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Unification and Integration in the American Political System


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Unification and Integration in the American Political System A serious problem among Latinos in America is finding a similarity among the many Latino cultures residing within the United States, an issue that can be better understood looking at the existing literature of the Latino’s community and political condition in order to explain their ability and opportunity to be incorporated into the American political system. The one constant for the Latino culture is similarity of language; the one difference is national origin. This difference comes from the fact that most Latino’s define themselves by their ancestral past e.g. Mexican, Spanish, Colombian, Puerto Rican or whomever their culture identifies with as far as an ancestral past and country is concerned.
This said the emergence of citizens in the United States in relation to the Latino population brings with it an undefined people. Unlike other cultures in America who have an identifiable label or race i.e.: White, Black, Asian, Irish etc. for the Latino being defined as Hispanic was set by the Nixon administration and thus classified all Latinos as one people now known as Hispanic. Latinos have been compressed into a collective culture that at times cannot or will not identify with one another. (Fraga. P 517)
What ultimately has occurred is one group of Americans is acknowledged by race-- while the others are compared by culture. Essayist Richard Rodriguez, editor of the Pacific News Service eloquently defines this point saying, “I am Hispanic in a country that traditionally insists on racial categories. I define myself not by reference to race or color but by reference to culture. (Rodriguez essay) To this point it is easy to see why gaining identity and later citizenship has been multifarious for the Latino. In comparison, in the early birth of America, new Irish citizens found it difficult to find work and attain the same rights given to other citizens in America. The one advantage the Irish community had over many other races is the right to vote, second was culture identity. It was for these reasons the Irish realized that by having numbers, the battles of equality through the right to vote could bring the changes they sought. Politicians took up the battle for the Irish to gain Irish electorate votes realizing that by strengthening the Irish electorate would thus increase their voting base. To explain, what occurred was a cultural identification among the Irish Americans, which united a group of immigrants toward voting rights and the voice in politics they sought. On the same note of unification many Latinos relate to their culture and community by association to a group, a church, social justice organization, etc. One theory about assimilation and participation rates for Latinos could be twofold: one is religious affiliation, and two, commitment to a cause. With this idea comes two thoughts, in other words, the more connected a person believes his or herself to be to a community the more apt they are to engage themselves toward a particular cause. To further explore these ideas, we will look at the fall 2008 Presidential Election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau the fall 2008 Presidential Election was the most diverse in history. Latinos came to the polls unified by religious factors in relation to “moral issues” such as same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and abortion.” (U.S. Census Bureau election results) These are all issues supported by the religious leaders. Where the Irish found a connection in race, Latinos have found a connection in religious assimilation. Studies show that Latino theologies seem to focus on social justice issues and community (De La Torre and Aponte) bringing both issues on politics or other causes and community together to fight for a cause. Recent survey data indicates that 38-44% of Latinos report attending church regularly (pew Hispanic Survey 2006) the teachings of the church seem to shape beliefs about various groups in society. Thus, shaping the ideals of society and how a voter chooses to vote is part of being a good Christian. In sum, as church helps set the standards or remains the deciding factor of community norms so will the following of the Latino in relation to how they perceive an issue-- thus creating a unification in a belief of an issue. Data shows that as a Latino becomes engaged in their community, community members will care that they have a voice in the political system to change those things they feel are unfair or in need amendment. In short, the main point here is as unification grows among communities, eventually assimilation of ideas come second. (Fraga p. 517-520)
Moreover, in relation to unification and how Latinos perceive themselves in a political system the one factor needing further exploration is the idea that all Latinos fall under the label of the Hispanic instead of their country of origin, as seen below in Figure 1
(Figure 1)
This graph expresses the variation of people within the Latino population now categorized as Hispanic (also known as Latino), tied to their country of origin by culture and not race. As this new collective people (meaning only immigrants here) become a new culture they must integrate to a new America with new traditions, a different political system and new structure of government. What our government fails to understand is that although Latinos may look alike in many ways, trying to mix up several different dialects and languages, cultures, and ideals labeling it one culture does not help create a community of unified people. What data shows is perception of an issue, morals and understanding of a political system is what seems to unify the Latino culture. (Bodella P.100-136) With mass immigration and mass applications for citizenship, Latinos have begun to build a larger, stronger electorate leading to a larger political voice in all areas of politics. With the emergence of registered Latino voters increasing, what has occurred among politicians and political parties alike is campaigning in key Latino electorate states to win the support of the Latino voter. Churches are creating a culture of advocates for causes in the Latino community and unification has come in the form of bad legislation on immigration, voting rights and legislation seemingly geared at Latinos.
The immigrating Latinos have had to adjust quickly by assimilating to new American culture and the American political system. As laws force communities to come together and stand up to unjust legislation and immigration laws, Latinos will unify. (Fraga p.517-519) In the Latino culture the church has and will continue to create the social normality for their community. What will be key for future change is using the church to educate the people on how the political system works. Although Latinos do not consider themselves one race, the church is the one area of unification they each share. As Latinos begin to understand one another, perhaps they will unite to ensure future Latinos work together for the betterment of the community.

Works Cited

Bodella, Lisa, 2004 Fluid Boarders Latino Power, Identity, and Politics in Los Angeles University of California Press 2003
De La Torre, A. Miguel and Aponte Edwin, Latino/a Theology Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY 2001

Fraga, Luis R., García, John A. Hero, Rodney E., Jones-Correa, Michael, Martinez-Ebers, Valerie, Segura, Gary M.,
“Su Casa Es Nuestra Casa: Latino Politics Research and the Development of American Political Science Review” Volume 100 No 4 November 2006

Richard Rodriguez, editor of the Pacific News Service, considers what it means to be Hispanic. A CULTURAL IDENTITY June 18, 1997. News Hour with Jim Lehrer Transcript Accessed 03/11/08

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Retrieved January 24, 2007 from Figure 1

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