50 Million and Going Strong: We Didn’t Arrive Yesterday, and We Are Not Leaving Tomorrow
Latinos are an integral part of the history and culture of the United States. The American Latino story has been evolving for more than 500 years. Nevertheless, some Americans, including American Latinos, know little of our country’s rich Hispanic heritage. Written and oral narratives have not become part of the collective memory of our country. These stories have been untold, ignored, or altogether forgotten.
Today, The U.S. Census Bureau has released final findings of the 2010 Census. The final count: 196.8 million whites, 37.7 million blacks, 50.5 million Hispanics and 14.5 million Asians. What does this mean for our community and for the nation?
We have reached this tremendous milestone faster than what was predicted. This number does not account for the additional 4 million in Puerto Rico. As Latinos we now comprise 1 in 6 Americans and among U.S. children, Hispanics are roughly 1 in 4. The Census also shows that Latinos are moving west and into the center as well, reviving communities located along the bible belt. This is also iconic as Latinos are now calling the “heartland of America” home.
These details are of vital importance as our communities grow and as our children are raised as American Latinos. What other way is there to state it? As the great spoken word poet, Bobby Lefebre stated, we are the hyphen of American-Latino. We come from a rich cultural and historical legacy of our homelands, but are proud to be a part of this great nation. Even when we are hated and attacked, we still love this country and feel very much that we are an integral part of the fabric of American society.
In 2008, a record number — 9.7 million Latino citizens — reported voting in the presidential election, about 2 million more than voted in 2004. More than 1 million Latinos 18 years and older are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and our community registers more soldiers than any other group.
These population changes will shift 12 House seats and electoral votes impacting 18 states, just in time for the 2012 elections.
Our buying power allows the U.S. economy to thrive as American Latinos increasingly contribute, in a very significant way, to the development of the U.S. economy. The buying power of the Hispanic market in 2009 was $978 billion — larger than the entire economies (2008 Gross Domestic Product measured in U.S. dollars) of all but 14 countries in the world. This year, our buying power will hit $1 trillion dollars, and by 2013 we will contribute with $1.3 trillion.
Today, 25 percent of the nation’s children live in a Latino household; this group will play a vital role in renewing the American dream, giving it new cultural options. In all their diversity, American Latinos are keeping and enhancing fundamental American ideals and values of family, church, and patriotism.
However, as these numbers continue to rise, we must pay close attention to the response of the nation. Although these numbers are a celebration for us, these same numbers strike fears in xenophobic and misinformed Americans. We are seen a threat to American values and pride. Hate crimes might rise and a lash back will occur, as politicians and hate-based organizations, use this information to scare the masses. Now more than ever, as Latinos, we must continue to contribute to American society, as we always have and as we will continue to do. We have a power that is all our own and can change the course of politics and American society. We should yield it to the benefit of our communities by electing candidates in our communities and by standing up for our rights and the rights of our children. We must no longer be seen as second-class citizens for we have proved that we deserve our seat at the table as well.