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National Hispanic Heritage Month—Latinx Trailblazers

National Hispanic Heritage Month highlights and recognizes the societal contributions, unique cultures, and rich history of Latinx people in the U.S.

The contributions of Latinx people have built strong communities across the U.S., leading the charge in innovation and economic growth for several industries, including education, medicine, construction, and maritime pathways. In fact, one in three workers in construction are Hispanic, accounting for 31.8% of the construction industry.

Here are three Latinx trailblazers—past and present—who’ve paved the way in the maritime industry.

A picture of a lighthouse

Juan and Maria Andreau—Lighthouse Keepers, 1824-1862

Juan Andreau made history when he became the first Latinx person to serve in the United States Coast Guard. He served as a keeper for the St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida—then a U.S. Territory. Juan traced his roots to the Minorcan people from the Spanish island of Minorca in the Mediterranean Sea.

In 1859, Juan fell from a scaffolding while washing the lighthouse. After his untimely death, his wife Maria Andreu was appointed lighthouse keeper for the St. Augustine Lighthouse, where she served for three years. This made her the first Hispanic-American to serve in the Coast Guard and also the first to command a federal shore installation.

Lieutenant Junior Grade Katherine Tiongson in uniform

Katherine Tiongson—Retired U.S. Coast Guard

United States Coast Guard (USCG) Lieutenant Junior Grade Katherine Tiongson became the first Latinx woman to serve as commanding officer of the USCG’s vessel BAINBRIDGE ISLAND from 1991 to 1993. Tiongson would achieve several accolades during her 26-year career, including becoming the first Latinx woman to assume the role of Intelligence Officer of the USCG.

She retired from the USCG in 2017 with her last role as Acting Deputy Assistant Commandant for its Intelligence sector.

Tiongson currently works as an adjunct staff member for the RAND Corporation’s Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center to conduct studies for federal sponsors.

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