Hispanic Heritage is Home
Florida Justice celebrates his culture in family, community, state, and country
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
For Florida, the annual celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month is especially important. The Sunshine State is home of the first permanent Spanish settlement in America, St. Augustine.
For former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul G. Cantero, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is about more than his individual culture or his state—it is about the entire country.
"Part of the heritage of all Americans is a Spanish heritage," said Cantero, the first Hispanic member of the Florida Supreme Court. "We also celebrate that one out of every five residents in Florida is Hispanic. So we [Hispanics] are a very important part of the community."
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15-October 15. The September date was chosen because it is the anniversary of independence for several Latin American countries. Those countries include Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, México, Chile, and Guatemala.
"The story of Hispanics in America is the story of America itself," said President Barack Obama in a presidential proclamation issued on September 15. "Hispanics have played a vital role in the moments and movements that have shaped our country."
Cantero's family has shaped the history of two countries. His grandfather, Fulgencio Batista, was the leader of Cuba from 1933-1944, and 1952-1959. Batista was ousted as a result of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
Raoul G. Cantero, III graduated from Florida State University and Harvard Law School before returning to live in Miami. In 2002, then-Governor Jeb Bush appointed Cantero to the Florida Supreme Court, a position he says has been his greatest accomplishment.
"To me it was a great honor," he said. His heritage is the reason he became a Justice.
"I was doing it as much for my community, as much for the privilege of being the first Hispanic, as anything else," he said. "It was a big sacrifice moving my family from Miami to Tallahassee, but I was willing to do it to achieve that for the [Hispanic] community."
In 2008, Cantero resigned from the court and moved back to Miami where he is now a partner in the law firm of White and Case.
"I loved the judiciary, I loved what I was doing so I knew I was going to miss it," he said. "But it's kind of a new frontier, something new to do, a new phase in my life, and I enjoy it a lot."
Being back in Miami means being back in his home community.
"This is where my kids grew up, where all my family is, so I'm very happy to be back," he said.
For more profiles of Hispanic leaders around the country, check out Celebrate Hispanic Heritage, the Scholastic Kids Press Corps’ latest Special Report.