Hispanics or Latinos or Native Americans Who Speak Spanish

The definition of race in America politics has always been a treacherous topic. Politicians have used race and ethnicity to galvanize their bases and promote their election since the beginning of the republic. The decennial census continues to ask people to define their race and reports racial statistics. Per the CIA World Factbook, the racial composition of the United States is described as “white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate)

Note:a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Spanish, and Central or South American origin living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total US population is Hispanic.”

This long caveat fairly jumps off the page, because it is unique to the United States entry in the People and Society section of the CIA World Factbook. By including Hispanics in the ‘white’ category, both the census and the CIA overstates the whiteness of America. If Hispanics were categorized by race, the Amerindian and Alaska native portion of the country’s population would jump from 1% to 12% and the census would show that the number of Native Americans is growing faster than any other racial group in the population. [Asian Americans may be growing faster on percentage basis, but Amerindians have the numerical head start.]

I can make this assertion because the United States Government defines an Indian in the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, Section 19, the so-called New Deal for Indians, as “all other persons of one-half or more Indian blood”. By this definition, so-called Mestizos, another terms used in the CIA World Factbook to describe the racial composition of Spanish speaking countries in the Western Hemisphere, are legally “Indians” under the law of the United States.

Dissecting the Hispanic or Latino population data, the so-called Hispanics are 11% Amerindian/Mestizo and 3.9% white. Most of the white Hispanics come from the Caribbean islands of Cuban and Puerto Rico. This makes New York’s and Miami’s experience of Hispanic-ness is a lot more white (and Republican) than in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California where the majority of ‘Hispanics’ are Amerindians and mestizos from Mexico and associate with minorities and Democrats.

The Hispanicization of Mexican and Latin American Indians and mestizos is an interesting historical topic. According to Nicholas Oster, Empires of the Word, A Language History of the World, “if in 1810 there were 6.7 inhabitants [in Mexico], 45 per cent of them Spaniards or mestizos presumably speaking Spanish, by 1995 there were 95.8 million with fully 88 per cent of them first-language speakers of that language. “ It was the homogenizing impulse of Enlightenment and the liberation movements of the first half of the 1800’s that sped the loss of indigenous language and culture in Latin America. The nationalists “offered everyone an undifferentiated citizenship based on the common language, Spanish. The national movements of Latin America found it hard to embrace local languages, seeing even the bigger languages [like Nahuatl and Maya] as sources of division, rather than unity alien to Spain.” With this as a backdrop, Mexican or Latin American nationalists and US nationalists aren’t different; they both want to impose a single, homogenizing language on the electorate in an effort to build a stable democracy.

So why do Hispanic AmerIndians and mestizos not want to be counted as Native Americans? Why are they not proud of their heritage and the amazing accomplishments of their ancestors – for example, most of the world’s major food crops ? Can it be that the stigma of being a Native American is so negative to a person’s economic and cultural well-being that it pays to hide this genetic inheritance and pretend to be a Spaniard? Since Hispanics can present themselves as ‘white’ and ‘white’ confers upon the holder clear advantages in America, why would these people fight for a racial identity closer to the truth.

As the political analysts in both the Republican and Democratic campaigns ponder the Hispanic vote; as they think about how to manipulate this swing segment of the electorate, would either party gain advantage if it started to identify Hispanics as Native Americans, instead of whites?

 

 Editor’s Note:

 In light of, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien’s report "Who is Black in America?"- GroundReport’s editors decided to feature Paul Sterne’s article "Hispanics or Latinos or Native Americans Who Speak Spanish" for its relevance in terms of readers who are interested in further exploring the topic related to the definition of race codes.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If such a shift did occur, Barack Obama would be the clear beneficiary. Senator Rubio, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez would be isolated as representatives of the majority of the “Hispanic” community.