The Latinos and Latinas of the United States have faced many challenges over the years. Despite their contributions to the making of the United States, they have and continue to experience social, economic, and political inequality. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the inequalities experienced by the Latinos and Latinas of the US. Social equality is something that each individual should be entitled to, regardless of background, religion, gender, or any other characteristic that makes each of us unique.
It is the first topic of this essay, because I believe it has laid the foundation for many of the challenges faced by he Latinos and Latinas of the US today. Some areas of social inequality that affect many Latinos and Latinas of the US include racism, prejudices, discrimination, and stereotypes. Historically, Latinos were stereotyped as possessing naturally violent tendencies and severe disregard for women, sometimes known as “machismo. ” According to Garza, some of the characteristics of machismo include: insensitivity, power, violence, indiscriminate sexual conquest of females with the aim of lowering their status (2001, p. 5).
The slandering of Mexicans did not end there. Racists referred to Mexican men as “yellow-bellied greasers,” while the omen were referred to as “styled greasers… sensual” or “half-breed temptresses” (Garza, 2001, p. 31). On other occasions, all men were stripped of their identities and simply called Juan. The women were called Juanita. These prejudices led some shops to even display “No Mexicans Allowed” signs. Social inequality was further demonstrated after a strike that began on September 22, 1913 in Ludlow, Colorado. Soon after the strike occurred, mining families were evicted from their homes.
The union set up tent colonies for the homeless. While living in this tented colony, the amilies were forced to find ways to protect themselves from the frequent machine-gun fire. Eventually on April 20, 1914, militiamen started the tents on fire. These families were already living in low social conditions, but now had to find new homes while mourning the loss of their families. Education was another area of social inequality. In the early 1900’s, in the US, Mexican children were not allowed the same rights to education as Americans were.
Some Mexican families attempted to send their children to Catholic school, but found their children to be placed in their own ‘room. ” In the public schools, segregation existed as well. Moreover, children typically experienced fragmented education, as a result of their families having to relocate to find jobs. Lastly, another important factor in the quality of education, for those children who were fortunate enough to obtain an education, was the language barrier. Just as the Catholic Church did not welcome Latinos into the priesthood, so they could have Spanish-speaking priests, the same was true with education.
It left Latino children with a hopeless future. Another area of social inequality that must be examined is the treatment of Latinas, throughout their history in the US. Early on, during the gold rush days, women were treated horribly. According to Garza, “often Latinas became the victims of drunken Anglo rioters, who were intent on proving their superiority to Mexican men by raping their wives and daughters” (2002, p. 30). As time progressed and Latinos were eventually granted the right to vote, the Latinas were left behind.
The Latina feminists even attempted to coordinate their efforts with the American feminists, but found that there was little concern for them. The women were compensated less for their work, if they could even obtain a job. In the medical world, most women ere forced to consult doctors that offered discounted services, which generally caused more harm that good. Latinas were used for testing new drugs, such as the birth control pill, which ultimately led to the death of five women. The second area of disparity is economic inequality. It is built on the foundation of a turbulent past, filled with discrimination, prejudice, and stereotypes.
As a result of the continued employment discrimination and social inequalities, Latinos and Latinas have been forced to accept the ‘less desirable jobs. ‘ Some of these jobs include sweat-shops, farms, cleaning services, etc. These types of jobs offer little room for advancement into positions the pay more. They do not offer career development or even educational opportunities. They simply require the worker to be paid at minimum wage, oftentimes forcing them to work multiple jobs. This is what has lead to the economic challenges facing Latinos and Latinas today, which is further compounded by the issue of immigration laws.
Since many Latinos and Latinas are turned away by INS, there were forced to find the jobs that would hire “undocumented” workers. Garza points out that “in 1986, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Law. The employer sanctions clause banned the hiring of ‘undocumented’ works, whose labor rights in the past had been recognized by several court decisions” (2001, p. 159). Employers feared punishment for hiring ‘undocumented’ works. Some even openly admitted to turning away citizens because of their Spanish surnames rather than risk sanctions (Garza, 2001, p. 160).
All of these factors lead to increased poverty and devastation for the Latino and Latina communities in the US. Their children are dropping out of school and they resort to street gangs. The unemployed youths, the uture of the communities, are turning to dealing drugs and other criminal activities for economic security. The last area of disparity is political inequality. Throughout the history of the US, Latinos and Latinas have never been adequately represented politically. Historically, Latin Americans have been robbed of their freedom from social inequality, due to the decisions made by political leaders.
President William Howard Taft informed “the leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association that he feared ‘undesirable elements,’ a code word for immigrants, ‘might have a hand in determining political leaders'” (Garza, 2001, p. 46). Another example is the Ludlow Massacre. It took the current President, Wilson, over a year to send an investigation commission to the area, to investigate what had happened (Garza, 2001, p. 50). All is too little too late. Just as the current economic challenges are the results of social inequality, so too is the same with political challenges.
The historical evidence of the US’ political leaders turning their backs to the Latin Americans, has contributed to their overall discontent and distrust of the US political system. It doesn’t stop there, however. It leads to the Latino and Latina’s decreasing desire to become US citizens. Besides the act that the process is extensive and can take many years before an immigrant becomes a US citizen, the only real differentiating factor between citizens and non-citizens is the right to vote. If the political leaders do not seem to show any concern for the equality of Latin Americans, then what would motivated them to care about voting?
Moreover, it seems as though the political leaders are less concerned about this lack of interest displayed by Latinos and Latinas. Correa argues that we should be more concerned with this lack of interest, because of “three very damaging consequences: it undermines the processes of representation and ccountability which are central to representative democracy, it reinforces our under-valuation of participation in the political process, and it encourages our willingness to see immigrants as outsiders instead of as potential citizens” (1998, p. 5).
Another important factor in the political equation is the broad categorization of Latin Americans. Oboler points out that ” as in the case of African Americans, the relationship between the American imagined community and Mexican Americans/Chicanos and Puerto Ricans (subsequently extended to embrace Latin Americans as a whole) stems from the historical ack of recognition of the latter groups’ membership as citizens of the nation” (1995, p. 42).
The individuals that make up the group of Latin Americans and Chicanos include Dominicans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and other Central Americans and South Americans. The US has failed to recognize each of these individually, as unique identities and cultures that helped shape the US. Rather, the decision was made to group them into one broad category, which further contributes to the issues of political inequality and lack of representation. In conclusion, the history of the Latino’s and Latina’s of the United States is one that has been challenged with social, economic and political inequality.
Their acceptance into this country has taken many, many years, and countless battles fought by the Latin American activists and feminists. Although they have won some battles, there are still more to be fought. Many Latin Americans are still living in poverty and unable to find good paying jobs. The overall political landscape is absent of enough focus on the well-being of the Latin American community. It will only improve with commitment from today’s political leaders and continued education of the American people.