I do not presume to be an expert on all things Hispanic. And when I speak of this community, I am actually referring to multiple Hispanic communities, representing diverse backgrounds and many countries.
Furthermore, I am a 64 year old of Anglo-Saxon descent, raised in the segregated South.
I was over 50 before I ever met a Spanish speaking family. Up to that time they were, well, simply they.
Those people who were, well — how shall I say it? — those people. A people of a different language, often a different skin tone, and of course a different country. Since 2008 I have been teaching English as a second language and learning Spanish as my second language. In so doing, I have welcomed new Hispanic friends into my culture, and have been absorbed into theirs. To me they are no longer they, but a part of a grander WE.
I am extremely proud of my country, but often extremely disappointed in my countrymen, especially when they seem oblivious to our own history. Truth be told, this is why I started this blog back in 2008.
Since I can now speak and read Spanish, I frequently read the Spanish newspapers — usually tabloid size and available in all Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian and other Latin American Restaurants in my city.
Prior to the 2012 election, the weekly La Noticia interviewed six Hispanic residents asking them ¿Qué consejo le daría al presidente electo de Estados Unidos? What advice would you give to the president elect of the United States?
I have translated these responses which appear at the end of this post. While I do not wish to over-generalize, I believe that the observations that follow express the heart of the community that I have come to know, and which just happens to be the focus of all post-election analyses.
- The Hisipanic voter is quite aware of his or her growing political power. This means that the Hispanic voters will be responding to the manner in which politicians and parties might choose to negatively stereotype them. The days of “What do we care about these Spanish-speakers?” is over. Each month there are 50,000 new voters — young USAmerican citizens reaching voting age. There are also about one-half million new naturalized citizens annually.
- The Hispanic community is not ashamed of its Spanish. Recognizing that Spanish is one of the world’s most popular languages, Latino parents deliberately keep it alive at home, allowing their children to be fully bilingual. Like immigrant communities of the past, first generation parents are eager for their children to learn English in the local dialect of their adopted region of the United States. However, unlike some previous generations, Hispanics today feel very strongly that the two languages will and should co-exist. They also are searching for opportunities for their children to improve their Spanish as well as their English.
- Latino immigrant parents willingly make great sacrifices for their children. However, they view this as an investment not only in their children, but in their adopted nation. These first generation immigrants have left all behind — parents, grandparents, siblings and cousins — to come to a new land. Whether here with or without papers, these self-imported residents are determined to see their children move forward.
This is why the current status of the “Dreamers” is so untenable, even to Latino citizens who have no undocumented children but possess the right to vote. They see these motivated young people as vital human resources who should not be wasted nor discarded. In addition they view these young people as the greatest contribution that parents can make to their adopted nation. Such a gift must not be rejected!
- Hispanics normally do not draw sharp value distinctions between “documented and undocumented.” They view the difference as an issue of status, not a matter of value. To the documented, the undocumented are also important, hard-working people who deserve to be treated with dignity. They have names and life stories, aspirations, and often children who are USAmerican citizens. Many families are a combination of both statuses. Strong talk of “those illegal Latinos” is not going to win any points with this community.
- Identification equals dignity! Two of the respondents referred to the need for “identification”. This seems strange to all native born US citizens. Yet this country has been on the verge of a “papers-please” mentality. The threat of ethnic profiling is ever-present. One half of the Latino community is living in fear of an ID check, because they cannot easily prove who they are.The other half, the voting half, is bracing for needless requests for identification. Policemen regularly target apartment complexes which have a strong Latino composition for driver’s license checks. In many states a trip to jail leads to deportation detainment centers. The Hispanic citizens know this and resent it. For them a driver’s license check is an effort to deport a friend or relative.
- Latinos are very entrepreneurial. The opportunity to start businesses in an environment free of corruption is valued highly. They come ready to create, produce, and succeed in their business pursuits. That the United States could experience such a financial crises of its own making is incredulous, but they believe in this country and its American Dream nonetheless. They want to work legally, yet when prohibited by law, they somehow find work nonetheless. After all, many are trying to raise young US citizens to a productive adulthood.
La Noticia, November 5, 2012
What Advice Would You Give to the President Elect of the United States?
The most important thing is that the President supports the Latino community. I would advise him that he might focus a little more on us, as we make up an important part of this country and are able to decide who would be the next president.
I would advise him to try to give identification to all of the immigrants, like a driver’s license, in order to live like a normal person.
Maria adds: The advice for the President is the he might give us an identification, to all of us who live here. If we can work legally, everything would be different. We are not even able to open a bank account nor to drive a car. He ought to help us to begin in this country without so much difficulty.
Gabriel suggests: The advice that I want to give to the President is that he might help us more to build businesses managed by Latinos. Health and education and tax benefits are important, but I believe if we would have a president who will show us how to be entepreneurs, all would be well, and we would not have to ask for anything from the government, because we would be able to generate our own resources.
Andrea recommends: I would council him to impliment bilengual education in the schools of the country. This would benefit both cultures, because our Latino children would not lose their mother tongue, and our USAmerican children would learn Spanish when little.
Also I would advise that he might offer more sports in the schools, since because of the crises in many schools they have cut the budgets for sports, and that is the thing that saves young people from falling into drugs and vices.
Enrique reflects: The only advice that I would give him is that he would see us all as equal, although we are from other countries we have many abilities and talents. Also that he would greatly support the education of our young people inasmuch as the children of today are going to be the entreprenuers of the future because of the advantage they have by speaking two languages.
David states: I would ask him to finally pass an immigration reform, and that the Latinos might be able to have the permission of working. Also I would suggest that he might begin to work alot on behalf of the youth of our community, since they are going to be the future of this country and will be those who move it forward.