The notion of a journey is imagined as being on a road to somewhere and on a quest with a purpose. Along the way, there are stories of obstacles that stand in the way and sometimes threatening entities that make the journey a struggle.
There are also “helpers” that appear when the traveler is at a wits end. These timely helpers come as if by magic to open the road again for the next adventure.
One would never think of a journey as something static and subject to the movement of history that is also on a journey. Yet, that can be one way to interpret the essence of the Latino journey in America.
In The Milagro Beanfield War (1988), a John Nichol’s novel and a movie directed by Robert Redford, Joe Mondragon, the protagonist, struggles to defend his small bean field that serves as a symbol of a beautiful community and cultural enclave in Northern New Mexico against powerful business and political interests that seek to profit by denying water for the land. Among the characters is an old man named Amarante played by Carlos Riquelme that is a “conduit for the culture and ancient beliefs” of that long-standing world.
His helper, Coyote, is an angel played by Robert Carricart that dresses like a Mexican revolutionary and plays a concertina that offers an eerie melody which projects a “twilight” moment that slices into a reality that reveals a beginning and end at the same time. It is magic in all of its powerful might.
Like the people of Milagro, the Latino community has deep roots in an America that portrays a unity of a people with the land that nurtures them. As such, it has endured the winds of conquest, the loss of property, the violent removal of place and identity and the marginalization in society.
It is this same community that experienced other winds of change in the image of Latino immigrants from the south that sought their own fortune and yet, without knowing it, brought the energy to revitalize the spirit and identity of their counterparts in the United States. In a relatively short time, the new Latino personality revealed in fluent English and fluent Spanish offered an alternative to the decadence of a diminished and divided nation.
There is optimism attached to the notion that American Latinos are coming into an era of effective prominence. The collective will to take the country forward toward new greatness provides an irresistible force that beckons a people in transformation.
Rooted in the lands like that of the fictional Milagro in Northern New Mexico and other places across the Southwest, the Latino community in time spread its vital and significant presence into every region of America. It has made the difference in every national election in the 21st Century and stands to increase its political influence in local and state contests.
Young Latino people are number one in the country in the percentage of its population going to college. The community is prominent in business and is projected to produce 1 out of every 4 dollars in the U.S. economy by 2020.
The Latino journey has been one rooted in the very soil under their feet, nurtured by 500 years of life in America, tested by conquest, discrimination and oppression and called to leadership by history. The journey to its destiny has been characterized in large part by standing firm and somewhat stoically and looking to find the opportunity to become the face of America.