Hispanics In Washington State
Hispanics are second only to Native Americans in their historical significance in Washington State. Two years before the United States was established, Mexican and Spanish explorers had already laid claim to the Pacific Northwest. Washington was part of Mexico, and Spanish was the official language of our region, from 1774 to 1819. In 1774 Juan Perez sailed from Spain to explore the Pacific Northwest Coast to claim territory in advance of the reported expeditions of the Russians into this region. His vessel, the 82-foot frigate Santiago was found to be too large to approach the shores off the northern Queen Charlotte Islands. Thus no land was claimed.
Hispanic explorers and early settlers made countless significant cultural, scientific and social contributions. The many Spanish place names (the Strait of Juan de Fuca, San Juan Islands, Juanita, Padilla Bay, Port Angeles among them) are part of their legacy. Early Hispanic pioneers created our economic and transportation infrastructures; brought the first wheat and apples; and developed scientific mapping techniques. Although Hispanics have been instrumental to our agricultural success, they have also played a fundamental role in all areas of Washington’s economic fabric. Descendants of the first Hispanic immigrants, and more recent arrivals from Central and South America, continue this tradition of accomplishment.