La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden Stateby David Hayes-Bautista
Since late 2001 more than fifty percent of the babies born in California have been Latino. When these babies reach adulthood, they will, by sheer force of numbers, influence the course of the Golden State. This essential study, based on decades of data, paints a vivid and energetic portrait of Latino society in California by providing a wealth of details about work ethic, family strengths, business establishments, and the surprisingly robust health profile that yields an average life expectancy for Latinos five years longer than that of the general population. Spanning one hundred years, this complex, fascinating analysis suggests that the future of Latinos in California will be neither complete assimilation nor unyielding separatism. Instead, the development of a distinctive regional identity will be based on Latino definitions of what it means to be American.
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La Nueva CaliforniaLatinos in the Golden State
By David E. Hayes-Bautista
The University of California PressCopyright © 2004 Regents of the University of California
All right reserved.
IntroductionThe narrative of this book begins in 1940, when Latinos were a small minority and lacked political representation or public voice in California (see Figure 1). The Spanish language itself appeared to be on the verge of extinction in the state. Certainly schoolteachers prohibited the speaking of Spanish, even in the rigidly segregated "Mexican schools" to which Latino students were routinely assigned, even if they knew how to speak English. Latino daily life was marked by a number of indignities, including housing covenants, which restricted their house occupancy to a few segregated areas; widespread employment discrimination, which defined the types of jobs that were "appropriate" for them; and social and racial barriers, such as having access to public swimming pools only on the one "colored day" per week. When the Latino presence in the state was noticed at all, it was viewed as a problem, the "Mexican Problem," that most public officials hoped would quietly go away.
But Latinos did not go away quietly. Instead, a combination of dynamics-war, labor needs, immigration, fertility, and mortality-created for Latinos a "second act" rare in American society. For, ratherthan fading away, Latino numbers surged and resurged after World War II, so that by 2000, one out of every three persons in California is Latino, as seen in the 2000 composition in Figure 1. Particularly in southern California, the number-one television and radio shows are routinely broadcast in Spanish; billboards in Spanish announce tortillas, disposable diapers, and new automobiles; music awards shows honor Latino artists whose verses are in Spanish; and one of the largest, most powerful political groups in California is the Latino Legislative Caucus. Clearly, there have been changes from 1940 to 2000.
Yet even more changes are afoot. Currently, one out of every two babies born in the state is being raised by a Latino family. (See the California composition of births in Figure 35, on page 000.) And among the nearly ten million residents of Los Angeles County, nearly two out of every three babies are the product of a Latino family (see Figure 35). When these children already in the state today become adults, Latinos will comprise by 2040 nearly half the population of the state of California (see Figure 1).
The road from demographic near-oblivion to demographic preeminence is only part of the narrative of this book. Far more important than sheer numbers is the question of what a Latino majority in California means for the future of American society and identity. That is really the topic of this book.
The Burden of Support
The fact of Latino demographic growth into the future should be considered, by now, a given. In 1988, when I published one of the first scholarly works on Latino demographic projections, The Burden of Support: Young Latinos in an Aging Society (D. Hayes-Bautista, Schinck, and Chapa 1988), the notion that the Latino population could possibly grow to be nearly half of California's residents seemed unrealistic to most policymakers. After the release of this book, I was taken aback by the negative response to the idea that half the state one day might be Latino (I discuss this experience in greater detail in chapter 3, below). That negative reaction was not about the projections themselves, which were based on solid demographics and an unarguable methodology; the reactions were instead about the meaning of such projections for the future of California and the United States.
At that time (the late 1980s), the general public image of Latinos was one of failure and dysfunction. On magazine covers or on the eleven o'clock evening news in English, the images of Latinos making the news were inevitably of three types: the undocumented immigrant, the gangbanger, and the welfare mother (Leo Chavez 2001). These public images drove the concern about Latino population growth; after all, if they were true representations of Latinos, then soon half the state's population could easily consist of poverty-stricken, poorly educated, welfare-dependent, law-breaking people. The events of the 1990s seared those images in the minds of many: the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Proposition 187 with its repeated images of vast numbers of dark figures furtively sneaking across the border, and Proposition 227, which banned bilingual education. Yet these images were all wrong. I describe in chapter 3 my own intellectual development regarding the meaning of Latino population growth for the state, including my epiphany when I realized that sixty years of data on Latino behavior and values completely contradicted the popular public images that had driven so much of California's politics during the 1990s.
Latino Civil Society
What I had not seen, even in my own research, prior to my sudden insight, was that Latinos were not the phenomenon described by all the policy models used until the present day: a racial group, a language group, a group locked into a traditional culture, a dysfunctional minority group, an urban underclass. All these models-which I had been taught as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, and as a graduate student at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco-had missed the central dynamic that made Latinos so Latino: the continuing presence of a Latino civil society, dating in this state from April 1769 and continuing to the present. This Latino civil society, alive and functioning in the Latino families present in the state for more than two hundred years, provides to young children their initial introduction to the world of right and wrong, the desirable and the undesirable, duty and dereliction. Around the kitchen table, out in the garden, tucked into beds at night, through thousands of simple daily acts, Latino civil society provides Latino children with their first introduction to the social world, gives them their first notions of civic responsibility and their first hints of personal identity (see the discussion of this in chapter 7, below).
Beginning in 2019, half of the young adults who turn eighteen, and who will able to express their opinion by registering and voting, will be Latino. Their choices of candidates, their preferences on issues, their decisions about their own education, about their families, and about the future of the state, all will rely to a great extent on the daily dichos y hechos (sayings and doings) their parents repeat to them thousands of times, unaware of the tremendous import of what they are doing.
Judging from sixty years of data of the Latino population, these children, once grown, will make many decisions that will benefit the state. They will most likely continue to be the hardest-working component of the state's labor force, with the highest rate of workforce participation, working far more hours per week, working far more in the private sector, and using welfare far less than any other population. They will continue to marry and form families with children at far higher rates than any other population. They will continue to have far fewer heart attacks, lower cancer rates, fewer strokes, a lower infant mortality rate, and a five-year-longer life expectancy than non-Hispanic whites. They will be proud to be Americans, and they will be disproportionately willing to fight and die in this country's wars. These behaviors are easy to project, because they are based solidly on sixty years of Latino history.
For anyone using most current models of Latino behavior-the dysfunctional minority, the urban underclass, and the like-these behaviors seem surprising. But when one understands the presence and function of Latino civil society, these behaviors are not at all surprising; they are derived from the experience of the meeting of peoples in the Western Hemisphere since 1492, as Indians, Europeans, Africans, and Asians met and melded in most of the two continents known today as the Americas (discussed in chapter 7). The Mexican variant of this experience can be dated from August 13, 1521, with the fall of the great city of Tenochtitlan, and was brought to California with the first group of Mexican colonists to the region in 1769, who bestowed not only names famous around the country to the area-Los Angeles, San Francisco, San José, San Diego, Fresno, Santa Barbara, Sacramento-but also a Latino civil society, into which Latino babies have been born and children raised since that day.
A Note on Terminology
This book is a data-based recounting of the population whose primary socialization took place in Latino civil society from 1940 to 2004; it is also a projection into the future of the population's effects on American society and identity. As will be detailed in chapter 1, Latinos are not a simple racial or ethnic group; they are the product of a distinctive civil society. Yet the available data treats Latinos as the equivalent of a racial group; hence, I shall use the census bureau's groupings of data, and we shall speak of non-Hispanic whites (abbreviated as NH whites or NHW in the illustrations), African Americans (abbreviated as AfrAmer), Asians and Pacific Islanders (abbreviated as A/PI), American Indians (abbreviated as AmerInds), and, of course, Latinos.
Given this book's interest in civil society, the racial groupings it must employ are only poor, surrogate measures what for really drives sometimes differential behavior patterns: the constellation of a group's values, images, and beliefs generated by historical experience. As I describe in chapter 7, it would be ridiculous to speak of "white civil society," because the genetic fact of being "white" has little to do with the emergence of civil society among that population. Rather than dwell on the putative genetics of a group, I will speak of a shared social experience communicated from parent to child, hence my term "Latino civil society." Although I will often refer to a generic national American society and identity, at times I will refer to a specific regional variant of the national society and identity as "Atlantic American." This regionally specific variant is grounded in the historical experience begun by predominantly British settlers on the North American coast of the United States (Fischer 1989), which has molded the socialization of people, irrespective of race or ethnicity, who are raised in that region. In a delicious irony, just as the U.S. Bureau of the Census announces on its charts that "Hispanic may be of any race," in my view an Atlantic American likewise may be of any race or ethnicity. A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, an African American whose ancestors arrived on these shores before George Washington was born, and the descendant of an Italian immigrant who was processed at Ellis Island are all products of the Atlantic American civil society.
The future of American identity and society will be the result of the current encounter, on somewhat unequal terms, between Latino civil society and Atlantic American civil society. The racial categories of data we currently use will provide some notions of how this encounter is faring, but we must remember they are only surrogate, substitute indicators of the real phenomenon occurring: the emergence of a distinctive, regional civil society that will draw on roots in both the Latino and Atlantic American historical experiences.
The movement of Latinos from near-oblivion to a position of major social influence, and its implications for American society, is handled in eight chronological chapters. In 1940, non-Hispanic white America defined the public image of Latinos: who they were, what race they belonged to, what language they could speak, what their culture was like, what houses they could buy, what schools they could attend, what public facilities they could use. Although Latinos made up barely 2.4 percent of the state's population in 1910, revolutionary events in Mexico propelled twenty years of immigration; by 1930, about two hundred thousand Mexican immigrants lived in California and had started families. The state's major policy response to the Depression of the 1930s was to trim welfare rolls and provide jobs for "Americans" by deporting one-third of Mexican immigrants back to Mexico. The tactics used to isolate and repatriate Mexican immigrants created a decade-long climate of fear of appearing "too Mexican" in that deportation-era Latino population.
Officially, Latinos were a race, for census purposes, and race-based segregation limited Latino access to schools, public facilities, and real estate. Yet in 1940, the census bureau ruled that Latinos were white, and Latinos ceased to be counted as a separate entity on official forms, yet they were still subject to restrictive covenants that forbade sale of property to "members of the Mexican race."
The U.S. bipolar racial algorithm collided with the Latino racial dynamic, which has been one of intermarriage and mestizaje (ethnic mixing) of Indian, African, European, and Asian forebears. Subsequent censuses defined Latinos as a Spanish-surname group and as a Spanish-speaking language group. Anthropologists defined Latinos as a "traditional culture" group, characterized as suffering from fatalism and familism. The Zoot-Suit Riots of 1943 created public hysteria about the Latino presence by combining racial and cultural definitions of Latinos, to paint a picture of an undesirable social element. During this period, America defined Latinos.
The Chicano generation, born in postwar America, grew up in still-segregated California, being told in many different ways that they were not quite American. They arrived at university campuses in the 1960s, breathed in the heady rebellious atmosphere, and began to protest the treatment accorded their parents and grandparents. As part of this confrontation, they actively rejected the definitions imposed on them by American society. Impelled by a sense of psychological bonding to a common movement, they burst forth from the campuses and the barrios to stamp their presence on society by creating organizations, political movements, service centers, and artistic expression, to present a bilingual, bicultural face to the world that their parents' generation had avoided. Tired of being rejected as Americans, they gladly embraced a new, emergent identity as "Chicanos." For all their claims of cultural vindication, however, few were fluent in Spanish, few had visited Mexico or other parts of Latin America, few knew any history and literature from south of the border. When some did manage to visit Mexico, they quickly discovered that they were not Mexican. They were considered American. And so they found themselves too Mexican to be accepted as American, and too American to be accepted as Mexican. Even as this generation defiantly rejected American definitions of Latino, they lived during a period of heated debate over what a "real" Latino was like.
Excerpted from La Nueva California by David E. Hayes-Bautista Copyright © 2004 by Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
David E. Hayes-Bautista is Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Healing Latinos: Fantasía y Realidad (1999), No Longer a Minority: Latino Social Participation in California (1992), and The Burden of Support: Young Latinos in an Aging Society (1988).
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