People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Spanish Americans Part 2

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.


However, the Spanish crown wasn't really interested in colonizing North America. The conquests of Peru and Mexico had already given Spain sugar, gold, silver, thousands of slaves, and unlimited acres of fertile land. Why should time and energy be wasted on the inhospitable Florida swamps and the arid New Mexican desert?

Not until Spain feared that the French Huguenots were moving into Florida did King Philip II send a commander named Menendez to build an Atlantic "fort." He established the town of St. Augustine in 1565. Still, Florida remained nothing more than a backward military outpost, beleaguered by hostile Indians, until the U.S. took possession of it in 1819.

Colonization was more successful in the Southwest. Juan de Onate led 400 soldiers and their cattle into New Mexico in 1598, looking for the Seven Cities of Gold. What they found were the Pueblos and Navajos living peacefully in adobe villages, digging a livelihood out of the desert. The soldiers took Indian wives and learned the Indian ways of survival. By 1610, the Spaniards had permanently settled Santa Fe.

Over a century later, Spanish soldiers and priests pushed into California from Mexico. They founded San Diego in 1769, Monterey in 1770, the San Francisco presidio in 1776, and Los Angeles in 1781.

Only in the "Kingdom and Provinces of New Mexico" (which included present-day Texas) were there true Spanish colonists, tenants of wealthy landowners who'd received royal land grants. These homesteaders settled remote areas where hidden valleys and streams offered hope of survival, herded cattle and sheep, irrigated the land, and managed to maintain a desert economy.

Spain eventually lost these North American lands when Mexico declared its independence in 1821, and Mexico in turn lost them to the U.S. in the 1840s. But the colonists remained, now a hodgepodge of Spanish, Indian, and African heritage, but nonetheless Spanish in their Catholicism, language (still a 16th-century Castilian dialect to some degree), and culture. They worked their primitive farms in isolation, generally undisturbed by the "Westward Ho" Anglos who bypassed the unpromising wastes of New Mexico. Though to outsiders they are indistinguishable from Mexicans, these New Mexicans think of themselves as Hispanos, direct descendants of Spain.

Spanish colonists gave the American Southwest its flavor and culture. The English language has absorbed such Spanish words as fiesta, corral, plaza, pinto, arroyo, patio, and hacienda. The Spaniards introduced the horse, cow, and Churro sheep, as well as citrus fruits, grapes, figs, olives, and certain grasses, to America.

Famous Spanish Americans: Dancer Jose Greco; philosopher George Santayana; Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Dr. Severo Ochoa; pianist and conductor Jose Iturbi; baseball great Al Lopez of the old Brooklyn Dodgers.

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