US History Reflection Paper

One historical issue I found of particular interest was the role that Latino Americans played World War II. Even with numbers of enlisted Latinos estimated to be around half a million, the thought had never even crossed my mind that World War II was as much a war of Latino Americans as it was a war of every other American citizen at the time. The role Latino Americans played was just as substantial as every other ethnic group that participated in the war but sadly much less known, less talked about, and worst of all less celebrated. I believe the reason for this is as simple as it sinister: racism. From enslaved Africans, to wartime concentration camps filled with citizens of our own country whose only crime was being of Japanese descent, to intentionally discrediting Latino Americans of their wartime accomplishments, we the people of the United States of America have done many of our very own citizens a great disservice through our actions and lack thereof.

Within our "Land of the Free" a war of equality has been raging since the very moment we became a nation; a war that is still being fought to this very day. We have won many battles in this symbolic war and made substantial headway, but it's not over. We must continue to strive toward being a colorblind nation in which its citizens and all other people living within its borders are judged and rewarded based on merit rather than the color of their skin. This is why the topic of the Latino's role in World War II was of so much interest to me. Me: a person who values their unbiased and impartial outlook on the world and all the people in it, even I have fallen subject to the ignorance of being blind to the participation of an entire people in one of the most significant events in the history of the world: the role of Latino Americans in World War II.

I never knew hundreds of thousands of Latino Americans served. I didn't know there were doctors, like Hector Garcia who, because of nothing other than his race, was put into the much lower position of an infantry man rather than putting his more useful skills as a licensed doctor to use until well after he had enlisted. I had never been taught about the first Mexican national to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, who was later refused service in his home state at a restaurant in which his fighting helped to retain freedom. I didn't know that Latino American woman stood right beside white woman building bombers and fighters the way that Rosita, a Latino teen did in an effort to support her country. I never knew of all the triumphs and tragedies of an entire ethnicity that were conveniently swept under the rug like they had been for many other minorities, many other times, which for me is just one more reason to shed light on a topic that has been kept in the dark for too long, making this subject of even greater importance and interest to me.

This all relates to my experience in what I learned while taking Spanish 1010 here at Salt Lake Community College. Similarly to when I began learning about the role Latino Americans played World War II, when I began to learn about the culture of various Latino countries and the people who immigrated from them I knew hardly anything about the people I was being taught about. I had no clue that Latino countries have many more types of food than spicy; I had no idea that a good amount of our Major League Baseball recruits came from Cuba and countries in Central America; I had never thought about how different regions of various countries spoke all different dialects of Spanish or that the common use of the Spanish language varied from country to country, just like English jargon and accents vary from state to state here in the US. I also never knew how similar we all were. No matter the country, ethnicity, or language spoken everyone has music, dance, art, history, love, war, hardships, triumphs, family, customs, passions, intelligence, religion, and the list doesn't stop there. It amazed me in both my History and Spanish class just how much there was that I still had to learn about these people that I lived right next to my whole life.

It's a hard pill to swallow trying to accept that I knew close to nothing about a group of people that, according to the US Census Bureau, as of July 1st, 2013 made up 54 million of the people living in the US. Even though it's a hard realization to come to it is a necessary one. Without identifying that there's a problem you'll never know that it needs fixing. When it all comes down to it, ignorance is a choice. We can continue to know nothing about a culture and a people who make up 54 million of the people with whom we share a country, or we can set aside our differences and embrace diversity. As a country we must decide to open our eyes and minds and learn about one another. Differences don't have to separate, they can bring people closer together. Everyone is equally valuable in their own way. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, which is exactly what makes us so powerful when united. We need to put our fears to rest and in so doing we begin to destroy racism and closed mindedness. Knowledge is the key to coming together to make a more united country and hopefully one day a more united world, where hate and violence no longer have a place. Just like how it happened for me, the more we begin to learn about one another the less we become a faceless and distant someone who has no name and the more we become "friend," "neighbor" and person worth caring about. For me that started here, where you would least suspect, in the seats of two classes at a community college in the middle of Salt Lake City where I began to put faces, characteristics, culture and personality to a previously faceless people: the Latinos of America.

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