The story of Joseph De Castro: The first Hispanic to ever win a U.S. Medal of Honor
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A reenactment photo of the Civil War

By Nigel Thompson of Al Dia News

It is estimated that up to approximately 10,000 Hispanics served throughout the course of the American Civil War.

From Mexican-Americans in the South and West, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and immigrants from Spain and Portugal, they found themselves on either side of the battle.

In the case of Joseph De Castro, the son of a Spanish father and American mother from Maine and the first Hispanic to ever win a Medal of Honor, he enlisted in the Union Army’s volunteer forces at 16 years old.

He was born on Nov. 14, 1844 outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Not much is known of his early life, but his father passed away of tuberculosis in 1858, when De Castro was 14.

This had a profound effect on the adolescent, as the next time he appears in records, it is as an inmate of the State Reform School in Westboro, near Worcester, MA in 1860, at 16.

“He apparently became a handful,” wrote Historian Darlene Richardson in a Facebook post about his life on the VA Boston Healthcare System page.

His time at the Westboro Reform School was also likely filled with more trauma, as an 1860 investigation of the facility in the summer of that year revealed the cruel treatment of boys in the institution’s care.

“Older boys, like Joseph, were often confined to dark, dirty cells for weeks at a time with only bread and water for sustenance,” wrote Richardson.

De Castro was released after the investigation and only three months after the start of the Civil War, he joined the Union Army on July 12, 1861.

He was initially a private in the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, but rose to a corporal over time and became a color-bearer for his regiment. In other words, De Castro was the flag-bearer every time the regiment went into battle, and it is where his heroism would be best remembered.

The 19th Massachusetts fought in a number of historic battles throughout the Civil War, including the Second Manassas, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

But it was at the Battle of Gettysburg that De Castro would earn his Medal of Honor.

The story goes that during the battle, De Castro separated from his unit amid Pickett’s Charge — ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee on the forces of Union Major General George G. Meade.

Continue on to Al Dia News to read the full article. 

Who is Hispanic?
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Hispanic family seated on couch together smiling

Debates over who is Hispanic and who is not have fueled conversations about identity among Americans who trace their heritage to Latin America or Spain.

The question surfaced during U.S. presidential debates and the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. More recently, it bubbled up after a singer from Spain won the “Best Latin” award at the 2019 Video Music Awards.

So, who is considered Hispanic in the United States? And how are they counted in public opinion surveys, voter exit polls and government surveys, such as the 2020 census?

The most common approach to answering these questions is straightforward: Who is Hispanic? Anyone who says they are. And nobody who says they aren’t.

The U.S. Census Bureau uses this approach, as does Pew Research Center and most other research organizations that conduct public opinion surveys. By this way of counting, the Census Bureau estimates there were roughly 60.6 million Hispanics in the United States as of July 1, 2019, making up 18 percent of the total national population.

Behind the impressive precision of this official Census Bureau number lies a long history of changing labels, shifting categories and revised question wording on census forms – all of which reflect evolving cultural norms about what it means to be Hispanic or Latino in the United States today.

Has the Census Bureau Changed the Way it Counts Hispanics?

The first year the Census Bureau asked everybody in the country about Hispanic ethnicity was in 1980. Some efforts took place before then to count people who today would be considered Hispanic. In the 1930 census, for example, an attempt to count Hispanics appeared as part of the race question, which had a category for “Mexican.”

The first major attempt to estimate the size of the nation’s Hispanic population came in 1970 and produced widespread concerns among Hispanic organizations about an undercount. A portion of the U.S. population (5 percent) was asked if their origin or descent was from the following categories: “Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, Other Spanish,” and “No, none of these.” This approach had problems, among them an undercount of about 1 million Hispanics. One reason for this is that many second-generation Hispanics did not select one of the Hispanic groups because the question did not include terms like “Mexican American.” The question wording also resulted in hundreds of thousands of people living in the Southern or Central regions of the US being mistakenly included in the “Central or South American” category.

By 1980, the current approach – in which someone is asked if they are Hispanic – had taken hold, with some tweaks made to the question and response categories since then. In 2000, for example, the term “Latino” was added to make the question read, “Is this person Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?” In recent years, the Census Bureau has studied an alternative approach to counting Hispanics that combines the questions that ask about Hispanic origin and race. However, this change did not appear in the 2020 census.

Source: Pew Research Center

How Columbus Day became Indigenous Peoples’ Day in over 130 US cities
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Indigenous Peoples' Day art

It took Christopher Columbus about nine weeks to reach the New World from Spain — and his critics more than half a century to start convincing US cities to ditch the holiday honoring the moment.

In 1992, Berkeley, Calif., became the first city to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day — and now, nearly 30 years later, there are more than 130 cities and 15 states that have either followed suit or chosen to mark both.

“It’s become a trend,” said Baley Champagne, a tribal citizen of the United Houma Nation, to NPR last year, after successfully lobbying Louisiana’s governor to make the switch to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

We’re bringing awareness that we’re not going to allow someone like that to be glorified into a hero because of the hurt that he caused to indigenous people of America,’’ she said of Columbus. “I think it’s long overdue.’’

Shannon Speed, a Chickasaw Nation citizen and director of UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center, was more blunt to the outlet.

“Today we understand that while [Columbus] was an explorer and credited with being one of the first Europeans to arrive in the Americas, we now know a great deal about the history and the way that he and his people behaved when they came to this continent — which included pillaging, raping and generally setting in motion a genocide of the people who were already here.

“That’s not something we want to celebrate,” she said. “That’s not something anyone wants to celebrate.”

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt made Columbus Day a federal holiday in 1934, it’s likely he had no idea the controversy he would create.

The annual holiday was set for the second Monday in October, traditionally feted with parades largely organized by Italian American groups.

But indigenous people — furious at seeing the Italian explorer elevated to hero status while representing the brutal European conquering of their ancestors — fought back against the holiday.

Continue to the New York Post to red the full article. 

In ‘Siempre, Luis’ a look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biggest inspiration — his father
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Luis and Lin-Manuel Miranda together at a premiere

When Luis Miranda arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico in the 1970s, he looked like many young students of his time, with his jeans and shaggy hair. In the Big Apple, though, he realized that not everyone wanted people like him. Instead of culture shock, he experienced discrimination. “It didn’t matter if you were a janitor or a PhD student,” Miranda recalled, “what they saw was Puerto Rican, some brown person, some brown kid. Not a real American.”

Miranda went on to become an activist, a government official, a political consultant, and a loving father to three children—including his son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” Now the older Miranda, who has long been a behind-the-scenes player in Democratic politics, is in the spotlight in a new documentary, “Siempre, Luis,” debuting October 6 on HBO and HBO Max.

A camera crew spent a year following Miranda around, capturing his family life, political work, heath issues and humanitarian efforts. Watching the film, Miranda told NBC News, was an emotional experience for him.

“What comes to mind is how many great people I have met and known throughout my life; people who either convinced me that I had to join their fight, or I convinced that they had to join me, and together we have moved forward,” he said. “It was a reminder of how many people have helped me, (and) that I didn’t have time to thank them all.”

Luis A. Miranda Jr., 66, was born in the town of Vega Alta in Puerto Rico. A sharp student, he headed for New York City in the 1970s to continue his graduate work, inspired by—of all things—the character played by Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie musical, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

In Nueva York, Miranda became an advocate for the city’s Latino residents, who were then predominantly Puerto Rican. By the 1980s, Miranda was a special advisor to Mayor Ed Koch, eventually becoming the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Hispanic Affairs.

In 1990, Miranda founded the non-profit Hispanic Federation, and has also been a key Democratic political consultant, working on U.S. Senate campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s as well as Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s, D-NY, who became the first Dominican American in the U.S. Congress.

Miranda has been a champion of his son’s ambitions as well. When a young, struggling Lin-Manuel received an offer for a full-time teaching job, his father advised him to follow his dreams instead. He helped promote his son’s off-Broadway musical “In The Heights” until it became successful and transferred to Broadway.

In fact, the younger Miranda credits his Dad as being part of his inspiration for “Hamilton”—Founding Father Alexander Hamilton also arrived in New York from the Caribbean—he was from the island of Nevis. “When I was playing him, I was just playing my father,” said Lin-Manuel.

“Siempre, Luis” highlights the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico in 2017, and in the documentary, Miranda cries as he recalled the destruction. “For me, Puerto Rico is this untouchable, perfect place,” he says in the film, “that all of a sudden, doesn’t exist anymore.” A central focus of the film is the lengthy process, that was not without controversy, by which Miranda and Lin-Manuel bring a production of “Hamilton” to the island as a way of raising funds for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article. 

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura

Hispanic, Latino and Latinx: What’s the difference, and why it matters
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Woman in traditional clothes holding a basket full of colorful f

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month has been marked by tireless efforts from both Republicans and Democrats to woo the large and diverse voting bloc ahead of the November election.

However, with their outreach comes debate over who exactly they are addressing: Latino, Latinx or Hispanic voters?

The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are often used synonymously in the U.S., with the term “Latinx” used as a gender-neutral alternative to the latter. While views on what the terms mean exactly can vary, filmmaker and journalist Andrew Padilla says the significance is not with semantics, but the actions that are supposed to come after.

“I think that we know what we’re comfortable with,” Padilla said on CBSN Tuesday. “The issue is when folks try to communicate to our communities by using one of these terms as opposed to a real dedicated and developed relationship with us.”

According to Merriam-Webster, the terms are defined as the following:

  • Hispanic: People that originate from Spanish-speaking countries
  • Latino: People who descend from Latin-American countries — but whose language isn’t necessarily Spanish
  • Latinx: A gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label
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    A December Pew Research poll found 61% of bilingual Spanish and English speaking adults surveyed identified with the term “Hispanic,” while 29% preferred to be called “Latino.” Just 4% of people identified as “Latinx.”

    Padilla said the preference against the gender-neutral term does not reflect a negative sentiment, but rather a lack of familiarity.

    Continue on to CBS News to read the complete article.

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