The Mexican-American population in the United States represents the largest Hispanic demographic in terms of population size (Lipski, 2003, p. 223) and accordingly has a relatively large impact on the form of Spanish spoken in the U.S. In areas where Hispanics of Mexican descent dominate, such as the Southwest and some Midwestern cities, Mexican Spanish is the only form represented in advertising, schools, and on television and radio stations.
The extended family or "la familia" remains an important institution among Mexican-Americans and is functionally defined as putting the welfare of the family above all else (Alverez, 2003, p. 258-259). This ideology benefited agricultural workers when the pay was so low that everyone had to contribute in order to survive, yet tends to get in the way of individual success that's so important for life in the U.S. The relative geographic isolation of the Southwest and its proximity to Mexico has helped to preserve this institution over the past century, as have the pervasive racial discriminatory practices directed against Mexican-Americans in more recent times. The la familia though, was essential for emigrating from Mexico because family members already established in the U.S. The necessary social and employment opportunities in an otherwise hostile country.
Social connections in first generation Mexican-Americans were mainly limited to their extended families (Alverez, 2003, p. 259). By comparison, second and later generation Mexican-Americans attended public schools, universities, and obtained non-agricultural jobs that brought them in close contact with other Latinos and non-Latinos. As a result, marriage outside of the Mexican-American community is becoming increasingly common.
Historically, the Catholic Church has had a tremendous influence on the spiritual practices of Mexicans and therefore remains the dominant religion among this group (Pena, 2003, p. 288-295). During the colonial period churches and priests were few and far between, so homes became central to religious practices. For example, setting aside space within the home for a religious alter is still common today. Despite the pervasive Catholic identity, many Mexicans practice or believe in pagan rituals that were probably preserved from their Native American ancestry (Stevens-Arroyo, 2004, p. 345-346).
Politically, the Mexican-American population is overwhelmingly non-conservative. For example, 84% of California's Hispanic population is of Mexican descent (Jackson, 2011, p. 696). Of these, 64% are registered democrats and 14% are registered as independents. Their history of economic and social repression has been a large contributing factor to their politics.
The Puerto Rican population is primarily concentrated in cities in the northeastern United States (Lipski, 2003, p. 223-224). The type of Spanish spoken can be recognized as distinct by other Caribbean Hispanic groups. Puerto Ricans frequently fail to pronounce the final "s" on words, or slur the sound, and those who have emigrated to the U.S. from the inland regions of the island often trill their rr's. For this reason, Mexicans and Central Americans have a hard time understanding Puerto Rican Spanish.
In contrast to immigration strategies practiced by Mexican families, Puerto Rican families seeking to improve their economic status would send young men to the U.S. mainland to find jobs (Alverez, 2003, p. 246-249). If they were successful the rest of the family would follow. Unfortunately, the abject poverty and abysmal educational system on the island restricted the type of U.S. jobs available to low paying ones. Unemployment and poverty therefore became a major defining feature of Puerto Rican communities in the U.S. As well. To compensate, extended families in the U.S. And Puerto Rico support members who are unable to make ends meet. The pervasive unemployment has also impacted the traditional matriarchal family structure, because women often find themselves the sole breadwinner and therefore the decision maker in the family.
The social networks of Puerto Ricans in the United States still depend heavily on relations with extended family members and rarely do they marry outside of their community (Alverez, 2003, p. 249). There is some indication that this is changing slowly for U.S. born Puerto Ricans, as they strive to overcome poverty, unemployment, and low levels of academic achievement, but slowly is the key word in this statement.
The pervasive and persistent poverty and unemployment among inner city Puerto Rican communities led to several decades of political and social unrest and activism (Santiago-Valles and Jimenez-Munoz, 2004, p. 109-113). The gradual elimination of manufacturing jobs, increased automation, erosion of real wages, deregulation, weakening of trade unions, brutal police crackdowns, and the increasing criminalization of the poor and unemployed, marginalized the urban Puerto Rican communities. These social pressures encouraged political moderation, yet underneath this veneer of political 'correctness' lies a now entrenched unwillingness to reengage with capitalist leadership as a colonial labor force. Needless to say, the political stance of the Puerto Rican community is socially liberal.
Catholicism remains a central part of the lives of most Puerto Ricans. Pagan rituals also coexist with Catholic practices and beliefs, but in contrast to the Native American influence evident the type of religion practiced by Mexicans, the source of the pagan influence in the Caribbean is Africa (Stevens-Arroyo, 2004, p. 346-347).
Cuban Americans represent the third largest Hispanic population in the United States and are concentrated in South Florida to such an extent that their brand of Spanish dominates this region (Lipki, 2003, p. 223-225). Large Cuban communities can also be found in northeastern U.S. cities. Cuban Spanish can be differentiated from other forms of U.S. Spanish primarily by word substitutions native to Cuba, and the use of the diminutive -- ico instead of -- ito.
Family plays a central role in the lives of Cubans and Cuban Americans; however, class and racial distinctions are prominent (Alverez, 2003, p. 254-255). For example, Caucasian Cubans emphasize the nuclear family while Cubans of mixed ancestry (African) emphasize the extended family. Economic forces have contributed to these distinctions, as lower class Cubans have had to rely on extended families to establish themselves in the U.S. These class distinctions need to be considered in light of the historical migratory patterns, since a large percentage of Cuban Americans are exiles representing the upper economic and social class of pre-Castro Cuban society. These exiles were well-educated, had established professional careers, and owned and managed businesses. For this reason, Cuban Americans as a group have been more successful economically in the United States than other Hispanic groups.
The ideology of Cuban American families is very traditional, with a strict matriarchal structure that exerts considerable control over the mother and children (Alverez, 2003, p. 255-156). Unfortunately, this creates friction within the family as Cuban American children witness their non-Cuban peers enjoy significantly more freedom and independence. For example, unmarried daughters are still chaperoned. To maintain control over the family, social networks are generally limited to family members and close members of the Cuban American community.
The Catholic faith remains a central part of the lives of most Cuban Americans, but the African influence is more evident in the religious practices of non-exile lower class Cubans, such as those that emigrated to the U.S. On the Mariel boatlift (Stevens-Arroyo, 2004, p. 346-347). The Afro-Caribbean religion is called Santeria in the U.S. And Lucumi in Cuba. Practices, such as animal sacrifices, are common, but still remain largely hidden behind a veil of Catholicism.
The political landscape of the Cuban American community is shaped primarily by the migratory pattern (Garcia, 2004, p. 176). When Castro took over control in Cuba the upper classes fled to the U.S. And other countries. These exiles practiced so-called "Exile" politics, which consisted of efforts to remove Castro from power in Cuba, and aligned themselves with the anti-communist fervor endemic to conservatives in the U.S. The children and grandchildren of the exiles still align themselves with American conservatives because of their wealth, yet no longer practice exile politics.
Columbian Americans are primarily concentrated in New York and Miami, although significant numbers can be found in other regions (Lipski, 2003, p. 224). When compared to the population sizes of other Hispanic groups in the U.S. though, they represent a relatively small group. As a result, the type of Spanish spoken by Columbian Americans has little or no influence on U.S. Spanish. This dilution effect is further enhanced by the existence of several dialectically-distinct regions in Columbia.
Colombian immigration to the U.S. is a relatively recent phenomenon in terms of numbers, yet currently represents the fifth largest Hispanic group in the United States and the largest from South America (Murnan, 2011). Three social/economic factors contributed to this: upper-middle and middle class professionals sought to improve their economic status in the post WWII period, the economics of the U.S. drug trade, and neoliberal social restructuring (Murnan, 2011; Guarnizo, Luis and Diaz, 1999, p. 402). Although low wage earners began to emigrate to the U.S. In the 1980s, most Colombians Americans (88%) are from urban areas (Guarnizo, Luis and Diaz, 1999, p. 399), and unlike all other Hispanic groups have a socioeconomic status considered to be equivalent to mainstream America.