The diverse groups of people who call U.S. soil their home have always defined the nation’s landscape. Today the most active ingredient in the proverbial melting pot is the Hispanic population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population was 46.9 million in 2008, a 3.2 percent increase from 2007, meaning almost one in six Americans is of Hispanic descent.
For those who have their ears to the ever changing social and economic scene, understanding the nuances and complexities of the nation’s largest and fastest growing minority group is not an easy undertaking. Social commentators, marketers and corporations alike, seek to capture what drives Hispanic engagement, insight to identity formation, and how the Hispanic presence influences the societal whole.
Answering these queries involves tackling familiar politically charged debates that arise anytime a majority group tries to classify a minority group. An umbrella definition would surely neglect the variety of ancestral origins, economic status and generation groups encapsulated within the ‘Hispanic’ label. The Hispanic perspective is plural and should be articulated first person.
CNN documentary, “Latino in America,” takes on the brave task of portraying what it means to be a Hispanic American. Following last year’s well-received “Black in America” CNN shines light on the lived experiences of the U.S. Hispanic population. In the piece CNN’s Soledad O’Brien visits the homes of the Garcias- various unrelated Americans across the country sharing the “Garcia” last name. Each individual is given a voice and an opportunity to tell their story.
In his recent CNN.com contribution San Diego-based, nationally syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr, who is well known for advocating the Hispanic position, praises the piece for painting an accurate picture. He commends the documentary’s depiction of Hispanics as a group well assimilated within American culture but with an active memory of their cultural heritage.
With a Hispanic population of a little over 30%, San Diego boasts the tenth largest Hispanic population in the nation. “Latino in America” could be a groundbreaking piece for many San Diegans hungry for a media portrayal void of typical stereotypes. The Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla is hosting a limited seating screening Oct 20 and the show will air nationally Oct 21-22. Only time will tell whether public opinion concedes CNN was able to successfully craft the much awaited truthful narrative of the Hispanic American.
Story by Lucia Matthews and Alice Gomez