Hispanic community in the United States. Hispanic-American's have influenced many aspects of today's American culture such as art, religion, and education since the early 1600's. It will outline the influx of the Spanish explorers and the defense of the border between the United States and Mexico. The paper will also examine the influence of the food, colorful clothing, art, and the educational reform that has come about to meet the needs of the Hispanic children in the school system. This culture has made such a lasting impact in America that is deserves to be studied and researched more in-depth to gain more appreciation and insight to its lasting contribution.
Hispanic-American Cultural Diversity
Hispanic-American's have influenced many aspects of today's American culture such as art, religion, and education since the early 1600's. The borders of Mexico have long been the subject of territorial disputes and have many people have died to defend the right to the land that is part of that border. There have also been great numbers of Cuban refugees who have managed to cross waters to become legal residents in many states. The Hispanic community has certainly marked our culture in many ways. The popularity of Mexican food, the evidence of Spanish architecture, art and colorful clothing are all signs that people see the beauty that is derived from the Hispanic people.
This culture has made such a lasting impact in America that is deserves to be studied and researched more in-depth to gain more appreciation and insight to its lasting contribution.
Hispanic-Americans, also known as Latinos, are residents of the United States who can trace their ancestry to countries in the Western Hemisphere where the Spanish language is spoken. People of Hispanic background have lived in the United States since the 17th century. Hispanic-Americans are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States. Experts predict that Hispanic-Americans will number more than 50 million by the year 2025 (Stavens, 1998).
The United States has immigrants from Mexico because of the near proximity of the border, but beginning in the 19th century, the southern United States became a convenient place of refuge for Cubans fleeing political persecution or economic hardship. As early as the 1830's, there was a significant Cuban colony in Key West, Florida. Later in the century, as Cubans struggled to free themselves from Spanish rule, substantial communities of political exiles arose in Tampa, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; and New York City (Firmat 1998: 298).
Spanish explorers traveled about the area known as North America for many years. Spanish exploration of what would become the western United States was greatly influenced by fantastic myths and much folklore. Spaniards of that era put their faith and trust in the ancient and medieval legends of the Terrestrial Paradise or the Amazon Island.
There were also American Indian tales about the Seven Cities of Cibola and of El Dorado, "the Gilded Man," a king whose dutiful subjects covered him with gold dust every morning and washed it off every night.
The Spaniards found exotic stories to be very real. They also fed on wild rumors, stories from the Indians and survivors of early expeditions, and the fervid imaginations of explorers on the edge of a strange New World. The possibility of finding cities of gold and gilded kings was given credibility by the conquering feats of Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizarro. In 1521, Cortes looted the fabulous treasure of the Aztec empire in central Mexico. In 1533, Pizarro vanquished the huge Inca empire of western South America, centered in what today is Peru, exposing rooms full of gold and silver (Peterson 1999: 12). These stories have not only become wonderful tales, but also find entry in the United States history books.
Since most Cuban Americans arrived in this country not as immigrants but political refugees, their culture has a strong nostalgic strain. This nostalgia influences their choice of foods, music, and marriage partners. Among Miami Cubans the rate of intermarriage with other ethnic groups is very low. Many Cuban Americans still practice traditional Cuban customs such as lavish coming-out balls for teenage girls. Cuban American families often include not just parents and children but also older relatives, such as widowed or dependent grandparents. Young Cuban Americans have begun to make their presence felt within the Cuban-American culture. These American-born Cubans are more likely assimilated and prefer to communicate in English. They enjoy listening to rock and rap music as well as to Cuban music that has greatly influenced the American realm of music.
The Hispanic-American community is a mix of subgroups with roots in various countries of Latin America, such as Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Official United States government documents and the English-speaking media typically use the term Hispanic when referring to the larger community comprised of these varied national groups.
Spanish-language radio and television stations generally use the terms Hispanic or Latino. Many Hispanic-Americans are uncomfortable with all of these broad categories and prefer more specific designations, such as Cuban American or Mexican-American.
Almost every city that is visited in the United States has a Mexican, Cuban or other Spanish oriented restaurant. From the corner Taco Bells to the sit-down cafe's that are found along San Antonio's Riverwalk, people can choose from the menu's that include tacos, refried beans, enchiladas, and many other wonderful entree's seasoned to reflect the cultural cooking from the community of Spanish America.
Another area of American culture that has been greatly influenced by Hispanics is the clothing industry. Brightly colored skirts, shirts, and dresses are found in many designers' portfolios for the chosen style for next season. All cotton shirts Mexican shirts are also a popular style for many golf enthusiasts.
Attempts to unify Hispanic-Americans under a single banner have often created tensions among the varied Hispanic-American subgroups. Cuban Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Puerto Ricans often have little in common. Some Hispanic-Americans find it easier to identify with other minorities rather than with members of other Hispanic groups. Cuban Americans have often allied themselves politically with Jewish-Americans. Puerto Ricans have built similar alliances with African-Americans.
Even obvious similarities sometimes cover extreme differences. Although most Hispanics speak Spanish, each subgroup adapts the pronunciation and slang of its homeland to its unique circumstances in the United States. Likewise, while most Hispanic-Americans are members of the Roman Catholic Church, they have inherited different religious traditions from their homelands. In the Spanish-speaking nations of the Caribbean, Catholic religious practices reflect strong African influences as a result of the slave trade that took place in the region. In Central and South America, the most significant influences on the Catholic Church are the religious traditions of pre-Colombian civilizations of Native Americans.
Despite these differences, other social forces contribute to the formation of an increasingly unified Hispanic identity in the United States. Rather than provide specialized services to each Hispanic group, the United States government has encouraged the creation of a single Hispanic identity. American Spanish-language radio and television stations work hard to create a unified Hispanic market for their advertisers. Hispanic-American politicians, attempting to find common ground in their diverse constituencies, have forged political alliances among Hispanic groups. These attempts to create a single Hispanic community have had positive results, but they have also led to an oversimplified understanding of the complex variety of Hispanic groups in the United States.
Art is another area that America has benefited from the Spanish community. Spanish art, if a generalization can be made, appeals greatly to the senses, and more often than not to the sense of sorrow. A moving example is a polychrome pearwood Mater Dolorosa by an anonymous thirteenth-century carver. As the commentary notes, "she stares fixedly almost hypnotically giving the impression of intense pain, accentuated by her partially opened lips." In truth, the more you look at her, the more she seems alive. On the happier side, but with the same realistic intensity, is Juan de Sevilla's painting of about 1660 depicting the Virgin and Child with angels. The Virgin, who appears to be a comely sixteen, offers a shapely breast to the naked child, while sin little angels concentrate on making themselves useful. The two holds up the curtain that frames the scene, one lays out the child's clothes, and three arrange flowers in his crib. It is an imagined domestic scene that is entirely and immediately accessible to the viewer (Mayor 2001: 298).
The Hispanic's long tradition of producing folk art continues to play an important role in the life and culture that surrounds us today. Frequently, these folkways are woven so tightly into the fabric of Spanish life that they are hardly recognizable to those who use them on a daily basis. The blending of cultural traditions has played a part in throughout history and with this, produces a unique diversity that all would like to be part of. Many combine the Spanish style with some influence from the Celtic, Roman, Germanic, Moorish, French, and…