marisa Rivera is president of Mpowerment Works, a motivational speaker, executive coach and leadership and empowerment consultant. Marisa@MpowermentWorks.com.

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