story by: Yol-Itzma Aguirre
In 1889, eighty-seven years after West Point United States Military Academy was founded, Antonio Barrios – from Guatemala – officially became the first international cadet graduate from West Point.
In 1915, Major General Luis R. Esteves became the first Latino from the United States – Puerto Rico – to graduate from the prestigious academy.
In 1980, 62 women became the very first class of female cadets to break the “gray” glass ceiling by completing the program and graduating from the academy.
This past May, in 2019, another page of history was written at West Point. There were 88 Latinx – including a herstoric 19 Latinas – making them the largest group of Latinx cadets (to date) to walk across Michie Stadium and graduate.
Among the 88, we did have a couple of Texans! Benjamin Gutierrez (of El Paso) was a former President of Spanish Club at the academy, which is responsible for introducing culture events and activities to celebrate the different Latinx heritages.
We had a chance to speak with Gutierrez who told us how proud he was of his work with Spanish Club, how everyone worked together to bring a little piece of home, away from home. Ben had also been working on having the official name changed to HACS “Hispanic American Cultural Society.” (You can read Second Lieutenant Ben Gutierrez’s personal story published here.)
The United States Military Academy is one of the oldest and most prestigious military institutions in the nation, the academy receives over 12,000 applications and only about 1,200 of those applicants go on to become appointed cadets.
West Point is no walk in the park, you must be the best of the best to apply, meeting both a critical academic, athletic and leadership skill level, among other things.
Looking back on the achievements of the Latinos who paved the way – the first international cadet to graduate (Latino) Antonio Barrios went on the become Guatemala’s Prime Minister of Works; Luis R. Esteves the first Latino (born in U.S. territory) to graduate from West Point went on to become a General and later founded the Puerto Rican National Guard – we can only imagine the greatness that each of these historic 88 Latinx graduates will go on to accomplish in their lives as they are now part of an extended honored family, The Long Gray Line.