The Great Hispanic American History Tour
There I was, on my Great Hispanic American History Tour, visiting yet one more gallery where our heritage is on display, and much to my surprise — through my camera lens — I made a discovery that almost knocked me down.
I was visiting Miami's Freedom Tower, the National Historic Landmark that served as the U.S. government's "Cuban Refugee Center" in the 1960s and early 1970s, and I was determined to write a very personal account of what that building means to me — how it received my own family when it served as "the Ellis Island of the South."
But nothing had prepared me for the shock I received last week when I entered the tower — now a museum — for the first time in more than 50 years. Read more . . .
On the broad streets of Washington, D.C., and within the majestic halls of the U.S. Capitol, our often-hidden Hispanic heritage had not been hard to find. My Great Hispanic American History Tour had discovered many remarkable monuments and works of art recognizing Hispanic patriots and heroes and their contributions to this great nation. I was truly impressed — until I got to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
Wow! After visiting so many Hispanic historical sites around the country, what a disappointment!
It was as if I had walked into an average American history book, with all its typical blatant omissions of the contributions of Hispanic Americans. Read more . . .
When we go to our nation's capital, mostly as tourists trying to make time to cover all the major attractions, we seldom find enough time to visit some smaller sites that would be monumental if they were elsewhere.
Washington has so many statues, sculptured buildings, busts, monuments and other outdoor attractions that it's easy to overlook many of them — even when some could have special significance to you.
This is especially true for U.S. Latinos . . .
Read more . . .
You see Hernando De Soto and his Spanish conquistadors as they discovered the Mississippi River. You view different artistic interpretations of the moment Christopher Columbus first landed in the New World. You see Hernando Cortes' meeting with Montezuma in Mexico and Francisco Pizarro on his way to Peru. You see tributes to Spanish monarchs and missionaries — and to U.S. Hispanic heroes and accomplishments. Read more --> (78)
WASHINGTON — It took Congress 231 years to keep this particular promise, perhaps setting a record, but it finally happened in December, when a portrait of Spanish Gen. Bernardo de Galvez finally was hung on a wall in the U.S. Capitol. Read more --> (77)
He was the star of the Founding Fathers, the intellectual architect of our system of government, the author of our Declaration of Independence, our first secretary of state and our third president. He was well-known for his attraction to France. But if you were to ask Thomas Jefferson, he would tell you how important it is for you to learn Spanish. Read more --> (76)
Somewhere beneath the Hilton Hotel and Ballpark Village — the fancy new complex built by the St. Louis Cardinals next to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis — lie the remains of an old Spanish fort that played a key role in defeating the British during the American Revolution. In fact, had it not been for Fort San Carlos, hastily built by Spanish troops and French Creole settlers to protect the small village of St. Louis in 1780, some historians believe American independence from Great Britain would not have been achieved. Read more --> (75)
After Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado gave up on New Mexico because the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola turned out to be made of mud instead of gold — and before returning to present-day Mexico — he went all the way up to present-day Kansas. Marching with more than 1,000 people, with several thousand head of livestock, and often sending small groups of soldiers to explore in different directions, the 1540-42 Coronado expedition covered a huge territory — through today's Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Read more-> (74)
You are standing on a hilltop, next to a beautiful shrine. You see a valley of farmland embraced by mountain ranges. You are overlooking a quaint, historic community at the bottom of the hill — and all of it is named in Spanish. You are on "La Mesa de la Piedad y de la Misericordia," or the Hill of Piety and Mercy, standing next to "La Capilla de Todos Los Santos," or the Chapel of All Saints, overlooking the San Luis Valley, which is embraced by the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains. You are in southern Colorado. But from the names of the landmarks here, you could just as well be in Spain. Read more --> (73)
Back in 1776, while 13 British colonies were becoming an independent nation on the eastern side of North America, two Spanish priests were leading an expedition across present-day New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona. They were looking to establish a northern route from Santa Fe to the Spanish settlements in present-day California. But the mighty Colorado River stood in their way. Read more -->
Long before southern Arizona was part of the United States and long before it was part of Mexico, back when it was part of the territory of New Spain, the town of Tucson was born. Its name is a Spanish adaptation of "S-cuk Son," which is what Tohono O'odham Native Americans called their village. But the name Tucson is what stuck, especially after 1775, when the Spanish decided to build a fort to protect the village and called it Presidio de San Agustin del Tucson. Read more -->
The first time I met him, I immediately perceived that he had a unique talent for bringing Hispanic American history into present-day context. And that's all I needed. Because my history columns seek the same objective, I became an instant fan and follower of Dr. Bernard "Bunny" Fontana. It was more than two years ago, and we were in the living room of his Sonoran Desert home, just outside the Tohono O'odham Native American reservation in southern Arizona — the area he has explored, researched and exposed in several books as a noted anthropologist and historian. Read more -->
Right then and there, as I knelt on a pew at the Mission San Xavier del Bac church in southern Arizona two years ago, I made a pledge that I would go back — not just for another Sunday Mass but by way of a cross-country pilgrimage to discover America's hidden Hispanic heritage. This church was so uniquely beautiful, so spiritually fulfilling, so ethnically enriching that it rearranged my professional priorities and took my life in a new direction. Read more -->
They were the best that 17th- and 18th-century Europe had to offer. Every one of them was an explorer, a diplomat, a teacher, a cartographer, a farmer, a rancher, a builder, a scribe and a preacher. The men who really settled and first established what now are huge portions of the United States were Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who worked for the king of Spain. Read more -->
As you drive there, you get the feeling you are terribly alone. The area is so remote and desolate that if you are traveling by yourself, it feels a little spooky, like being on a deserted planet. You don't see anyone for miles! You've driven across the country to visit the Coronado National Memorial in southern Arizona, which commemorates the 1540 to 1542 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado expedition through North America and "the cultural influences of Spanish colonial exploration." But you are greeted by signs warning you that if you are traveling alone, you shouldn't be there. Read more ->
Using 16th-century maps but traveling on 21st-century highways — and even some waterways — my cross-country trip has been roughly following the route of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the Spanish conquistador who spent almost eight years traveling across the North American wilderness from 1528 to 1536 — from Tampa, Florida, to Mexico City. Read more >
When a huge chunk of Mexico became part of the United States in 1848, many of the Mexicans who lived in the affected territory moved further south, back into Mexico, because they didn't want to live in the country that had invaded them. Back then, the flow of immigration was in reverse! Read more ->
Back in 1995, when I was almost 20 years younger, I was daring enough to hike all the way up to the mountaintop. But much to my relief, there was no need to do it again, because this time, I was there for a different reason. Instead of the view from 4,675 feet above sea level, this time I was there to see that majestic sierra from a distance and to admire the huge crucifix that stands on its summit. This time, I was on the Great Hispanic American History Tour, and Mount Cristo Rey — in Sunland Park, New Mexico, just west of El Paso, Texas — was a mandatory stop. It was conceived by a Hispanic priest, was created by a Spanish sculptor and has guided Latinos along El Paso del Norte (the Pass to the North) for more than seven decades. Read more->
When the United States and Mexico agreed to designate a large portion of the Rio Grande as the international border between the two countries in 1848, no one asked the river whether it wanted to accept such a huge responsibility. And so, because nature is never bound by international treaties, the course of the river kept shifting — making the border inconsistent, inviting unscrupulous land-grabbing and igniting bitter feuds that lasted more than a century. . . Read more->
It is, by all accounts, "the world's biggest equestrian statue" — so big that it's meant to be seen from a distance. Standing next to this rearing Andalusian stallion — mounted by a Spanish conquistador — can be intimidating, not to mention illegal. Read more ->
Hall of Fame!
Lehman Professor Miguel Perez Inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame
Discussing the indictment of Sen. Robert Melendez:
As many of you know, my syndicated column occasionally takes a break from current events and becomes one more chapter of “America’s Hidden Hispanic Heritage,” a history series I’ve been writing since 2007.
This on-going series, now up to 81 parts, has become my greatest passion. Two years ago, I launched a new web site - HiddenHispanicHeritage.com (http://www.hiddenhispanicheritage.com/) – where I can put my passion on display.
You may have read some of these columns when they were distributed by the Creators Syndicate and published in web sites and newspapers, but you didn't see them as you will here, alongside the many photographs I've taken during my travels to many historic landmarks.
My pilgrimage in search for our hidden Hispanic heritage has turned into "a bucket list of places, ideas and historical evidence to help reconnect Americans with their Hispanic roots." I hope you enjoy it and send me some feedback in the site’s companion Facebook blog, at https://www.facebook.com/HiddenHispanicHeritage
But most importantly, PLEASE, help me disseminate this information by sharing this web site with your friends. I’m willing to share my passion!
Miguel Pérez - HiddenHispanicHeritage.com (http://www.hiddenhispanicheritage.com/)
The Great Hispanic American History Tour
One of the fringe benefits of being a journalist
is that sometimes you rub shoulders with greatness!
To watch videos, click on these photos:
When I co-hosted "Tiempo" with Anna Carbonell on WABC-NYC in 1983, I had the privilege to interview: