In the immediate years ahead, HispanicLatinos who are the most accomplished will have the most to lose if the rest of their community does not accelerate its progress and if America falters. These HispanicLatinos bear the looming responsibility of managing the interplay of three powerful forces already changing their personal lives and the larger trajectory of the country: A new demography, mass communications and a seemingly willful geography. It is a difficult but worthwhile task.
Geography often is taken as fixed. In fact, it moves history. Geography projects, maintains and grows culture, however unevenly. At times, an army can use the lay of the land to scurry a foe into defeat. But geography is far more powerful over the long term, shaping and influencing events permanently in positive and negative ways not apparent until much later.
When its national population replacement rate was far higher courtesy of large-scale immigration near the turn of the previous century, the United States expanded across a continent accompanied by a wave of technological advances. A youthful population bounded across the land on a mostly east-west continuum that created an economic machine that overtook the rest of the world in the production of wealth.
To the detriment of the country, however, the HispanicLatino population of the time lived south of much of the flow of the country’s early history. From the country’s very beginnings, geography dictated that HispanicLatinos and the rest of American society would be slow to integrate each other wholly into a common future. Now, the same geography is combining with a new demography to produce a true, new reality: HispanicLatinos abut a mostly Spanish-speaking hemisphere that continuously feeds their new demography with people and a constant presence. And within this new crucible made so by geography, HispanicLatinos of all generations are subject to the enormous impact of the mass communications that increasingly re-enforces positive and negative messages that serve to increase HispanicLatino identity. No HispanicLatino, however accomplished, acculturated or assimilated, can escape the inescapable.
In every region of the country, from ubiquitous English- and Spanish-language sources, full-time programming or the most seemingly inconsequential or innocuous remark – even in a situation comedy that includes a word in Spanish – references a whole people. And no HispanicLatino can escape the reality that they and non-HispanicLatinos alike differentiate the experience. At the same time, HispanicLatinos hear messages meant to humiliate and demean them. The power of such language sweeps away in seconds years of association with the dominant culture. Hateful language becomes a defining force of inordinate power that is new on this scale that in turn shapes a specific group within the American Experience.
The multiplier effect of demography, geography and new communications within their history has given birth to a new, embryonic HispanicLatino Experience that calls forth a new HispanicLatino psyche still to be defined and posing essential questions for the future. Who are these new HispanicLatinos, and how different will they be from their present antecedents? How important is the new HispanicLatino to American culture? What happens when HispanicLatinos, in their current forms, replace Anglos in society?
Answering these questions presents HispanicLatinos with a fundamental obligation: How to change themselves and their condition.
And who will lead them?
Feel free to forward these blogs adapted from previous writings, with additional thoughts published invariably in between.