Hispanic Heritage Month — it's important to recognize the contributions and sacrifices

Hispanic Heritage Month — it's important to recognize the contributions and sacrifices
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With each second on the clock, the American Hispanic population is growing — 58 million and counting. Each second, new Hispanic-owned businesses are being formed. Each second, more Hispanics are graduating from high school and attending and graduating from college.

While Hispanic high school dropouts are still higher than among whites, blacks, and Asians, they have plummeted from 32 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2014. Hispanic college enrollment has also increased by 13 percent  from 1993 to 2014.

Dramatic as Hispanic educational improvements can be quantified in recent years, we must remember that according to sociologist Thomas Sowell in his, “Ethnic America”
the California Mexican American had but an 8th grade education in not-so-long-ago 1950s.


In that year, there were so few Hispanic-owned businesses that they were statistically insignificant. It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan was elected president with a solid Hispanic vote in 1980 that Hispanic businesses and their formation came to public attention.

Hispanics created businesses under Reagan and H. W. Bush at two-and-a-half-times the rate of non-Hispanics, but that was nothing.

Stanford University’s Graduate Business Department and the Latino Business Action Network studied Hispanic and all other business formations between 2007 and 2012. The study found fantastic numbers; we are talking about an economic miracle.

Between 2007 and 2012 Hispanic small business formations in the U.S. grew 46.9 percent; non-Hispanic businesses grew by a tiny 0.7 percent. Yes, during the same five years non-Hispanic small business formations grew by less than one percent. With 18 percent of the American population Hispanics own 12 percent of small business and are opening new ones every day.

The study also shows that 80 percent of Hispanic small business works with and sells to the general population, not just to fellow Hispanics. It also showed that Hispanic small business relies on personal savings, credit cards and business revenue to start, build and grow businesses because they have little access to capital.

California has the largest Hispanic population; thus, it has the most Hispanic-owned businesses. 40 percent of California is Hispanic, a plurality. 23 percent of all California small business is Hispanic-owned and is also growing with a 43.9 percent growth between 2007 and 2012. Business is good and growing.

Great Hispanic education progress; great Hispanic business growth. Why else do we celebrate Hispanic America?

A few weeks ago, I was invited to celebrate the commissioning of America’s newest war ship the U.S.S. Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), named after a San Diego/Tijuana Mexican citizen who was killed in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

The United States Marine was awarded a Navy cross, the country’s second highest military award, posthumously. This is the first ever U.S. Navy warship named for a Mexican citizen. He was made a citizen after his death.

Mexicans and other Hispanics have militarily served the United States before there was a United States. They started before 1779 when the Spanish Governor General Bernardo Galvez at New Orleans secretly helped Americans by sending supplies up the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to American fighters.

When Spain joined the Americans in making war on the British in 1779, 200 Spanish, Mexican and Cuban militiamen met 1200 Brits and Indian allies at what is now St. Louis and not only defeated them but chased them back to Canada catching them again in what is now Michigan and defeated them again.

Their greatest Hispanic contribution to American independence came in defeating the British at Baton Rouge (Louisiana), Mobile (Alabama) and the mighty British fort at Pensacola (Florida) that dominated the Gulf of Mexico. Nary and Yankee was in sight.

Spanish, Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican forces under General Galvez numbered 7800 fighting soldiers and sailors, the same number as the French forces in the War of Independence.

Hispanics fighting for America started in 1779 and continued in the American Civil War when the U.S. Army says 9,000 Mexican Americans and Mexican citizens fought on the Union side. It continued through WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and continues in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2015, 12 percent of all U.S. military were Hispanics. They gravitate to the Army and Marines.

Today, 18 percent of the United States Marine Corps is Hispanic mostly Mexican American and some like Navy Cross awardee Sgt. Rafael Peralta are even Mexican citizens.

Setting aside education and business, Hispanics fighting for America since before there was a United States of America through today in Iraq and Afghanistan is reason enough to celebrate and observed Hispanic Heritage; Hispanic Heritage is American heritage.

Raoul Lowery-Contreras is a political consultant and the author of “The Armenian Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade” he formerly wrote for the New York Times’s New America News Service.