Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators—Hispanic Heritage Month

Representative Romualdo Pacheco/tiles/non-collection/9/9-22-pacheco_2004_97.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives 
About this object
First elected in 1876, Romualdo Pacheco of California was the first Hispanic-American Representative in Congress.
“I am elected by my people . . . Not because of any recognized ability in statesmanship or politics . . . but because of my unflinching faith in the righteousness of our cause, my devotion to true American principles, and my love and admiration for the American people.”
—Resident Commissioner Tulio Larrínaga of Puerto Rico, January 26, 1909

A civil engineer by training, Tulio Larrínaga—the second Resident Commissioner elected to Congress from Puerto Rico—used his position to fight laws that infringed on Puerto Ricans’ popular sovereignty and limited his ability to represent constituents. Learn more about the efforts and accomplishments of Larrínaga and other Hispanic Americans in Congress for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Featured Resource

Hispanic Americans in Congress
Published in 2014, the second edition of Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2012 documents the changing role of Hispanics within the institution, from statutory representation to advancing to committee chairmanships and party leadership. The corresponding website contains biographical profiles of former Members, links to information about current Members, contextual essays on national events that shaped generations of Hispanics in Congress, and historical photos. As of this date, 102 Hispanic Americans have served as Representatives, Senators, Delegates, and Resident Commissioners.

Featured People

Delegate Ben Garrido Blaz of Guam
A decorated military veteran, Ben Garrido Blaz became the first Hispanic American to represent Guam in Congress. Blaz worked hard to improve Guam’s economy and its political status by encouraging its incorporation as a commonwealth. He served on the House Armed Services and Interior and Insular Affairs Committees.

Resident Commissioner Antonio Fernós-Isern of Puerto Rico
One of the few Members appointed to the U.S. House of Representatives Antonio Fernós-Isern served as Puerto Rico’s longest-serving Resident Commissioner. A principal architect of the Estado Libre Asociado (Free Associated State, or ELA), Fernós-Isern shaped Puerto Rico’s autonomous status for the remainder of the 20th century with his close friend, political ally, and future governor Luis Muñoz Marín, the son of former Resident Commissioner Luis Muñoz Rivera.

Representative Hilda L. Solis
An accomplished legislator and the first Latina elected to the California state assembly, Hilda Solis defeated an 18-year incumbent upon her election to the U.S. House. Her legislative interests encompassed protecting working families, women’s rights, health care, and the environment. Among her accomplishments was introducing a bicameral bill addressing minority health, The Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act. In February, 2009, Solis resigned from the House to serve as Secretary of Labor in the presidential administration of Barack Obama.

Representatives Ladislas Lazaro and Joseph Walsh/tiles/non-collection/9/9-22-Lazaro_loc.xml Image courtesy of Library of Congress Ladislas Lazaro of Louisiana (right) was a country doctor whose career in public service began on the local school board. Lazaro eventually served in the Louisiana legislature before his 1912 election to the U.S. House. Here, he confers with Representative Joseph Walsh of Massachusetts (left) in 1921.

Featured Historical Highlights

The Creation of the National Hispanic Heritage Celebration
September 17, 1968
On this date, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Hispanic Heritage Week bill into law. Twenty years later, President Ronald W. Reagan signed a revised version of that law that transformed Hispanic Heritage Week into Hispanic Heritage Month.

Representative Antonio Manuel Fernández of New Mexico
January 17, 1902
Born on this date, Antonio Manuel Fernández, an eight-term Member from New Mexico, served in the House of Representatives during World War II. A bill providing for the rank promotion of prisoners of war in the Pacific Theater, many of whom were New Mexico National Guardsmen, was among his many initiatives. A member of the House Appropriations Committee, Fernández directed federal resources toward impoverished constituents in his state.

See more Historical Highlights featuring Hispanic Americans in Congress.

Featured Educational Resource

Political Poems
A distinct feature of political campaigns in the 19th century was the use of political poems and campaign songs to extol the virtues of a desired candidate and accentuate a political opponent’s deficiencies. A number of the Hispanic Members were also distinguished writers in their own right. The Hispanic Americans in Congress publication features three examples that were used by newspapers in the political campaigns of Mariano Otero, Miguel Antonio Otero, and Luis Muñoz Rivera.

Featured Objects in the House Collection

Edward R. Roybal, Campaign Button
A 30-year veteran of Capitol Hill, Edward Roybal made history—not only for his unique, rocket-shaped campaign button—but as the first Hispanic elected to the Los Angeles City Council and to the U.S. House from California in the twentieth century. As a founding member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Roybal helped to mobilize Hispanic-American Members and their staffs to expand opportunities for Hispanics across the nation. “If we don’t invest in the Hispanic population today,” Roybal said in 1987, “we will pay the consequences tomorrow.”

E. Gilman Map of the United States, 1848/tiles/non-collection/p/part1_13_guadalupe_hidalgo_map_na.xml E. Gilman, Map of the United States Including Western Territories, map (Philadelphia: P.S. Duval’s Steam Lith. Press, 1848); from National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, RG 233 This 1848 map outlines the territories acquired by the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The borders of California, New Mexico, and Texas were later formalized as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Featured Document

On December 5, 1848, President James K. Polk delivered his Annual Message to Congress. Polk used this map as an exhibit to illustrate his desired plan for the land acquired through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. The message intensified discussion in Congress about the westward extension of slavery as new territories joined the Union.

Featured Blog Posts

Gained in Translation
For reasons that range from personal preferences to promoting diplomatic engagement, House Members have greeted constituents and international guests in languages other than English. Members such as José Manuel Gallegos of the New Mexico Territory and Mickey Leland of Texas used Spanish on the House Floor.

Getting a Foot in the (Chamber) Door
When newly elected Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau of Puerto Rico, the first Member of Congress from the island territory, began his service in the 57th Congress (1901–1903), the media treated him with attentive curiosity. But despite the fanfare and expressions of goodwill, Degetau remained unwelcome in the one place that served as the legislature’s nerve center: the House Floor.

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. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.