Secretary Salazar Works to Uncover the American Latino Story

When you consider that Latinos, particularly Mexican-Americans, have lived in what is now the US for more than 400 years, it’s surprising how little you hear about us in discussions of American history. This holds true on the highest levels – just over 3% of the officially designed properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places are recognized for their association with any racial or ethnic minority group.

Ken Salazar, the US Secretary of the Interior, is aiming to change that. Earlier this month, he unveiled his plan to better recognize Latino history, the American Latino Heritage Initiative. The National Park Service will spearhead a campaign to evaluate currently existing historic assets to identify missing links.

Secretary Salazer notes some early successes of the program on the White House’s official blog:

We have already made significant strides in implementing this initiative. For example, just one year ago, I had the honor to stand next to Paul Chávez, the son of a 20th century hero whose sacrifice improved the lives of millions. To celebrate the life and legacy of César Chávez, together we officially dedicated ’40 Acres’, the headquarters of the United Farm Workers as a National Historic Landmark. Cesar Chavez was a true champion of change and with the designation of the site where it all began, visitors will be able to learn about his story and appreciate his struggle toward a more perfect union.

This initiative is desperately needed – it’s sad how Latino history in the US often goes ignored. Large portions of what is now the US used to be parts of Mexico – the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 gave the US California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Utah. That wasn’t empty land – around 80,000 Mexican citizens woke up one day and found they’d suddenly become Americans.

That history is important and should be recognized. Too often, the history of the Western United States is treated as if it began with the US acquisition of Mexican territory, and the lives of those early Mexican-Americans are ignored entirely. I have no doubt that this initiative will uncover historic sites that are both valuable and incredibly interesting. Hopefully, similar initiatives for historic sites related to other ethnic groups will follow.


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Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

Not sure what thomas m means by "the crime we have due to illegal immigrants."
The crime of illegal immigration is a crime only because we have said it is a crime,
not because immigration is criminal in itself. Apart from that, most "illegal"
immigrants commit no crimes, or certainly no more than anyone else. Reforming
our immigration laws might be more productive than whipping ourselves into frenzies
about immigrants.

patricia m lasek
patricia lasek5 years ago

It's all well and good that he is doing this, but, what about his real job of protecting our lands and wildlife? Fire the bum!

SeattleAnn S.
Ann S5 years ago

Important history and there is additional important history behind the Native Americans as well.

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodrigu

As one Rodríguez to another, yes, this initiative is needed, but Secretary Salazar is neglecting his main job.

Janet K.
Janet K5 years ago

Salazar should be fired! Why hasn't anyone made a petition for that?

Nelson Baker
Nelson Baker5 years ago

Salazar should do his job and protect the animals on our public lands.

James G.
James G5 years ago

It is important to protect the history and heritage of our people and it is good to see Salazar doing something useful. Now if we could just get him to do his main job, that of protecting our natural heritage. From drilling rigs in the Gulf, to wolves in Idaho, to Polar bears in Alaska, his performance in protecting those assets is worse than dismal. And if Obama fails in his reelection, his decision to appoint Salazar will not be a small factor.

M.E. W.
Mary W5 years ago

Secretary Salazar is responsible for the ongoing war on wildlife in the US. He desperately needs to use his office for the protection of the environment and wildlife (wolves, wild mustangs & burros, et al) and not as an extension of the ranching/big agri/mining industries. Salazar's stance on the environmental and wildlife reveals just how corrupt the US gov't really is.

Myron Scott
Myron Scott5 years ago

The National Park Service administers many sites representative of
Native American history, including post-colonial sites as well as sites
associated with the Ancient Ones. For many years, it has told the
story of white America's mistreatment of Natives at these sites.
At least some of NPS sites are administered cooperatively with tribes.
No doubt more can and should be done in this direction too, of course.

Wendy Johnson

Secretary Salazar is making a step in the right direction. What I'd really like to see though, would be more attention being paid to the Native Peoples, from all over what is now the United States. I live in the Southwest, which was first colonized by Spain, but there were people here when the Spaniards got here. What about their history?