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Hispanic American Diversity

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The 'American Dream' has brought people from many nations to the shores and interior of the United States. Some came here seeking political asylum, while others came here to escape the poor economic and social conditions in their own countries. Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Panamanians are no exceptions. These groups of peoples are usually lumped together as Hispanics or Latinos in the society of the United States, even though their cultures may be completely different from each other. Hispanics are the fastest growing immigrant population in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). As of 2006, the United States Census Bureau (2011) estimated that more than 44 million people in the United States are of Hispanic descent, and that by 2050 they will comprise almost one quarter of the population. As of 2002, most Hispanics live in Florida, New York, California, Texas, and Illinois, but their influence is everywhere in the United States (Schaefer, 2006, p.237). The 2010 Census also shows an increase of 43% in Hispanic Americans in the United States since 2000 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). The linguistic, political, social, economic, religious, and familial conventions or statuses of these four Hispanic American groups will be discussed in this essay.

During the Mexican-American War, between 1846 and 1848, Mexico lost nearly half of its territory to the United States, from Texas to California (US-Mexican War, 2006). In 1854, the United States purchased another 30,000 square miles of Mexican land for $10 million so the transcontinental railway could be finished (Englekirk, n.d., The Mexican-American War. para.3). Nearly 80,000 Mexicans lived on the lands the United States won or purchased from Mexico, and those who remained were guaranteed citizenship after two years (Englekirk, n.d., The Mexican-American War. para.4). Mexican Americans are the largest group of Hispanic Americans (Englekirk, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.2). Some Mexican Americans may be able to trace their ancestry back 10 generations; therefore they keep their distinctive cultural ways and language (Englekirk, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.1). Mexicans immigrate to the United States constantly, which reinforces certain aspects of Mexican culture and the use of the Spanish language instead of English (Englekirk, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.1). As of the 2000 census, nearly 75% of Mexican Americans spoke Spanish at home (US Census Bureau, 2011). The English-Only Movement has made bilingual education harder to come by in elementary and secondary schools in the United States (Thompson, 2008). There has been a continuous growth of Spanish language enterprises that cater to the Spanish-speaking community, such as Spanish-language media and small businesses (Englekirk, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.1).

Mexican American families may not be as traditional as they once were, where male and female children had much different roles within the family, but in most cases, the father is still the ultimate authority figure and the mother is still responsible for meeting the domestic needs of the family (Englekirk, n.d., Tradition and Change in Family Structure and Roles, para.7). Samora and Simon (1993) wrote that 75% of the Mexican American population is Catholic. Employment options are diverse, but wages have remained low for most members of the Mexican American community compared to the national average (Englekirk, n.d., Diversification of Employment Opportunities, para.4). Traditionally, Mexican American voting behavior has been Democratic, with 59.6% of all Mexican Americans identifying with Democrats as of 1992 (Englekirk, n.d., Voting Patterns and Elected Officials, para.1).

The island of Puerto Rico was ceded to the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War of 1898, in 1900 Congress established a civil government there, and in 1917, the Jones Act granted American citizenship to all Puerto Ricans (Green, n.d., Modern Era, para.1). Puerto Rico is an autonomous Commonwealth of the United States where they have their own constitution and elect their own bicameral legislature and governor but are still subject to United States executive authority (Green, n.d., Overview, para.3). A resident commissioner represents the island in the United States House of Representatives and votes along with the other representatives (Green, n.d., Overview, para.3). Puerto Ricans are born as natural American citizens, whether they are born on the island or in the United States (Green, n.d., Overview, para.3).

The number of Puerto Ricans who immigrated to the United States remained relatively small until 1947, then in 1851 the annual average of immigrants to New York City was over 48,000 (Green, n.d., Significant Immigration Waves, para.2-3). As of 2010, there were over 4 million Puerto Rican Americans and they are the second-largest Hispanic group in the nation, behind Mexican Americans (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). The U.S. Census Bureau also reports at least 25% of Puerto Ricans living in the United States live under the poverty level and are the most economically disadvantaged Hispanic group in the United States (Green, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.2). In spite of their problems, Puerto Ricans are beginning to exert more cultural influence and political power on the mainstream population (Green, n.d., Acculturation and Assimilation, para.3). Puerto Ricans speak Spanish primarily, but English is taught in most of the elementary schools on the island and bilingualism is common among the young professional Puerto Rican Americans (Green, n.d., Language, para.3). Puerto Rican families tend to reflect the patriarchal social organization of Spanish culture, although it has suffered a breakdown among mainlander Puerto Ricans due to economic hardships (Green, n.d., Family and Community Dynamics, para.1&4). Most Puerto Ricans are Roman Catholics due to the influence of the Spanish Conquistadors (Green, n.d., Religion, para.1). Puerto Ricans generally have a low turn-out in electoral politics on the mainland, perhaps because neither political party has courted them (Green, n.d., Politics and Government, para.4).

Cuban Americans are third in numbers as an ethnic minority behind Mexican Americans and Puerto Rican Americans and have had a presence in the United States as early as 1831 when they had settlements in Florida (Schaefer, 2006, p.247). The United States took control of Cuba away from Spain after the Spanish-American War and eventually



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