“Who’s The Latino Leader Of The United States?”
That’s the headline of a poll being conducted by the normally savvy gang over at HuffPo Latino Voices.
To be fair, the question was asked three years ago by the Pew Hispanic Trends Project, which the HuffPo acknowledges right off the bat in their article. Maybe they’re just trying to disown the embarrassment of such a shitty question.
When Pew posed the question three years ago, “Don’t know” garnered 64 percent of the vote, with “No one” coming in a distant second at 10 percent.
That should’ve sent a clear message to future pollsters who wanna get cute: Don’t ask stupid questions.
But autumn is upon us once more, meaning we Latinos must endure another Hispanic (cringe) Heritage Month. You know the one, beginning on Independence Day for much of Central America (September 15 for the 85 percent of Latinos who couldn’t care less about Central America) and ending on the ides of October, which in a happy coincidence happens to be two days after the anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of our ancestors, who were lost before then.
Hispanic (cringe) Heritage Month is the only other time besides election season when America asks, “What the heck’s a ‘La-TEE-no’ anyway?”
Media outlets and well-meaning organizations rush to fill the information void on Latinos by providing their own best guesstimates on what a Latino is. “Well, most of them speak Spanish.” “They’re Catholic.” “A lot of them are immigrants or have an immigrant in their family.” “I hear not all Latinos are even Mexicans.” “They’re starting to watch English TV.” “There’s one on Modern Family.” “Did you know Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, just like you and me?” “One’s even a Supreme Court justice lady!”
Then, if we’re lucky, on a moonless night, someone asks, “Who’s their leader, anyway?”
I laugh when I hear that question, or any question that tries to put Latinos in a corner.
Latinos are so diverse, it’s even hard for Latinos themselves to keep track of who eats what and how to dance to so-and-so’s music.
Latinos usually only know the specifics on their neighbors (Mexicans about Guatemalans, Venezuelans about Colombians), but the cultural awareness tends to drop off drastically the farther away you get from the country of origin. Ask a Mexican what the capital of Paraguay is, or ask a Paraguayan what the national dish of Honduras is, and you’ll get a reaction from someone who thinks you’re fishing for pointless trivia.
If you’re curious, Sonia Sotomayor is currently leading HuffPo’s little poll with 20 percent, followed closely by Julián Castro with 19-something.
Those picks in themselves are akin to “Don’t know” or “No one.”
Sure, Justice Sotomayor has arguably achieved more politically than any Latino ever has, but how does her being on the Supreme Court make her a leader of the Latino community? Who’s taking their cues from anyone on the bench?
And Mayor Julián Castro? Why? Because we’ve seen him on TV? (Walter White for President)
There may be Latino leaders when it comes to certain Latino issues (immigration, education, etc.), but there’ll never be a Latino leader like there have been black leaders.
Latinos come from too many different places and have lived through too many different experiences for them to able to hear their goals and hardships trumpeted by one voice.
In fact, I get the feeling Latinos don’t consider themselves a real community nearly as much as outsiders do.
Maybe a non-Latino thinks two guys named Suárez should hit it off just fine. Or maybe non-Latinos think a Mexican-American president will be a triumph for the Puerto Rican community as well.
Latinos don’t see things that way. We recognize our diversity, almost to a fault. We’re proud of our flags, our local customs and histories — to the point where we resent someone saying, “So you’re Latino.” As if Latino meant enough of anything.
You ask who’s the leader of Latinos in America?
Don’t know. No one.
[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]