[OP-ED]: Hispanics show a diversity of opinion - including on Trump’s border wall
There was a moment in the now-defunct Fox animated sitcom “Bordertown” when the protagonist, a Mexican immigrant named Ernesto Gonzalez, rails against newcomers.
Ernesto, a successful landscape business owner, is bemoaning unlawful immigrants sidestepping a newly built border wall to move in and take his lawn-mowing jobs when all of a sudden, there’s an angelic “ding” and he says, “Hey, I just became a true American!”
I imagined about five-dozen “dings” when I read a report in the Guardian that of the more than 600 businesses that have formally registered interest in helping to build President Trump’s border wall since late February, 62 are “Hispanic American Owned” businesses.
According to the Guardian, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a pre-solicitation notice for contractors to “design and build ... several prototype wall structures” for the $10 billion to $21 billion border project, Latino-owned firms made pragmatic business decisions.
“For environmental reasons, it’s dumb. From an economic point of view, it’s dumb,” said Patrick Balcazar, the owner of San Diego Project Management, PSC, a design-build construction firm in Puerto Rico that is listed as one of the respondents to the government notice. He told the Guardian, “I defend your right to be stupid. If you want to put up a wall, I’m going to put up the best wall I can and I’m going to pay my people.”
Mario Burgos, the son of an Ecuadorean father and a mother whose family emigrated to the United States from Europe, is the owner of a construction building company. He told CNN Money, “It’s not an anti-immigrant thing for me. It’s about creating jobs. And honestly [it’s] like any other job.”
Such pragmatic calculations may seem like heresy to some Latinos and nearly unfathomable to non-Hispanics. There are a lot of people out there who can’t imagine Hispanics being successful capitalists who prioritize their own self-interests over ethnic solidarity.
To this segment of the population, nearly all Latinos are living in the country illegally, are undereducated and poor.
The fact of the matter is that Latino-owned businesses’ interest in constructing the border wall is simply a high-visibility example of the socioeconomic and political diversity of the U.S. Hispanic population.
Ironically, it’s this very diversity that often puts members -- of what is often seen by outsiders as a homogeneous Hispanic community -- at odds with each other.
A few weeks ago, Mario Carrasco, a columnist for the digital media trade magazine MediaPost, asked if affluent Hispanics should be considered general market for advertising purposes.
As a former marketer, I understood what Carrasco was getting at -- advertisers always want to group people with strong similarities into easily understood categories. However, some people took offense.
Writing in his daily newsletter, Victor Landa, editor-in-chief of NewsTaco, a Hispanic-focused news website that bills itself as “Food for Thought for the Thinking Latino,” remarked: “It sounds terribly elitist, and discriminatory. Because it sounds like they’re saying Latinos who make $70K or more should be considered white. ... What, we’re not good enough until we make $70 grand? It’s silly.”
This is how it goes with Hispanics -- we are so diverse, there’s practically nothing “we” can “all” agree on.
Similarly, the National Institute for Latino Policy recently published the results of its March 2017 National Latino Opinion Leaders Survey, quantifying opposing views.
But this also means that 12 percent of Mexican-identifying leaders, 27 percent of Puerto Rican-identifying and 17 percent of “other Latino” respondents approved.
In this context, it’s a wonder more Hispanic-owned businesses didn’t respond to the initial announcement of the border-wall project -- and there’s no telling what percentage of the contracts will go to Latinos.