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October 14, 2011

Observances

McCoy guest speaker talks about history of Hispanics in America

By Geneve N. Mankel, Public Affairs Staff

Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban Americans comprise the greatest number of Hispanics in the U.S., said Jesús E. Jambrina during Fort McCoy’s National Hispanic Heritage Month observance Sept. 29.
PHOTO: Jesús E. Jambrina speaks to the audience at the Fort McCoy Hispanic Heritage Month observance. Photo by Allan Harding
Jesús E. Jambrina speaks to the audience at the Fort McCoy Hispanic Heritage Month observance. Jambrina is an associate professor of Spanish and History and coordinator of the Latin American Studies program at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis. (Photo by Allan Harding)

Jambrina, the guest speaker, is an associate professor of Spanish and History and coordinator of the Latin American Studies program at Viterbo University.

Originally from Cuba, Jambrina came to the U.S in 2000 and obtained a master’s degree and doctorate degree from the University of Iowa.

Jambrina discussed the history of Hispanic culture in the U.S. and fielded questions from the audience during the observance.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15-Oct. 15 because Sept. 15 marks the independence of five Latin American countries, said Master Sgt. Claudia Simpson Fort McCoy Equal Opportunity Advisor.

“The overall goal of this month is to increase awareness and knowledge of the many Hispanic cultures,” Simpson said. “The estimated Hispanic population in the U.S. is 50.5 million, making people of Hispanic origin the nation’s largest ethnic, or race, minority.”

Of the Hispanics in the U.S. who are of Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban descent, about 70 percent are Mexican American, Jambrina said. Currently, most Mexican Americans are U.S. citizens by birth.

Most Puerto Rican Americans also are U.S. citizens by birth, Jambrina said. There are as many Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. as there are living in Puerto Rico.

Other groups that make up the Hispanic landscape in the U.S. come from Central American countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and from South American countries, like Columbia, Argentina and Brazil, although there are fewer Hispanics from South America.

Many citizens from these countries came to the U.S. as political refugees in the 1970s to escape dictatorships, Jambrina said.

“The history of the Latinos in the United States is very long, starting in 1492 when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas. At the time, Spain colonized most of the Western hemisphere,” Jambrina said.

In the early 1800s Mexico fought for and gained its independence from Spain. At this time, half of what is the U.S. today was part of Mexico, Jambrina said. However, Mexico lost 30 percent of its land to the U.S. after the Mexican American War. Six million Mexicans residing in those lands automatically became American citizens.

Puerto Ricans also automatically became U.S. citizens in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. The other Hispanic group that came en masse to the U.S. was Cubans. Starting in 1959 many left Cuba and took exile in Miami, New York and New Jersey because of political and economical reasons, Jambrina said.

“These events created the base for cultural heritage and background of Hispanics in the U.S.,” Jambrina said.

“Hispanics in the U.S. today have a very strong connection with their countries of origin because many still have family who reside there, so the ties are very strong,” Jambrina said.

The next Fort McCoy ethnic observance is Native American Heritage Month, which is observed during November. For more information about ethnic observances in the Fort McCoy community, call 608-388-3246.

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