Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012 was initially reviewed in Government Book Talk, when it was released as a print publication. It has just been made available as a free eBook through the GPO Online Bookstore, so we are revisiting our original blog.
The United States celebrates its history through monuments, parks, statues and more comprehensively through books. The latest book from the House of Representatives Office of the Historian Hispanic Americans in Congress 1822-2012 profiles Hispanic members of Congress, incorporating their government service with the history of United States expansion. This book joins existing publications Women in Congress and Black Americans in Congress in honoring minorities and their role in government. This hefty coffee table book does not make for light reading with more than 700 pages weighing seven pounds, but it is rich in content with history spanning nearly 200 years and three centuries.
Since 1899 at least one Hispanic American has served in each Congress. For much of the 19th century, Hispanic Americans served as Territorial Delegates whose native lands had been acquired by war or diplomacy from Spain or Mexico as a result of U.S. continental expansion. Territorial delegates had limited power and served more as lobbyists for their interests like infrastructure projects for roads and railways than as legislators. Following the Spanish-American War of 1898, the inclusion of Puerto Rico as a territory marked another increase in representation of Hispanic Americans in government. Since the first Territorial Delegate from Florida joined Congress in 1822, 91 Hispanic Americans have served in Congress and more than half, or 54, served after 1977.
The publication dedicates more pages to the past giving a detailed history of United States expansion and the inclusion of Hispanic Americans in Congress as Texas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Puerto Rico and other territories gained representation in government. Each member’s profile includes a picture, full-page pictures for former members, and standard biographical information with a greater focus on what they did while in Congress – the committees they served on, legislation they fought for and select anecdotes. The early history is more interesting as representatives overcame language barriers and fought for statehood for their territories. The appendices at the end of the book are a great resource organizing members by every imaginable category like the number of Hispanic Americans in Congress from each state, the committees they served on, the committees they chaired, the representatives in each Congress, and so on.
This book is a great read or scan because it takes vaguely familiar history and expands on it from the Hispanic American perspective, a unique viewpoint that those not from the Southwest may not be as familiar with. Regardless of perspective, the publication honors Hispanic Americans and the impact they have had on history and the growth and development of Congress.
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About the author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs.