Hispanic Americans' Contributions to Our Nation

Although Hispanic people in the United States may be unified by a common Spanish language and cultural heritage, they are divided by race, geography, traditional differences, country of origin and the time and circumstances of their entry into this country. For most, that entry has been voluntary and has implied an acceptance of the unspoken obligation of the immigrants and the immigrants’ descendants to adapt to their host country.

Central to the problem of how the United States is to deal with questions of language and culture is the fact that a large percentage of our native-born Mexican American citizens owe their presence to the U.S. policy of “manifest destiny”—a policy of conquest. The Spanish established communities in the Southwest during the late 1500s—before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. Mexico ceded these territories to the United States in peace treaties, and the individuals living in them—native language and all—became involuntary inhabitants of the Unites States in much the same way as Native Americans.

The end of World War II triggered major changes in the Anglo-Hispanic relationship. Significant Mexican immigration to the industrial cities of the Midwest had begun in the 1940s. At the same time, Mexican Americans in the Southwest had begun moving from rural to urban areas, and this trend has continued to increase dramatically. The 1980 census revealed that most Mexican Americans were urban residents.

Today’s Chicano movement sprang from the seething 1960s and included young high school and university Chicanos and Chicanas who firmly proclaimed their ethnic pride and demanded improved educational opportunities, expanded community amenities and more responsive social agencies. During the 1970s, Mexican Americans began to participate in force in the social, political and economic life of their new communities and to develop national and regional organizations to articulate their special needs and concerns.

Because of the historic diversity, our website blends the perspectives of authors with differing points of view. The result is a balanced narrative that recognizes Mexican Americans’ vital role in the history of the United States. (Text and photographs from the Americans All Classroom Resources.)

Legacy Stories from the Americans All Heritage Honor Roll

We are pleased to host and share these legacy stories created by honorees’ family, friends and associates. They, like us, appreciate that heritage and culture are an integral part of our nation's social fabric and want to help students participate effectively in our nation's economy, workforce and democracy.

Last Name of Individual
First Name of Individual
Group name

Lucian Adams Texas (October 26, 1922 - March 31, 2003) Medal of Honor Recipient, World War II, Veteran, Hispanic

Lucian Adams, Medal of Honor recipient and son of Lucian Adams, Sr., and Rosa (Ramírez) Adams, was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on October 26, 1922. The Adams family consisted of nine brothers and three sisters. Eight of his brothers served in World War II, and all returned home safe after the war. Lucian attended schools in Port Arthur . . . but dropped out of high school to help support his family.

Jovita Idár Texas (September 7, 1885 - June 15, 1946) Methodist, Hispanic, Teacher, Journalist, Political Activist, Idar

Jovita Idár, teacher, journalist, and political activist was born in Laredo in 1885, one of eight children of Jovita and Nicasio Idár. She attended the Holding Institute (a Methodist school) in Laredo, from which she earned a teaching certificate in 1903. She then taught at a small school in Ojuelos. Inadequate equipment and poor conditions, as well as her inability to improve them, frustrated her, so she resigned and joined . . .

Emma Tenayuca Texas (December 21, 1916 - July 23, 1999) Hispanic, Mexican-Comanche, Civil Rights Activist, Labor Organizer, Educator, Communist, Pecan Strike

Emma Tenayuca was born in San Antonio, Texas, one of 11 children, and lived with her grandmother to ease the burden on her family. While attending Brackenridge High School, she was struck by the differences between what she read about life and the realities she witnessed around her every day.

Emma Beatrice Tenayuca Texas (December 21, 1916 - July 23, 1999) Hispanic, Mexican-Comanche, Civil Rights Activist, Labor Organizer, Educator, Communist, Pecan Strike

Emma Beatrice Tenayuca, Mexican American labor organizer, civil rights activist, and educator was a central figure in the radical labor movement in Texas during the 1930s and a leading member of the Workers Alliance of America and Communist Party of Texas. She is perhaps best remembered for her role in organizing the largest strike in San Antonio history, the Pecan-Shellers’ Strike of 1938.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo California (c.1808 - January 18, 1890) Hispanic, Mexicano-Estadounidense, Veterano, Político, Ranchero

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (c.1808–Enero18, 1890) fue uno de los líderes en la lucha de California por ser estado. A lo largo de su vida, fue testigo del gobierno de tres naciones en California. Nacido en una familia acaudalada de Monterrey, California, el octavo de 13 hermanos, ingresó al servicio militar a la edad de 16 años.

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo California (c.1808 - January 18, 1890) Hispanic, Mexican-American, Veteran, Politician, Rancher

Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo (c.1808–January 18, 1890) was a leader in the struggle for statehood for California. During his lifetime, he witnessed three nations rule California. Born to a wealthy family in Monterey, California, the eighth of 13 children, he entered military service at age 16.