Latinos are already the largest minority group in the United States, and experts estimate that by 2050, one out of three Americans will identify as Latino. Though their population and influence are steadily rising, stereotypes and misconceptions about Latinos remain, from the assumption that they refuse to learn English to questions of just how “American” they actually are. By presenting thirteen riveting oral histories of young, first-generation college students, Mario T. García counters those long-held stereotypes and expands our understanding of what he terms “the Latino Generation.” By allowing these young people to share their stories and struggles, The Latino Generation: Voices of the New America reveals that these students and children of immigrants will be critical players in the next chapter of our nation’s history.
In this guest blog post, Garcia discusses the stereotypes that Latinos still face today and how America will be defined by the Latinos of this generation.
This spring I participated in the Los Angeles Book Festival held at the University of Southern California. I was on a panel titled “Exercising Your Voice,” with co-panelists Tom Hayden and Astra Taylor. I spoke about my new book The Latino Generation: Voices of the New America, and introduced it by saying that it had to be contextualized by certain facts. The first is that in April Latinos became the largest ethnic group in California, exceeding those of white European descent. Latinos now compose 40% of the state, the largest state in the nation. Second is that today Latinos are the largest ethnic/racial minority in the country, with some 57 million Latinos (or 17% of the total population). And, third, that by 2050, Latinos will constitute one out of every three Americans. The Latino Generation is part of this demographic reality.
At the same time, despite these numbers, Latinos are still a very poorly understood group. Most Americans have no clue about the Latino experience. As a result, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos. Some believe that Latino immigration to the United States is only very recent and that Latinos are the last of the immigrants. Others believe that Latinos are very different from earlier immigrants, especially those from Europe. They think that Latinos are much more difficult—if not impossible—to integrate, because they don’t really want to become Americans; they, instead, want to just live amongst themselves, speak their own language, and practice their own culture. Then, of course, from a more racist perspective, some still revive the older stereotype of Mexicans as lazy, given to drinking, and dirty. But these are all wrong.
Latinos have long been very much a part of this country. Why is it that the book festival is held in Los Angeles? Did the name of this city come with the Mayflower? The fact is that everything from Texas to California at one time was part of the Spanish colonial empire. Spanish settlements in what later became part of the United States began in New Mexico in 1598. After Mexican independence, this northern area—El Norte—became a part of the new Mexican nation. However, the United States, with its ideology of Manifest Destiny, coveted this territory and provoked a war of choice with Mexico, conquering the area in the U.S.–Mexico War (1846–48). This conquest transferred to the United States the present states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California. Mexicans living in these areas were extended American citizenship and became the first Mexican Americans.
At the turn of the century mass Mexican immigration to the United States began, and between 1900 and 1930, over one million Mexican immigrants entered to work on the railroads, agriculture, mining, and urban industries in the Southwest and Midwest. This migration has continued until now (with the exception of the Great Depression years in the 1930s).
As immigrants, Mexicans and their Mexican American children and grandchildren have worked, worked, and worked. They could not afford to be “lazy Mexicans.” Continue reading ‘Mario T. Garcia: The America of the Future’ »