Latinos - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. There are a small number of well-to-do Latinos, with Cuban Americans disproportionately represented among them. The number of Latino entrepreneurs and professionals in the middle class is also relatively small, but increasing. The majority of the population is Divided almost equally between American-born, working-class families and immigrant families headed by low-skilled and unskilled workers.

"Mestizaje," the mixing and amalgamation of Spanish, Indian, and African racial groups, was widespread in various places in Latin America. Terms like mestizo, mulatto, cholo, moreno, and castizo were originally created to categorize the subtle differences in the "hybrid" population mixes. Thus, there is a wide spectrum of racial appearance reflected within the Latino communities. Historically, such diversity has created considerable strain and conflict. As racial appearance and racial attitudes became increasingly important in interpersonal relations, people were made to feel different on the basis of their racial appearance. A kind of "pigmentocracy" was established throughout much of Latin America to shape people's attitudes—about others and, even more important, about themselves. Feelings of inferiority and superiority were implanted in people's heads and these feelings helped determine the extent to which they would have a common heritage and shared experiences.

Political Organization. Latinos vary widely in their access to and inclination toward participation in the political process in the United States. Undocumented and documented aliens—who are unable to vote—are limited to publicizing their concerns. Many avoid even these activities out of fear of deportation. Recent immigrants often follow political Developments in their homelands more closely than those of the United States. Latinos are sharply underrepresented in Federal, state, and local governments despite the efforts of Organizations such as NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials), which have attempted, with some success, to unite all Latinos and especially to find common ground for political lobbying. Latinos are also profoundly divided in political orientations. Cuban Americans are largely drawn to conservative causes, especially on foreign affairs issues. A majority of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans align themselves with the Democratic party, but the issues that concern them in part reflect their regional differences. Two political positions that Latinos largely support are improved, less punitive immigration legislation and increased support for bilingual education programs.

Social Control and Conflict. Traditional familial constraints and respect for authority and, of course, the local, state, and federal legal systems operate to maintain social order. But there is still a residue of instability and uncertainty remaining from the past and especially from the negative side effects of immigration. Racial diversity has contributed to continuing social conflict, and frictions with major social control institutions, such as schools and police, have also persisted.

Local, regional, and sometimes national efforts to resist and change discriminatory practices are common occurrences. The Latino social movements of the 1960s, however, have resulted in continued improvements in such areas as bilingual education, increased hiring in public jobs, and a rise of public interest in Latino issues. The wars of the past continue to affect Latino-Anglo relations in the United States: Mexican Americans deplore violations of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo; many Puerto Ricans aspire to statehood or independence; Cubans, because of its recency, talk of recapturing the "revolution"; and Central Americans lament the contemporary wars from which many are refugees.


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