In 1822, the U.S. territory of Florida made history when it elected Joseph Marion Hernández as its Territorial Delegate, marking the first time a Hispanic American would serve in Congress. Since then, more than 100 Hispanic Americans have served as U.S. Representatives, Senators, Delegates, and Resident Commissioners. However, like other minority groups such as women and African Americans, Hispanic Americans faced many obstacles on Capitol Hill.
Over the years, Hispanic-American Members, such as Representative Henry B. González, who chaired the powerful House Banking and Currency Committee, had to balance their duties to their constituents and the larger Hispanic-American population with a desire to integrate politically. “Our task is to overcome political isolation, and it is a delicate path that makes the difference between attracting a friend and becoming isolated and alone,” González once noted. Some Members, however, disagreed with González and took their message of equality and reform directly to the people and became symbols of Hispanic civil rights. Dennis Chavez of New Mexico, for example, was the first Hispanic American to serve in both the House and Senate and became the first surrogate representative for the national Hispanic population, while Puerto Rican Resident Commissioners, such as Luis Muñoz Rivera, Santiago Iglesias, and Antonio Fernós-Isern, were known to be outspoken advocates for equality and representation.
Today, Hispanic Americans represent an important and growing population in Congress. As of 2012, 60% of all Hispanic-American Members had been elected since 1976, reflecting national demographic changes, political reforms such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a series of Supreme Court decisions on redistricting in 1962.
Use this interactive map to learn more about Hispanic Americans in Congress.