Hispanic Americans are an American ethnic group who originate either from Latin America or Spain. There are more than 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States, making up over 16 percent of the total American population. The group is composed of people originating from the following countries: Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; Central American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama; and Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru in South America. Hispanic Americans are scattered all over the United States but are generally concentrated in the Southwest and Southeast. Most Hispanic Americans speak Spanish. The classification of groups of people into the Hispanic-American category is based on their common heritage.
Hispanics have lived in America since the first Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century. Famous Spanish explorers who first pioneered the New World include: Juan Ponce de Leon, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, Gaspar de Portola and Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. The Spanish created the first European settlements in America, first in St. Augustine, Florida, and then in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For hundreds of years the Hispanic communities established by the Spanish in California, New Mexico and Texas remained autonomous until the United States conquered these territories. Following the Mexican-American War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo granted citizenship and constitutional rights to the Hispanic population.
Mexican Americans are mostly concentrated in the Southwest, in California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Cuban Americans can be found in Florida. Puerto Ricans live in the Northeast, in the New Jersey and New York areas. Many Hispanics reside in Los Angeles, numbering more than 4 million. California has almost 11 million Hispanics,while Florida and New York have almost 3 million; almost 7 million live in Texas, and a little more than 1 million live in Arizona. Most Hispanic immigrants come from Mexico, constituting over 67 percent of the overall Hispanic-American population.
Hispanic Americans contribute to all areas of American life and culture. They are prominent in the entertainment industry, in literature, in government, in the military and in the business world. Hispanic Americans have fought in numerous American wars, including the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. Hispanics display their culture via their writers, singers and entertainers. Important Hispanic writers have given the American public a sense of Hispanic belief and culture. The collection of Hispanic literature includes the works of Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Micol Ostow, Tomas Rivera, Richard Rodriguez and Oscar Zeta Acosta.
There have been Hispanic members of Congress and the Senate, including Romualdo Pacheco, Ladislas Lazaro, Henry B. Gonzalez, Herman Badillo, Manuel Lujan, Kika de la Garza, Dennis Chavez, Ken Salazar and Joseph Montoya. Hispanic governors have included Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval, Jerry Apodaca, Bill Richardson, Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo and Bob Martinez.
According to Felipe Korzenny and Betty Ann Korzenny, authors of Hispanic Marketing: A Cultural Perspective, the Hispanic community is a homogenous group. They write: "In the areas of implicit culture, the belief and value systems, thought patterns, psychological and sociological make-up of the different Hispanic nationalities are surprisingly uniform." Despite the controversy surrounding immigration from Mexico into the United States, Korzenny argues that the Mexican presence within America is a necessary one for economic reasons: "The United States depends on Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, for the labor that different sectors of the economy demand: agriculture, building, landscaping and gardening, hospitality, janitorial, and many other trades and services." The larger the Hispanic community grows, the more the American market adapts to the needs of their Hispanic consumers. Television channels and radio stations are devoted to Hispanics. Major satellite and cable companies compete for Hispanic customers.
Sandra L. Shaull and James H. Gramann have studied the assimilation process of Hispanic Americans within American culture. They argue that Mexican Americans in particular have not assimilated into the Anglo-American culture as their Hispanic counterparts have. The Mexican-American community is very home and family oriented, providing further insulation. Family cohesiveness is a major aspect of Hispanic culture. Many immigrants feel a loss of social structure and identity. Yet when Hispanic immigrants come to large Hispanic communities already established in places like Los Angeles, Hispanics feel a lesser need to assimilate or even to learn the language. Many Hispanic Americans send money to their friends and family in their native countries, thereby promoting a greater influx of immigration.