Throughout our complex history, one aspect has always remained clear and consistent - there are many faces of America. As a country of immigrants, this diversity has and will continue to lend great strength to our nation. However, we must not forget that a strong America is one that is inclusive as well as diverse.
Having lived here for 400 years, Latinos are a critical part of our nation's fabric. Although 50 million Latinos currently live in the United States, the story of their contributions and rich cultural heritage has fallen through the cracks as we have written history books for our children, formed our national monuments and parks, and, in many ways, developed a national identity for the future of America. The National Park Service - the part of our government charged with protecting sites of national historic, cultural or ecological value - can and should play a major role in recognizing the important history and culture of American Latinos.
As the 50th Secretary of the Interior, it is clear to me that historic places associated with Latino heritage are underrepresented in official National Park Service programs at all levels. In fact,
just over three percent of historic properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places - the nation's official list of historic places worthy of preservation - are recognized for their association with the heritage of Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians.
This startling figure grossly overlooks the people, places,…
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