September 23, 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month Round Table

What does it mean to be Hispanic American?

“I’m Bolivian.”

“I was born in Santiago, Dominican Republic.”

“I’m a Mexican-American.”

Adriana: Their families are from different countries but there is a thread that ties them together. They are all proud to be Hispanic.

“To me, being Hispanic is about that work ethic and about that drive to contribute to society.”

Adriana: The U.S.’s 50 million Latinos recently surpassed African-Americans to become the nation’s largest minority. They are growing into powerful voters, they are influencing business, and they are flooding college campuses.

So, to see what it is like to be a young Latino in a time when Hispanics are gaining ground, we went straight to the source. We sat down with three Latino college students from New York’s Columbia University to see how their culture fits into a changing America.

Dan, your family is Mexican. Maria, you are Dominican. And Isaac, you are Bolivian. But to a lot of people you are all Hispanic?

“Absolutely. It is almost unfair to group us all together. Mexicans versus Cubans versus Dominicans.”

“As a Dominican immigrant, I might have some phrases or know some words that a Mexican might not know. For example, you know, Dominicans, for beans, say ‘habichuelas’ and Mexicans say ‘frijoles’. But at the end of the day, they’re beans and they’re good!”

“There is a shared history, shared language, shared culture that does bring us together.”

Adriana: Another thing that brings them together? They are all in awe of one powerful Latina.

“We’ve got Sonia Sotomayor.”



Adriana: She is the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court.

“The fact that she is a Puerto Rican lady that grew up in the Bronx has been very inspirational to me because, like my self, I grew up… I am from the Bronx.”

Adriana: When she was sworn in, what were you feeling?

“The first thing I said was, ‘Well, she was the first Puerto Rican, I’ll be the first Dominican.”

Adriana: Big dreams they say they wouldn’t have had back in Latin America.

“My great grand parents were miners. My grand parents were miners. Had my parents not migrated to this country, I would very much be either mining or working in the countryside. I would likely be reading at a 7th or 8th grade level.”

Adriana: When your parents came from Bolivia, what were the first jobs that they had in this country?

“He served coffee, actually across the street from Columbia University. So it is a really sweet irony that I managed to graduate from the college across the street from where he used to work.”

Adriana: That is amazing! That is a great story.

“I mean, I get emotional just talking about it.”

Adriana: But they say it can be tough growing up between two cultures.

Do you guys think that an issue for younger Latinos is trying to figure out, ‘Am I Latino? Am I American?’ For me, for example, my family’s from the Dominican Republic. And when I go to visit the Dominican Republic, they are like, ‘Oh, you are not Dominican, you are American.’ But when I am here, they are like, ‘Oh, you are Hispanic.’

“Absolutely. I think when you have these identities like Latino American, or Dominican-American, or Mexican-American, I know there is always the phrase that you always fall somewhere in that hyphen. We are somewhere in between Mexican and somewhere in between American.”

“You get the best of both worlds. You get food in both worlds. You got your platanos over here and your french fries over here.”

“I love it! Carb it up!”

Adriana: Carb it up! Yeah! That is another thing, you want to talk about values. Family, work and carbs.

Jokes aside, the government says that by 2050, one-third of Americans will be Hispanic, and American businesses are taking notice. Businesses are trying to cater to their needs. Spanish language commercials, Goya food products and, lastly, in culture. Music and film today have never before been this influenced by Latinos.

What is an example of that?

“Every kid I know knows who Jennifer Lopez or Shakira is.”

Adriana: But Isaac, Maria and Dan want Latinos to make their mark in other industries too.

“I would love to hear about the next space ship going to Mars or the moon and hearing that the person that invented that space ship was a Lopez, was a Garcia, was a Lara.”

“Or a Diaz!…Hello!”

“Or a Diaz.”

Adriana: To get there, they have to dream even bigger than their parents’ American dreams.

“Both my parents are part of the first wave of Latinos to go to Harvard from this area, from this town. So, their story is remarkable and it’s what inspires me. I have to take it up a notch.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>