Miguel Perez, chair of Lehman College’s journalism, communications and theater department, has had a singular passion throughout his professional life: to inform Americans about this nation’s hidden Hispanic heritage.
Recently, Mr. Perez launched a new bilingual web site, www.hiddenhispanicheritage.com, devoted to rediscovering and uncovering Hispanic roots of the United States.
“Many Americans simply don’t know that Latinos have a very long history of planting language and cultural roots in what is now U.S. territory,” he said in a press release.
While Perez’s interest is partly personal — he immigrated to the United States with his family at age 11 from his native Cuba — he said the aim of the project is to set the historical record straight.
“In this country there are many historians and teachers who have decided to teach history starting with the arrival of the British, ignoring what happened before, since April of 1513 when Juan Ponce de Leon arrived in modern-day Florida searching for the fountain of youth,” he said, during a recent interview with EFE, a Spanish International news agency.
He argues that while Christopher Columbus is given the credit for discovering America, in fact, he discovered the islands that are now Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic; while Juan Ponce de Leon, the Spanish conquistador, discovered what is now mainland America when he discovered what is now Florida.
According to Mr. Perez, America should be celebrating its quincentennial in April 2013.
“I find it amazing that we are just a few months away from a big birthday in our nation’s history and nothing is being planned,” Mr. Perez said in a press release.