|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.
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
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
“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,
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
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,”
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.