Latinos - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Small pockets of Mexican Americans who trace their heritage to the early centuries have maintained their self-sufficient ranches and farmlands, but the majority earn wages as mine, farm, railroad, construction, and light industry laborers. Puerto Ricans have filled the garment district and light industry jobs of the cities. Cubans arrived with some money but, more important, with skills and training and have had much success in various business enterprises and professions. In recent decades there has been a slight increase in employment in white-collar Service and professional occupations, but Latinos generally lag behind the Anglo population in employment in these sectors. A large agricultural migrant-worker population exists in states such as California, Texas, and Florida. Mexican Americans were a major force in the unionization effort by farm workers in California.

Latino foods vary and reflect the syncretic Spanish/Indian/African mixture noted above, but beans, rice, and various stews prepared with pork, beef, and seafood are found in all groups. Chilies are also widely used in Latino cuisines. Corn products are of particular importance in Mexican and Mexican American culture (although bread and wheat flour tortillas have replaced corn tortillas on many Mexican American tables). Cubans and Puerto Ricans, as islanders, Generally favor various seafood dishes characterized by Latino methods of preparation and spices.

Industrial Arts. The original settlements in New Mexico produced excellent wood carving, weaving, jewelry, and other artistic traditions. Today, this Latino bent is found among auto paint-and-body, upholstery, and seamstress crafts-people.

Trade. Barrios have shopping centers and stores that cater to the tastes of the local population, and some of these Districts have become ethnic centers for social, cultural, and Political activities. Latinos also use many of the malls that dot urban and suburban regions. Small family-operated stores are common among Latino entrepreneurs, and some have grown into multimillion-dollar enterprises. The Cuban American community has become a major economic force in the Miami area.

Division of Labor. A shift from low-skilled to skilled blue-collar jobs has emerged as an important trend, as has the increase of two-wage-earner households with many women now having the dual roles of breadwinner and breadmaker. Although the middle class has grown, with many professionals and educated people, especially among Cuban Americans, there are still relatively few Latinos of middle- or upper-class status. Because of traditional beliefs and the Spanish colonial influence, there has been particular strain involving changing gender relations and traditionally defined status in Latino communities. Many women have moved out of traditional female roles, and some men have found it very difficult to adjust to this change. Similarly, status distinctions based on the traditional "patron-peon" arrangements are slowly disappearing in an open, class-structured society.

Land Tenure. Since the late nineteenth century, most of the extensive land holdings owned by Mexican Americans has been lost to Anglo-Americans. The few pockets that remain are in rural areas such as New Mexico. As recently as 1966, attempts to raise public attention to the corrupt way in which these lands were acquired have failed. Nevertheless, Chicano (an ethnic name for Mexicans in the United States) activists still offer reminders of the abrogation of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, which ended the Mexican-American War with assurances that land rights would be Respected. Puerto Ricans have largely retained ownership of both large and small farms in Puerto Rico, but are predominantly renters in their urban U.S. communities. Cuban Americans, in contrast, are rapidly purchasing large blocs of real estate in Miami.


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