Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: People, Places and Events on Stamps

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Celebrando la Herencia Hispana: Gente, Lugares y Eventos en Sellos Postales


1) Forward
2) Hispanic Contributions to the Americas
3) Explorers
4) Settlement of the Southwest
5) Historic Architecture
6) Liberators, Heroes, and Independence
7) International Cooperation
8) Reformers and Civil Rights
9) Hispanic Heritage in Music, Arts, Dance, Entertainment, Sports, Journalism, and the Military
10) Credits

Stamps illuminate what we value as a people and a culture, and the National Postal Museum’s "Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: People, Places and Events on Stamps" sheds new light on the many contributions of Hispanic Americans and Latinos to the exploration, culture, growth, and defense of the United States.

Forward (continued)

The discovery of the New World by a Spanish-sponsored expedition was the subject of America’s first commemorative stamps, issued in 1893. When the Pilgrims were disembarking from the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock, cities created by Hispanics already were expanding in Florida, the Southwest, and the Caribbean. One of my ancestors was one of those explorers, Cabeza de Vaca. His diaries documenting his travels and exploration of the Southern and Southwestern states have provided a rich narrative to the discovery of the New World.

The Spanish-born father of Civil War Admiral David G. Farragut fought for the United States during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Later, Admiral Farragut helped preserve the Union during the Civil War; he has been honored on stamps three times. A 1940 stamp depicted John Philip Sousa, who led the Marine Band and composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official march of the United States. More recent stamp subjects include Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose work influenced artists in the United States, and Padre Felix Varela, who educated the poor in New York City and founded nurseries and orphanages to help children.

Significant events which have led to great social change have also been commemorated on stamps. In the 1940s, several Mexican American families filed suit against a California school system that placed their children in “separate but equal” schools, claiming inequality in treatment kept their children from becoming members of mainstream American life. Soon after the court ruled on the families’ behalf in Mendez v. Westminster School District, separate schools for Asians and Indians also were eliminated. Within a decade, the Mendez case became an important, legal precedent for the desegregation of schools in the United States in Brown v. Board of Education.

In 2007, I had the privilege of dedicating the Mendez v. Westminster School District stamp. As I met the surviving children whose parents were brave enough to file suit against the City of Westminster, I was awed by the impact of their actions and their courage. As the indirect beneficiary of their efforts, as a Latina, an attorney and a former community organizer, I was truly moved.

Today, I am one of tens of thousands of proud Hispanic Americans privileged to serve the Postal Service and the people of the United States. At the Postal Service, we will continue to strive to develop interesting stamp subjects featuring the incredible contributions Latinos have and are making, to the United States.

Marie Therese Dominguez, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy
United States Postal Service

Hispanic Contributions to the Americas

Since the first Spanish explorers and settlers landed in the Americas, Hispanic people have shaped the history and culture of the United States and Latin America. Today, Hispanic people continue to demonstrate excellence in many areas including politics, public service, music, film, sports, business, science, and the military. The significant contributions of Hispanic people and events have been honored on numerous United States postage stamps. This exhibit showcases these contributions through the lens of the American postage stamp.

The National Postal Museum would like to thank the United States Postal Service for its contributions to this exhibit including narrative text from their Publication 295, "Hispanic People and Events on U.S. Postage Stamps."

Christopher Columbus, Ponce de León, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo

Christopher Columbus

Although mariner and navigator Christopher Columbus was not the first European to sail to the New World, his four voyages (1492-93, 1493-96, 1498-1500, and 1502-04) mark the beginning of continuous European efforts to explore and colonize the Americas. Although Columbus was Italian and kept his Genoese citizenship, he spent his adult life in the service of Castile, Spain.

Though his legacy is considered controversial today, at the time of the 400th anniversary of his landing on the American continent in 1892, Columbus was celebrated throughout the Americas. The United States issued a special series of sixteen stamps in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition celebrating the anniversary. Held in Chicago in 1893, the Exposition was the first critically and economically successful U.S. World’s Fair. Each stamp in the series shows a different scene commemorating events related to Columbus’s landing in America. Many of Columbus's fellow explorers, travelers and patrons who made lasting contributions are also depicted.

Columbian Exposition Souvenir Sheet

In 1992, the Columbian Exposition stamps were reissued to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the voyages of Columbus. For the first time, the United States issued stamps jointly with three other countries: Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Columbus: Seeking Royal Support

Columbus spent eight years seeking royal support for his voyage. In his search for a sponsor, he appealed to numerous western European nations. He first petitioned King John II of Portugal, but was refused. He then appealed to the Spanish court of Queen Isabella as depicted on the 5-cent and 29-cent stamps. While waiting for a summons from the Spanish court, he lobbied unsuccessfully for support from England's Henry VII.

Recall of Columbus

His confidence shaken by several failures to win sponsorship, in 1490 Columbus intended to the Royal Court of France for funding. The monks of La Rabida (as depicted on the 30-cent stamp) and local monastery patrons, however, convinced him to appeal to the Spanish Court a second time.

Father Juan Pérez, a former guardian and confessor to Queen Isabella, was impressed with Columbus’s proposal for an expedition to the west. Pérez succeeded in having Columbus recalled to the Spanish royal court for another hearing about his expedition. This second review led to the Spanish monarchy's granting financial and material support to Christopher Columbus for his expedition across the Atlantic.

Father Pérez accompanied Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and he is credited with celebrating the first Mass and building the first church in the New World. Pérez is seen on the 30-cent stamp at the table on the left.

Columbus: Support of Queen Isabella

The support of Queen Isabella was essential to Columbus's expedition. Though the subject of the 1-dollar stamp suggests that Queen Isabella sold her jewels to fund Columbus's expedition, in reality the Queen offered limited financial support. However, her decision to endorse Columbus’s voyage in the name of Spain made the discovery of the “New World” possible.

The portrait of Queen Isabella on the 4-dollar stamp is the first portrait of a woman to appear on a US postage stamp.

Columbus: First Sighting of Land

On August 3, 1492, the fleet of three ships, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María, set forth from Palos on the Tinto River in southern Spain. The first sighting of land came at dawn on October 12. Thinking he had reached the East Indies, Columbus referred to the native inhabitants of the island as Indians, a term that was ultimately applied to all indigenous people of the New World.

Columbus: Claiming a New World

Columbus first reached land on October 12, 1492, landing on one of the Bahama islands. There he was favorably greeted by the natives and set out to explore the surrounding area landing in present day Cuba. Here Columbus’s flag ship, the Santa Maria (depicted on the 3-cent stamp), ran aground. After creating a temporary settlement on the island for the crew of the Santa Maria, Columbus set sail for Spain promising to return in a few months time.

Spanish explorer Vicente Yañez Pinzón commanded the Niña on Columbus's first voyage and is depicted just to the left of the center of the 2-cent stamp. Vicente was part of a famous maritime family, the Pinzóns on Palos. His family and two others - the Niños, and the Quinteros - were instrumental in furnishing ships and crew for Columbus’s voyage in search of the Indies.

Columbus: Reporting Discoveries

Columbus returned triumphant to Spain after his first voyage in 1493. As depicted on the 10-cent stamp, he presented the King and Queen with artifacts from the New World as well as native peoples whom he had forced to accompany him. With his warm reception by the Spanish court and appointment as Admiral of the Seas and governor of the lands he discovered, Columbusprepared for a second journey.

On September 25, 1493, Columbus set sail from Spain on his second voyage with 17 ships and almost 1,500 men. On November 19, 1493, the expedition landed on the western coast of Puerto Rico. The Taino Indians who greeted Columbus showed him gold nuggets in the river. The city of Puerto Rico quickly became Spain’s most important military outpost in the Caribean.

Columbus Imprisoned

After returning to Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti) Columbus resumed his governorship. However, the Spanish court received so many complaints of administrative misconduct that Spain sent Adm. Don Francisco de Bobadilla to investigate. The investigation led to Columbus’s arrest and imprisonment in San Domingo on the island of Hispaniola, as depicted on the 2-dollar stamp. De Bobadilla returned Columbus to Spain to stand trial, where he was acquitted.

Standing next to Columbus on the stamp is his brother, Diego who sailed on Columbus’s second voyage. Another brother depicted on the stamp, Bartholomew, accompanied Columbus on his second and fourth voyages. Bartholomew founded the Santo Domingo settlement in 1496, and was governor of the Spanish settlements in Hispaniola from 1496 to 1498.

Columbus: Royal Favor Restored

After his acquittal Columbus was quickly restored to royal favor as depicted on the 8-cent stamp showing Queen Isabella taking the hand of a kneeling Columbus. He then set out on his fourth and final journey in 1502 to explore the coast of Central America. After the expedition Columbus returned to Spain where he died in 1506. Columbus’s exploration and colonization marked only the beginning of Spanish influence in the New World. Spain sent more explorers eventually beginning settlements in California, Florida and Central and South America.

Explorer: Ponce de León

Juan Ponce de León (1460-1521) began his career of exploration in 1493 as a member of Columbus’s second expedition. Nine years later, he traveled to the West Indies. In 1508 and 1509, he explored and settled Puerto Rico, founding the island’s oldest settlement, Caparra, near what is now San Juan. Ponce de León served as the island’s first governor. Royal orders to colonize new lands and to acquire additional sources of gold, combined with the desire to discover the legendary Fountain of Youth, led to his discovery of Florida in 1513.

Florida was the first continuous Spanish settlement in the New World. Spanish admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine, located on the northeast coast of Florida, in 1565. The settlement was named in honor of the saint whose feast occurred on the same day St. Augustine was established.

Explorer: Francisco Vázquez de Coronado

Inspired by Spanish explorer Marcos de Niza’s description of the Seven Cities of Cibola (present day Arizona), Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (c.1510-1554) led the largest expedition at the time through the American Southwest in 1540. Assuming that great wealth would be found, Coronado led two surprisingly wide-ranging expeditions, extending to the northeast as far as Kansas. Although he found no great wealth, Coronado learned about the Indians and the topography of North America including the discovery of the Grand Canyon.

Explorer: Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo

Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo - soldier, navigator, and explorer - led the first European expedition to the shores of what is now the state of California between the years 1542 and 1543. Little is known about Cabrillo’s early years. Some biographers describe him as being born in Portugal, but living most of his life in Spain. Other biographers write that he was born in Spain. For many years, Cabrillo’s discoveries went unrecognized and unappreciated. Spain didn’t make any claims to California until the late 18th century, when colonization began.

Settlement of the Southwest
In 1598, a Spanish expedition led by Don Juan de Oñate created the first European road in the United States, El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the Royal Road to the Interior Land). Later, the expedition built the first European settlement west of the Mississippi at San Gabriel, located in present day New Mexico. El Camino Real eventually extended 600 miles and connected twenty-one missions and four presidios (forts). The expedition initiated 400 years of commerce and cultural exchange throughout the Southwest.

Settlement of California

In 1769, Gaspar de Portola, who was accompanied by Father Junipero Serra, led a Spanish expedition to settle California. At what is now San Diego, the first of 21 missions and presidios (forts) began the Spanish colonization. A 6-cent stamp was issued to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the settlement of California on July 16, 1969.

Settlement of California

Spanish Franciscan priest Miguel Serra y Abram (1713-1784) was born in Petra, Majorca (i.e., Mallorca), a farming village. In 1730, at the age of 16, Miguel entered the Franciscan order and took the name Junípero, the name of Saint Francis’s close, extroverted friend. He founded nine missions in California (including San Diego and San Francisco) and was responsible for the baptism of over 6,000 Native Americans. Pope John Paul II beatified him in September of 1988. Serra is honored on a 44-cent airmail stamp issued August 22, 1985. Pope Francis canonized Junipero Serra on September 23, 2015, in Washington, DC.

Settlement of Alta California

Spain founded its first civil settlement in 1777 in Alta (upper) California at what is now the city of San José (i.e, El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe). Before 1777, Spain established a chain of eight missions and presidios in Alta California, which proved inadequate to secure the territory from invasion. Spain’s solution to this problem was to establish a permanent civilian population to produce food and other goods for the missions and presidios.

The civil settlements in Alta California had a profound influence on the development of the West Coast and the entire United States. The founding of El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe dominates the history of the West Coast as the founding of the Plymouth Colony dominates the history of the East Coast. Alta California included the present states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and parts of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Historic Architecture
As the oldest public building in the United States, the Palace of Governors was built by Spanish settlers in 1610. The government in New Mexico was located at the site from 1610 until 1901. During those years, the flags of Spain, Mexico, the Confederacy, and the United States flew over this historic building. The building, which is in Sante Fe, New Mexico, is now a museum. A stamp was issued to commemorate this historic site on June 17, 1960.

Historic Architecture

Located on what today is the Pápago Indian Reservation in Tucson, Arizona, San Xavier del Bac Mission, which is also known as “White Dove of the Desert,” is a masterpiece of Spanish Colonial architecture. Jesuit Father Kino founded the mission in 1692 to serve the local Pápago tribe. In 1783, Franciscan monks began to renovate the mission. Today’s renovated building, which is part Moorish and part Byzantine, has a domed roof and is an adobe jumble of frescos, carved saints, and two lions. The lions represent Castile and are often decked with white satin bow ties. The mission is depicted on a block of four 8-cent Historic Preservation stamps issued October 29, 1971.

Liberators, Heroes, and Independence

Liberator: Simón Bolívar

After centuries of Spanish rule, many colonies began to seek independence from Spain in the early 19th century. Influenced by the Enlightenment and a desire for self-rule, revolutions began throughout Central and South America. Several key military figures led the colonies to victory. Among them was the South American general known as El Libertador (the Liberator), Simón Bolívar.

Bolívar (1783-1830) brought independence to six present-day nations, and he is considered one of the greatest military figures in South American history. His victories helped Bolivia (named in his honor), Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela win independence from Spain.

Liberator: José de San Martín

Soldier and statesman General José de San Martín (1778-1850) played a major role in winning independence from Spain and bringing freedom to his native Argentina in 1812. He also won independence for Chile (1818) and Peru (1821). San Martín served as the first president of Peru and is considered a national hero in his native Argentina.

Mexican Independence

Shortly before dawn on September 16, 1810, Father Miquel Hidalgo made a crucial, impulsive decision that led to Mexico’s bloody struggle for independence from Spain. In the early 19th century, Mexicans were discussing how to revolt against Spain. Father Hidalgo, the leader of a revolutionary group, heard that the Spanish government had ordered his arrest. In response, he rang the church bell on the night of September 15, 1810, to call his congregation to church for mass. When the people arrived, Father Hidalgo rallied them to fight. He gave a speech that is now called Grito de Dolores. In it he said, “Viva Mexico!” and “Viva la independencia!” These famous words are still remembered and repeated at Mexican Independence Day celebrations. The United States and Mexico jointly issued commemorative stamps with similar designs in 1960.

Cinco de Mayo

A date of great importance for Mexican and Mexican-American communities, Cinco de Mayo marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. On that day during the French occupation of Mexico, General Zaragoza and his troops were victorious over the greatest military power in the world at that time. Mexicans who had previously shown little interest in their country’s future felt pride, nationalism, and determination to defend Mexico’s sovereignty. The phrase “Viva el Cinco de Mayo!” inspired increasing numbers of Mexicans to aid their country during the war that lasted from 1863 to 1867. In the United States, people of Mexican descent celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing, and other types of festive activities. The celebration gives Mexican Americans an opportunity to celebrate their cultural pride and their hopes for the well being, dignity, and advancement of Mexico and Mexican people everywhere.

Puerto Rican Independence

After Puerto Ricans began to press for independence, Spain, in 1897, granted the island broad powers of self-government. But during the Spanish-American War of 1898, American troops invaded the island, and Spain ceded it to the United States. Since then, Puerto Rico has remained an unincorporated US territory. Puerto Ricans were granted American citizenship under the Jones Act in 1917; were permitted to elect their own governor, beginning in 1948; and now fully administer their internal affairs under a constitution approved by the US Congress in 1952.

Puerto Rican Independence

The Puerto Rico stamp was issued on November 25, 1937.

Puerto Rico's First Election

After holding many offices in Puerto Rico and improving ties with the United States, Luis Muñoz Marín was the first governor elected by the people of Puerto Rico in 1948. As governor, Marín started Operation Commonwealth. The goal of the program was to achieve more self-rule from the United States. Puerto Rico succeeded in becoming a commonwealth of the United States in 1952, as a result of Marín’s efforts. Marín fought hard for the interests of Puerto Rico’s poor people.

Military Hero: Bernardo de Gálvez

The Spanish governor of the Louisiana Territory (which encompassed 13 present states), Bernardo de Gálvez is an unsung hero who greatly contributed to the winning of the American Revolution. General Gálvez launched brilliant campaigns against the British in Louisiana and West Florida by organizing a military force of regular troops, militia, volunteers, and a few Americans. His victories during the revolution contributed significantly to the struggle for American independence because he prevented the British from gaining access to the strategically located Mississippi River Valley. The city of Galveston, Texas, is named in honor of his contributions during the American Revolution, and he is honored on a 15-cent stamp.

Military Hero: David G. Farragut

Admiral David G. Farragut was a naval commander for the North during the American Civil War. Farragut’s father, a Spaniard, came to America in 1776 and fought for the US during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. When Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, Navy Captain David G. Farragut moved his family north to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York. In January 1862 he was chosen to command a fifty-ship expedition to capture New Orleans. His success at New Orleans in the Battle of Mobile Bay earned him a place in history as one of America’s most celebrated Civil War heroes. During the battle Farragut famously remarked "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

The Alamo

As the historic 18th century Franciscan mission, the Alamo symbolizes the spirit of determination and resistance of Texans who fought for their independence from Mexico during the Texas Revolution. After losing San Antonio in December 1835 during the Siege of Bexar, Mexican General Santa Anna was determined to retake the location and to inform Texans of their fate if they continued to resist Mexican rule. Over 180 Texans (regular army and volunteers) took refuge in the fortified grounds of the Alamo. The Mexican forces had grown to over 2,000 troops when they stormed the Alamo fortress. William B. Travis, James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and over 180 other defenders died, but the heroic resistance roused fighting anger among Texans, who six weeks later defeated the Mexicans at San Jacinto, crying “Remember the Alamo!” The chapel-fort became a state preserve in 1883. The complex, which was restored in 1936-39, is now a major tourist attraction.

International Cooperation

The Panama Canal

The 51-mile long waterway path that links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Panama Canal, officially opened on August 15, 1914, when the US cargo ship Ancon made a historic first transit. A sea-level canal crossing had been a dream ever since Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa saw the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean after he crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513. In 1534, King Charles I of Spain ordered the first studies for the construction of a canal through the isthmus. However, the Spanish government eventually abandoned its interest in the canal. In 1903, the province of Panama declared its independence from Columbia and immediately signed the Hay-Bunau Varilla Treaty, which authorized the United States to start construction of the Canal in 1904. It was President Theodore Roosevelt’s determination to make the Panama Canal a reality that led to the massive effort that, in the end, produced one of the engineering marvels of the century.

Panama-Pacific Exhibition

The Panama-Pacific International Exhibition opened in San Francisco, California, on February 20, 1915. The Exposition honored the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama Canal. Four stamps were issued in conjunction with the exhibition each featuring a related historic event. The 1-cent stamp commemorates the 400th anniversary of Spanish explorer Vasco Numez de Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific Ocean on September 1, 1513. The stamp was issued on January 1, 1913.

Panama-Pacific Exposition

The 2-cent stamp illustrates the Pedro Miguel Locks. Construction on these locks was completed in 1911. The stamp was issued in January 1913.

Panama-Pacific Exposition

The 5-cent stamp illustrates the Golden Gate, entrance to San Francisco bay. The stamp was issued on January 1, 1913.

Panama-Pacific Exposition

The 10-cent stamp commemorates the discovery of San Francisco Bay in 1769 by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola. It portrays a Spanish expedition party on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The stamp was issued on January 1, 1913.

Pan-American Union

The Pan-American Union was founded in 1889-90 at the first of the modern Inter-American Conferences as the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics. The organization was formed to promote international cooperation; offer technical and informational services to all the American republics; serve as the repository for international documents; and through subsidiary councils, further economic, social, judicial, and cultural relations. In 1902, the name was changed to the International Bureau of the American Republics. In 1910 the name Pan-American Union was adopted. In 1948, the Pan-American Union was made the General Secretariat for the Organization of American States.

Alliance for Progress

Established by the United States and 22 Latin American countries, the Alliance for Progress began in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Described as the U.S. assistance program for Latin America, the Alliance was to counter the appeal of revolutionary politics. The program included assistance to relieve the continent’s poverty and social inequities and provide military and police assistance to counter a communist revolution. The charter of the Alliance, which was formulated at an inter-American conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay, called for an annual increase of 2.5 percent in per capita income, the establishment of democratic governments, more equitable income distribution, land reform, and economic and social planning. However, the United States reduced its commitments to Latin America as it became preoccupied with the Vietnam War and Latin American nations were unwilling to implement many of the necessary reforms. The Organization of American States disbanded the permanent committee created to implement the alliance in 1973.

Reformers and Civil Rights

Reformer: Padre Félix Varela

Born in 1788 in Havana, Cuba, Padre Félix Varela quickly distinguished himself as a great educator. During his professional career, Varela did something considered strange for that time - he taught and defended the principle of giving women the same education as men. In the early 1820s, Padre Félix Varela concentrated his efforts on helping poor minorities living in New York City and founded nurseries and orphanages for the children of poor widows. He organized the New York Temperance Association and lived in hospitals while caring for cholera victims during an epidemic in 1832.

Varela also founded the first Spanish newspaper in the United States. He published articles about human rights and essays on religious tolerance, cooperation between the English- and Spanish-speaking communities, and the importance of education. His 30 years of humanitarian work earned him high esteem in the United States and abroad, including being named Vicar General of the New York diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. Varela died in 1853, but his legacy continues through the Félix Varela Foundation, which has locations in Miami and New York.

Civil Rights: Mendez v. Westminster

In 1945, a group of Hispanic parents in California filed suit to end segregation in their schools. The ground-breaking case, Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District et al., was decided in 1947 when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the school districts could not segregate on the basis of national origin.

The Mendez decision set an important, if indirect, legal precedent for cases in other states and at the national level. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring segregation illegal nationwide, based in part on a brief used in Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District et al.

Reformer: Dennis Chaves

As a United States senator, Dennis Chavez fought for the rights of Hispanic residents and Native Americans in his home state of New Mexico. Chavez served as a senator for 27 years, from 1935 to 1962. He was a strong defender of civil rights, and he paved the way for subsequent legislation. While others avoided the subject or denied the existence of discrimination against Hispanics, Senator Chavez was not afraid to bring the issue into elections and politics.

Reformer: Cesar Chavez

Cesar E. Chavez is best known as the founder of the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO (UFW). He was a tireless advocate for nonviolent social change and dedicated his life to working in service of others. For more than three decades Chavez led the first successful farm workers union in American history, achieving dignity, respect, fair wages, medical coverage, pension benefits, and humane living conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. His union efforts brought about the passage of the groundbreaking 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act to protect farm workers.

Hispanic Heritage in Music, Arts, Dance, Entertainment, Sports, Journalism, and the Military

Musician: John Philip Sousa

Famous American composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1854. Sousa, also known as the “March King,” ranks among the most famous American composers and conductors. At the age of six, he studied several musical instruments, including violin and trombone. His father Antonio Sousa, who was born in Spain, played trombone in the United States Marine Band. In 1867, Sousa’s father enlisted him in the Marines as an apprentice at age 13. Sousa was discharged from the Marines in 1875, but in 1880 he returned to lead the Marine Band. After two successful tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band. Sousa took his advice and formed his own band, which toured Europe several times and was the first American band to make a tour around the world. On December 25, 1896, he composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official march of the United States.

Musician: Ritchie Valens

In an all too brief career, Latin rock and rhythm composer and singer Ritchie Valens was the first Chicano rock and roll star. Valens was born Richie Valenzuela in 1941 in Pacoima, California, an area north of Los Angeles where he lived his entire life. He learned to play a guitar and joined a band in high school. Valens later met Del-Fi Records producer Bob Keane and recorded "Come On, Let’s Go." He also wrote a song for a girl he liked and named it for her; “Donna” was a nationwide hit and earned Valens an appearance on American Bandstand.

At the age of 17, Ritchie Valens was killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959, along with Buddy Holly, J. P. Richardson (the “Big Bopper”), and pilot Roger Peterson. At the time of his death, Valens biggest hit, “Donna” was number two on the pop charts and "La Bamba" had hit the charts 26 days before his death. On March 19, 2001, Ritchie Valens was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Music: Latin Jazz

The Latin Jazz stamp celebrates the rich musical heritage of Latin jazz. Latin jazz is an improvisational and rhythmic style of music that combines elements of jazz with musical traditions rooted in Africa, Europe and the Americas. It relies on instruments such as the piano, saxophone and bass for harmonies and melodies and often adds a complex rhythm section, which can include conga drums, the bongo, maracas, the cowbell or other percussion instruments.

Building on the marriage of Caribbean and North American music styles that had begun in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Latin jazz spread throughout the United States during the 1920s and 1930s, along with the growing popularity of Latin rhythms and dance styles. Enthusiasm for Latin jazz reached new heights during the 1940s and 1950s, and since then, new instruments like the flute and trumpet have been added to the Latin jazz sound.

Music: Latin Legends

For decades, the Latin sound has influenced American music and culture. Five of these legendary musicians and performers were honored in 2011 including Selena, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Tito Puente, and Celia Cruz. Together these artists represent a variety of styles and genres including Tejano, tango, samba, Latin jazz, and salsa.

Music: Latin Legends

Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Tito Puente (1923-2000) was a musical virtuoso known as El Rey, “The King.” With dynamic solos on the timbales and orchestral arrangements that have become classics in Latin music, Puente helped bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds to mainstream audiences. He performed for more than 60 years, and his legacy includes more than 140 albums.

Music: Latin Legends

Born in Portugal and raised in Brazil, Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) achieved fame as a samba singer before moving to New York City, where she gained celebrity in theater, film and radio. The “Brazilian Bombshell” appeared in 14 Hollywood musicals and recorded more than 300 songs. Her exotic colorful outfits and persona also became her signature.

Music: Latin Legends

Texas-born Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971-1995) — known to fans simply as Selena — helped transform and popularize Tejano music by integrating techno-hip-hop beats and disco-influenced dance movements with a captivating stage presence. A Grammy recipient, the “Queen of Tejano” broke gender barriers with record sales and awards. Even after her tragic death, Selena remains an important representative of Latin culture.

Music: Latin Legends

A superb and evocative singer, Carlos Gardel (1890?-1935) was one of the most celebrated tango artists of all time. Raised in Argentina, Gardel helped popularize the tango in the United States, Europe and throughout Latin America through his performances and recordings. Known as “the man with the tear in his voice,” also achieved fame as one of the stars of Spanish-language cinema.

Music: Latin Legends

A dazzling performer of many genres of Afro-Caribbean music, Celia Cruz (1925-2003) had a powerful contralto voice and a joyful, charismatic personality that endeared her to fans from different nationalities and across generations. Settling in the United States following the Cuban revolution, the “Queen of Salsa” performed for more than five decades and recorded more than 50 albums.

Artist: Frida Kahlo

Best known for her striking self-portraits, Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was influenced by pre-Columbian art and Mexican folk art. Her works embody the pride of Mexico’s national patriotic movement, called Mexicanidad, that pulsed throughout the country following the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century. This sense of Mexican patriotism in Kahlo’s work has significantly influenced Chicana artists in the United States. While a teenager, Kahlo sustained serious injuries in a bus accident, which would affect her health for the rest of her life. Triumph and suffering in her own life and in the lives of women in general are recurrent themes in Kahlo’s paintings. Since the mid-1970s, she has been a role model for women in the Mexican-American and feminist communities.

Artist: Ignacio Chacón

The 2006 Christmas stamp featured an oil-on-canvas entitled “Madonna and Child with Bird.” Dating from around 1765, the painting is attributed to Ignacio Chacón-an artist active from about 1745 to 1775 in Cuzco, Peru. It is now part of the Engracia and Frank Barrows Freyer Collection of Peruvian colonial art at the Denver Art Museum

A famous painting by Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo entitled La Sagrada Familia del Pajarito (The Holy Family of the Little Bird) probably served as an indirect prototype for Chacón's Madonna and Child with Bird. The importance of birds in Inca culture would have made the topic of Murillo's painting particularly resonant in Peru. Birds were sacred to the Inca, partially because of their ability to fly and move closer to Inti, the sun god. So in Cuzco, colonial artists often incorporated birds or feathers into images of the Virgin and Christ to indicate their divine status.

Culture: Let's Dance

This stamp issue honors the contributions of Latino art to American Culture. It features images that showcase four popular dances: meringue, cha-cha-cha, salsa and mambo. Four Latino artists present their personal interpretations of the dances.

For the Merengue stamp, Rafael Lopez uses a warm palette of colors, from red and orange to yellow and lime green, all suggesting the tropical sunlight and vegetation of the Caribbean islands.

Culture: Let's Dance (continued)

In creating his design for the Cha-Cha-Cha stamp, Edel Rodriguez effectively juxtaposes the warmth of the dancers' suntanned skin and the sinuous line formed by their bodies with the coolness suggested by their white clothing and waving palm fronds.

Culture: Let's Dance (continued)

Capturing motion in the billowing skirts of a salsa dancer, José Ortega uses palm leaves to refer to salsa's tropical roots in the Caribbean, and a cityscape to suggest its New York City birthplace.

Culture: Let's Dance (continued)

Sergio Baradat evokes elegance in his design for the Mambo stamp. Here, the red of a woman's dress offsets the nighttime purple and gold hues of the ambient light, while a drum-shaped moon seems to join the orchestra's saxophone and timbales.

Entertainer: Desi Arnaz

Cuban bandleader and actor Desi Arnaz, born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz III, fled his native Santiago, Cuba, with his family after a revolution in 1933. After working briefly for Cuban band leader Xavier Cugat in New York, Arnaz returned to Miami, where he introduced the "Conga Line." It was such a hit that Arnaz returned to New York to start his own band.

He was offered a role in the 1939 Broadway musical "Too Many Girls" and later starred in the film version. He met his future wife Lucille Ball there. During his two years of Army service during World War II, he entertained the troops. After that, he served as orchestra leader on Bob Hope’s radio show from 1946 to 1947. In 1949, Ball and Arnaz co-founded Desilu Productions to run "I Love Lucy", a television comedy series that ran for six years on CBS and became the most successful television program in history.

Poet: Julia de Burgos

One of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated poets, Julia de Burgos was honored with a stamp in the Literary Arts series in 2010. A revolutionary writer, thinker, and activist, de Burgos wrote more than 200 poems that probe issues of love, feminism, and political and personal freedom. The stamp features a portrait of de Burgos created by artist Jody Hewgill.

Athlete: Roberto Clemente

Proud of his Hispanic and African-American roots, Roberto Clemente relied on his upbringing to weather incidents of racial prejudice that occurred early in his baseball career. He said, “I don’t believe in color, I believe in people. My mother and father taught me never to hate someone because of their color.”

Clemente was known for his zeal and passion for his sport, his inclusive attitude, and his devotion to serving the poor. He was not just a great baseball player but a great humanitarian too. He died tragically in an airplane crash while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua on December 31, 1972.

To learn more about Roberto Clemente click on the following link to the National Postal Museum's online exhibit "The Great One": http://npm.si.edu/clemente

Athlete: Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente was selected a second time as a stamp subject in 2000, for the Legends of Baseball series.

Journalist: Ruben Salazar

Ruben Salazar was born on March 3, 1928, in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, Texas. He was the first Mexican-American journalist to have a major voice in American mainstream news media. Having written for the El Paso Herald-Post and the Los Angeles Times, in 1965 Salazar became a foreign correspondent, reporting from the Dominican Republic and South Vietnam prior to becoming chief of the Los Angeles Times Mexico City bureau. In 1970, Salazar became the news director of KMEX, a Spanish-language television station, and served in that capacity until later that same year when he was killed while covering the National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War. Salazar’s work presents a valuable view of the evolution of Mexican-American politics into the larger Chicano movement.

Hispanic Americans in the Military

Today, Hispanic Americans continue the tradition of serving with distinction begun more than two centuries ago. Over three dozen Hispanic Americans have received the highest decoration our nation can bestow - the Medal of Honor. The legacy and achievements of the Hispanic community are an important part of the heritage of the United States.

Created by MJ Meredith, National Postal Museum, in collaboration with the United States Postal Service
Credits: Story

The National Postal Museum would like to give a special thanks to Marie Therese Dominguez, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy, United States Postal Service

The National Postal Museum would like to thank the United States Postal Service for its contributions to this featured collection including narrative text from their Publication 295, "Hispanic People and Events on U.S. Postage Stamps."

Latin Music Legends reference:
United States Postal Service Press Release No. 11-024, March 16, 2011

For information on Hispanic history and culture at the Smithsonian Institution visit the Smithsonian Latino Center at: http://latino.si.edu

Many of the subjects appearing in this exhibit and on U.S. stamps in general are suggested by the public. Each year, the Postal Service receives from the American public thousands of letters proposing stamp subjects. Every stamp suggestion meeting criteria is considered, regardless of who makes it or how it is presented.

To learn more about the stamp selection process, visit the following link to the Postal Service's web site:


Visit the National Postal Museum's Website

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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