The Manifold Character of Panethnicity
Latino Identities and Practices Among
Dominicans in New York City
This paper addresses the question of the formation of a Latino identity among Dominican immigrants. We attempt to answer three questions: Do Dominicans define themselves as Latinos? If so, what does that definition mean? And finally, how do they act based on a Latino identification? Answers to these questions will provide a better understanding of the process of incorporation of Dominicans to U.S. society and the processes of formation of individual and collective identities.
When immigrants cross borders, they confront systems of symbolic classification, systems of organization of social reality that are strange to them and force them to look for new individual and group identities. The rise of new individual and collective identities, however, is not a given but the result of processes of out-group labeling and internal self-definition; a result of the interplay of the symbolic classifications of the new society and the cultural categories that immigrants bring with them. In the eyes of mainstream U.S. society, the Latino or Hispanic label designates a new ethnic group composed of immigrants from different Latin American countries and their offspring. For the people who are labeled in this way, the meaning of this identity is complicated by two elements. The first one is the diversity of people to whom it applies. The national histories and experiences of different Latino groups are very different from one another. The second element is that this new ethnic group is also a racialized other. Latinos not only enter an ethnic system of classification but also, and perhaps more important, a racial system of classification that operates with binary cate