Pocho, published in 1959 is considered the first Chicano novel in its literary tradition. The work creates a powerful description of identity as a challenge to the Latino in America.
Pocho has three main characters, Richard Rubio, the principle protagonist, his father Juan Manuel Rubio and his mother Consuelo. Juan Manuel fought in the Mexican Revolution as a Colonel in Pancho Villa’s cavalry and comes away dissatisfied with the results.
He then immigrates to the United States after a killing in Mexico. Later Juan Manuel sends for his wife Consuelo and together they raise a family in California. Their birth of their first child, Richard, sets into motion a traumatic experience that leads to the destruction of the familial ways of the old country and leaves Richard between two cultures as he joins the military and goes to fight in World War II.
“Pocho” is the one word descriptor of Richard’s plight and condition that, although born in the United States, is neither American nor Mexican. “Pocho” is one of a number of labels that have profiled Latino history.
The 2020 Census verifies the fact that Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic and racial group in the country. Their numbers in the 4 largest states are significant.They already constitute a plurality in California at 39 percent,virtually a tie with the White community in Texas at 40 percent and within 3 points in New York at 29.1 versus 32.1 percent. Even Florida has a large Latino population at 26.4 percent.
Latinos in the United States are projected to continue their growth at an accelerated rate with or without immigration from Latin America. This obviates the need for this community to get beyond issues of identity and labels.
A parallel current in American demographic growth is the rapidly increasing number of people that self-identify as multiracial. This phenomenon is beginning to erase the trappings of identity and the tradition of separating one group from another.Labels are really a temporary condition. This can be verified by the change in names people apply to themselves as communities move forward in history. In the end, the one true label that counts is what we do call ourselves as a nation. The journey to this desire is a meandering road with many stops and obstacles that come from being perceived or perceiving ourselves as different because of a multicultural setting.
This is a significant challenge for the Latino community in the 21st Century. Coming from the condition of an oppressed minority, Latinos have developed or were given a series of labels that have expressed a sense of community, unity, accommodation, humiliation, shame and/or defiance over its history.
I remember the use of the term Mexican-American to identify Latinos from most regional areas of the Southwest. The label is descriptive enough for many, but the hyphenation for others was unacceptable.
During the last generation the community has gravitated to the terms Latino or Latinx in an attempt to incorporate women and men of all Latin American nationalities both American-born and immigrant. This journey continues with a particular focus on the emerging image of a new America.That image is powered by the newest majority generation that looks more to what we have in common rather than what can separate people. Latinos form an important part of this group as it seeks to change the outlook of the country since its early years in the last part of the 20th Century.
The drive this century is to get to the ultimate label, American.