President Obama Celebrates American Latino Heritage at White House Forum
President Barack Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today welcomed American Latino leaders from across the country at the White House American Latino Heritage Forum. During the day-long forum, high-ranking Administration Officials and Latino community leaders and scholars worked to identify avenues through which the story of the American Latino can be told in a more complete and inclusive way.
Diversity has always been America’s strength,” President Obama told forum attendees. “We are richer because of the men and women and children who’ve come to our shores and joined our union. And we are better off because of the ideas that they’ve brought, and the difference that they’ve made, and the impact they’ve had on our lives.”
“Our national narrative can and should better reflect the legacy of American Latinos and the contributions they have made to this country – and even before this country existed,” said Secretary Salazar. “As our nation’s storyteller, the National Park Service is working to fill in those gaps and identify the stories, places and people of Latino heritage that are worthy of commemoration and celebration.”
As part of the Department of the Interior’s efforts to expand the story of the American Latino within the National Park System, Secretary Salazar today announced four new Latino-themed National Historic landmark nominations (LINK) that will be presented to the Landmarks Committee in November and the National Park System Advisory Board in December. The landmarks include: the Trujillo Homestead in Colorado, the Port of Nova Albion and Archeological District in California, the Mission San José de los Jémez and Giusewa Pueblo Site in New Mexico, and the Nuestra Señora Reina de La Paz in California.
“The designation of these landmarks will be a source of pride for current and future generations of Latinos across the country,” said Secretary Salazar. “When people visit these sites, they will gain a deeper appreciation of their heritage and, I hope, will be inspired to write their own chapter in our country’s story.”
Additionally, Secretary Salazar announced the release of the Draft Cesar Chavez Special Resource Study, inviting public review and comment. Initiated in 2010 by the National Park Service, the Chávez Special Resource Study identifies and evaluates the national significance of important sites related to the life and work of César E. Chávez, as well as the farm labor movement in the western United States. Over 100 sites in the western United States were evaluated in the draft study and five were found nationally significant, including: the Forty Acres National Historic Landmark (Delano, CA); Filipino Community Hall (Delano, CA); Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz (Keene, CA); the Santa Rita Center (Phoenix, AZ); and the 1966 Delano to Sacramento march route. Following the public comments period, the National Park Service will submit a final report, including a recommended course of action from Secretary Salazar, to Congress.
“Cesar Chavez is one of the great civil rights icons of our country’s history,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “His leadership, tireless work ethic, and selfless sacrifice helped forge a new era of justice for millions of farm workers and gave them hope for a better future, both for themselves and for their children. Recognizing the sites that are significant to his life and movement will ensure that his story – and the story of all who struggled with him, is remembered, honored, and passed along to future generations.”
Hosted at the U.S. Department of the Interior, the forum attracted a broad spectrum of business and cultural leaders, as well as scholars from the Latino community who participated in breakout sessions throughout the day and presented during three panels entitled, “Recognizing the Contributions of the American Latino in the American Economy,” “Honoring the contributions of American Latinos from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan,” and “Celebrating the Contributions of American Latino Heritage in Arts and Culture.”
For more information on the work of the Administration and the Hispanic community visit www.whitehouse.gov/hispanic.