The Latino Divide
Many argued that this election would showcase the Latino vote. Some argued that the Latino would unite against Donald Trump because of his attacks against Mexicans and other minorities. I even prepared some social media graphics for a client of mine that they intended to use on election night. They never did because the unified Latino is a fallacy. What many do not understand is that there is no Latino unity. Unlike the Asian-Americans, Black-Americans and other minorities in the US, the Latino community is made up of several competing interests who are all focused on different priorities. It also doesn’t help that Latinos, for the most part, are notorious for staying home on election day.
It is still too early to conclusively determine, how, if at all, the Latino vote affected the outcome. There is empirical evidence that some pundits have bandied about but by now you know that political pundits do not have the pulse of the voters. What is missing in the narrative is that the Latino voters are not a cohesive group supporting each other.
We, Latinos, compete against each other for our own interests.
Take for example the Cuban-Americans. The older Cuban-Americans have as much disdain for the Mexicans as they do for the Democrats. Many may not even understand why, but it goes back to the geopolitics of history. When the Batista government first addressed the issue of Fidel Castro, it was Mexico who gave the Castro brothers and his rebels safe haven while they regrouped to take Cuba from Batista. It was from Mexico, where Fidel Castro launched his revolution that eventually resulted in the Cuban-Americans that predominantly vote in the US elections.
The Cuban-Americans, may or may not consciously realize their animosity for Mexicans, but that is where it derives from. It is for this reason that Donald Trump can call Mexicans “rapists” and still be supported by the Cuban-Americans.
Likewise, Central Americans see Mexico as the “giant” to the north, much like Mexicans see the United States. As an aside, and it makes me sad to have to point this out; Mexico is in North America, not in Central America. Central America starts at the southern Mexico border with Belize and Guatemala.
Many of the Central Americans and South American immigrants that emigrate to the United States must traverse Mexico to reach the US. Like in the United States, the Central and Southern American immigrants face uncertainty, fear, discrimination and abuse in Mexico. Those that make it across Mexico and reach the United States, do not forget the animosity and abuse they endured both from some officials and from some Mexicans while in Mexico. It is with this world view that some remember Mexico and Mexicans and it is also another reason for the divide of the Latino vote in the United States.
This brings us to the Hispanic, or the Latino US citizen living in the United States. They are ones that are second, third generation or even those whose ancestors have always been US citizens from the time the county was founded. Those that are recent US citizens, or from second or third generations vote based on the experience of their families, whether Cubans or Central or Southern Americans. But there are the multi-generational ones that vote like all other US citizens, based on their needs as US citizens – mostly economic. For them, they are US citizens who also resent immigrants within their communities.
Their worldview has been molded from the stereotypes of living in the US as Hispanics. Like the Mexico bashing that I alluded to in my previous post, the US Hispanics have endured being forced into the same group that encompasses all Mexicans because of their ancestry, although they are US citizens.
Interestingly, that was one of most puzzling things I encountered when I first arrived in the United States. The use of the word “Mexican”. To me, the word, “Mexican” refers to a citizen of the Republic of Mexico. Yet, in the United States, the word can refer to both, a citizen of Mexico or a US citizen of Mexican heritage.
It took me years to fully grasp that this misuse of the word is the result of animosity towards the Mexican culture that exists as an undercurrent and sometimes violent outbursts in the US. To me, a US citizens is just that, regardless of national origin or skin color. But, in the United States it is part of the undercurrent racism that pigeon holes’ groups of people based on their national origin, i.e. Asian-American, or by skin color, African-American.
This has been going on for generations and it is the source of animosity between race and national origin that gives fuel to the Mexico bashing that has always been a part of the US political narrative.
This animosity has led US Hispanics to react by participating in the Mexico bashing as a coping mechanism against being singled out as not forming a part of the US citizenship community. The most recent and poignant example of this is the Estela Casas example I shared with you previously. Casas is a United States citizen, born and raised in the US. That fact did not stop one caller from insinuating that she should be deported as a Mexican. As you can clearly see from that example, to some voters, Hispanics are not part of the United States regardless of their US citizenship.
As a defense mechanism, some Hispanic voters react by joining the bash Mexico rhetoric and thus their vote reflects that narrative as well.
Latinos in the United States are like all US citizens – they have their own interests that drives their vote. As such, there can never be a Latino surge based solely on defending against Mexico bashing or any other Latino subgroup as well.