Hispanics in the U.S. are classified and defined by different departments of the U.S. government, but we will not get into that argument today.
The definition of Hispanic or Latino origin used in the 2010 Census is the following: “‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’ refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”
According to the U. S. Census Bureau, there are currently around 48 million Hispanics in the United States (U.S.A.) today, which is almost 16% of the total population.
Just to give you an idea of the growth of this segment of the population, in 1970, there were about 10 million Hispanics, which made up about 5% of the total population.
So basically, in a span of just 40 years, the Hispanic population has grown almost five times that number. And the percentage of the total U. S. population has tripled.
The current projections are about 103 million by 2050, which will be about 25% of the total U.S. population. These numbers are impressive.
So, why the substantial increase?
One obvious reason is employment.
Anytime I want to practice my Spanish while in the U.S., it’s not difficult. I just visit fast food places like McDonald’s, construction sites, hotels, landscaping sites, banks, physician or attorney offices – you name it.
In the U.S. today, you don’t even have to leave your home to practice your Spanish.
Just turn on Univision or Telefutura on your TV.
News broadcasts, sports analysis, game shows, soap operas, movies, and it goes on. Just call your bank or some other corporate business and press A or B for Spanish.
Go to your the local government agency of your choice and signs are both in English and Spanish. Translators are always available.
I remember growing up in the Midwest in the sixties and seventies where Mexican restaurants were a novelty. If you had an encounter with a Spanish speaking person, it was indeed rare.
Fast forward to today, and we are literally a bilingual society. Politics aside, one could say we have a de facto bilingual society now.
Here’s a personal example of this phenomena and how having the ability to communicate in a second language comes in handy.
A few days ago I advertised a single bed for sale on Craig’s list. I had a call within three hours of the ad posting. It was a Mexican gentleman who was ready to look ASAP.
In relatively decent English, he wanted to know if it was still available and where he could inspect it. He said, “Just text me the address and I will use my GPS to find it.”
I was bit surprised how quickly he responded to my ad. I would like to think it was my magnificent marketing jargon, but that is just fantasy thinking.
I lucked out, so I quickly adjusted, and told him I would send him the address. I did so, and within a few hours, he and his companion were at my place looking at the item.
Here’s where it gets interesting. They didn’t say much. Perhaps, because it was at the end of the day, or perhaps they just were not the talking sort. Maybe they were a bit nervous, as was I, since we were strangers.
It was becoming dark, and they were coming to my place in an unfamiliar neighborhood. But something happened when I simply asked, de donde es? All of a sudden it seemed atmosphere in the room changed and the slight tension was gone.
Surprised, they replied, “Estado de Mexico” then with a slight smile the leader of the two men asked me in Spanish where I learned to speak Spanish. I replied, “in Uruguay and at college.” Then he asked me if I was from Uruguay and of course I said no, “de los Estados Unidos.”
Next, the negotiations began. I advertised $135 as the price. He said $100. I replied $110, he replied that he only came with $100, which I suspected wasn’t true, but it was all part of the bargaining. He left with the bed and frame and I kept the $100. We were both satisfied. He wanted to spend $100 on a good bed and I had my cash. Done deal.
So that second language came in handy again. Language and culture go hand in hand. You can’t really know a culture well without the language and visa versa.
The second reason for the increase is that it’s just the idea of “America.” Even with all its faults and inconsistencies, it’s still perceived by many around the world that it’s place where you have a chance to thrive. It’s of place of laws. It’s a place you have a chance to improve your lot in life.
As I have said before, it remains to be seen how the culture in the U.S. will change as a result of the significant increase of native Spanish speakers “coming to America.” One thing for sure, culture always adapts and changes. So does language.
We are a nation of immigrants. All of us here in the U.S.A. are immigrants or our descendants have been immigrants.
We are an immigrant culture that adapts itself to the realities of the day. All assimilate themselves eventually to get along with their neighbors based upon the uniquely American idea that all persons should have the freedom to pursue their own “happiness” without infringing on the same freedom of our fellow citizens.
That seems to be a worthy goal.