Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Heritage that Involves All of Us

In each decade, by order of the Congress of the United States, a national census is taken of the population. The most recent census from the year 2010 resulted in figures which especially catch our attention in this month of Hispanic heritage. This involves all of us; the entire society of the United States of America with all its political institutions, as well as the cultural, social, economic, religious entities, etc…, the Hispanic residents in this nation and the Latin American nations from which we have come.

According to this census, 50.5 million Hispanics reside in the United States, without counting the undocumented Hispanics. A figure that means that the Hispanic community resident in the United States make up 15% of the total population of this nation.

Let’s take a look at the growth of the Hispanic American Community in the United States, since the census of 1990 which counted 22.4 million Hispanics; that of the year 2000 counted 35.3 million Hispanics, and now the current census shows an increase in Hispanic American Citizens to 50.5 million, indicating rapid and massive growth – since the last one - of 43%.

In addition, the average age of the Hispanic population is 27 years, whereas the average age of the rest of the United States population is 47 years, which indicates that the Hispanic population is an obvious injection of youth – and with it, strength for work and progress - for the entire society of the United States.

Here are some other figures from the last census (2010):

• In California there are 14 million or more Hispanics.
• In New York there are 3 million or more Hispanics.
• In Florida there are 4 million or more Hispanics.
• In Texas there are 9 million or more of Hispanic origin.

Breaking this down into nationalities gives us the following:

• Mexicans total 31.8 million, the equivalent of 63 % of the Hispanic population resident in the United States.
• Puertoricans make up 4.6 million, or 9.2 %.
• Cubans are 1.8 million, or 3.5 %.
• Those from El Salvador are 1.6 million, or 3.3 %.
• Dominicans are 1.4 million, or 2.8 %.
• Guatemalans are 1.0 million, or 2.1 %.
• Colombians are 0.9 million, or 1.8 %.
• The rest of the nationalities not specified here make up 14.3 % of the Hispanic population that resides in this nation.

What do these statistics mean –these numbers and percentages, enormous, important and striking in themselves-– in the overall picture of the United States, society in general (with all its institutions), as well as for the Hispanic American Citizen here and for those citizens of Latin American nations?

For the United States of America, the increased Hispanic presence represents a great challenge bringing with it unsuspected índices of progress in all fields of this great nation if –from all the social institutions— there is an adequate response to the enormous challenges that this presence demands. Yet at the same time, the presence of the Hispanic community in the USA can imply great problems if the societal responses from the USA to the challenges of what we could call “the Hispanic phenomenon” are not prompt, worthy, accurate, just or respectful.

If in fact there is general agreement that it is necessary to integrate the community of Hispanic origin within the United States society, it is also true that the institutions (political, religious, cultural, economic, etc…) of this nation, should avoid interpreting “integration” as meaning “assimilation” and “absorption” by the “dominant culture” in order to achieve uniformity of all in such a way that the Hispanics lose the riches of our own identity, our own culture, our own roots, our social and historical origins or, the other extreme of those who oppose the concept of integration, giving place to discrimination, a ghetto mentality, exploitation, persecution and other social evils contrary to a Christian, democratic and liberal view of society, the principals of which have been honored in this nation from its historical beginnings.

The Hispanic American Citizen, while growing in the number of residents in this nation needs to grow in social awareness and in participation, in education and in social and political formation, and should grow in leadership and in all aspects that allow it to have voice and vote in the decision making processes that determine the present and forge the future of this nation.

The institutions, communities and religious denominations in general, and of the Christian churches in particular, present in the United States of America, should work to promote the Hispanic presence as a blessing, a sign of enrichment and growth in the faith, in fraternity, in unity, in justice, in solidarity, in equity, in fellowship and in participation.

For the Hispanic community is called to contribute to the development of this nation, not only with economic growth through work or taxes, but also – and above all – with the values of the Gospel and Christian humanism within our being, in our identity and our history, since the earliest Catholic evangelization present in our origins as Hispanic-American nations. Values, that are completely contrary to individualism, to selfishness, to utilitarianism, to an emphasis on appearances, to an easy way out, to pragmatism, to relativism, to subjectivism, to comfort, to consumerism, to hedonism, etc., all of which are so much a part of the current postmodern and “light” mentality.