The Legacy of Hispanic Americans in Congress

Audrey Carroll
September 29, 2021

During Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15-October 15, we celebrate the impact and achievements of Latinx and Hispanic Americans in the United States. Latinx Americans have a centuries-long legacy in Congress, engaging in politics, as Pope Francis writes in Fratelli Tutti, as “a lofty vocation … inasmuch as it seeks the common good,” breaking representation barriers, and passing common good legislation.

Joseph Marion Hernández was the first Hispanic American to serve in Congress was Joseph Marion Hernández. Hernández was born in Florida while it was still a Spanish colony, and became the first Hispanic American to serve in the House of Representatives when Florida became a territory in 1822.[1] He served as a Delegate in the 17th Congress for a year, submitting legislation advocating for residents of newly incorporated Florida. In 1877, Representative Romualdo Pacheco was elected the first Hispanic American to serve as a U.S. Representative. The first Hispanic American to serve in the Senate was Octaviano Ambrosio Larrazolo in 1928, completing the term of the previous New Mexico senator.[2] According to the History, Art, and Archives website of the House of Representatives, 136 Hispanic Americans have served in Congress in some capacity since 1822.[3]

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) was formed in 1976 and is comprised of 38 Hispanic and Latinx members of Congress. The purpose of the CHC is to “advocate for issues important to Hispanics through the Congressional legislative process.”[4] Originally formed as a bipartisan group, Republican members disbanded in the 1990s and formed the Congressional Hispanic Conference, which currently has six members.  Follow the CHC on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on their work.

NETWORK is grateful for all the contributions Hispanic and Latinx Congressmembers have made to shape a more economically and racially just society. Many Latinx Congressional leaders have been essential partners in championing policies in NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda, including as a pathway to citizenship, paid leave, worker’s rights, and more. Our appreciation for the hard work and dedication of Hispanic and Latinx Members of Congress extends well beyond October 15!