Hot Potato covers Latino electorate

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Latino electorate defines the American dream in terms of equal opportunity.


The Latino electorate needs to be viewed as more than one entity, political science Professor Fernando Piñon said during Tuesday’s Hot Potato lecture at the Methodist Student Center.

“Sometimes we refer to Latinos as ‘a sleeping giant’ -— there’s only one  giant. But there’s really several giants instead of one,” he said.

He said most Hispanics have been assimilated into American society.

He said the Anglo-American electorate defines the American dream in terms of economic opportunity, while the Latino electorate defines it in terms of equal opportunity.

“The American dream is basically economics. You have a better house, you have a better car, you have money in the bank,” he said. “It is not opportunity and equality in terms of political value, like civil rights and being treated equally under the law.”

“Equality to an Anglo means, ‘You have a better job, you have a better house.’ He has never been the subject of discrimination,” he said.

“As soon as he came to the United States from Europe, he became fully vested in American society simply because he never fell under discrimination.”

There is distinction between Hispanics and Mexican-Americans in American society, he said.

He said Hispanic “criollos,” those who immigrated to the United States from Spain during the colonial era, easily assimilated into American culture, while Mexican-Americans immigrated to the United States after the Mexican Revolution and see “the American political system in terms of equal treatment under the law.”

“As Mexican-Americans came here — the poor, undereducated, not educated, mestizo — you can see that there was not only a culture clash, it was also a political clash because they couldn’t assimilate into American society,” he said.

He called the period of 1836, the year of the Battle of the Alamo, to 1920 the “politics of resistance.”

“This is when Anglo-Americans came to the area and took over the culture and took over the positions of power,” he said. “The resistance also came about because they were herded, especially the poor Mexicans.”

Piñon calls the next period from 1920-60 the “politics of assimilation.”

“We realized that Anglo-Americans were going to be here, they weren’t going anywhere, they were going to become the power in Texas, and so there was an attempt to assimilate,” he said.

“The whole objective was to assimilate the Mexicano into American culture through education and more access to civil rights,” he said.

Piñon called the period of 1960-80 the “politics of La Raza Unida,” or “the united race” in Spanish.

“Young Mexican-Americans were basically saying, ‘You know what? We are Americans, we have a distinct culture, we come from a different history and the way we assimilate into American society will be our way. So, we’re not going to turn ourselves into Americanos,’” he said.

Piñon called the period of 1980 to the present the “politics of population.”

He said, “This is when the Republican Party begins to realize that Mexican-Americans are going to be affiliated with the Democratic Party.” This is the time when the Republican Party moves from ignoring to neglecting Mexican-Americans, he said. “Now you have the Republican Party saying, ‘Look, we’re not interested in you because you’re not voting for a Republican candidate, but we’re going to make it as difficult for you as possible for you to vote in the first place,’” Piñon said.

“Don’t think of ourselves as victims. Don’t think of ourselves as inferior. Don’t think of ourselves as, ‘We are less than someone else.’ Think about ourselves as generally historical entities that are self-actualized,” he said.

The lecture series continues 12:15 p.m. Tuesdays. Economics Professor Susan Spencer will host “Ethics in Business” Tuesday and political science Professor Asslan Khaligh will host “Revolution Across the Islamic World: Our Friends or Foes?” Oct. 16.

For more information, call 210-733-1441.


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