October Hispanic Heritage Month – Contributions by Latinos Continue to Grow America
By Mario A. Guerra
Each year from September 15th to October 15th the United States reflects upon and celebrates the tremendous contributions of Hispanic-Americans in building our great nation.
Last week I attended a reception at the White House in honor of that celebration, Hispanic Heritage Month. It was personally an exciting visit and self-realization of what opportunities our country stands for. Coming to America as a little boy refugee to today exploring the rooms in the White House made me proud of whom we are as a country. Standing with the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, Ambassadors and yes the President, made me realize how far we have come as a nation. It made me proud to be a Latino, a Hispanic-American.
Latinos remain a powerhouse in terms of the growing number of businesses owned and operated. Political influence and as a consumer base. The shaping of America is, in part, can be attributed to the influence and contributions made by Latinos.
As Hispanos, Hispanics, Latinos, LatinX, Chicano or Tejanos, our common backgrounds vested in Latin American heritage brings unity as a group targeted by marketers, politicians and academia.
When we talk numbers, Latinos are again leaders in contributing to local and national economies with over 2 trillion dollars of purchasing power nationally, and more than $215 billion in tax revenues (circa 2015). As entrepreneurs, Latinos owned more than 20 percent of all transportation and warehouse businesses in the United States as of 2012 and a growing number of the country’s construction firms. Latino business created nearly 3 million jobs to the U.S. workforce annually and that number continues to grow.
Politically, it is estimated that between 2015 and 2020, 5.7 million newly eligible Latinos voters can take part in local and national elections. Unfortunately the action of voting versus being eligible has not always been consistent.
The Latino influence doesn’t end there.
Homeownership amongst Latinos continues to rise with 20 percent) 17 million) of all homes owned in the country and an estimated 6 million more to be purchased by 2024. This trend will continue as Latinos advance in high learning earning post-graduate degrees – where Latinas are also leading the charge in obtaining Master and Doctorate degrees.
Let us not forget Latinos represent nearly 20 percent of all active military personnel – 242,907 of the 1.29 million enlisted. We should honor their patriotism and devotion to serve our country. And two of our most famous astronauts are Ellen Ochoa, first Latina in space, and Jose Hernandez, both working with NASA on space experiments and exploration. There are also 1.5 million Hispanic veterans in our country that have served to protect the freedoms we enjoy.
More than 40 Hispanic-American soldiers have been recipients of the Medal of Honor, our countries highest military decoration. More than 20,000 Hispanics fought on both sides in the U.S. Civil War.
Celebrating our achievements in the cultural arena is also worth noting, whether it’s in music, food or gains in the artistic, sporting and entertainment industries, Latinos continue to pioneer innovation in every facet of our society.
This Hispanic Heritage month (September 15 – October 15) let’s not just celebrate our culture, let’s get involved. Congratulate those who have built businesses by frequenting and purchasing from them, encourage our youth to study and go on to higher education by mentoring them and recognize the value our culture has and the enriching diversity we add to the American experiment of Democracy.
As a proud Cuban-American, I take pleasure in being a part of the uniqueness that my Latino brothers and sisters bring and represent in the greater community and pray Latinos will remain bridge builders of the American dream.
Mario A. Guerra is the former Mayor of Downey, current Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army and co-author of Embracing Change, An Immigrant Saga. He can be reached at www.marioaguerra.com