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Hispanic Heritage Month

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Presidential proclamation declared Sept. 15 - Oct. 15 as a time to reflect on the contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to society.

This time frame was selected because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. This year's theme is "Hispanic Americans: Making a Positive Impact on American Society."

Hispanics, or Latinos, are persons of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central-American or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Though they share aspects of a common heritage such as language, Hispanic cultures vary significantly by more than 20 countries of origin. Hispanics became the largest minority group in the United States in 2002.

As of 2005, only Mexico (106.2 million) and Colombia (43 million) had larger Hispanic populations than the United States (42.7 million). The U.S. census projects Hispanics will make up 24 percent of the U.S. population in 2050

Our language and food illustrate the strong Hispanic influence on American society. Some common terms that came from the Spanish language include, armadillo, cafeteria, chocolate, banana, no, tornado, patio, tomato, explorer and map.

You can find many popular Mexican foods such as tacos, enchiladas, tostadas, nachos and tamales on the menu of American restaurants across the U.S.

From early inventions to lead positions in politics, Hispanics have played a major role in shaping American society.

Pedro Flores, a Philippine immigrant, was the first person to mass produce the yo-yo in the U.S. in the 1920s. Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena invented an early color television system and publicly demonstrated his invention with a transmission in 1941 from his lab in Mexico City.

Today, Hispanics lead our nation in top positions, to include; the U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez.

Hispanics have made countless contributions to American society, most notably; there are 1.1 million Hispanic veterans of the U.S. armed forces.

For more information on Hispanic-Americans, visit these Web sites: