U.S. Latinos have a growing impact on the country’s politics, economy and especially culture.
When Argentine President Alberto Fernández invited his U.S. colleague, President Joe Biden, to the next meeting for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Buenos Aires in December he, maybe unintentionally, marked a topic in a debate that is starting to take shape.
What would happen if the United States claimed its place as a Latin American and Spanish-speaking country?
It seems absurd, but is the truth, and apart from giving some Latin American traditionalists a stroke, it would be necessary to consider some details.
First of all, in the United States, there are 65 million people with Latin heritage; of them, at least 55 million are Spanish speakers. In other words, it is the second Hispanic country in the world only to Mexico, with more Spanish speakers than Colombia, Spain and Argentina.
Of those 60-something million, the immense majority have Latin American parents, grandparents or great-grandparents, mostly Mexican, but also Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican or Central American, with some direct descendants in more recent generations or further in the past.
The demographic growth of Hispanics in the U.S. is more due to births — more or less a million each year since 2000 — than migration. And that brings into question many political ideas and concepts.
Latinos are now the second racial, though not political, bloc in the United States after the Anglo-Saxons.
It would be worth questioning the relationship that a third generation of Latinos born in the United States would have with their ancestral homeland. Existing examples talk about love-hate-indifference-pride connections.
The Irish celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day, when they wear green clothing and proclaim their origins. But they are above all American. Italians adore their food, or at least their version of Italian food, and explore the old country, but they are also above all American.
For Mexican, Central American or Cuban descendants, will that be their destiny?
It is possible. But the governments of the countries that expelled the ancestors of this rising U.S. population would do well in preparing to seek better relationships with them — not only with the immigrants, but with their children, their grandchildren or their great-grandchildren.
As a growing part of U.S. society, U.S. Latinos have an increasing impact on politics, the economy and especially culture, through their resonance and their interaction with Latin America.
Therefore, the question might be how long will it take for U.S. Latinos to be constituted into a social group that, apart from its political differences, claims not only its rights in its own country but also a place among Latin American nations.