9 Latinos Whose Families Arrived Before July 4, 1776

Listening to the immigration debate, you could easily get the idea that all Latinos are newcomers to this country. Nothing could be further from the truth. Latinos have had a presence in this land for 500 years, and the proof is not just in Spanish place names like Nevada and Colorado or in the fact that the oldest city in America (St. Augustine, Florida) was founded by the Spanish, but in the stories of Latino families nationwide.

So today, we’re honoring Latino families who have been here since before there was an America. Before you go out to your Fourth of July picnic or parrillada, check out these Latino families that have stood the test of time and hear from them why it’s important to tell their stories. Happy Independence Day!

1. Families: Luis CdeBaca

Name Luis CdeBaca

Family’s Roots Spain and Mexico, settled in New Mexico and the Southwest

Arrival Year 1527

Notable Ancestor Take your pick: Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Baca, who explored Florida and the Southwest, was the first European to see a buffalo and wrote detailed descriptions of Native American tribes; Ezequiel Cabeza de Baca, New Mexico’s first Hispanic elected governor; CdeBaca himself, who is the United States Ambassador in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons

Quote “My family ended up living in Iowa, and since we were one of the few Latino familes for what seemed like a thousand miles, hearing those stories was good. As a kid, we would have these little plays where me and the Anglo kids would dress up as Spaniards. It was my and my siblings’ way of helping people understand where we came from and our place in American history.”


2. Families: Jennifer Vo

Name Jennifer Vo

Family’s Roots Mexico, settled in present-day California

Arrival Year 1774

Notable Ancestor Luis Quintero: One of the founders of Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

Quote “My ancestors - their struggles, their triumphs, their stories – are fundamentally tied into this land. I take great pride in walking over the same streets myancestors did. Especially in Southern California, where there is so much anti-immigrant sentiment, I wanted my children, who are blessed to be multicultural, to know about the lives of those who came before them.”


3. Families: Virginia Sanchez

Name Virginia Sanchez

Family’s Roots Spain and Mexico, settled in present-day New Mexico

Arrival Year 1598

Notable Ancestor Pasquala Bernal: Defended a pueblo in New Mexico alongside 24 other women. The city of Bernalillo, New Mexico is named after her family.

Quote “Knowledge is instrumental to peace and harmony.  To [those who view Hispanics as newcomers] I say, ‘This 4th of July, re-learn your American History.’”


4. Families: Donie Nelson

Name Donie Nelson

Family’s Roots Mexico, settled in present-day New Mexico

Arrival Year 1598

Notable Ancestor Francisco Montes Vigil: Survivor of the Villasur Expedition

Quote “I am among the thousands of Americans with hidden Hispanic/Latino heritage. Hidden because I lack a Hispanic surname, I have no trace of a Spanish accent, and (as I am often told) I do not "look" Hispanic. But, I am Hispanic just the same. My ancestors were part of American history before the Pilgrims.”


5. Families: Christina Um

Name Christina Um

Family’s Roots Spain, settled in present-day Texas

Arrival Year 1500s

Notable ancestor Francisco Antonio Ruiz: the mayor of San Antonio who identified the bodies of Davy Crockett and others killed at The Alamo

Quote “We have been here since before there was a Texas. I belong here.”


6. Families: Eva Longoria

Name Eva Longoria

Family’s Roots Spain, settled in present-day Texas

Arrival Year 1603

Notable Ancestor Pedro Longoria: Received almost 4,000 acres along the Rio Grande in a land grant from the King of Spain

Quote Where we grew up, it’s predominantly Hispanic. For me, I just felt right at home. I always felt really connected to my culture – whether it was through language, through religion, through tradition. It was just the way we grew up. Being a ‘Texican,’ I loved it because I was surrounded by others like me.” – Longoria told Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Faces of America


7. Families: Linda Chavez

Name Linda Chavez

Family’s Roots Spain, settled in present-day New Mexico

Arrival Year Late 1590s

Notable Ancestor Chavez herself, who was the first Hispanic to be nominated for a cabinet position

Quote ”People ‘til this day ask me where I’m from or ‘how long has your family been here?’ When I tell them several hundred years, that usually stops the conversationcold.”


8. Families: Mimi Lozano

Name Mimi Lozano

Family’s Roots Mexico, settled in present-day Texas

Arrival Year 1731

Notable Ancestor Francisco de Arocha: Claimed to be the most successful in supplying cattle to the American colonists during the American Revolution

Quote “We do not want our story to get lost. We do not want to be invisible ever again. Latinos have been invisible for a long time and if wetell our true story and history, the world will know who we are.” (Lozano is Co-founder of the Society of Hispanic Historical & Ancestral Research)


9. Families: Letty Rodella

Name Letty Rodella

Family’s Roots Mexico, settled in present-day New Mexico

Arrival Year 1598

Notable Ancestor Pedro Robledo: A soldier in the expedition of 1598, the Robledo Mountains of New Mexico are named after him

Quote “Telling the story of our ancestors, specifically to the younger members of ourfamily, instills pride in who we are. It is pride in what our ancestors did and it provides us with a central idea of what our family was and is: strong, committed, service oriented.