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The fastest growing ethnic group currently in the United States, the Hispanics or Latinos account for approximately one fourth of the total population. “Hispanics or Latinos” pertains to the migrants from Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America and from Spain. Thus, Hispanics is a massive group that came from different countries like Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia and Puerto Rico among others. Each of which have different national and cultural backgrounds and immigration circumstances. However, the Spanish language is the unifying trait or point of reference of the Hispanic population. (Gracia and De Greiff, 2000) Thus, it is the second most widespread language in the US.
The roots of the people of Spanish heritage and tradition can be traced to as early as the 16th century when Spain dominated expedition and colonization quests in Central and South America. In the US, Spanish colonials controlled most of the Southwestern areas US where early Spanish communities were established such as New Mexico in 1609. The states of Texas, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah were originally a part of Mexico until the treaty of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. (Rodriguez, 2000). Incidentally, Hispanic population is concentrated in the said states especially in California.
At the moment, Latinos from Mexico leads in immigration to the U.S. since the early 1800’s, both legal and illegal. Early immigration from Mexico can hardly be accounted because arrivals were not entirely computed until early 1900s and there were no strict laws that regulate the U.S.-Mexico border then. However, a rapid increase of immigration to the United States from Latin America occurred after the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II especially so because no restrictions were imposed on immigrants, in terms of size and nationality, coming from Latin America until 1965. (Kanellos and Pérez, 1995). Aside from rampant immigration, the high rate of fertility was attributed as another factor for the rapid population growth of Latinos in the US. Thus, the Latino population is also relatively younger. This growth also helps the economy by opening new market opportunities for local businesses.
While Hispanics constituted a large share of the labor market, most of them tend to be employed in low paying jobs. Following the Dual labor market theory, many Mexicans belong to the secondary or informal sector where employment is often temporary and unstable which translates to low wages that is ultimately determined by demand and supply and the lack of benefits. Because many Hispanics fall under the category of low to average class in the socio-economic stratification, they usually end up in neighborhoods or poor communities whose social and physical environment is poor. (Environmental injustice) According to the US Human Rights Network Housing Caucus, ethnic minorities are conspicuously represented among homeless. 22% of Latinos are homeless and 21% is living below poverty line.
The incapacity of Hispanics including Mexicans to land on better paying jobs can be principally attributed to their lack of academic and professional qualifications. Hispanics have lower rates of education, which is the key for poverty alleviation. (Torres, 1999). In fact, statistics show that school drop out rate for Hispanic students is highest at 23%. (Child Trends Databank, 2006) Thus, they are more likely not to finish high school education. Apparently, lack of sufficient education deprives one of proper professional and academic skills that restrict job opportunities and career advancement. Access to education is a form of redlining and serves as a glass ceiling that contains the opportunity for Hispanics to grow. This in turn creates a vicious cycle of becoming financially incapable of getting their children the needed education especially considering the competition becomes stiffer and tougher in the modern global economy. (Frazier and Tettey-Fio, 2006).
Ethnic discrimination plays a major role in the continued repression of Hispanics that posts as an obstacle to their progress. (DeFreitas, 1991) Poverty, lack of adequate education and discrimination are sturdy social factors that can breed delinquency, criminality, addiction, rebellion and other sociopathological or antisocial behaviors. Incidentally, there are more African American and Hispanic Americans that are sentenced to prison compared to other ethnic minorities and white Americans combined. These inmates usually form racial groups for protection of their kind and violent conflicts among them usually occur in case of unsolicited confrontations. (Smelser and Alexander, 1999).
Like many ethnic migrants in the US, Latinos play a significant role in shaping the character of the American society especially so because it is the largest ethnic group in the country. Its contributions spans in economic participation, familial morality, arts and culture among others. Latin musicians and artists are the most conspicuous contributions of Hispanics in modern art.
Hispanics and other ethnic groups also face problems of discrimination, economic poverty and insufficient education that post as a challenge for the government and the society in general to address. This in turn motivated the adoption of new policies that creates the ambiance that is conducive for the diversity that is integral in the American society. This includes cross cultural information and ethics training for addressing problem of cultural differences in law enforcement (Barrett and George, 2005) or the adoption of bilingual instruction that helped in the provision of better education for ethnic minorities to make them better citizens and assets of the nation. (Dicker, 2003). Also, high low political participation and representation of Latinos in US governance should also be pursued.
DeFreitas, G. (1991). Inequality at Work: Hispanics in the U.S. Labor Force. Oxford University Press US
Dicker, S.J. (2003). Languages in America: A Pluralist View. Multilingual Matters
Barrett, K and George, W. (2005). Race, Culture, Psychology, & Law. Sage Publications Inc
Frazier, J and Tettey-Fio, E. (2006). Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America. Global Academic Publishing
Gracia, J. and De Greiff, P., (2000). Hispanics/Latinos in the United States: Ethnicity, Race, and Rights. Routledge Publications.
Kanellos, N and Pérez, C. (1995). Chronology of Hispanic-American History: From Pre-Columbian Times to the Present. Gale Research
Rodriguez, C.E. (2000). Changing Race: Latinos, the Census, and the History of Ethnicity in the United States. NYU Press
Smelser, N.J. and Alexander, J.C., (1999). Diversity and Its Discontents: Cultural Conflict and Common Ground in Contemporary American Society. Princeton University
Torres, S., (1999). Hispanic Voices: Hispanic Health Educators Speak Out. Jones and Bartlett Publishers
US Human Rights Network Housing Caucus (2008). Homelessness and Affordable Housing. Response to the Periodic Report of the United States to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Retrieved from: