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Can you recognize a Latino in the street?

Can you recognize a Latino in the street?

Unlike other immigrants, to be a Latino is still a matter of phenotypes.

On our daily routine, the impressive wave of people that we meet and with whom we briefly share stations, sidewalks, benches and classrooms, turns out to be a diverse truss, rich in colors, nationalities, accents and idiosyncrasies.

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Unlike other immigrants, to be a Latino is still a matter of phenotypes.

On our daily routine, the impressive wave of people that we meet and with whom we briefly share stations, sidewalks, benches and classrooms, turns out to be a diverse truss, rich in colors, nationalities, accents and idiosyncrasies.

However, it seems like it’s easier to identify who comes from Latin America than he who could have Irish, Jew or even German heritage. Although we all speak the same language, the determination of the Latino it’s still a matter of looks.

However, it seems like it’s easier to identify who comes from Latin America than he who could have Irish, Jew or even German heritage. Although we all speak the same language, the determination of the Latino it’s still a matter of looks.

It is with this perspective that the definition of “immigrant” in the United States has changed through time. “The Promised Land” has been the destiny of millions of people for more than 4 centuries.

During the 17th century, the British founded their first permanent settlement in Virginia, the Dutch in New York and New Jersey and the Swedish in Delaware, with their respective slaves whom, in 1790, summed up to 700.000 people.

The European famine during the 19th century, in turn, would drive the Irish to immigrate to the United States searching for a better future, rising to a population of 5 million, only during the 1830s.

Afterwards, the Californian Gold Fever would attract 25.000 Chinese in the 1850s, but the conflicts of interests, the discrimination of belief (specially form the Know-Nothings) and the depression in 1870, would reduce the immigration rate to its minimum.

It was President Benjamin Harrison who would designate the immigrant station on Ellis Island, near the Statue of Liberty, where more than 12 million immigrants would register between 1892 and 1954.

Punctually, between 1880 and 1920, The United States received more than 20 million immigrants, especially from the European continent. It was in 1907 where the highest rate of immigration was achieved, with an average of 1.3 million people entering legally the Country.

On another hand, the industrialization of the agronomy left millions of Mexicans without a job, forcing them to cross the frontier to the United States, in the quest for a brighter future.

It was in 1920 when the appellation “Wetback” was first used, after the influx of more than 162.000 people, legal and illegal, through the frontier. The Wetback Operation, in 1942, was the beginning of the surveillance phenomenon in the border between both countries, generating the deportation of a great amount of Mexicans.

And in 1959, the Castro Revolution in Cuba dispersed hundreds of thousand refugees that found asylum in North American soil, being the second and most important wave of Latino immigration, after Mexico.

Therefore, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 dismissed the quotes based in nationality and allowed the citizens to sponsor their family from their origin countries. The shift in the immigration patterns was immediate: today most of the North American immigrants come from Asia and Latin America.

The consequences of the North American intrusion in the State policies in South American countries during the 70s, would promote a comeback after the successive democracies and their chaotic beginnings. The violence, poverty and the job instability have been determinant factors in the abandonment of the country of origin for all Latin Americans.

Subsequently, the receptiveness to the “brain drain” - qualified professionals (specially women in research areas) - kept the flow of immigrants during the 60s and 70s, overcoming the Cold War conflicts.

During the 80s, an important part of the political discourse was kept focused on the illegal immigration and the strategies to solve it. In 1986, the government provided amnesty to more than 3 million aliens.

But at the beginning of the 1990s, the anti-immigrant sentiment resurfaced.

While it is true that the great majority – 64% to be precise – come from Mexico, in the United States there are a great variety of Latin Americans of all faiths and all social backgrounds, which rates change considerably each year.

Thus, the “Hispanization” phenomenon in the United States it’s increasingly latent. It implies a gradual transculturisation that allowed the Latino traditions (food, religion and idiosyncrasy) to slip through the American society, to the extent that has become an icon in popular culture.

As such, the linguistic mutations (Spanglish or Neomexican Spanish, for example), the landscape transformation and the adaptations of the collective unconscious, have incorporated Latino elements to never let them go.

However, the Latino population it’s still considered a minority, a sector of the population that remains in the margins of the mainstream, even when the numbers speak otherwise.

Because, as it is true that the Latino represents a 17,3% of the American population today, the stereotype and its permeability suggest a stigma hard to sublimate.

The Irish red hair or the Jewish accent is already part of the American identity, to the point where they go unnoticed. The Latino, on his side, has faced the challenge to integrate himself to a society, with a very important mixture background on his shoulders, for we are the product of a culturally prolific fusion, which has determined our identity.

Maybe that’s the reason why, when it comes to merge with the North American culture, our features are hard to ignore on a daily basis. But the politicians seem to have no problem with it, whatsoever.

The strength of the Latino vote is imminent, yet the political focus during the current elections has overlooked our community.

Its time to make peace with our identity, just like our grandparents and their parents did so long ago. The Latino came to stay and it’s inherent to the community of the United States, to the point where our vote can determine the political future of the country.

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