Approximately two weeks before leaving my home town of Milwaukee, I was walking along "Caesar Chavez Avenue" on the near Southside of the city. When I happened to spot a public litter can with a slogan written on one side that read, "Make a mark in life not on a wall." This small statement started me thinking about what we (the Mexican - American people) have and what we have contributed to this country of ours. Additionally, it also made me wonder if I have made my own mark in life.
As a result of this question, I began a personal quest to learn if there were any real heroes among the Mexican - American people either living or dead within the twentieth century. I was not surprised to learn that for the most part a majority of Latino's and Latina's cannot name at least three Mexican - American's that have made any significant accomplishments or contributions within the twentieth century or even within the current era that we are in. For example, whenever I have asked any Hispanic individual male or female if they can name any significant individuals that have made any positive contributions to the American public the only responses I received were the names "Poncho Villa" and "Joaquin Murrieta" both of which were nothing more than common criminals. Yet many Mexican - American's will call out their names declaring them as heroes to the members of our nationality. When I think of this, I feel great sense of shame and disappointment that a great number of Mexican - American people hold these two individuals with such high regard.
In contrast to that, there are several real heroes among the members of our nationality. These three individuals made a mark in life that helped us in ways that many of today's young people do not appreciate whatsoever. The first person who made a positive impact for the Mexican - American people is a man named Gustavo (Gus) Garcia (July 27, 1915 - June 3, 1964) who presented a case before the United States Supreme Court in January 11, 1954. In his argument Hernandez v. Texas which is marked as the very first Mexican - American civil rights case heard and decided before the United States Supreme Court during the post World War II era. In his argument, Mr. Garcia stated that the Mexican - American people are a race apart from the other races living within the United States. His argument was so intriguing that then "Chief Justice Earl Warren" granted Mr. Garcia an additional twenty - two minutes to complete his argument. No one since then has ever received any additional time to complete his or her argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. Hernandez v. Texas challenged the systematic practice to excluded Mexican - Americans individuals of Mexican origin in at least seventy counties throughout the State of Texas. Mr. García argued that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed protection based on not only race, Caucasian and Negro, but also class. On the other hand, the state of Texas contended that the Fourteenth Amendment covered only whites and blacks, and that Mexican - Americans are white. The state admitted that no person with a Spanish surname had served on any type of jury for twenty-five years, but that this absence only indicated coincidence, not a pattern of attitude and behavior. His argument resulted in a major change in Texas law that once prohibited Mexican - Americans from serving on juries in criminal court proceedings. Additionally, this argument was made directly after Thurgood Marshall completed his argument for "Brown v. Topeka Board of Education." Present with Mr. Garcia at the Supreme Court were James de Anda and Chris Alderete of the "The American G. I. Forum: and Carlos Cadena and John J. Herrera of the "League of United Latin American Citizens" (LULAC).
The next person who made an important accomplishment was Raul (Roy) Perez Benavidez (August 5, 1935 - November 29, 1998) here was a hero in his own right. Master Sergeant Benavides was the last man to be awarded the "Congressional Medal of Honor" from the "Vietnam War." On May 2, 1968, a twelve - man Special Forces team was surrounded by a "North Vietnamese Army" battalion Sgt. Benavidez heard the emergency radio call appealing for help. Sgt. Benavides immediately and boarded a helicopter and responded to the call. Armed only with a knife, he jumped from the helicopter carrying a medical bag and rushed to join the trapped team. Benavidez "distinguished himself by a series of daring and extremely glorious actions and because of his gallant choice to join voluntarily his comrades who were in critical straits, to expose himself constantly to withering enemy fire, and his refusal to be stopped despite numerous severe wounds, saved the lives of at least eight men." This man received more seventeen-bullet wounds for the actions that helped him win this honor. In addition to the numerous bullet wounds then Sgt. Benavidez remained in the fight despite his wounds to help rescue his comrades in arms and was bayoneted by enemy forces twenty - two times. The sad part of this man's story is that he did not receive the "Medal of Honor" until the latter part of the Ronald Reagan administration. MSgt. Benavidez received this award in 1984 and passed away in 1998 because of complications from the wounds he received in Vietnam. In the latter part of his life Mr. Benavides became an advocate for individuals applying for both "Social Security" and "Veterans Service Connected" benefits.
The third and last person who made a significant impact for the Mexican - American people is a woman named "Anna Escobedo Cabral." Here is a woman whose entire life plan was to graduate from high school and to continue working full time at the local neighborhood "McDonald's" in San Bernardino California until she got married. Had it not been for her math teacher who encouraged her to complete several college entrance applications and assisted her in filling out her financial aid paperwork along with several scholarship applications she may have never been named as the forty - second "Secretary of the Treasury under the last President Bush. Mrs. Cabral is currently employed with the Inter - American Development Bank (IDP) within the External Relations Division.
Lastly, I discovered that we (the Mexican - American people) have very little that we can actually call our own. For instance, I took some time to investigate the question, "How many historically black colleges are there within this country?" I was not overly surprised to learn that there are one hundred eighteen historically black colleges throughout the United States. On the other hand, there is only one predominately Latino institution of higher learning within the confines of the entire United States. And that is the "National Hispanic University" located just outside the city limits of San Jose California. In addition, for those who are not aware of this fact it was NHU that won the title of National Debate Championship in 2008 defeating colleges such as University of Miami, Dartmouth, Union College, Williams College, and Southern Methodist. Furthermore, the members of that debate team accomplished this feat in their second language "English."
The three individuals that have been mentioned are the real heroes of the Mexican - American people. The contributions and accomplishments that these individuals people made should make everyone of us strive to be someone that our families and peers can look upon with admiration. We as Latino's should look deep within ourselves to see if we can be a leader within our own communities in which we reside. Although we may not all be leaders within our respective communities or in the political arena, we can still be positive role models for our children, the younger generation and the generations that will follow. As for myself, I know that I will never have the opportunity to present a case before the United States, Supreme Court, win the "Congressional Medal of Honor," or even be appointed to a position within some future presidential administration. However, I do know one thing I hope to make my own mark in life just like the three people I have mentioned.