Hispanics: The Majority Minority

Look for December 12 on your standard U.S. office calendar, and you will see "Virgin of Guadalupe" marking the date.  The notation is a telling sign of the growing reach and influence of Hispanic immigrants in the U.S., an influence that's expected to continue to increase until, one day, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be comparable to and as mainstream as St. Patrick's Day in the U.S.  Just as we're all Irish for one day, we'll all "be," and celebrate Hispanic culture just as widely.  Already, our experts say, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is no longer limited to those of Mexican birth or descent.  Her day is observed by U.S. Hispanic immigrants from diverse countries and backgrounds.  What's more, "gringos" are starting to participate in the feast too.

As the 12th approaches, the University of Cincinnati e-briefing examines this feast and other issues related to U.S. Hispanics, who, according to the latest census figures, are the largest minority in the nation. 

Table of contents:

1. A festival of growth

  • Guadalupe observances: More and bigger every year
  • "Gringos" coming too
  • A positive model

2. By the numbers

  • The majority minority
  • What? Growing so soon?
  • Ever expanding geographic base
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same

3. Identity shift

  • An emerging identity
  • Guadalupe: a meeting point for diverse Hispanic groups
  • Seeing beyond black and white?
  • Fortunes to rise
  • Underpinning the economy

4. Latinos coming to rule popular culture

  • Publishing gap closing
  • Embracing ethnicity
  • Cutting a fine figure

5. The daily grind: Every-day challenges

  • The crime communication gap
  • Checking up on health system's readiness


Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, associate director, Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, U.S. Catholic Conferences, said Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will mark the opening of new Hispanic ministry centers within parishes in Oregon, California and Kentucky.  They'll join with about 4,000 U.S. Catholic parishes that currently have ministries specifically for Hispanic residents, 41 percent of whom are from Mexico or are of Mexican parentage. Up to 700 of these parishes added such ministries in the last five years, because of the rising numbers of Hispanics in the United States, and more parishes are expected to do so. In Washington D.C., 29 out of 140 parishes have Hispanic ministries, but these 29 are already "bursting at the seams," said Aguilera-Titus.
The events that mark the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which celebrates the 1531 appearance of the Virgin Mary, in the form of a pregnant, indigenous woman, to an indigenous farmer named Juan Diego in Mexico, will vary according to the numbers of Hispanics of Mexican origin in any particular locale. Aguilera-Titus said that all along the West Coast, Southwest, in Chicago and in Denver (which has experienced a huge influx of Mexican-born immigrants in the last five to seven years), celebrations will begin at 5 a.m. with music and song. The day will include a Mass, special foods and festivals as well as mariachi bands. Some cities that have gained large numbers of Mexican immigrants will see larger celebrations than in years past, namely New York City and other parts of New England, where Mexican-born immigrants are beginning to rival those with roots in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Contact:  202-541-3155

Mike Gable, director of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati's Mission Office, said that the Cincinnati region will observe the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe by hosting Guatemalan Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini, an outspoken proponent of peasant rights.  Celebrations for the day include a "Guadalupe eve" Mass and fiesta starting at 6:30 p.m. at Holy Trinity Church in Dayton; a "mañanita" event of music and song at 5 a.m. at St. Julie Billiart Parish in Hamilton; and a 7 p.m. Mass and fiesta at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Carthage. While the region's Hispanic population is expected to attend the
events, Gable added that, every year, more "gringos" attend such events as ties between the two cultures increase.  For instance, more locals are visiting Central and South America and more parishes are forming "twinning relationships" with communities in that region of the world.
Contact:  513-421-3131

Amy Elder, UC professor of literature, said Guadalupe is one of the few positive images   for Hispanic women within their own culture. Hispanic women are faced with a battery of negative images of females. One of the most common is La Malinche, which is based on a historical figure, who served as Hernan Cortez's translator and concubine. She and Cortez produced a son who is regarded, by legend, as the first Mexican. Rather than a source of pride, La Malinche has been viewed as a traitor and whore. Another legendary figure, La Llorona -  the crying woman - is a figure who killed her children, and according to stories about her, can be encountered haunting creek beds, weeping for them. Both figures are representative of a deep distrust of women, said Elder, who herself attended Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations growing up in South Central Los Angeles.
Contact: 513-556-3917


The Year 2000 U.S. Census showed for the first time that the Hispanic population exceeded that of African Americans, making Hispanics the new largest minority in the United States. Hispanics now represent 12.5 percent of the U.S. population, while 12.3 percent of the nation claims African American heritage. Roger Daniels, UC professor emeritus of history and author of several books on  immigration history, notes that the general perception is that most of these 35.5 million Hispanics are "foreigners." But that isn't so. The 2000 Current Population Survey reports that only two of five Hispanics (39.1 percent) are foreign born.  Below he looks at the country of origin for the U.S. population claiming Hispanic heritage

  •  Mexican - 58.5 percent (of Hispanics in the United States)
  •  Puerto Rican - 9.6 percent
  •  Cuban - 3.5 percent
  •  Other: 28.4 percent (including Central American, South American, Caribbean)

Contact: roger.daniels@uc.edu

UC sociologist Rhys Williams says that while demographers expected Hispanics to experience terrific growth and to become the largest minority in the nation, they really didn't expect it to happen quite as soon as 2000. Another significant shift shown by the 2000 census has been the scope of the Hispanic presence. In the mid-1980s, the Hispanic population represented a regional minority, with New York/New Jersey, South Florida and the American Southwest/California as the centers, he said. The 2000 census showed how that "regional" minority has dramatically spread to become a national minority, with Hispanics living throughout the United States, in rural as well as urban areas.
Contact: 513-556-4717

Roger Daniels, UC professor emeritus of history and expert on immigration history reports that in the 2000 census, seven states recorded more than a million Hispanics. Though not one of those states, New Mexico, because of its small population, is the most "Hispanic" state in the nation, with more than 42 percent of its population claiming Latino heritage. It is also the only state with two official languages, English and Spanish. The seven states with more than 1 million Hispanics are, in order:

  • California: 10,966,556
  • Texas: 6,669,666
  • New York: 2,867,583
  • Florida: 2,682,715
  • Illinois: 1,530,262
  • Arizona: 1,295,617
  • New Jersey: 1,117,191

Contact: roger.daniels@uc.edu

Roger Daniels, UC professor emeritus of history and a prominent immigration historian, says that the Hispanics who have immigrated to the United States are little different from other ethnic groups that came here earlier through Ellis Island.  Like other immigrant groups, "All are pushed or thrown into moving from one country to another. Mostly they come here because they think in moving they will better their economic and social status. We like to think that they came for freedom or democracy, but most came to work, make
money and send some money back home," Daniels said.
Contact: roger.daniels@uc.edu


Rafael Reyes-Ruiz, visiting professor of anthropology, Oberlin College, says that Latinos come from so many different countries, they don't really share one homogeneous identity. What few commonalities they have are promoted by "Latino culture" industries, many of which are based in Miami, Fla., but which are mostly financed through Latin America. They include television, music and the Spanish-language publishing enterprises. One of the intriguing things about Latino or Hispanic culture - whatever label you choose - is that the culture it refers to is being transnationalized.  It's not just found in the U.S.  Reyes-Ruiz said. "You find similar articulations of it in other nations - in Japan, Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris."
Contact: 440-775-6658

Alejandro Aguilera-Titus, associate director, Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, U.S. Catholic Conferences, says that Hispanic immigrants who are not from Mexico are likely to adopt the feast day as their own as a means to recalling their native culture.  Thus, the day serves to bond varying Hispanic immigrant groups.  He said, "...even if immigrants are less involved in church life in their native countries, they are more involved here in the U.S. because they don't claim our culture as their own.  Since they feel distanced from so many aspects of life here, religious feasts and these feasts' celebrations and symbols are something familiar.  So, immigrants from other Latin countries [other than Mexico] add Our Lady of Guadalupe to their own religiosity."
Contact: 202-541-3155

Rhys Williams, UC sociologist, says the Hispanic presence in the US will affect attitudes on ethnicity.  "We will have this huge population that is neither European nor African, and it can't be called black or white. Will it force us to rethink our racial thinking because we can't just think in black and white terms anymore?" Or maybe the United States will just continue to think in black and white, Williams says. "We may take the lightest skinned Latinos such as Cubans and make them 'honorary whites,' while the darker skinned Latinos will be regarded as black," he continued. "I honestly don't know which way it will go. Black and white has such a long history in our culture that sometimes I think that we will continue to see things that way no matter what."
Contact: 513-556-4717

Roger Daniels, UC professor emeritus of history who has written several volumes on immigration history, cautions that Americans tend to suffer from a lot of hysteria about immigration, especially in regards to Hispanic immigration. "I think people ignore that the story of American immigration is a continuing success story. The success doesn't necessarily come in the first generation, but it usually does come. The longer a group has been in the country, the less likely they are to be poor. Yes, a lot of Hispanics are poor, but increasing numbers are achieving middle class status. The Spanish-language magazines are carrying more and more upscale advertising. Yes, on average, Hispanics have less education than the general American population, but with each generation there tends to be more. And in recent years, we are getting more and more Hispanics who are coming here from middle class societies in South America to escape high inflation and
Contact: roger.daniels@uc.edu

Johanna Looye, UC associate professor of planning, studies small-scale business development in both the U.S. and abroad.  She says immigrants are playing a vital role in the economy by taking positions that otherwise go unfilled.  Said Looye, "I come from Hastings, Nebraska, in south-central Nebraska, where meat-packing is big business.  Hispanic immigrants came for the jobs there because Nebraska farmboys would no longer take those jobs.  Immigrants are unjustly charged with 'stealing' low-wage, manual labor when, in truth, those who traditionally held those jobs no longer accept them."
Contact: 513-556-0216

Colombian native Armando Romero, UC professor of Romance languages, and author of two Spanish-language novels published outside the U.S., says that aside from some publishers in Florida and California, U.S. publishing prospects for Spanish-language writers have been slim. In the past two years, that has begun to change.  Romero said that, until recently, there were no literary agents in the United States to represent Spanish-language writers at big-name U.S. publishers. His own primary literary agent is based
in Spain. Many Latin America countries have no literary agents at all. "You cannot approach a publishing house without a literary agent. They won't pay attention to you," he said.
Contact: 513-556-1831

From the South American influence exhibited by the architecture of the new Westin Hotel on Times Square to the film, "Frida," Latino influence on U.S. popular culture is everywhere, notes Michael Porte, UC professor of communication and a scholar of popular culture. That contrasts with the past when, for example, film star Anthony Quinn changed a Mexican surname to an Anglicized one and became more recognized as a Greek than a Latino. That stands in stark contrast to the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas today. Even Raquel Welch has become more open about her Mexican background.
Contact: 513-556-4473

Margie Voelker-Ferrier, coordinator of UC's fashion program, says that the growing Hispanic presence within U.S. popular culture is affecting fashion. "J.Lo is heightening awareness of Hispanic influence in fashion as have other Hispanic celebrities of recent years, such as Ricky Martin.  The influence was first felt in the world of music and clubs.  Now, it's being felt more broadly, and that includes fashion.  The movie, 'Frida,' is having a huge fashion impact because of its incredibly beautiful visuals....Latin-influenced fashion is what I would call modernism with spice. It's genuinely intense and dramatic."
Contact: 513-556-5041

Mary Benedetti, associate professor, UC's Teaching English as a Second Language Program, says one serious concern about immigrants who have moved to the area is their hesitancy in reporting crimes committed against them. "It doesn't matter whether they're here legally or illegally. It would be their word ... against the word of a person who's born here, and there's a shortage of translators." Benedetti believes that because of the activism of natural-born Americans and legal immigrants working in the social justice field, the situation is slowly changing for the better.
Contact: 513-556-2817

Chris Auffrey, UC associate professor of planning, studies minority health issues.  He said that the Cincinnati region's Hispanic population is growing and that health care providers need to prepare to serve this client base.  "In Cincinnati, providers have gained cultural competence in serving African Americans and Appalachians. But there are issues [related to Hispanics] tied to language, culture, customs and legal status that this area is seemingly unaware of," he said.  Auffrey added that Cincinnati could model itself on cities in California, Arizona and Colorado when implementing frameworks that encourage better health care and healthier social environments for immigrants.  "In these border states, there was a real effort at one point to eliminate legal status as an issue for those needing health care services.  The focus was on treating the person and on continuity of care.  The effort was made to protect immigrants against scrutiny so that whether documented or undocumented, they would seek health care."
Contact: 513-556-0579


Related Stories


Caring Connections: How scholarship support inspires next...

May 28, 2024

Dymond Robinson and Tate Coleman, spring graduates of the University of Cincinnati James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy, are driven by their passion to help others. The newly minted pharmacists are grateful for those who supported their educational journeys, sharing that scholarships have been vital to their success.


Industry advisory cabinet established to serve College of...

May 28, 2024

An Industry Advisory Cabinet comprised of respected leaders across several industries formed last month to serve as a significant resource for the College of Cooperative Education and Professional Studies (CCPS) at the University of Cincinnati

Debug Query for this