By Adrian Perez, Publisher, The Journal On Latino Americans
It took nearly 3 decades since the initial declaration of “The Decade of the Latino” to arrive, but none too soon. In 2012 we flexed a muscle proportionate to the population count Latinos represent in the United States. But, what else did Latinos learn in 2012 that will propel the second largest population in the U.S. into 2013 and the future?
Latinos spoke loud and clear in giving President Barack Obama another four years in the White House, “listen to us, we count.” As a result, Obama has made several advances toward resolving the most complex issue of his tenure as President, immigration reform. His most successful move was to create the “DREAM Act” through Executive Order since Congress failed to move on the issue of immigration reform. In 2012, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security continued to round up undocumented immigrants across the nation in record numbers, forcing many supporters of the DREAM Act to ask if registering would increase the chances of their parents being deported because the Act only covers students. Now with an additional four years, Obama says immigration will be a top priority (we heard that four years ago), but many questions need to be addressed beginning with “how do we secure our borders, yet ensure international commerce that is vital to America?” This question alone will set the entire concept of immigration reform back two or three years.
What was good for the Democrats was a disaster for the GOP. By not fully engaging Latino voters and concerns, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney received the least amount of Latino voter support in history. The GOP’s continued rhetoric and propaganda of hate toward Latinos, especially undocumented immigrants, caused even Latinos within the GOP to side with Democrats on this issue. However, not all is lost for the GOP. They have elected more Latinos into visible positions (Governor, U.S. Senator) than the Democrats, a statistic that may cause the Dems to lose in California and Texas unless they make an effort to address the disparities. In California, Latinos comprise 40 percent of the population and have no statewide elected officials. In fact, two years ago, state Democrats voted not to endorse any Latino candidate running for statewide office and the California Democratic Party leadership do not include any Latinos.
Another thing 2012 taught us was that polls and data sets are essential to be a part of mainstream media news. As voter projections were made, more and more Latino “experts” were guests on a variety of political talk shows. This also increased awareness of the lack of Latinos on mainstream media as journalists, hosts, and in primetime entertainment. It took Spanish news broadcaster Jorge Ramos to ask tough questions from the two Presidential candidates for America to notice that Latinos are attune to the issues facing America.
In addition, the data provided in 2012 showed the strengths and weaknesses of America’s Latino population. With Latino poverty numbers wavering between 25 and 28 percent and coupled with a double-digit unemployment rate of 10 percent, this could cause a longer delay for America to regain its economic strength. Unfortunately, Obama’s economic plans have not specifically identified strategies to address this significant data, even if research shows this is the number one concern among Latinos.
What Latinos can expect, beginning in 2013, is more inclusion, especially in mainstream media. Although many general market commercials have integrated Latinos to promote their products and services in English, primetime media is lagging and based on “sneak previews,” it doesn’t look like that may change anytime soon. However, there is a bright spot with regard to The Kennedy Center Honors for 2013, the lone Latina on the Board of Trustees, Giselle Fernandez, is heading up a committee to revamp the honorees selection process and be more inclusive of Latino artists.
The challenge will be the sensitizing of Hollywood, especially in films like Argo, where a Mexican American is portrayed by Ben Affleck as a white male instead of a Mexican American actor, or the upcoming Dora the Explorer being portrayed by a white female, even though the character is Latina. In a powerfully written essay, film director/producer Moctezuma Esparza uncovered the many ills of Hollywood regarding Latinos and sparked a discussion that may result in tinsel-town taking a notice of what is now the majority population that surrounds the city.
Happy New Year.