I hear so many Latinos complain about us being slapped left and right with the Latino label. I personally don’t mind. We’re all aware of how Latinos were, until recently, the fastest growing minority in the country, how we have the greatest purchasing power of any ethnic group, and how some speculate we might even become the majority in the not-so-distant future. That’s worth taking note of, and they have. Who are “they”? The government, the media, and all the other inhabitants of the great U.S. of A.
And when this happens, who we are, what we think, and what we prefer becomes important. They want to figure out what makes us tick so they know what it takes to make us go out and vote or spend money. And for these purposes, they define all of us as Latinos. Does it offend you that we’re all grouped together? It doesn’t bother me at all. When I’m asked what I am, I say Puerto Rican, because I was born and raised there. But I also call myself a Latina. I’m proud to be part of the same group as my brothers and sisters from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, etc. After all, we share many of the same cultural characteristics, values and experiences.
As far as the argument that labeling us doesn’t allow us to integrate or blend into American society, I think assimilation takes time, and if you’re a dark immigrant, it takes even more time. Even blanquito Europeans who came through Ellis Island faced discrimination upon their arrival, but their whiteness probably helped subsequent generations be seen as simply “American” faster. Think about it. Bblacks in this country are still called African Americans, not just Americans. It is what it is. When you’re different, you stand out, and you have to put up with the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good in this case is that we are front and center right now, and despite the stereotypes and the discrimination (which all minorities have to contend with), they recognize our importance and they are trying to kiss our ass so we can help elect politicians, buy goods, and invest in the economy. And y’all better try to enjoy it while it lasts, because in case you hadn’t heard, Asians have surpassed us Latinos as the fastest growing minority. Pretty soon all we’re going to hear about is the Asian this and the Asian that. And, yes, they get grouped together too.
At the end of the day, I don’t care what I’m called. I am a Puerto Rican, a Latina, and an American. I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. But most importantly, I am a human being, just trying my best to live a productive life so I can feel that I have contributed to the society I live in and to the global community we all belong to.
By Taína Haiman, guest contributor