Freedom of Thought

Key momen⁠t⁠s ⁠i⁠n H⁠i⁠span⁠i⁠c-Amer⁠i⁠can h⁠i⁠s⁠t⁠ory

October 2, 2023

Freedom of Thought

October 2, 2023

October is Hispanic Heritage Month, and Our America is excited to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic Americans.

1. Reynaldo Guerra Garza becomes the first Hispanic-American federal judge

Representation Matters. America was built on the idea that every person is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This timeless idea is fundamental to creating a better society.

The moment – Reynaldo Guerra Garza became the first Hispanic American to be named a federal judge when President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in 1961. Garza earned the distinction of becoming chief justice in 1974. Garza went on to become the first Mexican American and first Latin American to be named to any circuit of the United States Court of Appeals when he was appointed to the Fifth Circuit in 1979. He rose to the rank of senior judge in 1982, serving in that position for 20 years before his retirement.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa said he remembered admiring Garza as a boy, when he saw the judge preside over naturalization ceremonies. “I remember sitting there and not realizing that someday I would be working on the same floor as he did,” Hinojosa said.

“He’s an example of anything that is possible in this great country.” He continued, “The rest of us have come along after him because he opened doors for us. He opened doors that remain open for the rest of us.”

2.  Mendez v. Westminster School District, April 14, 1947.

Everyday Americans from all backgrounds make sacrifices in order to play an integral role in our communities. Their work ensures every American has a voice in their local community.

When 9-year-old Sylvia Mendez was denied entrance to Westminster Elementary School for being Mexican, her family, along with others, took the school district to court and won. Thanks to the brave Mendez family fighting for their daughter’s education, this California ruling became the precedent for the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case seven years later. 

The Mendez family shows how an “average” family can speak up and refuse to back down – and make things better for everyone.

3. Richie Valens becomes America’s first Hispanic rock star

We are committed to achieving equal opportunity for all Americans so no one is confined into a group based on race, class or gender, in order to enable them to achieve the American Dream.

The moment – rock and roll burst onto the scene in 1955, and Richie Valens (born Richard Stephen Valenzuela) secured his spot as America’s first Hispanic rock and roll star with “Come On, Let’s Go” in 1958. He’s better known for the Spanish-language hit “La Bamba” which came out later that year. His producer put it on the B-side to the song “Donna” because, he recalled “It was all in Spanish and I figured, ‘Nobody’s gonna play that.’” Instead, it made him a 17-year old superstar and spent 15 weeks on the charts. 

4. San Junípero Serra

Respect is essential for a civil society – which is why it is important to foster respect for a diverse range of lifestyles and beliefs, including religious beliefs.

The moment – If we’re talking about big moments in Hispanic-American religious history, we can hardly skip the first Hispanic-American saint – San Junípero Serra, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2015. Serra was a Spanish friar who came to California in the 18th century, founding nine missions and presiding over another 15. 

In addition to these moments, let’s recognize some of Our America’s own Hispanic heroes! 

Barbie George uses her voice for common sense and civility

Andrew Aguero is a champion for equal opportunity

Maria Fernando Bello represents freedom of thought and expression