Mexican-American Contributions

Written by: Susanne Rothschild, MBA, PMP  | President, The Rothschild Corporation

This article focuses on a few of Mexican-American contributions to our lifestyle, business, and culture. For example, did you know?

Mexican-Americans (Mexican immigrants and their descendants) make up a significant portion of the U.S. population that has become influential in shaping U.S. life in language, politics, food, and lifestyle. (http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/immigration/alt/mexican.html)


What are some of the Mexican contributions to lifestyle in the U.S? Here are a few amazing inventions that are part of American daily life.
  • Chocolate! First recorded evidence was found in area that became Mexico. Now chocolate is in German chocolate cake, Hershey’s kisses, Abuelita hot cocoa, and so much more.
  • Tacos. These are believed to date back to 18th century Mexico where men working in silver mines invented what we now enjoy as breakfast tacos, Tacos al Carbon, chicken tacos, and so much more.
  • Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Invented by Richard Montanez, a Mexican immigrant and janitor at the Frito-Lay plant in California, who now leads the Multicultural Sales & Community Promotions branch of the company!
  • Color TV: What? Guillermo Gonzalez Camarena, a Mexican, was the first person to patent the product by developing an “improved chromoscopic adapter” for color television transmissions.
  • Birth Control Pills: When he was 25-years-old, Mexican Luis Ernesto Miramontes Cardenas co-discovered the compound that became the chemical basis for the first oral contraceptive.
  • Corn. The Olmec and Mayan Indians first cultivated corn in Mexico. Now corn the foundation of cornbread, tortillas, corn on the cob, tamales, corn syrup, and many corn-based favorite foods.
  • Caesar Salad. During a Fourth of July rush on the border of Tijuana and the U.S., an Italian immigrant named Caesar Cardini, who operated restaurants on both sides of the border, invented the now popular Caesar Salad by using the ingredients he had on hand.
What are some of the Mexican contributions to U.S. business? 
Mexico is currently our third largest goods trading partner
  • Top export categories in 2017 to Mexico, our second largest goods export market totaling $243 billion, included machinery, electrical machinery, mineral fuels, vehicles, plastics, agricultural products and services. Leading U.S. agricultural exports include corn, soybeans, pork and pork products, dairy products, beef and beef products. Leading U.S. exports of services to Mexico include travel, transportation, and intellectual property.
  • Leading U.S. imports from Mexico, second largest supplier of goods imports, totaled $314 billion in 2017. Top import categories include fresh fruit and vegetables, wine and beer, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables. Leading U.S. imports in services from Mexico were from the travel, transportation, and technical and other services sectors.

Although many Americans with Mexican origins have made significant contributions to U.S. business, politics, and science and technology, here are a few highlights. (Refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Mexican_Americans for a detailed list.)


Businesspeople and Entrepreneurs:
  • Rosa Rios – 43rd treasurer of the United States, businesswoman, executive, and entrepreneur
  • Oscar Munoz (executive) – CEO of United Airlines
  • Ignacio E. Lozano Sr. – founder of La Opinion, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the US
  • Mike Curb – record company executive, NASCAR car owner, and former Lieutenant Governor of California
  • Linda G. Alvarado – President and Chief Executive Officer of a large commercial and industrial general contracting firm, co-owner of the Colorado Rockies baseball team.
  • Arturo Moreno – businessman and owner of the Los Angeles Angels
  • Anna Maria Chavez – CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA
  • Tony Garza – U.S. ambassador to Mexico
  • Alberto Gonzales – United States Attorney General
  • Susana Martinez – Governor of New Mexico
  • Bill Richardson – former Governor of New Mexico, former U.S. Secretary of Energy
  • Abel Maldonado – 47th Lieutenant Governor of California
  • Henry Cisneros – former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio, Texas[
  • Eric Garcetti – Mayor of Los Angeles
  • Jesse Arreguin – Mayor of Berkeley, California
Science and Technology
  • Astronauts: Ellen Ochoa, John D. Olivas, Jose Hernandez, Sidney M. Gutierrez
  • France A. Cardova – former NASA chief scientist
  • Nora Volkow – scientist, physician, psychiatrist, great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky and director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa – associate professor of neurosurgery and oncology; director of the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and brain surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mario J. Molina – co-discoverer of decomposition of ozone with CFC aerosols, Nobel laureate in Chemistry
What are some of the Mexican-American contributions to American culture?

Parental involvement plays a pivotal role in education and culture.

Mexican-American parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles play a key role in education through modeling expected behavior, setting high value on education, and providing ‘consejos’ or advice to influence their young’s choices and behaviors. Families celebrate many ‘fiestas’ often with the extended family. Piatas, colorful decorative pots filled with candies and treasures, are a popular activity at birthday parties; eyes are blindfolded for the person using a stick to attempt to bring the treasures to the floor. The Quinceaera, celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday, is the milestone for young women to have privileges associated with young womanhood such as attending parties to mingle with young men.

In 2010, over 95% of the Mexican American population was Christian. A picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, is often prominently displayed in homes, churches, restaurants and other places of business.

Mexican-Americans have made major contributions to media and entertainment, sports, Christian practices and leadership, arts and music, directors and filmmakers, scholars and educators, cuisine, and a zest for life.

Although the list of notable contributors to culture in these areas is lengthy, below are highlights.

Scholars and Educators
  • N’nive Clements Calegari – educator, founder of national literacy program, 826 National, and The Teacher Salary Project.
  • Richard Carranza – Chancellor, New York City Public Schools, appointed in March 2018
  • Francisco G. Cigarroa – chancellor of the University of Texas System and president of the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas.
  • Ricardo A. Herrera – historian, author, and associate professor of military history at the School of Advanced Military Studies, US Army Command and General Staff College
  • Juan J. de Pablo – professor in the Institute for Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago
  • John D. Trasvia – dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, former Assistant Secretary of the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
  • Miguel Garc’a-Garibay – professor of chemistry and the dean of physical sciences at University of California, Los Angeles.
Religious Figures
  • Gustavo Garc’a-Siller – Archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Antonio
  • Jose Horacio Gomez – the Archbishop of Los Angeles
  • Joel Nestali Martinez – Bishop in the United Methodist Church
  • Eusebio L. Elizondo Almaguer – Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle
  • Oscar Cantœ – auxiliary bishop in San Antonio, Texas
  • Joe S. Vasquez – bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Austin, Texas.

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