The Department of Foreign Languages embarked on a series of activities to draw attention to the Hispanic legacy in the United States during Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at Grambling State University,.Hope and fear are two indistinguishable characteristics in today’s Hispanic life in the United States.
According to the 2004 U.S. Census, Hispanics are numbered at 40.5 million, representing 14.1 percent of the total U.S. population. By 2050, Hispanics are projected to constitute 25 percent of the American people. These demographic trends suggest that Hispanics will be the single biggest community in 2050. These estimates indicate that the United States will no longer be predominantly Anglo-Saxon.
This shift shows that Hispanic businesses now account for 40 percent of minority-owned businesses.
According to The Multicultural Economy, 1990-2009, from the Selig Center for Economic Growth, in the 19-year period, the nation’s Hispanic buying power will grow at a dynamic compound annual rate of 8.2 percent.
In sheer dollar power, Hispanics’ economic influence will rise from $222 billion in 1990, to $992 billion in 2009.
The U.S. Hispanic buying power will grow faster than African-American buying power and Native American buying power. It will grow at the same rate as Asian buying power.
Virtually every type of company and organization in the United States is being impacted by the growth of the Hispanic residents.
The Hispanic vote has become crucial in some battle ground states. In accordance with the Pew Research Center, Hispanics voted for Barack Obama over Republican John McCain by a margin of more than two-to-one in the 2008 presidential election.
The Latino vote carried Obama by sizeable margins in all states with large Latino populations. His biggest breakthrough came in Florida, where he won 57 percent of the Latino vote in a state where Latinos have historically supported Republican presidential candidates. President Bush carried 56 percent of the Latino vote in Florida in 2004.
Obama’s margins were larger in other states with big Latino populations. He carried 78 percent of the Latino vote in New Jersey, 76 percent in Nevada, and 74 percent in California.
Recently, one of the most remarkable cases of the growing ascendance of Hispanics was the nomination by President Obama and confirmation by the U.S Senate of the new Associate Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, to the U.S. Supreme Court.
These numbers not only represent tangible progress by Latinos in so many areas, but also hope in the fundamental ideals of the country.
However, the increasing visibility of Hispanics has carried serious unwanted consequences to Latino population. One of the persistent myths in many sectors of the American society is the assumption that every Latino is undocumented.
Thus, Latinos confront discrimination regardless of their immigrant status. The question of mass immigration, the escalating economic power, and the rising vote from Hispanics are among some of the issues that have created a climate of anxiety -exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008- among Anglo-Saxon Americans.
Stimulated by immigration fears, the economic crisis, and the election of an African-American president, the vitriolic rhetoric from the nativist ideology has encouraged a climate of anti-immigration in the U.S.
For example, CNN news anchor Lou Dobbs falsely accused Latinos of spreading 7,000 cases of leprosy in U.S. in a three-year period.
Radio host Peter Boyles of Denver claimed that undocumented immigrants murdered 45,000 U.S. citizens since September 11, 2001.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa asserted in 2006 that illegal immigrants kill 25 Americans per day.
These are some paradigmatic demonstrations of the new hate-vocabulary of fear that has permeated many levels of the American society in recent years. This inflammatory language translates into mounting numbers of hate groups.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has documented 926 hate groups operating in the country. More than 50 percent increase since 2000.
In the state of Louisiana, there are 22 active hate groups. Since 2005, hundreds of anti-immigration groups have been formed in the United States. These groups promote criminal acts against the Latino population. Also disseminating propaganda accusing undocumented Latino immigrants of rape, armed robbery and other violent crimes.
FBI statistics have shown an increase of 40 percent in hate crimes against Latinos from 2003 to 2007.
For instance, on Nov. 8, 2008, Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, was murdered in the town of Patchogue, N.Y.
The killing, police say, was carried out by a gang of teenagers who called themselves the Caucasian Crew and targeted Latino residents as part of a sport they termed “beaner-hopping.”
It highlighted a growing national problem of violent hatred directed at all suspected undocumented immigrants and Latinos in particular.
As indicated by an account from SPLC, Latinos in the South routinely face systematic racial profiling, rampant wage theft, sexual violence, housing discrimination, language prejudice, economic exploitation, police harassment, immigrant-bashing in the media, and by demagogue politicians that have fomented bogus stereotypical claims about Hispanics.
This hysteric narrative from many media outlets has prompted, for example, one of my Spanish class students to remark that Latinos immigrants refuse to integrate and learn English.
In accordance with a survey among Hispanics by SPLC, 92 percent believe that is “very important” to speak English.
Furthermore, Latino laborers work long hours building skyscrapers in Charlotte, N.C., harvesting onions in Georgia, packing tomatoes in Florida, and oranges in California. Slaughtering poultry in Alabama and Louisiana, and rebuilding New Orleans after Katrina.
They provide cheap labor to fuel the U.S. economy. Latinos do the hardest, most hazardous work for the least pay. They make products cheaper for American consumers and helping the American economy. The effect is long working hours, unsafe working conditions, and intimidation from employers.
The Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration is an opportunity for many students to exercise acceptance, curiosity, deference, or open-mindedness about the impact of the Latino residents in today’s America.
Latinos in the United States is still the Promised Land. The country of hope, despite the injustices and fear suffered in the pursuit of a better life.