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This American Latino Theme Study essay focuses on Latinos in the United States military during the wars of the late 19th and entire 20th centuries as well as the peacetime roles of American Latino soldiers and veterans. The essay also discusses the economic and social ificance of military service to American Latinos. Historically, Latinos first entered the United States in ificant s through war, first in in a war against Mexico and then in at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War.

Politically, most Latinos by conquest soon shifted their allegiance to the U. Racially, Latinos trace their ancestry to Europe, the Americas, and Africa and, consequently, have long struggled to be recognized as the equals of whites in the U. For all these reasons, Latinos have not only taken tremendous pride in their record of military service, they have also adroitly used their status as soldiers and veterans to advance the equal treatment and integration of Latinos within U.

At the heart of the modern Latino experience has been the quest for first-class citizenship. Within this broader framework, military service provides unassailable proof that Latinos are Americans who have been proud to serve, fight, and die for their country, the U. Thus, advocates of Latino equality often note that Latinos have fought in every U. They also point to the ificant of Medals of Honor bestowed upon this group 44 at last count as well as numerous other honors.

With each U. Although this civil rights strategy reached its apotheosis during the World War II era among Mexican Americans, it continues to echo today. Ineven the briefest Internet search reveals an extraordinary of books, documentaries, and websites devoted to tallying Latino military service. Testimony to how "Hispanic Americans have contributed gallantly to the defense of our Nation," in the words of one early publication, together these s send the powerful message that Latinos should be recognized as genuine American heroes.

The quest for inclusion based upon military service, moreover, affects more than just fighting men. Entire families have taken pride in their relatives' wartime contributions while mourning their absences and casualties.

These family members, moreover, have expected fairer treatment on the basis of a loved one's wartime sacrifices. Furthermore, although a civil rights strategy focused on soldiers and sailors is massively gendered, Latinas have likewise contributed to war efforts since at least World War II. That tradition of service continued in subsequent conflicts, while more recently, Latina enlistment in the armed services has outstripped that of Latinos!

Eager to move from the margins to the mainstream, they too have turned toward the armed services. Ultimately, a civil rights impulse frames the very topic "Latinos in the military. For that reason, the first "Latinos" to fight for American war aims were not ethnic minorities within the U. Even more telling, is how broadly most of these surveys define "Latino. The topic "Latinos in the military," however, prompts mention of the exploits of those whose forbearers hailed not only from Latin America, but also from the Canary Islands west of Africa, the island of Minorca off the coast of Spain, as well as directly from the Iberian Peninsula, including Portugal!

A Latino definitional umbrella stretched as wide as possible neatly maximizes the of Latino heroes and, implicitly, strengthens the argument that all Latinos are deserving of first-class citizenship. Moreover, the case can be made and often has been that Spanish-speaking and Spanish-surnamed military men drew from a shared cultural heritage that placed a high value on military service and on battlefield courage.

These troops dislodged British forces from forts along the Mississippi River and then east all the way to Pensacola, Florida, in an unrelentingly successful military campaign. At a time when the British were blockading Atlantic seaports, the campaign kept open critical supply lines through the Caribbean. In a naval career that stretched from the War of to the Civil War, Admiral David Glasgow Farragut earned a similar daring reputation. The son of a Minorcan sea merchant who had settled in South Carolina just in time to the fight for American independence, the younger Farragut ed the U.

Navy at the age of nine. At the age of 12, he brought a captured British ship to port. More training and asments in the Caribbean followed. ByFarragut was in California, apparently using both English and Spanish to establish Mare Island Navy Yard in the northern portion of the state.

Despite being southern-born and raised, he remained loyal to the Union when the Civil War erupted the following decade. During the Battle of Mobile Bay, Farragut famously urged Union ships forward in waters infested with mines called torpedoes at the time. Navy lore attributes to him the saying, "Damn the torpedoes.

Full speed ahead! Nineteenth-century Tejanos Mexican Texans who fought for Texas independence did. By the mids, these American immigrants not only outed Tejanos ten to one but many wished to break free from Mexican rule. Seven of them ed the roughly rebels who had gathered in a former San Antonio mission turned military barracks called the Alamo.

Here they decided to take a stand against the Mexican Army, vowing to defend the Alamo with their lives if necessary. Although not strictly an American conflict, the Texas fight for independence marked the first time that Latinos sought equal treatment based upon military service. All told, dozens of Tejanos fought alongside Sam Houston and Stephen Austin, but these Tejanos soon found out that Texans did not remember them whenever they remembered the Alamo.

Instead, in the wake of the war, people of Mexican descent in Texas encountered severe prejudice, land encroachment, and economic dispossession. Unwilling to accept such erasure and ill treatment, Tejanos veterans continually petitioned for redress. As late asfor example, a group of Tejanos wrote a letter to the state comptroller asking him to provide them with pensions just like the pensions that other veterans of the independence struggle had routinely received.

Although appeals such as this one usually fell upon deaf ears, a century later the same tactic would be employed to advance equality across the Southwest. Events in Texas, moreover, directly influenced the outbreak of war between the U. Mexico also still claimed Texas although Texans disagreed.

After the U. The following year, President James K. Polk formally asked for a declaration of war, and by March of American servicemen were marching toward Mexico City from the gulf port of Veracruz. Relatively little fighting took place, however, along Mexico's northern frontier. Expecting an American victory, the estimatedMexicans in what was soon to become the American Southwest mostly felt a sense a sense of loss and vulnerability. After centuries of Spanish-speaking rule, the region was about to be annexed by the U. Among those who took up arms, however, a few fought on the American side.

In southern California, for example, support for U. Given the scarcity of the fighting up north, however, far more ificant than any individual battlefield appearances was the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that ended the war. At the time, U. The treaty, by holding out the promise of U. InMexicans were a despised and twice-defeated enemy.

Given the prevailing racial ideologies at the time, Mexicans were also deemed inferior because they were racially mixed, a blend of European, indigenous, and African people. Armed Forces. With the important exception of dark-skinned Puerto Ricans, the same privilege awaited other Latinos.

On the battlefield at least, U. Not surprisingly, Latinos were later to build upon this slender privilege to push for equality in other arenas of their lives. More immediately, the Civil War proved how closely Latinos identified with the broader American culture, both North and South, which surrounded them. In fact, from Texas to California, Latinos fought valiantly for both the Confederate and Union armies. The efforts of Spanish-speaking Nuevo Mexicanoshowever, stand out for permanently stymieing Confederate plans to control the entire Southwest.

One estimate is that Nuevo Mexicanos ed for as many as 2, of the 3, New Mexicans volunteers who ed the Union Army of the West. Both familiarity with the terrain and tested fighting skills proved useful in the grueling Battle of Glorieta Pass when Spanish-speaking New Mexicans helped crush Confederate supply lines in northern New Mexico Territory. Afterward, however, at least some Spanish-speakers nursed the disappointment that, rather than be rewarded for their efforts, they endured an onslaught of unscrupulous speculators and tendentious court decisions that together separated them from most of their land-holdings.

A key indicator of that valor originated during the Civil War. InPresident Abraham Lincoln established the Medal of Honor as the nation's highest recognition for extraordinary military service. During the conflict, three Latinos were bestowed this honor — the first three of the present total of A reminder that the U.

During the Civil War, Americans also applied the label "Spanish" to untold s of Puerto Ricans and Cubans because both islands were still part of the Spanish empire in the Americas. Cuban and Puerto Rican independistas spent the next several decades fighting through word and deed to change that status. InPuerto Ricans launched an armed insurrection, issuing El Grito de Lares calling for immediate independence.

That same year, the Ten Years' War broke out in Cuba, followed by the Little Warboth conflicts aimed at breaking free from Spain. Working within the U. InCubans launched another major war for independence.

American entry into that war three years later ensured the defeat of the Spanish and marked the evolution of the U. Despite their demonstrated willingness to die for freedom, however, the war failed to fulfill the independence aspirations of most Cubans and Puerto Ricans.

In Cuba, Americans and Cubans faced the same enemy, but mostly fought separately. While some Americans recognized the strides that poorly-equipped guerrilla soldiers had accomplished against regular Spanish troops, other Americans quickly formed a negative view of Cuban soldiers, especially Afro-Cuban ones, labeling them "dirty," "a wretched mongrel lot," and "worthless. At war's end, the U.

The close relationship established between the two countries aftermoreover, is one reason that thousands of Cuban exiles fled to the U. For strategic reasons, the U. Like Cuba, Puerto Rico had served as a military outpost for Spain. Thus, soldiering had been an integral part of the island's colonial history for centuries. The status of Puerto Rico as a territory of the U. On the one hand, arriving Americans immediately offered men on the island the opportunity to receive military training under U. Ineven a sympathetic American considered the island's population "simple-minded," "indolent," and overly fond of "wine, women, and music and dancing.

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