As the Latino community continues to consistently grow in the United States, the need to change the negative narrative about Latinos only becomes greater. In order to do that, there needs to be a better understanding of who the American Latino is, as we leave behind labels of the past that characterize Latinos as foreign. There is evidence to the contrary, the American Latino is an American first, but is proud to cherish and honor its Latino heritage.
Although we are also a community of proud immigrants, myself included, we cannot deny the reality and the rightful place that American-born Latinos have within the American society. Let’s start with the numbers from the US Census Bureau: from the 54 million Latinos living in the US in 2013, 32.9 million were born in the continental United States, other Latino US citizens who were either born in Puerto Rico or abroad to American citizen parents accounted for 2.1 million.
The numbers have been increasing consistently with the same trend, as the report from the Pew Center Research states that Latino immigration has slowed down while at the same time the community continues to grow. What that means is that at least 65 percent of the Latino population is US-born, not foreign.
Someone might argue that the numbers speak for themselves, but we know better than that. Despite the facts and statistics, there is a constant narrative in the media and other areas of society to portrait Latinos as not from here, and therefore not loyal to the United States. However, one of the main things everyone should know about the American Latino is that as a multicultural being with rich heritage and traditions, its clear alliances are to the US.
Here Is What You Need To Know
“As American As American Pie”: I loved this response from singer Marc Anthony when his Americanism was questioned after singing the National Anthem at an event in New York City. What I love the most about his response is that it is a simple truth. The American Latino was not only born here, he or she has being weaved on the fabric of this country, within its culture, with the pride of being an American.
Latinos Go Way Back. The American Latino has been in this land even before the United States was established; there are records that Hispanics had been exploring North America about a century before the British arrived. The contributions of Latinos are as old as the country itself, and as such, the history of America has been written with the help of those who have given their service, ingenuity and talents to the USA.
English Dominant; Fluent in Spanglish. Although being bilingual is highly valued within the Latino community, the fact of the matter is that the American Latino first language is English, and it is a core element of its identity. While some may probably also speak Spanish, the majority gets by using Spanglish, but it is articulate and in its element when speaking in English. Even for those who can’t speak Spanish, they can understand many words and more so the sentiment and passion behind the language.
American Wings And Latino Roots. American Latinos master the art of juggling two cultures and benefit from this experience. They are independent and innovative, and are aware that they can achieve whatever they want to achieve as Americans. Meanwhile, they are deeply rooted in their Latino traditions and respect and appreciate the struggles of those who came before them to make their stories possible. This mixed heritage makes the American Latinos more alike to the melting pot that is America, with their evolving identity that seamlessly blends American traits to their cultures of origin.
The Present And Future of America. American Latinos are growing in numbers and influence in the United States, and because of the composition of the community they are not only the present; they are, most importantly, the future of this country. Statistics show that the younger generations, millenials and youngest Americans, have a higher percentage of Latinos than those who are non-Hispanic, of a single race. Not only the American Latino is younger but also a recent CDC report stated that Latinos are living longer than their white counterparts.
Why Does This Matter To You?
There are many reasons why this matters to all of us, and I don’t mean ‘us Latinos’, I mean all of us Americans. The main reason is to change the narrative of Latinos being ‘foreign and not loyal to the US’. Once American Latinos can be seeing for who they are, fellow Americans, it will open new opportunities for them and it will better the United States as a whole.
How would better opportunities for Latinos make the US better, you may ask. So, here are three facts to think about:
· Latinos have the second largest incarceration rate in the United States and are the fastest growing minority group in the prison system.
· Even though the dropout rates have lowered significantly in the last few years, there is still a large group of young Latinos who quit school without completing high school.
· Latinas have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the US, which we all know leads to repeating the circle of poverty and lack of education in the community.
If the above-mentioned and other negative trends continue to increase to the youngest, fastest growing population in America, what kind of future are we creating for this country? What we all need to understand is that is not just about Latinos or other minorities, it is about our combine future as a nation, and we must take action now.
3 Things You Can Do To Help
Diversify Your Network. No matter what your background is, if you analyze your circle of friends, neighbors and members of your groups, and/or associations and the majority of these people look like you, it’s time for you to start looking outside the box. Make friends with different people, including Latinos, get to know them personally, their stories and more likely you’ll find more common ground than you think.
Be a Mentor. There are plenty of American Latinos in the school system around the United States. Many of these kids are in need of someone who can help them succeed in school and stay motivated. If you rather work with adults in a professional setting, there are many Latino entrepreneurs that can benefit from mentoring and guidance.
Keep Your Bias In Check. Yes, I said it. We all have our biases may these be conscious or unconscious. The important thing is to acknowledge which things we are bias about, so we can correct-course when face with the opportunity. For example, instead of asking a Latino ‘what part of Mexico are you from?’, you can go with ‘where are you from?’, and then really pay attention to what they have to say. Who knows, they might even be from your hometown!