Monday, September 14, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month

It's Hispanic Heritage Month, and an opportunity to think about Hispanic/Latino leaders who have focused on civil rights issues. Here are a couple I could think of, with some information from a variety of internet sources.
Who are the Hispanic/Latino leaders you most admire?

Dennis Chávez
As a United States senator, Dennis Chávez battled for the rights of Hispanic residents and Native Americans in his home state, New Mexico. He was a senator for 27 years, from 1935 to 1962. Chávez tried to stop discrimination against workers based on their race, religion, or ethnic background. He played a major role in the establishment of an agency to protect workers, known as the Fair Employment Practices Commission.

Cesar Chávez
César Chávez came from a family of poor migrant workers. Through the experiences of his family, he knew the hard lives led by farm workers who came to work in California from Mexico. They had to live in dirty, cramped places and earned little money. In 1962, with Dolores Huerta, he started a group to change these terrible conditions — the United Farm Workers of America. At first the workers were afraid of the produce growers. But Chávez inspired the group and led peaceful protests and boycotts. These actions convinced the growers to sign contracts with the farm workers and to treat them better.

Dolores Huerta
Dolores Huerta has devoted her whole life to better treatment and justice for farm workers. Along with César Chávez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers of America. She negotiated the first labor contract for the migrant farm workers and helped get the growers to agree to stop using dangerous chemicals on grapes. Because of a boycott Huerta led in 1970, urging people not to buy California grapes, the grape industry agreed to treat the workers better.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
In 1982, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Hispanic woman and first Cuban American to be elected to the U.S. Congress. When she was 7 years old, her family fled Communist forces in Cuba. Today, the Republican congresswoman strongly opposes Communism in Cuba. She advocates for human rights around the world.

Sonia Sotomayor
She is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. On May 26, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sotomayor for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court to replace retired Justice David Souter . Her nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 6, 2009, by a vote of 68–31, and she was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on August 8. Sotomayor is the Court's 111th justice, its first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice. Sotomayor is of Puerto Rican descent and was born in the Bronx.

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