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With National Hispanic Heritage Month (link) being celebrated in the USA September 15 – October 15, I wanted to provide some interesting resources. Last week I published “Five Things to Never to Say to Hispanic People” written by bilingual part time consultant Elsa Maria Jimenez Salgado (link to her info) from my team.
And now here are Seven Misconceptions or Stereotypes of Hispanic People particularly in the USA written mostly by Elsa, with some contributions from myself.
1) They all come from Mexico, and most of them crossed the border illegally. There are several issues with this stereotype. First, many Hispanics in the USA were actually born here and may even be third and fourth generation American citizens. And according to the latest research, most of the immigrants that are in the U.S. illegally are immigrants from ALL over the world who overstay their legally obtained Visas. Finally, though the largest segment of Hispanics in the USA is from Mexico, there are significant numbers from the wide range of diverse nations in Central and South America as well as the Caribbean.
2) They all speak fluent Spanish and poor broken English. In some instances, this might be true, but this stereotype is debunked at several levels. First, many Hispanics who moved to the USA are truly bilingual and speak flawless English. Second, Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in this country, and a huge portion of these individuals are already second generation U.S. citizens, who speak English as their native language. Third, there are many second and third generation Hispanics in the USA (Stan – I have even met a few) who do not even speak Spanish!
3) They all look the same – short, plump and dark skinned. The majority of the Hispanics in Latin America are the result of the miscegenation of the Spaniards with the native ethnic groups. But there have been also numerous immigration booms in ALL of these countries from all over the world. For example: Argentina received millions of Italians for generations, Mexico received a lot of Germans, and Colombia received many African slaves at some point in their history. So stereotyping on how a Latino should look might be perceived as racist.
4) They are mostly uneducated and perform manual labor jobs. Quoting the Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu’s interview for ABC News in her last visit to the United States: “In fact, Mexico has the second largest professional diaspora in the United States. We are talking about lawyers, we’re talking about designers in Silicon Valley, we’re talking about medical professionals, we’re talking about Oscar winners.” This data not only applies to Mexico, but also other Latin-American countries that contribute professional human capital to the American economy.
5) They all celebrate with wild partying on the main Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo. In fact 5 de Mayo is not a Statutory Holiday in Mexico; it is more celebrated in the U.S. Cinco de Mayo became popular in the U.S. when President Roosevelt signed the “Good Neighbor Policy” in 1933 with the objective of improving relations with Latin-American nations. Actually the way it is celebrated in the U.S. is perceived amongst many Mexican nationals as an excuse to drink Margaritas and eat Mexican food, thus misrepresenting the Mexican Culture.
6) They all eat tacos and burritos. Actually what people perceive as Mexican food in the U.S. is in reality Tex-Mex food. Although this type of food has elements of the traditional Mexican food, it is definitely not the same. According to a Serious Eats article (link) the origin of Tex-Mex fare dates back to the Texans of Spanish or Mexican heritage who lived in Texas. “Authentic Mexican Food” combines elements of Spanish cuisine and Mesoamerican cooking, and according to list amaze (see link), Authentic Mexican Cuisine ranks #3 amongst the finest cuisines in the world. (Only France and Italy rank higher.)
7) They don’t pay taxes and live “hidden in the shadows.” In 2013 according to the National Council of La Raza (link to article), Hispanic Households paid “almost $124 billion in federal taxes, including individual and corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and excise taxes, and almost $67 billion in state and local taxes.” In fact, many economists have stated that the contributions of young Hispanics will keep the Social Security system strong.
Bottom line, get to know each Hispanic you meet as a unique diverse person and interact with them in a genuine and respectful manner.
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Please also Read: “Five Common Misconceptions About Gay People.”
“Five Misconceptions of Muslims in the USA.”
A guest blog – Five Misconceptions about Atheists.