Fidel Castro’s revolution started in Cuba but instigated waves of immigration that forever changed Miami. The city’s hybrid culture thrives in “Little Havana,” where Cuban tastes mix with styles and sounds from all over the Caribbean and Central America. Multiculturalism is alive in business, too: As of 2012, Hispanics owned about 69 percent of Miami companies.
The fabric of American culture has always been a richly woven tapestry. As our country’s grown increasingly multicultural, pioneering efforts by Hispanics from every field have helped define—and refine—our social, political and cultural landscape.
The groundbreaking Americans responsible for these changes hail “from California to the New York island”—via origins in Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and beyond. These flashpoints speak for themselves, and give vivid depth to the legendary folk song published in 1945.
Our American culture has always been a richly woven tapestry—and as our country’s grown increasingly multicultural, Hispanics changemakers from every field have enriched our living landscape.
As hundreds of Major League players left the game for World War II, Cubans and other Latin American nationals—not subject to the U.S. draft—made huge inroads. By 1951, Latino players earned spots at the beloved All-Star Game. By the ’60s and ’70s, the sport celebrated a whole generation of Latino stars.
It might sound like it came from the streets of Havana or San Juan, but the stirring strains of salsa exploded in New York City in the late ’70s—a blend of Cuban son, Puerto Rican bomba and Latin jazz. A testament to the music’s popularity: in August 1973, a group of salsa stars threw an iconic Yankee Stadium concert for 44,000 fans.
College participation saw a boost, with more than half of twenty-something Hispanics having taken post-secondary classes, compared to 30.6 percent in 1971. From 2011 to 2012, Hispanic college enrollment spiked 15 percent, despite declines in the general higher-ed population.
It was an incredibly entrepreneurial decade: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanic entrepreneurs opened businesses at twice the rate of the national average. By 2012, Hispanic-owned companies accounted for 12 percent of American businesses. They contribute more than $468 billion to our economy each year, according to the Small Business Administration.
After years of slow and steady growth, Hispanics surpassed blacks to become the country’s largest minority group, Census Bureau figures showed. Many believe record Latino voter turnout just five years later helped President Barack Obama win in 2008. And the most diverse Congress, including 32 Hispanic politicians, started its session in 2015.
Tech is one area still sorely craving diversity—just 12 percent of Hispanic college grads with computer science or engineering degrees end up in tech jobs. Yet from 2009 to 2014, Hispanics gained 81,000 tech jobs. Signs of change are growing: From Silicon Valley to Chicago to New York, incubators and designated funds are popping up to support Hispanic entrepreneurs.
Not to be overlooked amid this year’s political antics: the Hispanic electorate is projected at a record high of 27.3 million. That group is exceptionally young—about 44 percent millennial—and comprises around one-fifth of the eligible-voter pool in battleground states Florida and Nevada. If current progress continues, then Hispanics could make up a full 15 percent of the voting population by 2020.
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