Racial and Ethnic Groups: Hispanics Living in the United States
To suggest that Hispanics comprise a single ethnic group is to ignore the tremendous diversity among the different Hispanic ethnic subgroups. Depending on the heritage country, these different Hispanic groups may have very different cultures. Examining the linguistic, political, social, economic, religious, and familial conventions of these different ethnic subgroups helps highlight their similarities and differences. This paper will examine those features in four Hispanic groups: Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and Central South Americans.
Mexican-Americans are Americans of Mexican descent. Mexican-Americans are primarily Spanish speakers, though the language spoken in the home may not be Spanish. Spanish is the official language of Mexico, but it is important to realize that "the indigenous people of this nation - almost five centuries after The Conquest - still speak approximately 288 Amerindian languages" (Schmal, 2004). Catholicism is the dominant religion among Mexican-Americans, though there are substantial subgroups of Mexican-Americans that practice every major world religion. In fact, there is a thriving Jewish Mexican-American population. Likewise, Mexican-Americans are an economically diverse group. Many Mexican-Americans are in the United States illegally and are stuck in the underground economy and consigned to a very low economic status. However, there are also tremendously wealthy Mexican-Americans, who are very upwardly mobile. Socially, Mexican-Americans can vary as well. Like many immigrant groups, more recent immigrants are more likely to place emphasis on their Mexican-American status, while second and third generation Mexican-Americans are more likely to have assimilated into generic American society. All of this diversity makes it very difficult to try to explain the family conventions of Mexican-Americans, however, traditional Mexican-American families tend to have a patriarchal male figure, emphasize the importance of the male, define a family as a married heterosexual, nuclear family unit, and encourage care of elder family members. When one looks at how diverse Mexican-Americans are, it should come as no surprise that they are a politically diverse group as well. Mexican-Americans have recently been associated with the Democrats, though the Republican Party attracts Mexican-Americans because of many of its social policies.
Puerto Ricans have an interesting status as a Hispanic group living in the United States. Unlike members of other Hispanic groups in the United States, Puerto Ricans are not really immigrants. Puerto Rico is part of the United States, though it is not a state and its citizens do not enjoy all of the protections of U.S. citizens. Like other Hispanic communities, the Puerto Rican community has Spanish as its primary language. However, English is taught as a second language throughout school in Puerto Rico, so that most Puerto Ricans have an extreme familiarity with English. In addition, Puerto Rican Spanish is different from the Spanish in other Spanish-speaking countries because of the influence of indigenous vocabulary and African-attributed words that came from African slaves and their descendents. There is not as much religious diversity among Puerto Ricans as among Mexicans; most are Roman Catholic, some are Protestants, Jews, or Muslims, and some practice Native or African religions. There are actually more people of Puerto Rican descent living in the United States than in Puerto Rico, which makes it difficult to assess their financial situation as a group. In Puerto Rico, the average household income is below the United States poverty line. Outside of the United States, Puerto Ricans exists in all possible income brackets, though many Puerto Rican communities are still in the lower-class or lower-middle class economic bracket. Socially, the family is the foundation of Puerto Rican social structure, and family extends well beyond the nuclear family to include cousins, aunts, and uncles. Women are expected to marry young and have many children, which results in many female-headed households. In addition, many households have at least three generations living within them (Serpa, 2005). Politically, Puerto Ricans differ from other Hispanic groups living within the United States, because Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous part of the United States. Puerto Ricans, even those living in other parts of the United States, represent the entire political diversity of an entire nation. Moreover, questions about what type of political status, particularly whether it should become a state, have played a major role in Puerto Rican politics.
Cuban Americans are Americans of Cuban descent. Cuban Americans, particularly those born in the United States,…