On the Fourth of July, I attended an area celebration of our nation?s birthday for one purpose: personal research.
I simply approached an individual and asked my sole question: what role did Hispanics play in the War of Independence?
And now the worst of the story.
Of the dozen or so persons I asked not a single one could give me any kind of an answer. Some of the participants got to the point of being belligerent on account of their frustration, not being able to provide any information.
Chosen at random, I discovered public servants, retirees housewives, recent university grads, nurses,and teachers. They were guaranteed that the intent was not to make them seem like simpletons. I even asked them if I could mention their first name and the kind of work they did. Four of them objected to both, but still were kind enough to share in my educational experiment.
I also assured each one that it was not entirely their fault at being unaware of ?other? people?s contributions in supporting the colonists back in 1776.
Many of us have had to ?re-educate? ourselves in order to cleanse our mind from the brainwashing, whitewashing, etc. we were subjected to in the traditional school systems of the land. To recast our understanding of our nation?s origin and discover contributions made by people of color, we created a different set of three Rs - research, revise, and respect.
Research efforts have led to a continuing, collective endeavor in seeking closer approximations of the truth. Our experience reveals that state-issued books, teachers, and schools in general overlook or simply refuse to acknowledge the history of our ancestors.
Once our research material is accumulated, the next step is to compare conventional data and newly discovered information to determine the validity that may lead to revision. Such material is not always appreciated by a society that has been given only one side of its history. However, once put into print and read by historians from both camps, the revised accounts are likely to gain respect for the particular group of Americans previously left out of the historical loop.
Scholars and authors like Howard Zimm, James W. Loewen, Jack Forbes and others, are making the ?other? Americans aware of their true value and legitimate claim to being ?real? Americans. These writers have become the new literary heroes to many in my generation.
It was really a sad experience what I did on the Fourth. Such inquisitions into the citizenry confirms what a handful of us have long perceived - that few outside our group know of our early people?s contributions to this nation. How can there be any degree of respect and admiration for anyone if no historical background is available or known?
Becoming complacent is dangerous and can lead to a cultural comatose. There are many Americans with Spanish surnames who don?t wish to just be tolerated.
They want to be appreciated.
El Editor's Note: In the War of Independence, Cuban women collected fund for the French and American's siege on Yorktown. Also, Bernardo de Galvez (pictured), the governor of Louisiana, created an army from Cuba, Puerto Rico and Mexico which captured Fort Manchac forcing the surrender of Fort Panmure in Nachez, controlling travel into the Mississippi River.
Porras is a freelance bilingual writer / speaker. His columns are syndicated nationally via Hispanic Link (L.A. Times Syndicate) and is working on a book about heroines and heroes unknown to most entitled, Profiles In Storage.