Address the diversity of the latino/hispanic experiences and realities in the USA. In particular, I focus on the diversity of the Mexican American realities in the state of Texas. A distinct group in the imagined national community.
Although the Latino umbrella category is very problematic, it turns out to be useful when analyzing quantitative data. Since the USA government and some research centers (and also some marketing firms) have collected a lot of data in relation to the Latino population (sometimes referred as Hispanics), it makes sense to combine those quantitative findings with what I found in the ethnographic work.
The US Census Bureau (2010) defines the label Hispanic or Latino in the following way:
“Hispanic or Latino” refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. (2)
In 1990 the definition of the Census Bureau was different:
"A person is of Spanish/Hispanic origin if the person's origin (ancestry) is Mexican, Mexican-American, chicano, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Ecuadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Nicaraguan, Peruvian, Salvadoran; from other Spanish-speaking countries of the Caribbean or Central or South America; or from Spain." (51)
However, it was in the early 1970s when the term "Hispanic" was first used by the US government to refer to people with origins from the south of the Rio Grande, Spanish speakers, and with Spanish surnames. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare started to use the term and in 1980 it was first used in an official U.S. census. Although several latino-hispanic scholars make reference to Nixon as the one who coined the term "Hispanic" it was actually created by a bureaucrat named Grace Flores-Hughes originally from South Texas, an assistant in and an ad-hoc committee in what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. For Mexican Americans, discriminated in the State of Texas, it was better to claim their Spaniard heritage, as former inhabitants and land owners in this territory. It was important to start counting this population so they could argue for federal funds and help.
How do people from latino/hispanic origin fits in the the American racial hierarchy? what kind of position do they occupy?
- Oboler, N. (1995) Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives : Identity and the Politics of (Re) Presentation in the United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
- Valdivia, A. and Garcia, M. (2012) "Introduction." Mapping Latina/o Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York: Peter Lang Press, 2012.
- Hernandez, R. (2012) The Latino Paradigm: The Struggles Within and the Need for National Identity. Mapping Latina/o Studies: An Interdisciplinary Reader. New York: Peter Lang Press, 2012.
Pan-ethnic nature of the Hispanic and Latino terminology
(from Hispanic-Latino Families & Digital Technologies, presentation at the Hispanic-Latino Families and Digital Media Forum, Sarah Vaala, et al. 2012) The US Census Bureau officially uses the terms ―Hispanic‖ and ―Latino‖ to represent people ―of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race‖ (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011, p. 2). The US Census Bureau officially uses the terms ―Hispanic‖ and ―Latino‖ to represent people ―of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race‖ (Humes, Jones & Ramirez, 2011, p. 2). The term ―Hispanic‖ was adopted in 1977 by Congress to subsume these pan-ethnic populations under one broader category (Rumbaut, 2006; Taylor, Lopez, Martinez & Velasco, 2012). ―Latino‖ was added by Congress in 1997, and the terms are commonly used interchangeably as pan-ethnic identifiers, though each remains in debate among those they are used to represent (Rumbaut, 2006; Taylor, Lopez, Martinez & Velasco, 2012). These terms, adopted primarily for the ―collection and use of data on race and ethnicity by Federal agencies‖ (Federal Register, 1997, quoted in Rumbaut, 2006, p. 7) are now used at a broad socio-political level and hold their particular meaning only in the United States (Rumbaut, 2006).
The pan-ethnic nature of ―Hispanic‖ and ―Latino‖ as identifiers obscures the multiple and diverse ethnicities they represent. Furthermore, a recent report from the Pew Hispanic Center indicates that the majority of people classified as Hispanic-Latino do not personally relate to either identifier (Taylor et al., 2012). Many (51%) prefer to use their family‘s country of origin to describe their identity, and one in five (21%) prefer simply ―American.‖ This may be due to the fact that 63% of Hispanic-Latinos were born in the US (Motel, 2012) and that less than a third (29%) of Hispanic-Latinos in the US feel that Hispanic-Latinos ―share a common culture‖(Taylor et al., 2012, p. 3). Though most Hispanics-Latinos in the US cite Mexico as their family‘s country of origin (64.9%), there are also substantial populations of those of Puerto Rican (9.2%), Cuban (3.7%), Salvadoran (3.6%), and Dominican descent (3.0%). While acknowledging the diversity that exists among the multitude of these ethnic groups within the US, this paper will employ the broader, pan-ethnic terms of ―Hispanic‖ and ―Latino‖ for reasons of clarity and in order to offer an efficient overview of the research landscape. Because the Pew Hispanic Center has reported some debate within this pan-ethnic community over which term is preferred (Taylor et al., 2012), this paper will use both terms in combination throughout (i.e., ―Hispanic-Latino‖