It used to be that many families of Mexican ancestry in the Southwest looked to pretend to change their ethnicity because of the pressure of the majority negative branding of their origins. Proclaiming oneself as “Spanish” while at the same time forcing children not to speak Spanish so as not to be noticed was one of the peculiar outcomes of trying to “hide” in plain sight.
This effort to stay “hidden” was really a product of Manifest Destiny and the physical and mental dislocation caused by oppression. The unspoken rule at the time was not to count “Mexicans” in the battles to take the land and displace those that were there.
The returning soldiers from World War II and the veterans that followed began to unwind the web of pejorative labels directed at Latino identity. The Chicano Movement took the next step of manifesting Latino presence in American public space as well as in the awareness of its own people.
The Chicano Movement also resurrected the notion of “La Raza,” a Mexican original concept, and included its politicized version in its rhetoric. Later, the Mexican immigrant community brought with it the old “Mexican” label and portrayed it as a “normal and positive” definition for people from the home country.
As the community became a major voice as the largest minority in the American demographic landscape, it founded the term “Latino” to encompass the variety of Spanish speaking nationalities present and coming to the United States. This created rich and diverse expressions of Latino political thought based on circumstances in their home countries and their experience in America.
With the exception of the reelection of George W. Bush, Latino voters have been somewhat consistent in their affiliation with the major political parties. They tend to support the Republican Party at a rate between 25 and 35 percent and the Democratic Party between 65 and 75 percent.
In the 2020 national election the Democrats got 66 percent of the Latino vote and the Republicans the rest. This spread resulted in some apparent contradictions caused by Latinos helping President Trump to victory in Florida and helping Biden to do the same in Arizona.
The apparent contradiction was caused by the majority of Cuban Americans and other immigrants from Latin America supporting the Republicans in Florida and the majority of voters of Mexican descent supporting the Democrats in Arizona. Among the reasons is the fact that the original immigrants from Cuba and Latina America were generally well-to-do refugees from Communist and Socialist oppression that given an opportunity in the United States were able to rebuild their lives and gain political power.
The residents and immigrant families in Arizona and the Southwest generally belong to the other side of the socioeconomic ladder as they are descendants of the oppressed and denigrated in this country. They have a ways to go and are changing their human condition.
As diverse as Latinos appear, they share a religion, a language, family values and patriotism as fundamental construct of their character. This type of character also describes the immigrant values of this country.
You may have noticed that Latino is now giving way to “Latinx,” a term that expresses gender inclusion. The label will continue to evolve and eventually disappear.
Latino or Latinx, like other non-national labels, is a temporary condition that will come to an end when it has served its purpose. As the community assumes its indicated role and becomes a prominent part of the face of America their will be no need for labels.