There’s been a rich and lengthy history of impactful Hispanics who have served in the United States Congress, and this year it’s easier to pinpoint exactly how long that history is.
To be exact, it’ll be 200 years.
On Sept. 30, 1822, a man by the name of Joseph Hernandez was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first Hispanic member of Congress.
You can call it a landslide victory, since Hernandez was unopposed when he was chosen as Florida’s first territorial delegate.
Born in St. Augustine, Hernandez was a bilingual leader who helped Florida transition from Spanish to U.S. rule, according to the historical site of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hernandez helped organize land-claim verifications to the U.S. government from the Spanish government and also lobbied for various capital improvement projects such as roads and bridges.
It was a short time in Congress for Hernandez, whose tenure ended in March of 1823.
He lost a reelection bid, mainly because votes in his region were split between he and two other candidates, while the eventual winner, Richard Keith Call, ran unopposed in another region and collected the most votes.
Hernandez eventually served in the Second Seminole War from 1835-1838, and after a failed attempt to be elected to the U.S. Senate, he eventually was elected Mayor of St. Augustine in 1848.
Hernandez died in 1857, but his place in history as the first Hispanic to be elected to Congress will forever be etched.