Last week I managed to upset a pretty big segment of Miami's non-Cuban Spanish speaking population when I asserted that referring to all Spanish-speaking people as "Hispanic" or "Latino" is xenophobic and just plain wrong. You don't have to look much further than the comments section of that article to see que las mandadas pa la pinga llovieron. It seems like I touched on a pretty sensitive nerve.
The article received thousands of views within hours, and even managed to get the attention of a couple national media outlets. I still stand by that article 100 percent, and this week I want conclude my end of the discussion with a few points I intentionally left out for the sake of brevity.
Que coño es "Hispanic" o "Latino"?
In the first two paragraphs of last week's article, I gave you the dictionary definition of "Hispanic" and "Latino," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the authority on the English Language. I also showed you how those terms are completely misused in the media.
What I didn't tell you is that colloquially, the terms are used in the United States to specifically refer to people that derive from 20 specific countries, and while many people have grown accustomed to them, using those two monikers to represent such a large population perpetuates stereotypes and dilutes culture. Here's why.
According to National Geographic, we live in a country where 47 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 cannot identify India on a world map. Mi gente, when I tell you que el comemierda esta a la orden del dia, I'm not kidding! It's that same brand of ignorance that leads people to assume that all Spanish speaking people are Mexican. Sabes porque? Because no one tells them otherwise. Referring to yourself by your cultural descent and nationality reminds people that there is more than one country in the world that speaks Spanish.
Still don't think its a big deal? Read some news reports outside of Miami and notice how common it is for the media to use the term "Hispanic" and "Latino" as a race. Even by the skewed colloquial definition (people from 20 specific countries in South, Central America and the Caribbean) that these words have come to represent, the term is still misused. People are now becoming comfortable with using them as a racial identifier. Ask someone outside of Miami what a Hispanic person looks like and you'll realize exactly what I'm talking about. Let's be clear, there is no such thing as a "Hispanic" or "Latino" race. Period.
General Hispanic Statistics are un Mojon con Pelo
In the second half of my article last week, I sought to prove that when the media says things like "Hispanics have the highest drop out rates," they are being unfair, because those statistics do not represent the entire "Hispanic" population in the U.S. I highlighted how Cuban-Americans deviate significantly from the "Hispanic" population's average performance in categories like High School Graduation, College Education, Employment, and Poverty Rate. All of my data was taken from the most recent U.S. Census.
Well guess what, Miami. While last week many people thought that these statistics were my way of affirming Cuban arrogance or elitism, this week I'm here to show you that Cubans are far from being the only group that general "Hispanic" statistics misrepresent.
Here is the same list I published last week with statistics on seven different countries from Central and South America -- all of which deviate significantly from the national Hispanic average according to the 2010 US Census.
Have Graduated High School
- General Hispanic Population: 61.6%
- Nicaraguan: 73%
- Panamanian: 91%
- Argentinean: 87%
- Chilean: 89%
- Colombian: 85%
- Peruvian: 88%
- Venezuelan: 92%
Have Achieved a Bachelor's Degree
- General Hispanic Population: 13%
- Nicaraguan: 19.1%
- Panamanian: 31.4%
- Argentinean: 38.7%
- Chilean: 35%
- Colombian: 31%
- Peruvian: 29%
- Venezuelan: 49%
Population 25 Years Or Over That Have Achieved a Graduate Degree
- General Hispanic Population: 4.1%
- Nicaraguan: 5.7%
- Panamanian: 11.3%
- Argentinean: 18.3%
- Chilean: 14%
- Colombian: 10.7%
- Peruvian: 9.6%
- Venezuelan: 18.6% (De pinga!)
Employed in Management, Business, Science, and Arts Occupations
- General Hispanic Population: 18.8%
- Panamanian: 34%
- Argentinean: 42%
- Chilean: 36%
- Colombian: 29%
- Peruvian: 24%
- Venezuelan: 42%
- Nicaraguan: 20% (the highest occupation percentage for this group is in sales and office occupations: 27%)
- General Hispanic Population: 20.9%
- Nicaraguan: 13.5%
- Panamanian: 12.3%
- Argentinean: 9.7%
- Chilean: 6.1%
- Colombian: 10.5%
- Peruvian: 11.0%
- Venezuelan: 11.6%
The fact is that of the 20 cultures that the "Hispanic" national averages are meant to represent, they actually only apply to less than seven. That means that every time you hear someone on the news say "Hispanics are the lowest in education" or "Hispanics have the highest poverty rates," they are propagating a blatant lie. In many cases, people from "Hispanic" countries out-perform even the Anglo population.
Furthermore, a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that only 24 percent of "Hispanics" in America embrace the pan-ethic term "Hispanic" or "Latino" as an appropriate representative of their identity. If our statistical data derives from flawed terms that have been rejected by the group of people those terms are meant to represent, then where is the logic in keeping them relevant? There is none! Caso cerrado!
Many people say that the terms are valid because we are bound together by struggle. But what struggle are we specifically bound by that any other minority group in the U.S. can't be included in as well? Immigration? Puerto Ricans and Cubans don't have those issues, but everyone else who is here from another country illegally does, including Haitians and the Chinese. What about their struggle? Don't immigration rights apply to them too? Education issues? Poverty?
Others say that the terms are valid because we share things like art, food, and music. I recognize that this is true in some cases, but it depends on proximity and region. Coño, pero in the world we live in today, the whole world shares art, food and music. Yo como sushi con cojones y me gusta el Bossa Nova. Does that make me Brazilian or Japanese? Some kid in Belgium is listening to Waka Flocka right now while eating at a McDonald;s. That might make him un poco comepinga, but it sure as shit doesn't make him more American. No me jodas. Yes, I feel a kinship with people who speak Spanish. And it's a beautiful thing. But honestly, I feel that kinship ten times more profoundly with people from Miami, no matter their race or where their ancestors came from. If I'm in foreign country and I run into someone who speaks Spanish, I'm sure I'll be happy and a little more comfortable. But if I run into someone from the 305, yo creo que me cago de la alegria regardless of what his cultural background is.
Once again, my point is simple and direct. The use of the words "Hispanic" and "Latino" is wrong and perpetuates stereotypes in America. Their use in the media misrepresents too many of the people they're supposed to comprise, and they dilute cultures into one big mass, effectively eliminating diversity in the eyes of the nation for the sake of making it easier to categorize people.
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Every person deserves the dignity of having their cultural identity recognized. I am an American first, but I refuse to let my Cuban heritage be diffused. You should feel the same way about your heritage. For that reason I call myself a Cuban-American y al que no le guste, que se VPLP!
Follow Pepe on Twitter @PepeBillete.