HISPANIC HERITAGE: Heroes, groundbreakers hailed at Hispanic American Month event

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — In light of Hispanic American Observance Month, Hill Air Force Base took time toe celebrate the contributions of Hispanics in the country and on base.

Alma Orosco, chair of the Hispanic American Heritage Observance Committee, pointed out to an audience at the Hubbard Golf Course last week that throughout the years, Hispanic Americans have played an integral role in the nation’s success.

"For many of us, Hispanics are envisioned as immigrant workers, cheap laborers, non-English-speaking individuals or any number of media-driven portrayals such as Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, Edward James Olmos, Carlos Santana, all easily recognizable influential Hispanics," Orosco said.

"But what about Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, who coined the term ‘Sí, se puede’ in 1972 during the farm workers strike; and Dr. Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space; Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S history; Mario Molina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry for research that raised awareness of the threat that chlorofluorocarbons pose to the Earth’s protective ozone layer; and without Hispanic physicist Luis Alvarez’s theory on the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, that frequently asked question would still be unanswered."

Sean Reyes, Attorney General for the State of Utah, also spoke. Not mentioning him by name, Reyes referred to a recent presidential candidate’s comments about Hispanics. Donald Trump in June accused Mexican immigrants of bringing crime and drugs to the United States.

"I don’t know what Hispanics he was referring to, but I want to tell you about the ones I know," Reyes said, such as Don Salazar, the first member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from the state of Utah. "He took care of his business and his family, opening up a small day care in Ogden for Latino kids because no one would take them. Now he mentors numerous small businesses so they can stand on their own feet."

Reyes also spoke of Utah’s only Hispanic Medal of Honor recipient, Pfc. Jose Valdez, who saved his crew during a counterattack by German enemies in January 25, 1945. Even though Valdez was struck by a bullet, he continued delivering a protective screen of bullets until all members of his unit were safe. He later died from his wounds.

"There are contributions from our Hispanic community in every aspect of our society, which cannot be adequately summed up in a few words," Reyes said. "The Hispanic culture is so interwoven in who we are as Americans that you can’t parse it out. I want to acknowledge people of all walks of life who have contributed to the American dream, and hopefully we will remember to always embrace the truth and beauties of every culture in order to stay strong into the future."

Orosco said observing National Hispanic American Heritage month is about reflecting on the history of a people who were part of America long before the birth of the United States.

"The blending of various Hispanics’ identities, cultures, traditions and lifestyles makes America culturally Hispanic without many of us even realizing it," Orosco said. "Hispanics were among the earliest European settlers in the New World, and Hispanics as a people, like their many cultures, share a rich history and diversity. Not only did Hispanic culture help shape and define America’s early political development, but they have also played an important role in helping to secure the birth of the new republic, America."

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