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This makes me think about the way white people were talked about in the 1920's and how they're talked about today. Back in the day, newspapers would talk of the "irish race," etc.

But those distinctions among whites don't exist nearly as much anymore--many native borns of European descent have been generically folded into "white." For example, Italians don't really worry about not getting the Irish vote b/c of their ethnicity. Lots of white people don't have a categorical and unchangeable cultural identity beyond "white" (one exception I'm familiar with being American Jews, and I think the Minnesotans are still all into being Swedish or Norwegian, but maybe I've just listened to too much Kelior).

The same thing seems to have happened with black Americans hundreds of years ago. Africans came involuntarily from different cultures in Africa, from the Carribbean islands, etc. Obviously it's not an apples to apples comparison, because there was a deliberate and sustained effort to destroy the cultural traditions and ethnic identity of these involuntary immigrants and give Yoruba and Wolof into a identity, "black," which meant slave.

That said, a bigger definition definitely has an upside--if 100,000 people consider themselves black instead of 50,000, they're a much more powerful voting bloc. On the downside, the cultural definition of black by design makes everything in life much harder when you're black than when you're anything else, so if you're out to exploit an social group you're immeasurably aided by a broad definition of the word "black."

Anyway, I think this process of ethnicities turning into "races" has happened before, and it's not clear to me if what's going on is an effort to destroy existing cultures in an attempt to keep a population marginalized, or if it's a sociologically neutral process that seems to happen in the US when a culture lacks a critical density, or if it's an attempt to forge a new identity to get more social power (which is what I think most white ethnicities have done). Or if it's all of the above simultaneously.

Anyway, it's an interesting phenomenon, and one that America has a lot of experience with.


Actually, the idea of an Hispanic "race" is a ludicrous one. I live in New York, and I can tell you that Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Mexicans all hate one another. So Rove's segmentation strategy makes some sense - he can go after certain ethnic groups within the broader Hispanic population. The problem with this approach is that the biggest Latino group, Mexicans, are the most Democratic. The third biggest (after Cubans), the Puerto Ricans, are very Democratic as well. There just isn't much for Rove to play with here.

Latino Pundit

Hispanics/Latinos are definetly not a homogeneous group. They are as diverse as tacos to tamales. To further complicate there are new Latinos who have immigrated here and then there are 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos who have been here. These groups hold different politcal groups as well. For any political campaign to be successful they must have all these factors considered.


Snort. From working on some grass-roots organizing in various campaigns, the absolute hardest thing is to get Latinos to vote. Not to vote Democratic, or Republican, but just to vote. With the possible exception of Cubans, but they're quite fragmented generationally. Everyone's too busy working to pay that much attention to political battles. And most Latinos are not that well-informed about the countries they don't come from. So to look at Latinos as a cohesive voting bloc simply because they share a language (more or less) is about as valid as looking at the Arabic-speaking world as cohesive.

What I've seen in NYC though is rumor-mongering about Kerry and other Dems on Spanish-language radio just before the election, on religious/lifestyle issues. And nothing in response from Dems. There's your segmentation.

Andre Pineda

First, off, let me say I believe that there is no such thing as a Latino political identity.

My mother was born in Nicaragua, my father in Costa Rica. My wife was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her parents. My brother married a Puerto Rican; one of my Nicaraguan-born cousins married a Miami-based Cuban immigrant. As much as our cultural heritages overlap – the value we place on family, our Catholic upbringings – we nonetheless do not share a common political identity. For example, my in-laws and my parents live within 10 miles of each other in suburban Los Angeles yet do not think in terms of a collective “we” when it comes to politics. My parents’ Mexican-American next-door neighbors view the new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, as one of their own. My parents do not. Just because Villaraigosa speaks recently acquired Spanish does not make my parents identify with him. Meanwhile, the fact that Spanish was the first language to both my sister-in-law and cousin-in-law does not overcome the ideological predispositions that are typical of their different islands of origin. Getting them to talk politics would be a disaster.

All the focus on Latinos as an ethnic category of burgeoning importance has the effect of obscuring the fact that being Latino is not like being white or being black. To the extent that a white political sensibility exists, it derives almost entirely from never having to face discrimination from the majority on the basis of skin color. Much of the black political identity comes from being ineluctably defined as a minority by virtue of skin color. With Latinos, skin color is not an obvious marker of ethnic identification. Some Latinos are recognized as Latinos only if they choose to be. Other Latinos are categorized as a minority simply by their appearance. This is only one of the factors that conspires against a shared Latino political identity.

Latinos’ level of political participation and their vote differ widely as a result of their nativity, their country of origin, the area in which they live, their affluence and their religion, to name only a few factors. For example, 68 percent of Latinos in Colorado voted for Kerry; only 44 percent in Florida went with Kerry. Fifty-six percent of Protestant Latinos voted for Bush, while only 33 percent of Catholic Latinos supported the president. Not only does a first-generation Mexican factory worker in Ohio have little in common with a first-generation Cuban doctor in Florida, but he also has little in common with a sixth-generation Mexican-American business owner in New Mexico. Democrats need to do a better job of speaking separately to all the diverse subgroups that make up the ethnic category that is Latinos.

Did I help answer your question at all? I'm always on a soapbox regarding the issue and I talk about it a bit on my own website.

Si Se Puede

Si Se Puede!

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