Latinos as a political classification
January 23, 2013 Leave a comment
Redistas y Neteros (thanks for the reminder, Tom [Holloway]),
What a surprising reception to Nelly‘s question! It is not simply the rapid-firing of messages which tells when a topic has touched a nerve, but the depth of its engaging posts which sets the thread apart. The sharing of articles, written by participants, and of new research (Gary) makes this forum a necessary contribution to the study of Latin American History, and as this discussion has shown, of Latin@ Studies. And it is to this last point that I want to draw your attention to.
Though Latino America, as the place of origin, is important to identify the roots of the Latino/a community in the U.S., what makes the Latino (Latin@) experience unique is its diasporic nature. An engineering Professor recruited directly from [Latin America] is not necessarily a Latino Professor. These professors would often have difficulties in relating to the struggles of Latino students coming directly from U.S. High Schools. Their loyalties and identities would often linked them to their countries of origin rather than to the Latin@ more amorphous and (perhaps) transnational sense of community.
This (Latino) community would be more comfortable with accepting and even speaking Spanglish, with moving across various cultures and subcultures, and more familiar with “mixed” marriages of, [say] Peruvians and Mexicans, and with “Latino” kids that have never visited Latino America, and yet, [who] do not fit the “American”/”Gringo” mold (a light color would facilitate assimilation, though). The “Latino,” thus, is not a “Latino American.” She is certainly more American than the [typical] U.S. American. But it is the fact that this community is a diaspora, a people without a tangible country, but with a dispersed identity, that makes its [efforts in] naming crucial. It is politically fraught, as Roger briefly mentioned, but it is also inevitable. We can call it an exercise in absurdity all we want, but people on the ground, the activists, the “undocumented,” the religious leader, the community counselor, the teacher, and most importantly, the young members of the second and third generations, would find this the struggle of their lives.
So, this is not a mere discussion in semantics, but one that strike at the heart of past and current histories.
Dennis R. Hidalgo