Being Chicano in America

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The plight of the Hispanic citizen in the United States is difficult to characterize; a massive demographic that has made its home in an equally massive nation - every major US city today boasts an impressive and diverse Hispanic population. Nowhere is this more true than in Los Angeles and New York City, where Hispanic Americans number in the millions. But who are Hispanic Americans? To what degree have they assimilated to the broader “mainstream” American culture? How do they differ from one another? In major American cities, Hispanics have, by degrees, experienced a blend of alienation and acceptance.

First, it must be understood that the broadly defined “Hispanic” or “Latino” label is itself a vast oversimplification. The US Census Bureau is the first to acknowledge that Hispanic Americans can belong to any of 13 distinct races (Cohen 88). Many people think that all Hispanic people are the same, but in actuality the term Hispanic refers to many different types of people. The term Hispanic American is not necessarily a precise linguistic description of this demographic group based on its economic, social, political and cultural diversity. Most Hispanic-Americans speak Spanish and originated from the same part of the hemisphere. Typically, most Hispanics came to America from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America, and South America.

. Most Mexicans come to the United States to earn higher wages and to support their families back in Mexico. Mexican Americans were treated inferiorly by Caucasian Americans until the late 1990s despite the 1848 Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo which gave Mexican Americans the right to maintain their culture in the United States (Schaefer, 2006). Mexican American children were forced to attend segregated schools that lacked adequate supplies and educated teachers. This “de jure” school segregation lasted 1975 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared the segregation unconstitutional (Schaefer, 2006). Even after the school systems were integrated, Spanish speaking children were treated unfairly by teachers. In the 1960s, integrated schools in New York and Florida refused to allow Hispanic children to speak Spanish during school hours (Schaefer, 2006). Eventually, a law was passed that required communities with a Hispanic population of at least 5% to provide bilingual education classes to students (Schaefer, 2006). Bilingual education caused controversy amongst many Hispanic groups. Hispanic school children began to fall behind because they believed that the “English Immersion” classes because the purpose was to assimilate children while depriving them of their native language. Cuban-Americans tend to be concentrated in Miami and on the East Coast. Most of the Cuban population immigrated to the United States during the 1950s, after the takeover of Cuba by the radical communist leader Fidel Castro. The Cubans that fled their home country as refugees tended to be well-educated, wealthy, and politically conservative, and they retained these traits once in the United States. Cubans immigrants that have been in America for a long period of time tend to be better-educated other Hispanic populations, while Mexican-Americans, who may be more recent immigrants, come from an economic situation with poor economic opportunities, may tend to be less well-educated.

One reason for the political difference between Mexican and Cuban-Americans in terms of their voting affiliation may be that Mexican-Americans are often fleeing what they perceived to be an unfair right-wing government that is hostile to creating economic opportunities for the lower classes. Unlike Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans tend to be more politically liberal on social issues, although they are more politically conservative on social issues if they strongly identify with their Catholic heritage than non-Hispanic individuals of a similar liberal political affiliation. Of Central and South American Hispanics,...
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