Saturday, May 1, 2010

Contributions to Society

We are a country made up of many cultures and ethnic groups.  Our country has been referred to as a melting pot - where all peoples come together and and eventually are all the same.  We have been referred to as a stew - where all peoples come together and take on some of the "flavors" of those around them while retaining there own distinct flavor and colors.  And the United States has been referred to as a salad - where all peoples come together and make a delicious meal but each ingredient is unique and retains it's own flavor.  I think all of these have been accurate descriptions of our country throughout history.  As Americans began to call themselves "American" it was the desire of many to have everyone be the same.  It was the desire of some in charge of running the country and it was the desire of some coming to this country.  That would be the "melting pot philosophy."  Then as leaders and the common man began to see the value in other cultures, America took on the "stew philosophy."  We could take on some of the aspects of other cultures while retaining our own cultural traits.  The "salad philosophy" is like we are one country but everyone is distinct.  Each culture is equally valuable and together makes up a great nation.

Not all subscribe to anyone of these philosophies.  I can see positives and negatives in all of them.  Regardless of what your own personal philosophy of the many varied cultures that make up America is, I hope we can all agree on one thing.  That one thing, is that America would not be the prosperous and blessed nation that we are without contributions of people from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds.  I could start this series by focusing on the contributions of people from my ethnic background - German and Eastern Europe.  However, since Hispanics are such a major portion of public and political discourse these days, I have decided to start with that ethnic group.

Even before I lost a couple of followers over my last post, I had decided that I wanted to do this, so this post is not for that reason.  It's because I recognize that I wouldn't be where I am today with out contributions by courageous, brave, intelligent men and women from all countries.  Also, my grand-daughter has Hispanic blood running through her veins.  I want her to be proud of every bit of "her" history.  If I am going to help her to learn about her story, I have to be educated myself.

I found this great website called Hispanic Contributions to the United States of America.  Here is just a small amount of the information I learned there.

  • In the Mexican-American War, Captain Juan Seguin and other Hispanic Texans fought at the Alamo against General Santa Anna's soldiers, essentially fighting alongside American heroes Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie, and William Travis.

  • Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California missions, became a pioneer in the fight for human rights for the Native Americans.

  • In medicine, Dr. Walter Reed is generally credited with originating the theory of yellow fever transmissions by mosquitoes. The truth is that he only confirmed this theory. Carlos Juan Finlay, a modest Cuban physician, was the one who actually originated it.

  • In the art world, muralist Diego Rivera became known not only in Mexico but throughout the world.  He painted murals not only in Mexico but also in Detroit, San Francisco, and New York City.  He was married to another famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo.

  • Dr. Ellen Ochoa, in 1990, was the first Hispanic woman to become an astronaut.  She served on a nine-day mission aboard the shuttle Discovery in 1993. The astronauts were studying the Earth's ozone layer.

  • Where would migrant farm workers be without Cesar Chavez?  He co-founded the United Farm Workers with another Hispanic, Dolores Huerta.  This organization helped farm laborers get improved working conditions and better wages.  He was also committed to limiting immigration and against the practice of hiring undocumented workers as strike-breakers.

  • And I have to add Selena and the portrayer of her in the movie, Selena, Jennifer Lopez.  (Edward James Olmos was in this movie too.)  Selena was often called the Queen of Tejano music and was just to about to start a cross-over to American radio when she was murdered by the president of her fan club.

I could list hundreds of Hispanics that have made contributions to society and America.  As Americans, we should always remember that North America wasn't discovered by Europeans.  This continent existed for centuries before any white man set foot on the soil.  Once those first Europeans arrived and the nation of the United States was established, this has been a country of various peoples from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.  We are a better nation for the contributions made by these people.

1 comment:

  1. Good job Cindi - I like what you said at the end, which reminds me of the mistreatment of the Native Americans, which were horrible, but it seems to be little in the history books compared to the publicity of treatment of Africans


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