Features | Fall 1997

Latinos Unidos
by qvStaff Roldán

THE LATINO POPULATION is currently the fastest growing group of people in Los Angeles. In fact, the Latino population is the fastest growing race in the United States. And contrary to popular belief, this rapid increase in numbers is fueled more by births than by immigration trends.

Projections from the California State Department of Finance show that currently there are nearly 4.2 million Latinos that live in Los Angeles County. And that number is increasing so rapidly that by the year 2010, there will be 5.5 million Latinos, comprising approximately 50% of the entire county population. What's more, the average age of male Latinos living in LA County is only 26-years-old while the average age of a male Caucasian LA resident is 40-years-old.

But what can we learn from these numbers and how can we use them to benefit the entire community? First of all, we need to become unified. For some reason, the Latino community seems to be a more fractured one than that of other ethnic minorities. We often spend too much of our time figuring out who is an immigrant, who is a first generation or who is a third generation. Some of us accuse our Latino hermanos y hermanas who don't speak Spanish of being "white washed." Others do the opposite and look down on Latinos who haven't yet been able to learn the English language.

We preoccupy ourselves with classifying the people in our community. We say that, "He's a no-good cholo." Or we say, "He's a wetback." We are so busy pigeon-holing ourselves into so many separate little categories that sadly we forget that we are all part of the same familia. It shouldn't matter what our incomes are, or which language we speak or whether our roots originate from México, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Cuba or where ever else. We are all Latinos and we should be proud of our diversity. We have a common ancestry and we need to realize that, for the good of us all, we need to get past our differences and appreciate each other for what we are.

We often talk about the racism, discrimination and the poor treatment we experience from whites or other races, but let's take a serious look at ourselves and see how we treat our own. Are we not just as guilty of prejudice when we don't want to associate ourselves with a certain type of Latino? I'll be the first to admit that even I am guilty of this. But we all have to stop it.

What can we do to become unified and what does it mean? Unity involves being able to look at one another and say, "That's my family." It's being able to know that we can rely on one another for support. We should do things to help each other out so that we and our younger generations will have the opportunity to get a quality education that will help us find lucrative careers and family lives. It means getting out there and working to stop the violence that emanates within our community. It means volunteering our time to help our juventud in all kinds of things such as gang prevention programs or tutoring or being a coach at an afterschool athletic activity. Most of all, it means loving one another because that's where it all starts.

Many times when our Latino peers do well, we tend to put them down and accuse them of, "selling out," and not being true to their roots. But more often than not, success doesn't change what a person is inside. Granted, there are a few who do deny their heritage, but that is rare. Instead of envying their success, we should be looking up to them and using their road to success as a model for our own process of trying make better lives for ourselves.

To those Latinos who are successful men and women, don't forget your roots. Give back to the community that nurtured you. Invest in future generations of young Latino entrepreneurs in any way possible. Even if it's not much, any little bit of time or help you can donate will be beneficial to us all.

We Latinos need to support each other through the struggles and tensions that seem to be building in this city, state and country. For example, we are affected by a barrage of issues in the political arena such as the repeal of affirmative action laws, bilingual education, and initiatives that threaten to eradicate necessary health insurance coverage for children of legal immigrants, a great number of whom are our Latino brothers and sisters. But how can we expect to confront these challenges if we have to do it in an environment that still needs to be unified?

As we approach the end of the millenium, when Latinos will account for the majority of the population in Los Angeles, we will have the potential to be the single most powerful constituency of people. Without unity, this potential becomes dubious. But with unity comes empowerment and we can utilize that power to make our community an even better environment for ourselves and our little brothers and sisters who are just starting up in this world. So let's make this promise to ourselves: that we will look at one another and recognize that we are of the same family and that we will do everything we can to support each other and keep ourselves peaceful, strong and united.

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