HISTORICAL OVERVIEW Early History
As with other states along the eastern seaboard, Maryland’s first contacts with
Latinos came as a result of exploration. Governor Menendez the Aviles is said to
have explored the Chesapeake Bay area in the late sixteenth century. However,
unlike Florida, Maryland did not offer any strategic or known natural resource of value to Spaniards, and they did not establish any permanent settlements in the state. In fact, with the outgrowth of the British settlements in Virginia, settling in Maryland may have become a risk not worth pursuing.
With the expansion of British colonialism, the first settlement in Maryland was established in St. Mary’s City in 1634, with 200 settlers, many of whom Catholics from northern Europe who had arrived in the lands granted to Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore by King Charles I. The economy of the state was soon to be dominated by tobacco, a crop that is not as labor intensive as sugar, which promoted the development of fiercely individualistic and relatively small settlements in the state.
During the American Revolution, Carlos III generously supported the rebel’s call for independence, and many Latinos contributed money and supplies to the revolutionary effort. In addition, several Hispanic soldiers fought the British alongside the Americans. During the last major battle of the war, at Yorktown, Virginia, the French and American forces were able to sustain their triumphal efforts and pay for salaries, provisions, and ammunition, thanks in large measure to financial donations received from Latina women in Havana, Cuba. None of these events, however, resulted in the permanent settlements of Latinos in Maryland. In fact, by all accounts, the Latino population in the state was small enough not to merit an official count.