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Identity and Endearing Names

By Mari D. González

Our view of ourselves continues to change as the context changes, as we grow in market potential, in political power, and become more educated. No ethnic group named by an out-group has ever been monolithic. The grouping and the naming is usually in the context of a dominant vs. minority group in which the “namer” assumes control. I’m reading about the emergence of a new public identity of Moslems in Germany where they are seen as having a religious identity even when they no longer practice Islam.

Different historical factors influence the relationship between Americans of African vs. Anglo descent and Americans of Latino/Hispanic vs. Anglo descent. The first has been anchored in color alone (which I’m glad is changing) whereas Latinos/Hispanics come from a reverse view of color influenced by Catholic humanistic values where any amount of European blood moved them away from their indigenous or African roots and thus closer to the dominant social group.

I’d say that because I am “blanquita” or “guerita,” and enjoy the unearned privileges that unfortunately come with it, I have even more responsibility to advocate for an educated view of Latinos/Hispanics, immigrants, and any minority for that matter. By the way, “blanquita” and “guerita,” aren’t used as endearments but are common terms in families where one sibling is blonde with light eyes and the other is dark skinned such as in my own family.

I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S. I have college degrees from both countries, which has definitely shaped my views. And contrary to what the media portrays, the majority of people Latin America are not poor but working class (not much different from the U.S. now in terms of unemployment and job security). Here are Senator Chris Dodd’s words that support my view:

“… the Latin American economy, long defined as “emerging,” has finally emerged. In the five years leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis, Latin American economies experienced growth rates of 5.5 percent, while keeping inflation in single digits. And when the crisis did hit, Latin America stood strong, weathering the crisis better than any other region in the world. While income inequality remains a significant issue (as it does in the United States, I might add), 40 million Latin Americans were lifted out of poverty between 2002 and 2008.”

Below is the Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn group discussion thread that inspired me to write this post.

Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “What has happened in the US is that scholarly research and media attention has focused principally on the urban poor and then attributed what they learned about that particular world view to blacks in general.”

Mari: This is exactly what I call “Ethnifying Class,” a term I thought up based on personal experiences as I continue to move back and forth between whites and Latinos/Hispanics in different circles (social classes). I recommend that you read “The ‘Splintering’ of America’s Black Population” which talks about the now recognized socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U.S.

Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “This does not happen with white Americans … the attitudes and behavior of poor urban and rural whites are not attributed to whites in general.”

Mari: Because whites make up the dominant culture, they can afford to campaign for how they want us to see them. However, it must be a lot more difficult to be poor and white because poor whites are invisible in a way.

Edited by Connie Cobb

Latino or Hispanic

By Mari D. González

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.