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Since the 1970 census the US government has been dividing the US population into Hispanic and non-Hispanic groupings. On the 2010 census they used Latino as an alternative term. Among the general public Latino has now become the most frequently used term. As a result of a higher birth rate than the general population and to a lesser extent of immigration they are a growing group while the white/European population is approaching a point of stagnation.

Latino is used as something of an umbrella concept that is supposed to represent ethnicity. In theory it could have a variety of different meanings. However, the census defines it in terms of points of origin or ancestry in specific locations in the Western Hemisphere. In view of the wide range of discussions about the potential impact of this demographic shift, I got curious about taking a closer look at the people who are included under this umbrella.  

The 2010 census counted 50.5 M people as being of Hispanic origin. This is how those people broke down in terms of national origin.

The category All Other Hispanic refers to people who checked Hispanic without giving a country of origin.

So what to make of this. Is this a homogeneous group of people who can be expected to share a cohesive set of political, social and economic interests?

It should be fairly easy to cut the Cubans out of the heard. A majority of them were or are descended from people who immigrated to the US is response the the Cuban revolution of Fidel Castro. They were generally in a middle class or higher status in Cuba. They were given special provisions for entry under US law. They have been an influence in keeping relations between the US and Cuba blocked for over 50 years. The two Republican senators of Cuban ancestry Cruz and Rubio fit the picture of the broader community. Their efforts to speak on behalf of the larger group of American Latinos aren't especially plausible.

Estimated trends since 2010 indicate that Salvadorians have or are likely to pass Cubans as being the third largest Latino group. From there down the list the numbers get smaller and smaller. Clearly Mexicans make up the bulk of the Latino population.  

Puerto Ricans stand out from the rest of the Latino population in terms of their rather peculiar legal position. Puerto Rica is an unincorporated territory of the US. Puerto Ricans have US citizenship but they can only fully exercise all of the rights and functions by establishing residence on the US mainland. The issue of full statehood for the island is perennially up in the air. The people are able to move back and forth from the island to the mainland without going through immigration procedures. Only those Puerto Ricans resident on the mainland are included in the US census. In addition to the 4.5 M listed above there are some 3M resident on the island. The island population is declining slightly. Most of the increase in the mainland population is coming from children born in the US with additional migration from the island playing a minor role.

Historically Puerto Ricans have been concentrated on the East Coast with the largest enclave being in New York City. Historically they have been the dominant Hispanic group there, however,

At the 2010 Census, there were 319,263 Mexican Americans living in New York City.[107] In 2009, it was estimated that of the city's Hispanic population, 13.5% was of Mexican origin.[106] Mexicans are the fastest growing group of Hispanic population.[72] Some estimates suggest that Mexicans will surpass both Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in 2023 to become the city’s largest national Latino sub-group.[106] As of 2011, the Mexican Consulate estimated about 500,000 Mexicans lived in New York City, of whom 35,000 spoke a Mexican indigenous language.
Historically Mexicans have been concentrated in the southwest so until recently there has been very little overlap between the two groups.

This is a look at the change in the fastest growing national groups between the 2000 and 2010 census.

It certainly appears probable that Mexicans will continue to be by far the largest national group and may even move ahead in the percentage of the Latino population. It seems plausible to view the Latino umbrella group as being primarily driven by Mexican, identity, interests and migration. There is a steady influx of Latinos into the south and midwest that is producing more than a few cultural ripples. Most of those people are of Mexican origin. Any statistical reports providing data about Latinos as a group can be viewed as weighted toward the Mexican segment.

For Mexican Americans immigration with all of the legal complications and difficulties is an important issue. Current estimates are that about 2/3 of the US Mexican population are native born US citizens and 1/3 people who were born in Mexico. Pew Research estimated in 2011 that about half of the foreign born were here on undocumented status. That is about 18% of the total US population of Mexican origin.

Given the unending political debate about proposals for immigration reform and the obsessions of the US media one might get the impression that immigration is all that matters to Mexican Americans. Pew Research did a poll of Hispanic voters and found that immigration is not at the top of the list of their concerns.

After looking at the people under the Latino umbrella it seems plausible to regard them for the most part as a group with the potential for forming a reasonably coherent political movement. There are significant similarities across the various national groups. Not only do they share a common language, but they also have similar concerns about issues such as jobs, education and health care.

Originally posted to Richard Lyon on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 02:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by LatinoKos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great diary. Hispanics/Latinos will soon (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon, Shockwave, TomP

    the THE major group in the United States, surpassing in numbers African Americas, Asians, and all other groups.  We Democrats and also the Republicans will be irrelevant if we do not serve this group.  Hispanics and Latinos ARE the future.

    •  The future for the next generation (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ktrent, TomP

      or two looks more like diversity than anything else. But, there's no doubt that Latinos will be a major bloc in the picture.

      •  Interesting revelation about immigration. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Richard Lyon

        Most people who are supportive of higher immigration than we have usually assume in the premise that whichever party or politician is against higher immigration will anger Latinos.

        As it turns out, citizens of Latino decent don't consider immigration their top issue at all.  

        •  Your conclusion is unwarranted (0+ / 0-)

          The graph shows only one response category, and only already registered voters.  That the percentage of registered voters who list it as extremely important to them personally is lower than some other topics does not mean that a strong majority do not strongly support comprehensive immigration reform or that they are not motivated by nativist rhetoric.

          The source data identifies 79% of registered Hispanic voters as considering immigration 'extremely OR very' important.  A majority of U.S. born Mexicans are under 18 (thus not registered) and have at least one foreign-born parent.  2/3rds of legal permanent residents of Mexican origin are not yet naturalized.  

          The survey phrasing uses the word 'personally.'  This may well reduce the percentage of respondents emphasizing immigration as 'extremely' important, given that almost every registered voter will have more immediate concerns.  

          I am confident a strong majority of U.S. Hispanics of diverse backgrounds find the rhetoric accompanying advocacy of restrictionist immigration policy highly distasteful and often actually racist.  That this is most strongly associated with a single party has definitely improved Democratic performance among Latinos.  That is not the primary reason to support immigration justice, however, if that political calculus helps some in the party to put aside views out of step with the party, so much the better.

          Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

          by benamery21 on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 08:26:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Texas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Richard Lyon

      is 38.2% Hispanic/Latinos.  

      “Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” ― Mary Oliver

      by weezilgirl on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 03:37:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good post. Younger Cubans (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wu ming, Denise Oliver Velez

    apparently vote more for Dems.  I think Obama split the Florida Cuban vote.   The first-generation Cubans were very right wing, but their children and grandchildren are more liberal.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 03:04:03 PM PDT

  •  I had a long and intense debate about... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexMex, wu ming, blueoasis

    ...Hispanic vs. Latino with Tom Hayden over dinner back in 2008.  I proposed that either term was fine while he opined that Latino was the only correct term.  I eventually conceded and we made peace.

    The term Latino, as I understand, came as a reaction in California to the introduction of the term Hispanic in the census back in 1970.  Those were the days of Cesar Chavez activism.

    Younger Latinos trend to use Hispanic more often, older Hispanics much prefer the term Latino.

    I am one of them.

    I came to America back in 1969 (North America that is) and I was not conscious of my Hispanic/Latino identity.  One day, some of my classmates told me that they could not understand how I tolerated another classmate calling me a "spic".  I just didn't know it was an insult.  Let's just say that he suffered some pain.

    After that I became conscious of my different identity and I espoused it.

    I was even the first Hispanic to be hired by an oil drilling company that was told to diversify.  I barely got out of that one alive.  Many oil workers were very very racist.

    Here in California there are no issues (except for some ultra red districts like the OC) in spite of an ultra racist history including the mass deportations of the 30s.

    Although immigration is not the top issue, the new mass deportations by the Obama administration are quickly becoming a huge issue.  This issue will prevent HRC from getting the support from Latinos that Obama got originally given what she said lately;

    Hillary Clinton defends Obama’s deportation practices

    As a single payer activist I'm now involved in getting Latino organizations to join the movement.  They will make all the difference.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 03:17:54 PM PDT

    •  That is why I was interested in exploring the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      terminology.The way that the census is constructed is pretty cumbersome. I had a lot of questions about what they were actually counting. It does seem to me that compared to the European immigration of the 19th C there is definitely more cultural cohesion among Latinos, though they are certainly not produced on an assembly line.

  •  Who Are Hispanics? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think the word answers it. A Hispanic in the US is anyone who can trace at least part of their ancestry, or their not too distant culture, to Spain. A Dominican or Puerto Rican who has both African and Spanish blood may consider herself Hispanic. As might an African ancestry Panamanian, or a Mexican Yaqui Indian, because of their Latino cultural upbringing.

    One thing for sure, however we define ourselves, Hispanics do not at all have the racial or cultural characteristics of your rank and file Republican.    

    “I’m able to fly, do what I want, essentially. I guess that’s what freedom is — no limits.” Marybeth Onyeukwu -- Brooklyn DREAMer.

    by chuco35 on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 03:28:46 PM PDT

  •  Years ago, anyone with a Spanish surname (4+ / 0-)

    was marked in the category of "Hispanic", including some of those who now identify as "Asian/Pacific Islander" since colonial Spain extended all the way to the Philippines, and Spanish surnames were adopted without any Spanish ancestry.  

    The top 20 Family Names in the Philippines are:

    1. Santos

    2. Reyes              

    3. Cruz

    4. Bautista

    5. Ocampo

    6. García

    7. Mendoza

    8. Torres

    9. Tomás

    10. Andrada

    11. Castillo

    12. Flores

    13.  Villanueva          

    14. Ramos

    15. Castro

    16. Rivera

    17. Aquino

    18. Navarro

    19. Salazar

    20. Mercado

    "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of these United States of America -9.75 -6.87

    by Uncle Moji on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 04:10:38 PM PDT

    •  Jose Antonio Vargas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Richard Lyon

      who is a major activist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker on the issue of immigration (particularly on child immigrants, and the Dream Act) is Filipino.  

      The ties between Hispanic immigrants (who are the largest minority group in the US) and Asian immigrants (who are the fastest growing minority group in the US) are intertwined in more ways than mainstream media may cover.  Hispanics and Asians (particularly in Virginia where Asians tipped northern Virginia blue) were major contributing factors to Obama's win in 2008 and again in 2012.  

      Very good diary, btw.

      "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of these United States of America -9.75 -6.87

      by Uncle Moji on Sat Jun 28, 2014 at 07:20:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  watching the world cup on univision this week (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Richard Lyon

    has been fascinating, for the complex set of identities that the commercials are trying to tap into. a lot of "fathers cheering for mexico, sons cheering for america" ads. on a poll it might say "mexico," but there are all sorts of internal distinctions as well, be it class, urban-rural, spanish/english/bilingual speakers, immigrant vs. native-born, naturalized vs. foreign national, age cohort, etc, more often than not in the same family. the ads are hitting this because they're trying to sell stuff, but it speaks volumes about what their marketing data is telling them about where the latino community (heavily centered upon the mexican/mexican-american community) is and is headed and how it understands itself.

    as a californian, i am really excited to see the rise of latin@ leaders in the party, and of young latin@ voters at the grassroots level in all parts of the state. the next decade or two will be utterly transformative, not just in terms of democrats winning elections, but even moreso in how the party speaks to itself and the electorate. the days of middle-aged tax-averse i got mine white homeowners being the key swing vote is rapidly coming to a close here.

    •  Particularly for first-gen immigrants from Mexico (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, Richard Lyon

      State or city of origin may also be very important in their identity.  Think about the differences a generation or two back between the rural south and urban northeast.  The differences may well be bigger between some areas of Mexico.

      Also, I think it is important to note that a substantial number of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. do not speak Spanish as their first language (probably ~5% do not), but rather indigenous languages.  This is also true of even higher percentages of several Central American countries of origin.

      In addition to generational differences in the Cuban population, there are significant differences between waves of arrivals, with Mariel refugees presenting a notably different class/cultural profile from earlier arrivals.

      As far as the coherency of the Latino voting bloc and political agenda, nothing creates unity faster than a common enemy.  Racist and nativist policy has been and continues to be a powerful motivation for solidarity in the community.  

      Iron sharpens Iron. Normal is a dryer setting. STOP illegal immigration NOW! -- Make it LEGAL. If Corporations are People--Let's draft them.

      by benamery21 on Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 09:11:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  this is very pronounced in the central valley (0+ / 0-)

        most of the older generations of immigrants were from a few spots, esp. guadalajara, and were spanish speakers. a lot of the newest immigrants are non-spanish speakers from oaxaca, etc., and there have been problems both with foreman-fieldworker communication, as well as a lack of social service workers trained in mexican native american languages.

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