NEWPORT, R.I. - Capt. Anthony Cowden, a student at the Naval War College, was the guest speaker at Officer Training Command Newport’s (OTCN) observance of Hispanic Heritage Month on Sept. 30.
The observance was sponsored by OTCN and Naval Station (NAVSTA) Newport’s Diversity Committee. The theme for the 2011 observance is "Many Backgrounds, Many Stories: One American Spirit." The observance celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, the Carribean and Central and South America.
Cowden said the name Cowden, a very anglo last name, didn’t have an Hispanic connection. He said his search on ancestry.com seemed to prove that the name Cowden was very European.
Cowden said his story began when he was adopted at seven months old.
“Somewhere along the way, my adoptive parents shared with me a little information about the origins of my birth parents,” he said.
He learned that his mother was a Cuban studying in Washington, D.C. His father was Latin American and possibly Honduran. He subsequently learned his father was also a Cuban studying in Washington, D.C.
“It wasn’t until the last few years that I asked my adoptive mother for more information about the origins of my birth parents,” Cowden said. His adoptive mother showed him an index card that had very little information about his birth parents.
“Knowing that they shared a common heritage made me realize that I also had an Hispanic background and heritage, at least ethnically, if not culturally,” he said.
“Knowing what my parents’ background was has made a difference,” he said.
Cowden said his efforts to get information through the adoption agency have been unsuccessful. “They won’t tell me very much without a court order,” he said.
“I’ve always had respect for America first and the primacy of American citizenship, but have acknowledged a respect for America as a melting pot and individual backgrounds.”
By Bob Krekorian, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs
About National Hispanic Heritage Month
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.
The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.
Posted by Cmdr. Carla McCarthy