Hispanic Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Auger
  • 28th Civil Engineer Squadron
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. During this period, America recognizes the contributions and traditions of the Hispanic culture. Sept. 15 is the start of the observance and it is also the anniversary of the independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico and Chile celebrate their Independence Day on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18.

This year's theme is "diversity united," building America's future today. In 2011, Hispanics constituted 16.3 percent of America's population - making them the largest ethnic or race minority.

Today, Hispanics continue to contribute to society in the same manner of numerous others have done in the past.

Dr. Antonia Pantoja was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1922. She moved to New York in November 1944 where she experienced discrimination as a Puerto Rican. To combat this issue, she received her master's degree in social work from the University of Columbia, as well as earning her Ph.D. in 1973. In 1961, as a member of the Puerto Rican Forum, Inc., she founded the Aspira Association. The AA focuses on the association and the investment in Hispanic youth. Her work earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.

Based out of Puerto Rico, the 65th Infantry Regiment was an all-Hispanic unit that served during the Korean War. Nicknamed the "Borinqueneers" in honor of a native Puerto Rican Indian tribe, the 65th IR displayed true heart and valor during the Korean War. In a three-year period - 1950 to 1953 - they earned a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations. These individuals set the path for Hispanic Americans to serve in today's armed forces.

Sonia Sotomayor was born in Bronx, N.Y., in 1954. While growing up, she read Nancy Drew books and watched a Perry Mason episode that truly inspired her to pursue her education and become a judge. She received her law degree from the University of Yale in 1979. One prevalent event in her life occurred when she became the 111th Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the third woman and the first Latino to sit on the seat of the U.S. Supreme Court judge.

President Barack Obama stated, "As members of the armed forces, heroic Hispanic men and women have also fought and died to defend the liberties and security of the U.S. in every war since the American Revolution, many serving before becoming American citizens."

Hispanic Heritage Month provides us with an opportunity to unite and reflect on the diversity of this country. Our diversity makes both our society and Air Force unique in that we must continue to live, work, and serve together and take the time to remember the past and continue to build America's future today.