Marie Therese Dominguez, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy, United States Postal Service
Stamps illuminate what we value as a people and a culture, and the National Postal Museum’s Celebrating Hispanic Heritage: People, Places and Events on Stamps sheds new light on the many contributions of Hispanic Americans and Latinos to the exploration, growth, culture, and defense of the United States.
The discovery of the New World by a Spanish-sponsored expedition was the subject of America’s first commemorative stamps, issued in 1893. When the Pilgrims were disembarking from the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock, cities created by Hispanics already were expanding in Florida, the Southwest, and the Caribbean. One of my ancestors was one of those explorers, Cabeza de Vaca. His diaries documenting his travels and exploration of the Southern and Southwestern states have provided a rich narrative to the discovery of the New World.
The Spanish-born father of Civil War Admiral David G. Farragut fought for the United States during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Later, Admiral Farragut helped preserve the Union during the Civil War; he has been honored on stamps three times. A 1940 stamp depicted John Philip Sousa, who led the Marine Band and composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official march of the United States. More recent stamp subjects include Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, whose work influenced artists in the United States, and Padre Felix Varela, who educated the poor in New York City and founded nurseries and orphanages to help children.
Significant events which have led to great social change have also been commemorated on stamps. In the 1940s, several Mexican American families filed suit against a California school system that placed their children in “separate but equal” schools, claiming inequality in treatment kept their children from becoming members of mainstream American life. Soon after the court ruled on the families’ behalf in Mendez v. Westminster School District, separate schools for Asians and Indians also were eliminated. Within a decade, the Mendez case became an important, legal precedent for the desegregation of schools in the United States in Brown v. Board of Education.
In 2007, I had the privilege of dedicating the Mendez v. Westminster School District stamp. As I met the surviving children whose parents were brave enough to file suit against the City of Westminster, I was awed by the impact of their actions and their courage. As the indirect beneficiary of their efforts, as a Latina, an attorney and a former community organizer, I was truly moved.
Today, I am one of tens of thousands of proud Hispanic Americans privileged to serve the Postal Service and the people of the United States. At the Postal Service, we will continue to strive to develop interesting stamp subjects featuring the incredible contributions Latinos have and are making, to the United States.