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If one wonders what the U.S. American ethos is, one can see it fully represented in the Super Bowl ads–the dreams, the myths, the wishes, the ideal values, the perceived beauty, the wishful thinking, and what should or could be.
It is great to witness that finally, those ideal values have been updated to be more inclusive and to reflect what most of us observe daily in the U.S. –an obvious ethnic diversity–made up of continuous waves of immigrants that keep moving this country forward.
The less segregation, the more assimilation. It is a give and take situation.
The highest level of education a Latin American immigrant has, the more willing he/she is to assimilate. Yet, he/she gives up his cultural origins. In terms of their level of integration in the U.S., there are implications for both the Mexicans and the more assimilated Latin American groups in the U.S. While the later might enjoy greater economical benefits than Mexicans, Mexicans is the only ethnic group that has kept its cultural roots generation after generation at the expense of not enjoying such economical benefits.
While Mexicans have refused to assimilate, they have influenced the U.S. culture in every way. A couple hundred years from now, the only culture alive in the U.S. will be the Mexican (Dia de los Muertos, piñatas, mariachi, tacos, etc.). The rest will be passing technology, brands, and disposable things. Mexicans have the ability to layer several cultures without renouncing their own. I’m very proud of every single bilingual and bicultural Mexican-American in the U.S.
By Mari D. González
Personally, I love accents. They tell me that the speaker is non-native, definitely bilingual and thus, intriguing. Accents define a person socioculturally and correlate to the individual’s upbringing and ethnic, national, or group identity. Some accents are more difficult to understand, some are less melodious, and some might annoy us. Some simply take time to get used to. Yet, our evaluations are subjective and relative to our individual context or opinion.
As a medical interpreter, I am accustomed to accents others might wish to avoid. In California, there are immigrants in many different professions. From time to time, I interpret for doctors from China and India who are not understood clearly by patients with good English fluency. I have concluded that such difficulty is due to the patients’ lack of familiarity with people from China or India. Or, perhaps they are not as intrigued as I am by different accents.
Why was I prompted to write about accents? I just read a white paper on Hispanic marketing written by a South American author who speaks to the need to “diminish [one’s] accent” because “having a Spanish accent [is seen as] a minus.”
My Mexican colleagues do not discuss “accent reduction,” though they may promote better pronunciation as the way to be better understood. As a Peruvian, the white paper’s author is speaking for Peruvians and to Peruvians, not necessarily for or to other Latinos/Hispanics or for that matter to the ones who make up the majority among them, Mexicans.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center country of origin profiles (2009), Mexicans make up 65.5% of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and Peruvians 1.2%. The latter are not a significant presence in any large U.S. metro area unlike Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Salvadorians, and Cubans. Thus, this isolated “accent” perspective is too limited to consider as an overall Latino/Hispanic concern.
Based on personal observations, Peruvians demonstrate a greater desire to assimilate than Mexicans. As a Mexican myself, I find offensive to even bring it up because it indicates a desire to fit in instead of integrate. Mexicans have a different perception of assimilation and actually oppose it. This opposition might be the response to the never-ending socioeconomic friction that began with the clashing of the two cultures when the U.S. – Mexican border was in dispute and, following a war, was re-defined.
The background of the current state of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. is the Chicano Movement, whether we agree with it or not. The Chicano Movement is a point in history that precedes where we are as a cultural group now. It marks the second developmental stage of group identity formation, which is conflict.
The first stage is identification with the dominant culture. In other words, a desire to eliminate what makes one different from members of the dominant culture or assimilation. The author is implying being at the first developmental stage of group identity formation or having a preference for an Anglo Orientation according to the research by Vasti Torres.
I suggest that the author of the white paper become familiar with the writings of historian Rodolfo Acuña and philosopher Gloria Anzaldua, researchers such as Hayes-Bautista or Amado Padilla, and the more contemporary journalist, Gregory Rodriguez—not because they relate to Peru’s history but because they relate to the history of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. and because such history left a huge mark in the consciousness of our predecessors moving them into the second stage of identity formation.
I’d love to see more research-based versus opinion-based information on the topic of assimilation, ethnic identity and the relevance of accents. We can certainly produce it. We need more new and fresh facts about these topics instead of recycling what goes viral online.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. González
It is not uncommon to read outrageous statements in discussion forums and blog comments. The anonymity of users gives them more freedom to express their individual opinions without a second thought; this tendency is less common when people use their real names.
A few weeks ago, I read this comment on a well-liked Latino blog: “Mexicans have no clue, their Spanish it’s [is] the worst among the Central American people.”
I wrote the following response:
1) Mexico is part of North America not Central America, and NAFTA refers to the North America Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.
2) Mexican Spanish includes words from the 60 Indigenous languages officially recognized by the Mexican government. The extent of the Indigenous influence is due to Mesoamerica (Central Mexico southward through Central America) being the center of the first most developed pre-Hispanic civilizations in the Americas.
3) Most Mexicans are proud of their Indigenous background and cultural make up. As a Mexican, I speak Mexican Spanish because that is my mother tongue; I use Spanglish with my Latino(a) friends in the U.S.
While we acculturate and adapt to the United States by keeping up with the challenge of “straddling two cultures” that is a common topic among Latina bloggers, let us not forget where we come from and the values we learned there such as respect for language differences and the nuances of language use. Let us “preserve our unique cultural identities” and “continue defining ourselves” without shoving others out of the way.
Welcome to the sequel or Chicano movement Part II, which is now more about integration than differentiation, and should be termed the “Latino Movement.” The term Latino was officially established in 1997 by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. It indicated that the terms Hispanic and Latino were to be used interchangeably beginning January 1, 2001.
Edited by Connie Cobb
I am very please to have an echo on the fact that the more the number of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. increases, the more they need to be segmented because their complexity as well increases.
Last July, I submitted a research paper for possible publication at the Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation (JIAL) titled “Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Latino Youth in the Digital Age.” The study covered:
“Recent interest in the Latino/Hispanic population and culture has lead to fruitful research and increased attention on U.S. Latinos/Hispanics…. Marketing that targets Latino/Hispanic youth, has become promising, specialized, and lucrative. [This study] investigates the type of cultural knowledge marketing researchers are using to target Latino/Hispanic youth…. It explores how the ever-growing access to digital media changes the way the food and beverage companies do business with Latino/Hispanic youth” (Gonzalez, M.D., 2009, p. 4).
My findings show that Latinos/Hispanics specifically youth are creating a new “hybrid” culture which marketers need to take into account. They cannot effectively be reached by Spanish-only media nor are they being attracted to mainstream mass media because they do not culturally identify with it.
Marketers are loosing the mark of this large and continuously growing population of bicultural and bilingual digital media savvy generation if they do no pay attention to what matters to them. For instance, while they listen to the whole spectrum of music in English, from rock to hip pop, they also listen to “rancheras” (Mexican country music) by Vicente Fernandez.
The following information posted by Louis Pagan makes an interesting comparison on how Latinos/Hispanics continue to use their cultural strengths such as “being personal” and “sociable” while using media to network and advertise: http://louispagan.com/?p=453
It is becoming more and more common to encounter indigenous people from Latin America in the U.S. who speak their indigenous languages and do not speak Spanish, yet they are learning English. They are mostly young men from Southern Mexico or Central America.
Last month, I interpreted for two young men in their early twenties for a recorded statement related to a car accident. Both were from Guatemala. The youngest seemed very shy. Although he understood most of the questions I asked in Spanish, he needed further interpretation from his cousin who was fluent in Spanish and three other indigenous languages from Guatemala.
According to scholars (Elliot, Adams, & Sockalingam, 1999) indigenous people in the Americas should not be “counted” as Latinos. From their comprehensive study on cultural groups in the U.S. in the communications field, they conclude that,
Latino is used to refer to people with a lineage or cultural heritage related to Latin America, but should not be used to refer to the millions of Native Americans in the region. [Furthermore] members of indigenous groups in Mexico… object to being referred as ‘Mexicans’ (Multicultural Toolkit Summary, Hispanic American Communication Patterns, 3).
Last year, I wrote a paper for school on the meaning of the terms Latino and Hispanic according to the people being categorized. Aside from the literature review, I interviewed eight self-identified Latinos or Hispanics and these were my findings.
Since its inception by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in 1977, the term Hispanic has been both controversial and accepted by different circles to categorize people with ancestry in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries of the Western hemisphere. Some argue that choosing one label over the other is a matter of assimilation while others choose a label to state pride of having developed an agreeable ethnic identity. Several authors (Martin, 2005; Acuña, 2000; Gonzales, 1999; Rodriguez, 2007) acknowledge the political implications behind the choice of a specific label. Martin (2005) in particular proposes to analyze the term Latino in the context of “reinterpretation” of an existing name that has sprung from political movements dating back to the 1960’s (p. 397). Other researchers (Korzenny & Korzenny, 2005; Rodriguez, 2007; Davila, 2001) recognize a different and significant dynamic – the capitalizing of the consumer power through the use of the label Hispanic which is representative of a common linguistic indicator.
The term Hispanic is inaccurate because is not perceived by the receivers as representative of their “broader culture” and because it implies that “all” Latino/Hispanic speak Spanish. The term Hispanic does however speak of the Spanish colonization from which the Spanish language was instituted. Yet, not all people who live in Latin America speak Spanish such as the many Indigenous people across the continent. The term Hispanic however, is seen as convenient through the use of census data to make the case for the allocation of funds that support language-based social service programs and for marketers and advertisers to sell Spanish media programs by arguing that if not all, the majority of Hispanics prefer to speak Spanish.
Individuals who are more aware of the labels’ socio-politics argue that neither the term Hispanic nor Latino applies to them because they want to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes more commonly attached to Mexican immigrants and people of Mexican descent who have dealt with a second colonization by historically being categorized as second-class group since the time their first-class citizenship rights were stripped off them in the nineteen century when the U.S. west border moved further south.
Californians in contrast to New Mexicans prefer using the term Latino(a) when given the choice between Latino(a) and Hispanic. For more educated Californians, “Latino” is the new Chicano in that it evokes their indigenous roots, a shared history of struggle and the colonization of the people in Latin American countries. Latino as a term is self-appropriated; it comes from the people which might have been the legacy from the Chicano movement. It is not surprising that Latinos in California are more aware of the political connotation of the term Latino because Chicano studies departments are at many state universities in the Southwestern United States, particularly in California.