Edition for Educators—Hispanic Americans in Congress in their Own Words

The longest-serving Hispanic Member of Congress, Henry González spent much of his 37 years in the House of Representatives focusing on banking reform and civil rights./tiles/non-collection/9/9-19-Gonzalez-2002_13_1.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The longest-serving Hispanic Member of Congress, Henry González spent much of his 37 years in the House of Representatives focusing on banking reform and civil rights.
Since 1822, more than 100 Hispanic Americans have served in the House of Representatives. Some, like Romualdo Pacheco of California and Henry González of Texas left an enduring mark on the institution through historic firsts and ground breaking legislation. The history of Hispanic Members who served in Congress is one shaped by changes in American society and in the House. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we invite you to learn more about these Members in their own words.

“Sir, I claim to be the representative of a people who have peculiar demands upon your justice and magnanimity. They are in their origins, alien to your institutions, your laws, your customs, your glorious history, and even strangers to your language.… I am, and have ever been, one of that very people.”
Translated from Spanish
José Gallegos, the first Hispanic Delegate from the New Mexico Territory, speaking about his nuevomexicano constituents

“I appeal to the generosity and liberality of this House to allow sufficient money to build up these buildings for my people, who, though they came into this Union not willingly, but by the fortunes of war, and who are a people of foreign extraction, are and have been as loyal as any people in the world.”
José Chaves of the New Mexico Territory, calling for relief aid in the wake of Confederate occupation

“Give us now the field of experiment which we ask of you, that we may show that it is easy for us to constitute a stable republican government with all possible guarantees for all possible interests.”
Luis Muñoz Rivera, Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico, speaking on the House Floor during debate on the Jones Act of 1916

“We in Guam have embarked on a voyage of political self-determination—a desire on our part for greater local autonomy and an equal place in the American political family.”
Ben Blaz of Guam, leading the charge for commonwealth status for the territory

Long-serving Representative Manuel Luján, Jr., balanced competing economic and environmental interests in his New Mexico district. Early on, he described himself as “a nuts and bolts type of individual” in his approach to crafting legislation./tiles/non-collection/9/9-19-Lujan-PA2013_03_0020a.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Long-serving Representative Manuel Luján, Jr., balanced competing economic and environmental interests in his New Mexico district. Early on, he described himself as “a nuts and bolts type of individual” in his approach to crafting legislation.
“If I’m remembered for anything, I’d rather be remembered for constituent service than national legislation.”
Manuel Luján, Jr., of New Mexico, who gained a reputation for his attention to constituent issues

“What I fear is creation of an isolated position, for a minority must develop a means to enlist majority support. Our task is to overcome political isolation, and it is a delicate path that makes the difference between attracting a friend and becoming isolated and alone. If we cry in an empty room, we may expect to hear only our own echoes.”
Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas, on Hispanic American political participation

“Politics in a democracy is a competition over ideas, and it is inevitable there will be winners and losers. Any freely elected politician who says he doesn’t crave power to get the laws and programs he thinks best for his city, state, or nation is either dissembling or belongs in a different business.”
Bill Richardson of New Mexico, on the power that comes with public service

Featured Exhibition

Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2012
For more of these Members' stories, you can turn to our essays on two centuries of Hispanic Americans in Congress. The exhibition also features full profiles of departed Members, historical data, and objects from the House Collection.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.