“Anything but shoot them”?

Congressman  Brooks has taken the anti-immigrant rhetoric to a new low — or is new height of inflammatory speech?  “Anything but shoot them”?  Really? Perhaps the Congressman needs a history lesson — if the Native American nations had done everything but shoot his ancestors, he may not be here either.  Time for a new march on Selma!

Casey Anthony and the New American Bogeyman

Sociologists and psychologists will be arguing over the national obsession with the Casey Anthony trial for months to come.  But few seem to have noticed what the case reveals about our attitudes towards the New American Bogeyman, or in this case, New American Bogeywoman:  Hispanic Women.

Casey Anthony quickly pointed to her “Hispanic babysitter”, named “Zenaida Gonzales”.  As we are now aware, Casey Anthony never met Ms. Gonzales.  One of the over 400 women named Zenaida Gonzales in the state of Florida had the bad luck to view an apartment nearby, and this  innocent woman’s world has become hell.

Casey Anthony is not the only one.  Remember Jennifer Wilbanks of Atlanta, the runaway bride?  Ms. Wilbanks was supposedly kidnapped in 2005 by a “Hispanic woman” with a white male accomplice?

In our recent past, the American Bogeyman was an African-American male in a knit cap.  At least that’s what Andrea Yates assured us in 2001, after she killed her five young children.  Ms. Yates initial statement blamed the then current American Bogeyman.  Police even released a sketch of the fictional young African-American male, complete with knit cap.

For the next few days, as a Hispanic American woman, I’ll be pondering how I became the New American Bogeyman.  There are the obvious explanations of the increase in the Hispanic population, an undercurrent of racism given that many Hispanics are biracial (Native Americans who have been here for over 30,000 years).  Why we have collectively chosen Hispanic women — far too many of whom meet the profile of Zenaida Gonzales, a powerless,  impoverished single mother struggling to support her six children — requires more introspective thinking on my part.  Please check back!

435 Hispanic-American Interns for Congress

As Congress debates how to manage future security for its members, we recommend hiring 435 Hispanic-Americans interns, in view of Daniel Hernandez’s heroic and decisive actions to assist Representative Giffords.  The chance of another tragic incident is fortunately low, but Congress needs dedicated, quick-thinking staff to administer proposed measures to liaise with local law enforcement for future Congressional appearances.  Given tight budgets, high quality interns are an excellent choice.  And with the caliber of people such as Daniel Hernandez available, let’s make room for more Hispanics on the Hill.

A DREAM Deferred?

Citizens with college education or military service?  Citizens with high school diplomas and good moral character?   Apparently, these requirements were not sufficient for a handful of US Senators who voted down the DREAM Act today.  The DREAM Act would have allowed a path to citizenship for some immigrants who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 and met strict criteria for residency, public service and education.

A dream has ended for vulnerable children and young adults who have already had many challenges and setbacks in life.  This decision leaves them in an undocumented netherworld, instead of allowing them an opportunity to earn a place in the American dream.  Perhaps these Senators are hoping that these young people will leave their childhood homes and return to the very circumstances of poverty and prejudice that forced their initial flight.  While some may, many will not.

We are risking another “lost generation”, another group of minority young people without a chance for an education or work to better themselves, their dreams dried up.  Certainly by now, with our painful history of the civil rights movement, we should have learned what happens to a dream deferred?

Tu voto es tu voz

With the election only twelve days away, Hispanic Americans have the opportunity to participate in the democratic process of the United States of America that they helped to create.  In key states where elections are hotly contested by an uncertain margin of a few points, Hispanics can make a difference.  In Nevada and Florida, for example, Hispanics compromise 10 to 15% of eligible voters.  The races for Governor and Senator in California will be heavily influenced by Hispanic voter turnout.  Even in Arizona, Hispanics compromise 25% of eligible voters.

Voting is one of the most important responsibilities that we have as citizens, an opportunity that was earned for us by the courage of those who founded this country.  Despite, or perhaps because of this opportunity to make a difference, we are seeing unconscionable attack ads urging Hispanics not to vote in this election.  Both Univision and Telemundo have decided not to run the ads.

Please remember  to vote, for the party of your choice.  It’s our privilege, our responsibility, and our voice to speak for ourselves and about our aspirations.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month (Yes, really!)

September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic Heritage, and a time to celebrate the long and important presence of Hispanic Americans in our country.  And it is our country, and our history.

A map of late 18th century North America shows this extent of this presence, from the small outpost of San Francisco founded in the desolate wilderness of Alta California in 1776, through the Spanish province of Texas with its vaqueros (cowboys), to the fortress of St. Augustine, Florida — the first continuous European settlement in North America founded in 1565, decades before Jamestown, Virginia.

Spanish explorers traveled further north along the Pacific Coast to Canada in 1774 and by the late 1700s had established a military post on Vancouver Island, 350 miles north of Seattle. The Spanish sailed up the Atlantic Coast through the Chesapeake Bay in 1526, then called the Bahía de Santa María, about 80 years before the romanticized English encounter with Pocahontas. In the 1520’s Spanish navigators also explored as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the present site of Bangor, Maine. The Spanish settled the southwest of North America in the 16th century and officially founded Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1610.

As part of the Treaty of Paris (1763) peace settlement of the French and Indian War, the territories west of the Mississippi River, including Louisiana and New Orleans, were ceded to the Spanish. Nearly all of the surviving 18th century architecture of the famed Vieux Carré French Quarter dates from this Spanish period.

At this point in our turbulent times, I think that looking to the past is the most profound way to view the present.

Help Preserve Admiral David Farragut’s Birthplace

The birthplace of America’s first admiral and a great Hispanic American hero — the man who uttered those famous words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” — is about to be turned into a private gated community.

Admiral Farragut was born at Stoney Point Farm 12 miles southwest of Knoxville, Tennessee. Until a few months ago, most people were completely unaware that this land had any historic significance. A 110-year-old monument is still on the property, and it is etched with the words “Birthplace of Admiral Farragut,” but it is on private property that is fenced off from the public and now zoned for residential development.

Stoney Point Farm was first settled by Spaniard Jorge Ferragut in 1797, four years before the future Admiral’s birth. He hacked out a clearing in the wilderness, built a 20 x 40 foot log cabin, plowed the fields, and moved there with his young family to run a ferry across the Tennessee River.

David Farragut’s father left his homeland of Minorca, Spain, and sailed to America in 1776 to fight in the Revolution. After the war was over he became a major in the territorial militia and a prominent Knox County landowner.

A preservation group is now coordinating with the Knox County Parks and Recreation and the University of Tennessee Archaeological Research Lab to study the public land that surrounds the farm and borders the waterfront. Fundraising efforts are underway to purchase the lots and dedicate them to future development of a visitors’ center and museum rather than a private residential development.

Please visit http://www.farragutbirthplace.blogspot.com for more information and to make a donation for “Farragut Birthplace” to Knox Heritage, an affiliate of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.