Post from Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic - September 2018
As we commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize that Hispanics have been an integral part of the American tapestry from the start - as well as here at the EEOC.
There are so many noteworthy Hispanics in American history that it's hard to name just a few. We can go all the way back to the beginning.
Many who admire the charm of Galveston, Texas don't know about its namesake, Bernardo de Gálvez, a Spanish army officer and governor of Louisiana from 1777 to 1785, who played a key role in blocking British advances against the American armed forces during the Revolutionary War.
Those of us who live in Washington, D.C. and enjoy Farragut Square may not know that their namesake, Admiral David Farragut, was the son of a Spanish ship captain. Farragut was the first admiral of the American navy and is known for his immortal rallying cry, "Damn the torpedoes - full speed ahead!" (We who have to deal with the Farragut subway stations in Washington often feel the same way when we're stuck in the latest subterranean entanglements.)
Cesar Chavez's tireless and fearless work for farmworker rights, including many fasts that damaged his health and probably shortened his life, have garnered bipartisan honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton and induction into the California Hall of Fame by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Hispanic astronauts Franklin Chang-Diaz and Ellen Ochoa flew 11 space shuttle missions between them.
There have been too many champion Hispanic athletes to mention here. Perhaps we at EEOC have a special affection for star NFL quarterback Jim Plunkett (like Anthony Quinn, a Mexican-American with an Irish surname), who contributed to a TV public service announcement for the EEOC in the 1970s.
And where would American popular music have been without Richie Valens (Valenzuela), Joan Baez, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, and so many others?
But citing those examples of famous Latino achievers doesn't give the whole picture - which comprises over 57 million Hispanic-Americans who work hard every day in every imaginable field of endeavor, enriching our nation from one end to the other.
Here at the EEOC we are mourning the recent loss of one of our own Hispanic pioneers - Pedro Esquivel. Pedro was a link to the earliest days of the EEOC. He joined the Commission as an investigator when the agency first opened its doors in the summer of 1965. As an investigator, Pedro exhibited great courage documenting unlawful discrimination, often in locales hostile to Title VII. On at least one occasion, Pedro encountered members of the Ku Klux Klan while conducting an investigation.
Pedro rose through the ranks of the EEOC, eventually becoming the District Director of the Denver Office and then serving as the long-time Director of the San Antonio District Office. Perhaps Pedro's greatest contribution to the EEOC was that he continually raised issues of concern to the Hispanic community. The EEOC's outreach program is still influenced by Pedro's belief that the agency needed to improve its service to underrepresented communities.
And so, especially this year, Hispanic Heritage Month truly hits home at EEOC. Our takeaway is clear - keep on honoring America's Hispanic heritage by fighting all we can for Hispanics' rights to live discrimination-free in the land of the free.