Hispanic culture: Melting pot of various nations

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Efren Ramirez
  • 95th Medical Operations Squadron
It has been said that the United States is the "great melting pot of the world."

As we focus on Hispanic heritage this month, someone might ask how Hispanic culture became one of the many ingredients in the U.S. melting pot.

Like the U.S., Hispanics are a very diverse group of people. In a sense, the Hispanic culture is actually a melting pot of its own. But what is in the Hispanic melting pot?

To fully understand the Hispanic culture, it is important to know it was derived from many other cultures and societies.

The cultures of Latin America come from countries, continents and territories, which include Spain, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Central America and parts of South America.

However, before any Spanish settlers ever set foot on North American soil, there were indigenous cultures already thriving in what would later become Latin America.

When the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez arrived in Mexico in November 1519, it was already inhabited by the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs and the Toltecs.

In 1502, when Christopher Columbus traveled to claim Central America in the name of Spain, he encountered the Maya and Nahua Indians.

Spanish settler Francisco Pizzaro crossed paths with the Inca Empire in 1531 when he invaded present-day Chile, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina.

The Taino Indians inhabited Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before being discovered by the Spaniards.

So when did Latin Americans begin to fuse with the United States? Well, the answer to that question might be more complicated than some might think.

Mexicans immigrated to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California as early as 1519.

Puerto Ricans first settled in New York's East Harlem when they began immigrating to the U.S. 

Cubans have mostly settled in Florida. Their mixed African and European ancestry is due to sugar production in 1789, which incorporated 500,000 African slaves.

The Dominican Republic was first populated by the Taino Indians. However, African slaves were introduced to the Dominican Republic in the 1500's making about 70 percent of the population racially mixed. They began to immigrate to the U.S. -- predominantly New York City -- in 1961.

After 12 years of civil war ended in 1992, 500,000 Salvadorans immigrated to the U.S, making them the largest population that emigrated from Central America.

In the '20s many South Americans began to immigrate to New York City's Jackson Heights section. Today, it is known as the largest South American community in the U.S.

Now that the Hispanic melting pot has been identified, only one question remains: In the melting pot of America, what ingredient does the Hispanic group represent? Perhaps they are the chili peppers that spice things up? No matter the answer, Hispanics are as vital as any other ingredient in the great melting pot that is the United States of America.