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America's Native Language Spanish? Latino's Influence on U.S. History

America's Native Language Spanish? Latino's Influence on U.S. History

Posted by PanamericanWorld on February 26, 2014

Historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto's new book, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, was inspired when he was working the lecture circuit in 2007. The Notre Dame Professor was delivering a speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and following his oration an instructor from the academy shared his personal thoughts, stating that the U.S. should be welcoming to immigrants, and immediately followed that remark with the desolate statement, "people who come here must learn the native language."

To the Air Force instructor's surprise, Fernández-Armesto stated, "I quite agree... everyone should learn Spanish." Fernández-Armesto then went on to remind the audience and the instructor that the word "Colorado," itself, was a Spanish word. That was Fernández-Armesto's "eureka" moment, where he discovered that "that these nice, cultured, well-educated people had little understanding of the country's Hispanic past," and felt that it was his duty to inform them.

Fernández-Armesto drafted the book with the intention of filling in gaps, integrating Latin history and American History, and providing a prospective that would "go beyond the traditional, from east to west, sea-to-shining-sea narrative." He chose to address the true intercontinental history, and managed to undress the ever-veiled knowledge that Hispanics' presence in America is more extensive than Anglo's.

Our America makes this info apparent in a number of ways: the historian mentions that the American colonial times did not begin with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in 1620; Jamestown, Virginia in 1607; nor St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, rather the colonial history initiated in Puerto Rico in 1493, when Christopher Columbus landed on the island and rechristened it San Juan Bautista. Columbus then released three pigs and numerous goats on the now-U.S. territory with the notion that they would multiply, and would act as sustenance for future settlers.

The book goes on to revisit facts about Texas' history, and how it was shaped by undocumented immigrants, who happened to be white. Mexico's independence from Spain occurred in 1821, yet they allowed Americans to populate its northern frontier, Texas. However, Americans continued to move to Texas against Mexico's wishes, so "Mexico's centralist government suspended the settlement policy, but immigrants from the United States continued to be the 'illegal aliens' of their day." Slavery, which was illegal in Mexico, eventual urged conflict between the two nations before Texas became independent of Mexico, and became a state in 1845.

Fernández-Armesto recalls the erection of The Statue of Liberty, in 1886, and how it coincided with restrictions on immigration. The "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" started to get rejected when considered to be undesirable or unsuitable. The demand for immigrant labor in growing industries still required the efforts of immigrants, so immigration continued, uncomfortably.

The professor also detailed information about New Mexico, which was repeatedly denied statehood because it was "too Hispanic" and "xenophobia verging on racism and a narrow-minded understanding of what it means to belong to the United States." The territory, largely inhabited by Native Americans, Mexicans, and Hispanos (descendants of Spanish settlers), was unattractive, and it wasn't until whites became the majority in 1912 that it was recruited as a state. Ironically, Latinos have re-dominated New Mexico, and currently comprise 47 percent of the state's population.

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