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Honoring the Contributions of Hispanic Americans
By Congressman Henry Cuellar
America’s diversity has always been one of our nation’s greatest strengths, and Hispanic-Americans have long played an integral role in America’s rich culture, proud heritage, and the building of this great nation. September 15 through October 15 marks Hispanic Heritage Month, an opportunity to recognize the Hispanic community for the many contributions they continue to make to our great country.
The U.S. Census reports that the estimated Hispanic population in the United States exceeds 42 million, making it the nation’s largest ethnic minority. That number is projected to more than triple by the year 2050. Texas alone is home to 7.8 million Hispanics. Their commitments to faith and family have helped increase the importance of those values in our society. Hispanic culture has been a part of American society in a number of ways. With the integration of food, film, and music, America has become a richer and more colorful place to live.
Hispanic political figures have taken office throughout the nation, and Hispanic celebrities have become icons in American culture as well as Latin American culture. More than 15 million U.S. residents ages 5 years and older speak both English and Spanish fluently. Latinos boost our economy through their labor and entrepreneurship. In addition, Hispanic purchasing power exceeds $800 billion. Revenue generated by Hispanic-owned businesses in the country surpasses $200 billion. Furthermore, it was estimated that 7.6 million Hispanic-Americans voted in the 2004 presidential election. Hispanics have become a population fundamental to America economically, culturally, and politically. Historically, Hispanic-American patriots have fought and died for our country in every war and conflict since our founding. Brave men and women continue to defend our freedom overseas. It is important to recognize the sacrifice that tens of thousands of Latinos are making to serve their country, as well as honor the over 1 million Hispanic veterans of the US armed forces.
Considering that Hispanics are an essential factor in the continuing evolution of our nation, it is our duty to push for initiatives that support the entire community. New Direction for America, an agenda drafted and introduced by my fellow Democrats, expresses the obligation that America has to work for everyone by creating possibilities for all. Under this new agenda, we are advancing programs that benefit millions of Hispanic families and individuals including: more access to higher education, reduced gas prices, more affordable and accessible health care, and a more enforced retirement security plan. A minority health bill is also being proposed that addresses the inequality that our Hispanic community faces.
While we recognize past contributions of Hispanic Americans during this months celebration, it is also necessary to continue to support opportunities for future advancements within the Hispanic community and all minority populations alike. I have a proven record of fighting for the issues that Hispanics and all American working families care about. I will continue to fight to raise the minimum wage, to improve the quality of our children’s education, and to expand access to affordable healthcare for all. I am proud to stand by my Democratic colleagues to promote the New Direction for America agenda, and I will continue to push for legislation that benefits all American families.