Hispanic support during revolutiontary war assured colonies' independence


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That U.S. history ignores the Hispanic role in the U.S. War for Independence is no great secret. What it is downright disrespectful to millions of this country's Spanish-surnamed residents, past and present, is not knowing of their ancestors’ tremendous sacrifices that contributed to this nation’s birth.

   Our ethnic kin who are dead and buried never celebrated a Fourth of July fully aware that such a historic day exists in significant ways because of the heroics of their forebears. .

   Without Hispanic intervention at that crucial moment in our country’s young life, we would not be roasting hot dogs and drinking beer every July 4.

   I’m willing to wager an Alexander Hamilton ten-spot that most of my fellow latinos don’t recognize names of men such as Juan de Miralles, Francisco de Miranda and Bernardo de Galvez, each of whom helped alter the course of our history so Hamilton’s benign face could be stacked high in supermarket cash register drawers today.

   Or the fact that Hispanic women raised in Spanish silver dollars the equivalent of $28 million so the nation’s independence effort was secured.

   My U.S. paisanos might be able to tell you about the winter at Valley Forge or General Washington crossing the Delaware. But if you ask them to name names and cite examples of bravery by ethnic brethren who helped General Washington overtake the Red Coats, they’ll be stumped.

   Relax, it’s not your fault — or theirs. The culpability lies elsewhere. “Our textbooks are so Anglocentric that they might be considered Protestant history,” say Diane Ravitch and Chester Finn in “What Do Our 17-Year-Olds Know? A Report on the First National Assessment of History and Literature.”

   That translates roughly to admitting the history taught in our schools is fundamentally a white man’s diary.

   The danger in adhering to such texts is that there is no room to talk about anybody else’s contributions, no matter how important. Once left out, always left out. History books, like history itself, repeat themselves.

   It’s cheaper to reprint than to research and rewrite. Textbook publishers like money, too.

   So who was Juan de Miralles? The Colonists ran a ragtag military machine at best. Enter don Juan, a diplomat under the patronage of the French Ambassador, following instructions of the Spanish Court.

   A wealthy Spanish businessman living in Cuba, he was a fervent defender of independence. He made several visits to the colonial rebels, offering military and financial support’ and developed a close friendship with the future first president of the United States.

   He ended up establishing a business relationship with Robert Morris, the Philadelphia merchant who gave his fortune to the revolution and served as Washington's principal finance minister.

   Through Miralles’ Cuban connections, the Union army received regular and desperately needed supplies of sugar, flour, uniforms and arms. Don Juan himself lent money to several continental towns as part of the war effort against the British.

   Unfortunately, in the brutal cold winter of 1779, he contracted pneumonia in Morristown, New Jersey, while visiting with the troops. He was attended by Washington's personal physician as well as Washington’s wife Martha. While under care at their home in Morristown, the general’s amigo passed away in 1780. 

   Juan de Miralles became the first foreigner to be given a full military funeral in the United States, although the country had yet to win the war and be recognized internationally as an independent country.

   Deeply touched by his friend’s demise, Washington wrote to the Spanish governor of Cuba as well as Miralles’ widow extolling the wonderful qualities of his friend and supporter.

   Imagine, if you will, how much our neighbors today would appreciate us if they knew more of our hidden history

   As for the other mentioned personalities and their accomplishments, why not invite your children to help you do the research and discover those Hispanic heroes and heroines together?

   (Andy Porras of Houston is an educator and writer. He has been a contributing columnist with Hispanic Link for nearly 30 years. Email him at: [email protected].)



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