The Conventions: A Watershed

Posted on Thursday evening for Friday, Sept. 7, 2012.

I wrote late last year that I sensed that the HispanicLatino finally was turning the corner to become part of the national consciousness.  The geographic concentration of the vast majority – about 75 percent – of the HispanicLatino population in eight states historically worked against its inclusion in the normal affairs of the nation.  For that and other reasons, HispanicLatinos for decades have been absent from national commercials, television news sets and the decision-making processes of government, organizations large and small and corporations of any size and their boardrooms.  And from opportunity itself.  It is as if a group of individuals in the millions whose forefathers arrived in all of the Americas more than a century before Jamestown did not exist for much of the nation.  The misplaced notion that most HispanicLatinos conducted their daily lives in Spanish abetted their lack of consideration in the normal, day-to-day thinking of managers, bureaucrats, business owners and corporate planners.


HispanicLatinos still have a long way to go to dwell in every current and swell of the mainstream.  But starting late last year, they broke through, and the Republican and Democratic national conventions and the general election campaign of 2012 will go down in history as the precise year that HispanicLatinos obtained the recognition that is so essential to their success by entering the flow of the national discussion.  Night after night for the past two weeks, HispanicLatinos seemed to dominate a storyline that flowed into millions of households across the country not just in the homes of eight states – with growing attention yet to come as a decisive campaign unfolds. Even the faux Republican presentation in Tampa served a purpose.  Most Republican viewers had no idea that Nevada and New Mexico had HispanicLatino governors.

Each political party now views HispanicLatinos as essential to its electoral success.  The more important fact is that they are necessary for the very survival of the nation. Managing a unique demographic passage towards the nation’s future, HispanicLatinos had to become an integral part of American society if they were going to help prolong the American Experiment – the responsibility for which they are becoming more cognizant as each day passes and as the light shines on them.  Thus it is that HispanicLatinos are solidly in President Obama’s corner, whose speech to the convention accepting his party’s nomination tonight drew the contours around the very future being left to HispanicLatinos to help define.  In that immediate future, HispanicLatinos will help decide the fate of the very governments, corporations and organizations that ignored them since time immemorial.

That the Republican party also participated in the epiphany that began last year was an important service to the nation.  But the next hurdle for HispanicLatinos is to beat back the new Jim Crow laws aimed specifically at all HispanicLatinos.  It will be interesting to see where along this new battle line a newly aware nation falls in the next fight for America’s soul.  For the present, Obama’s speech separates the vast majority of HispanicLatinos from the Republicans’ angry, resentful approach to the country’s changing demographics.

The ferocity with which speaker after speaker rallied on behalf of the Dreamers was emblematic of the conviction with which a least one party will help HispanicLatinos, now in the limelight, help the rest of America address its challenging future.  The Democratic convention succeeded in large part because the assembled delegates know Obama’s Presidency pulled the country through a crisis with the hope that it is positioned to grow.  But the delegates themselves also saw – for the first time –the interminable progression of HispanicLatinos to the podium.  The inclusion of HispanicLatinos was historic – even by Democratic party standards.

How the election turns out is important — as important as the full incorporation of 52 million people into the life of the nation and the next chapter of the American story.

Jesse Treviño is the former editorial page editor of The Austin American-Statesman and writes at

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