Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Latino/as in the USA, pt. III

¡Hola! Everybody...
I’ve been getting lazy with my blogs. Sometimes my blog projects are too big. Here’s one of the Latino/a posts I promised. Pay attention because you might have to learn Spanish soon. LOL!

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-=[ Between Black and White, pt. 1 ]=-

I know a beautiful truth... I know I'm black, and I'm white/ and I'm red/ The blood of mankind flows in me
-- Ray Barretto, Together

When I lived down south, people would often express confusion about who or what I was. I was light-skinned with blue-eyes, but I spoke English/ Spanish fluently and the bulk of the people I hung out with were African Americans. I looked like a white man, but danced like a black man, and cussed you out in Spanish. LOL!

I think the Latino/a experience can inform the way race is discussed in this country. And please be assured: racial discourse in the country is nothing short of pathological. What I hope to do with the next two posts is offer a little insight and in that way lend what I feel is alternative, much-needed point of view.

For today, however, I’m just going to try to a little overview on Latino/a demographics and some introductory comments...

Masked by the controversy of the 2000 national elections (Bush’s Junta) and the historic election of President Barack Obama in 2008, was another historical revolution taking place. If the twentieth century was the “American Century,” the new century certainly points to an emerging prominence of U.S. Latino/as. Projections show that this group will grow to 25 percent of the U.S. population by 2050 and those immigrants are becoming U.S. citizens at an unprecedented rate. There is a vibrant, socially oriented middle class with economic power that has created a cohesive national Latino/a lobby considered a political force. Latino/as were the deciding factor in many critical races, including the 2000, 2004, and 2008 presidential elections. As I have mentioned previously (only half-jokingly), it is said that in 2000, Mexicans gave the presidency to Gore in California and that the Cubans took it away from him in Florida. Indeed, without the Latino/a vote, it is very unlikely that Obama would have won in 2008.

I should correct myself, we are not becoming, or arriving, Latino/as are a major political, economic, and cultural force in the United States. However, the paradox remains: it seems that Latino/as in the United States do not feel included, accepted, and most importantly, treated with respect no matter how hard they work and attempt to participate in the American way of life.

The existence of this paradox is one of the man y reasons why I am writing this series on Latino/as. I have written this with Latino/as in mind but also for those who possess a genuine interest in the history of Latino/a political thought and possible directions that it may take in the future. Finally, I offer this because most Latino/a youth are not taught their own history, and, if they are, this history is often biased and one-dimensional. Latino/a youth, in particular, need to have a political and historical sense of place, to be able to make sense of and become active in their social and political-economic realities. In short, my objective is to begin to raise the level of discourse of, by, and for Latino/as in the United States.

Throughout this series, I will be sharing links and sources for those uninterested in going a little deeper. There is no way for me to address the enormity of the Latino/a condition in several relatively short blog posts. Because of this limitation, I will confine the bulk of my discussion to U.S. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. If I ever decide to return to my graduate studies for my doctorate, maybe I’ll consider a major foray into Latino/a political thought and philosophy, but not today. LOL Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans were first subjected to the U.S. government through treaties and acts that not only signaled the end of military conquest or invasion, but also served as a real and symbolic entrance into American life for those involuntary and cultural U.S. citizens.

A demographic snapshot of these three groups shows that (20.5 million) Mexicans make up two thirds of Latino/as in the United States (32 million) and their population is increasing faster than that of any other group, including other Latino/as. There 6.6 million Puerto Ricans (11 percent of all Latino/as); 2.8 million are in the mainland US and 3.8 are on the island. There are approximately 1.5 million Cubans living in the United States (5% of all Latino/as). South Americans make up 13 percent of all Latino/as and there are 7 percent who fall under the "Other" category in the U.S. Census.

A close up of this snapshot reveals that almost one third of all Latino/as living in the following six counties or metropolitan areas: Los Angeles County, California (4.1 million); Miami-Dade, Florida (1.2 million); Cook County, Illinois (930,000); Harris County, Texas (908,053); Orange County, California (801,797); and New York City (two million). the political revolution is taking place because these human bodies are becoming active participants in the political process. furthermore, because of the age distribution of this population, there will be an increase in their portion of the electorate regardless of what happens to immigration. More to the point, voter registration among Latino/as increased by 164 percent in 1976-96 (compared to 31 percent for non-Latino/as). Voter turnout increased by 135 percent (compared to 21 percent for non-Latino/as).

To be sure, my focus will probably stop at the intersection of race. Diversity among Latino/as is not limited to national origin. As one scholar pointed out, Latino/as are the only group that proclaims its mestizaje (its mixture of races). A Latino/a can be of any race or ethnic group. In many ways, Latin America and the Caribbean have realized the American dream of a melting pot. There is, of course, the lingering issue of pigmentocracy (a hierarchy based on the color of skin), a form of latent, unspoken racism. However, Latino/as construct and converse about race in ways that is essentially different from the way it’s treated in the United States. It is here -- at the intersection of race, class, and ethnicity -- where I will begin my next post.

In the meantime? You had better start learning how to Spicky da Spanish, muthafuckas! LOL

Hay Cariño,


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