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Hispanic History Milestones: Timeline

September 14, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

The American Hispanic/Latinx history is a rich, diverse and long one, with immigrants, refugees and Spanish-speaking or indigenous people living in the United States since long before the nation was established.

And, bringing with them traditions and culture from Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American and Iberian nations, America’s Hispanic population continues to grow, reaching a record 60.6 million in 2019, or 18 percent of the U.S. population.

From early Spanish colonialism to civil and worker rights laws to famous firsts to recent Supreme Court decisions on immigration, here’s a timeline of notable events in U.S. Hispanic and Latinx history.

Early Spanish Explorers Reach America

April 2, 1513
Searching for the “Fountain of Youth,” Spanish explorer . In the case, the family of Sylvia Mendez, then 9, and others sued four school districts for being denied entrance to Westminster Elementary School because they were Mexican. The ruling sets precedent for the historic Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case seven years later.

READ MORE: The Mendez Family Fought School Segregation 8 Years Before Brown v. Board of Ed

The Mendez Family, Trailblazers Fighting School Segregation (TV-PG; 1:01)

May 3, 1954
In Hernandez v. State of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Mexican-Americans have equal protection under the law. The important civil rights case centers around Pete Hernandez, a farm worker indicted for murder by an all-anglo grand jury in Jackson County, Texas. His attornies argue discrimination, including the fact that no person of Mexican ancestory had served as juror in the county in 25 years, citing the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously agrees, holding that the amendment protects those beyond “white” or “negro,” also covering those of Mexican ancestry.

June 9, 1954
President Dwight D. Eisenhower institutes “Operation Wetback,” a controversial mass deportation using a racial slur, in which the government rounds up more than 1 million people. Blaming illegal immigrants for low wages, the raids start in California and Arizona, and, according to a publication in the U.S. House of Representatives archives, disrupt agriculture. Funding runs out after a few months, bringing the operation to an end.

READ MORE: The Largest Mass Deportation in US History

Feb. 13, 1959
A plane carrying musicians Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson crashes near Clear Lake, Iowa, killing everyone on board. Valens, who was just …read more


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