State celebrates 500th anniversary of the first European exploration of Florida

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 at 04:04 PM.

The exodus of residents from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and other Latin American countries to Florida as they escape political unrest or economic hard times.

The introduction of the rich variety of Latin American music and cuisine brought by Florida's growing Hispanic population.

Hispanics became more involved in politics, though in some ways it was a return to former times.

Bob Martinez, the first U.S. governor of Hispanic descent, took office in 1987, but he was not Florida's first major Hispanic official.

That distinction goes to Joseph Marion Hernandez, who was born in St. Augustine when it was still a Spanish territory and served as a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the newly created territory of Florida from 1822 to 1823.

In modern times, Cuban-American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in 1989 became the first Hispanic woman to serve in Congress.

In 2005, Cuban-American Mel Martinez became the first Hispanic from Florida elected to the U.S. Senate. He was succeeded by current senator Marco Rubio, also a Cuban-American.

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