People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Spanish Americans Part 1

About the Spanish Americans in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Spanish-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: Nearly all of the early Spanish settlers were conquistadores who had been given land as a reward for their long, faithful service in the Spanish army, primarily in Mexican campaigns. These settlers originated in all parts of Spain, as did the priests and administrators in the New World.

Why They Left: The colonials came to find wealth, convert the heathens, and administer the New World outposts which Spain felt were necessary to keep its international position sound. Later immigrants came to the U.S. to escape poverty, religious and ethnic persecution, and Francisco Franco's fascist regime.

Where They Settled: The Spanish colonists in North America built their missions, homes, and towns mainly in New Mexico and California, but some also settled in Florida, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona. Modern immigrants, largely intellectuals and professionals, have settled in the East and in California.

Numbers: In 1849, just before the Anglos streamed into the isolated Spanish Southwest, there were 60,000 Spanish-speaking colonial descendants living in New Mexico and another 15,000 in California, Arizona, Texas, and southern Colorado. Most of them were mixtures of the original Spaniards, Indians, and Mexican Indians. Today there are well over 200,000 Hispanos (Spanish Americans) living in New Mexico, very few of them of pure Spanish blood.

Since 1820, about 250,000 Spaniards have immigrated to the U.S., nearly 100,000 of them since 1920.

Their Story in America: The Spaniards were among the first Europeans to discover America. When Ferdinand V and Isabella I united the Aragon and Castile thrones, Spain felt strong and aggressive. After Columbus mistakenly bumped into the New World, Spanish conquistadores hurried across the Atlantic and overran South America searching for wealth.

Juan Ponce de Leon reached the lush southern peninsula of the North American continent in 1513 and called it La Florida. Fifteen years later, Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked off the Texas coast and began wandering toward Mexico City. During the rest of that century, a handful of soldiers (Coronado and De Soto among them) and Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit priests explored the southern areas of North America, from present-day Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas all the way west to the Pacific coast, discovering the Mississippi River and the Grand Canyon along the way.

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