I Am a Latino

Article excerpt

How times have changed. I grew up in an age and environment where some felt it advantageous to diminish or disguise your Latino ancestry if you could and if you sought to be invoked, and accepted in your local community, lest you be relegated to the segregated status that existed then for many of the Spanish-speaking minority.

Some Latinos didn't mind it. They seemed contení with their marginalized status. Others were not.

I knew two guera (fair-skinned) sisters in Dallas, daughters of a Mexican-American dentist named Rodriguez who thought it socially advantageous if they abbreviated their surname to "Rod." I had another friend in Houston named Montemayor who said it was best for his insurance business if he was known as Montgomery.

Foi some pretentious Latinos, disavowal was the preferred road and, as a father once interjected in my greetings to his very Mexican-looking kid., "Speak to him in English. He doesn't understand Spanish."

Today the trend is toward the opposite,

Latinos are beginning to be ceJebrated in the U.S., mostly because of our numbers, which keep growing and which can no longer be ignored. Willi that comes our growing economic and political prowess - and those who dare to dismiss it do so at their own peril.

Yes, there are still some pockets of ethnic resistance and separatism, but they are fast coming down due to the combined forces of integration, a more enlightened U.S. society and the sheer ambitions, abilities and socioeconomic demands of a better-prepared Latino community.

Like those monster batiks of recent memory that were considered too big to fail, Latinos, Hispanics, La Raza, or whatever you want to call us, have become too big to ignore and to fail and also too big to confront.

We are also projected to be among the dominant groups, as early as the year 2050 if Hie present tend of population growth continues, and. with that, our upward mobility.

Who knows, some day we may be strong enough and sufficiently politically sophisticated to elect the first Hispanic. Latino, or whatever president of the United States, as the Blacks did in helping to elect a Black American.

For now, we are happy to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month during September-October, which recognizes tlie U.S. Hispanic community and its role and contributions to the country it calls home and, for the majority of this minority group, the only home they have known.

During a whole month, politicians and national and civic leaders hold parties and malie proclamations extolling the contributions and the presence of this group of Americans who are still better known for their minority slatti s and who feel comfortable with their distinct ethnic personalities.

First, let me get this straight. Are we an ethnic group, a cultural entity or integrated Americans who enjoy eclebratinß our historic origins?

Whatever, we ought to be happy with this. We get a whole month of celebration. Other ethnic Americans like the Italians get a day marching down New York's Fifth Avenue. Puerto Ricans in New York also hold a one-dav festival and the mayor issues a proclamation proclaiming what a great day it was when the Puerto Ricans first came to town. …