Hispanic Ethnicity

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Ethnicity is a term which may be confused with ‘race', but which refers to a shared cultural identity that has a range of distinctive behavioral and possibly linguistic features, passed on through socialization from one generation to another. There are never clear boundaries, cultural or geographic, that mark the limits of ethnic groups, even though many regard ethnicity as though it were naturally determined. Ethnic differences have been a source of political unrest, often associated with religious or clan differences. In this paper I will discuss Hispanic ethnicity.

Hispanic, as used in the United States, is one of several terms used to categorize native and naturalized U.S. citizens, permanent residents and temporary immigrants, whose background hail either from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America or the original settlers of the traditionally Spanish-held Southwestern United States. The term is used as a broad form of classification for this wide range of ethnicities, races, and nationalities who have historically used Spanish as their primary language. Salient characteristics: Over the last 500 years, throughout what was the Spanish empire in the Americas, Spanish, indigenous and African cultures meshed, evolving into distinct national or regional cultures. Spanish speakers have also called much of what is now the United States home for centuries. From the mid-1500's, when Spaniards first settled St. Augustine, Florida, and Spanish and Mexican populations first settled in the Southwest, to the enclaves of Latinos that sprung up in major U.S. cities in the 20th century, Hispanics have played a vital role in the social and economic development of the U.S. Far from being homogeneous, U.S. Latinos are a hodge-podge of ethnicities. Political views, education, and socio-economic status vary widely. Those recently arrived may still think of themselves as mejicano, cubano, argentino, or colombiano. Second-generation Hispanics are already on the hyphen, identifying themselves as Mexican-American, Nicaraguan-American, etc. As time passes, family origins become a less salient component of identity and many identify themselves as, for example, Americans of Chilean ancestry, or simply Hispanic Americans. Yet despite the differences, there is also the bond forged by the common experience of immigration, a shared history, and language. Even those whose families have been here for generations carry their Hispanic heritage in their blood.

Culture: Popular culture varies widely from one Hispanic community to another, despite this, several features tend to unite Hispanics from diverse backgrounds. Many Hispanics, including U.S.-born second and third generation Hispanics, use the Spanish language to varying degrees. The most usual pattern is monolingual Spanish usage among new immigrants or older foreign born Hispanics, complete bilingualism among long settled immigrants and their children, and the use of Spanglish and colloquial Spanish within long established Hispanic communities by the third generation and beyond. In some families the children and grandchildren of immigrants speak mostly English with some Spanish words and phrases thrown in. Below the ‘light pink' color is the Latino population geographic distribution.
Census 2000
Latino music is another cultural characteristic. The sounds of Latino guitars, bongos, tambourines, castanets, etc. are unique. Song forms of the flamenco have influenced and been influenced by other genres, most notably jazz, bossa nova and even classical music. As guitar virtuosos mastered the genre, guitar flamenco evolved into a solo art form.

Mariachi music has been a deeply revered cornerstone of traditional Mexican culture for well over a century. Its origins can be traced to Jalisco, where the style slowly evolved over the years. A typical mariachi group today includes six to eight violins, two trumpets, and three string...
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