Academic journal article American Studies

Latino Identity in U.S. Society

Academic journal article American Studies

Latino Identity in U.S. Society

Article excerpt

EL CINCO DE MAYO: An American Tradition. By David Hayes-Bautista. Berkeley: University of California Press. 2012.

LATINO CATHOLICISM: Transformation in America's Largest Church. By Timothy Matovina. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2012.

THE PARADOX OF LATINA RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Las Guadalupanas of Kansas City. By Theresa L. Torres. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 2013.

THE LATINO GENERATION: Voices of the New America. By Mario T. García. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2014.

LATINO POLITICS EN CIENCIA POLÍTICA: The Search for Latino Identity and Racial Consciousness. Edited by Tony Affigne, Evelyn Hu-DeHart, and Marion Orr. New York: New York University Press. 2014.

According to the 2010 census, over fifty million Latinos reported living in the U.S. (16 percent of the U.S. population).1 This represents a 43 percent increase over the number given in the 2000 census. As a result of their growing numbers, Latinos settled outside traditional receiving areas with the South and Midwest seeing the largest increase (57 percent and 43 percent, respectively). The population growth can partially be attributed to the birth rate and partially to immigration. The latter category promises to remain a hot button political issue, especially in the 2016 Presidential election. Major candidates in both parties seek to woo this important demographic and corporate America has also taken notice of Latinos and is trying to figure out how to market effectively to this heterogeneous group with enormous purchasing power. Latino influence continues to grow numerically, which is evidenced in scholarship as well as politics and popular culture.

Since the 1990s scholarly works featuring Latinos as subject matter have flourished. Indeed, in the last couple years alone academics have produced a broad range of works on topics from festivals to religion to politics. Each of the works in this essay depicts Latinos as creating identity and community for themselves in U.S. society. Latinos do this by claiming space as active agents and by changing or influencing U. S. culture through various mediums-the Catholic Church, politics, and holiday celebrations. Indeed, Latinos exert agency by taking issues into their own hands. Each of these books either argues that Latinos act as a collective group to further their agenda despite their differences, or they discuss Latinos as a collective group, thus focusing on panethnic identity and negating differences between them.

In his work about Cinco de Mayo, David Hayes-Bautista asks the question "Why is Cinco de Mayo [which celebrates the Mexican victory over the French in the first battle of Puebla in 1862] widely celebrated in the United States and not in Mexico?" He concludes that the holiday is a product of the U.S. Civil War and French imperialism in Mexico, and that it was created and celebrated by Latinos in California from diverse backgrounds (Californios, Mexicans, South Americans). This disparate group united in a show of panethnic identity to celebrate freedom and democracy and they created a public memory of the Cinco de Mayo victory. While this historical work focuses mainly on California, Hayes-Bautista shows that Latinos came together and formed a society by building upon Californio society, and in doing so they created a space for themselves by celebrating the first battle of Puebla. This celebration eventually morphed into a nationwide American holiday of a Mexican event. Indeed, the celebration of present-day Cinco de Mayo has completely strayed from its original purpose of commemorating the victory at Puebla and serves as an American drinking holiday heavily marketed to Anglo Americans by beer companies.

Originally, however, the victory proved to be a source of pride and symbolized the triumph of the Mexican spirit over imperialism and tyranny-very American notions, as the author notes. Through the use of Spanish-language newspapers from throughout the state, the author shows how Latinos gathered together in public spaces to commemorate the Cinco de Mayo victory in cities large and small. …

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