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s1 {font-kerning: none}span.Apple-tab-span {white-space:pre}The concept of Identity is undoubtedly a necessary basic component in the study of Latino politics.  The concept of identity has carried significant repercussions and effects on the societal and political inclusion and exclusion throughout history.  There are several common misconceptions between Latino peoples that arise from incorrectly and ignorantly assuming that Latino peoples are monolith without placing special attention the nuances surrounding Latino peoples, such as migratory patterns and country of origin.  This ignorant and incomplete perception Latino peoples only furthers the importance surrounding the  concept of identity.  Moreover, the convergences or differences in identity has played an integral role in the interactions between factions of Latinos and has even been the source of conflicts between these groups as well.  Often times, a function of the historically changing relations of conflict has been predicated on the interaction of class, gender, and racialization.  The first of these features has been prominent in the concept of identity for Latino people.

 Unsurprisingly, the position of a Latino people’s class has been largely influenced, if not completely shaped by, the convergence between previous migratory, historical, and legislative patterns and contexts.  For example, Mexican immigration to the United States skyrocketed because of the need for cheap agricultural field laborer to remedy the lack of a labor force given the numerous amounts of people that had been involved in the ongoing second World War.  Because Mexican immigrants were needed for unskilled and low-paying agricultural work, they were then located in a lower class in which their lack of education left them with little room for upward financial mobility.  Exacerbating this issue was the fact that Mexican immigrants, despite their numerous contributions to the labor force, experienced a great deal of prejudice in the subsequent years and were granted limited access and opportunity to the mechanisms of upward financial mobility.  Contrastingly, a great deal of Cuban immigrants began immigrating to the United States following the arrival of the Fidel Castro regime in the country.  Fidel Castro championed for economic and social ideals that were closely related to Communism, which the United States was staunchly and passionately opposed to.

 Moreover, Cubans on the higher end of the socioeconomic ladder were also opposed the Castro regime as they feared losing the privileges associated with their wealth.  Given that the United States were staunchly determined to undermine the Castro regime, and already rich Cuban immigrants were eager to protect their status, the United States offered Cuban immigrants refuge to the United States and a path to citizenship in the event that they were able to reach United States soil.  Because Cubans immigrated to the United States with previous wealth and were afforded greater access and benefits when in United States, they were situated in a much higher class than previous Mexican immigrants.The second of these features, gender, has also been significant in the conception of identity for Latino people.  Latinas in the United States face unique and special challenges than their male counterparts.  Latina women running a single-parent household face even greater issues related to identity as they are socially (and economically) excluded from being engaged members of society given a larger need to provide for the household and sometimes even send money to family in remote countries.  The significant challenges for Latina women to integrate into society is reflected in the fact that the median hispanic woman earns only 88% of what median Hispanic man earns and a little more than half of what the median white male earns.

The last of these features has been especially prominent in the concept of identity for Latino peoples.  Racialization is the a configuration of social, cultural, and political processes by which specific perceived visible differences are imbued with racial significance and meaning that, in turn, are then incorporated in a racial hierarchy both within the macro-level of economic, state, and cultural institutional structures, and within the interstitial nodes of quotidian experience and relations that takes place in the sites of civil society.  The macrolevel and microlevel racialized codes and practices that are developed then function as integrated forms of socially, politically, and culturally produced knowledge, also otherwise known as common sense.  This has a significant role in the learning process as it becomes the representational mechanism for groups to be identified and targeted for differential negative action by dominant groups based on imagined or real visual, physical or phenotypic characteristics. Given that there are various components that shape and influence identity and given that the concept of identity is a necessary basic component of Latino politics, there are varying conceptions of identity that aim to provide the most accurate understanding of the Latino experience in the United States by placing greater importance on one or more of these various components.  Some of the most prominent conceptions of identity include Suarez-Orozco’s notion of Pan-Latino identity, Oboler’s conception which places the idea of Latino heterogeneity at the forefront, Alcoff’s conception which incorporates the idea of an ethnorace, and Suro’s conception which emphasizes the role that the idea of Mestizaje has on that Latino identity.Suarez-Orozco’s conception of a Pan-Latino identity is, in essence, is developed around the understanding of the lives that Latino immigrants take on after having acclimated to life in the United States.

 Specifically, Suarez-Orozco’s conception of identity calls Latino to embrace the fact that they share both a common language and historical convergences in their process of migration.  For example, Suarez-Orozco believes that numerous groups that have migrated to the United States have had their identity and lives in the United States shaped because of their migration.  Moreover, Suarez-Orozco also believes that numerous groups have experienced racialization and have been targeted against for being fair-skinned or being of a darker complexion.  In having a Pan-Ethnic Latino identity, Suarez-Orozco believes that Latinos can establish an identity that is more comprehensive of all Latino countries.  More importantly, however, Suarez-Orozco concept of identity can create a united Latino identity that is capable of being a political force.

 Suarez-Orozco believes that this Pan-Latino identity is so capable of being a political cohesive entity that he champions for a Latino solidarity movement aimed at achieving political victories. Oboler’s conception of the Latino experience in the United States, meanwhile, is oriented more around the notion of heterogeneity within Latino people.  In fact, Oboler zealously denounces the concept of a collective  “Latino” identity and experience as little more than an ignorant fabrication.  Beyond that, Oboler believes that the presumed possibility of a collective Latino identity and experience is an ignorant assumption made by Anglo-Saxons.  Because of the numerous differences and nuances surrounding the Latino experiences and identities in the United States, there is a great confusion that surrounds Latino peoples.

 Proponents of a Pan-Ethnic Latino identity are either ignorantly fabricating a false and incorrect notion of Latino peoples are incorrectly and, perhaps even unfairly, attempting to create a universal shortcut to understand Latino peoples in a hope to piece together a sense of solidarity.  The latter portion, specifically, is of special importance given that rushing to piece together an untrue and inorganic sense of solidarity, simply for the sake of togetherness, is unjustifiably exclusionary in nature to Central and South Americans.  This is because these Latino peoples experience their own unique experiences that ignores these experiences in an attempt to pigeonhole them into a homogenous Latino monolith. Alcoff’s conception of the Latino experience in the United States, meanwhile, places greater emphasis on the concept of an “ethno race.”  According to Alcoff, the term ethno race possesses two key elements: human agency and subjectivity.  The term ethno race contrasts from the concept of the term Latino as it places greater emphasis on the intersection between racial and ethnic ideologies.

 This is especially important as conception of the Latino experience that only focuses on race is incomplete as it only attributes for a person’s physical characteristics.  Instead, including the ethnicity of a person can better account for a person’s and a people’s religion, linguistic dialects, and unique customs and traditions.  For example, many Latino peoples, regardless of where they stand on the spectrum of skin complexion, tend to pledge their political support to conservative political parties even though they may not have a holistic approach to addressing the challenges of all Latino peoples.  Instead, these political parties only receive support from Latino peoples given that they most closely align with the religious beliefs and customs of certain Latino peoples.  However, Alcoff is still of the belief that the role that race has on understanding the Latino identity and experience cannot be undermined or understated.  This is because race, which is often measured following a black-white binary, does not adequately take into account the different Latino peoples.

 In addition, the black-white binary fails to take into account the instrumental role that culture and racialization plays in shaping the Latino identity and experience.  All things considered, the complexity that surrounds the combination and intersection of race, racialization, and culture results in the term of ethnorace being a better conception to understand the Latino experience.Suro’s conception of the Latino experience in the United States, meanwhile, is unique that is centered around the concept of mestizaje.  Suro believes that predicating the conception of the Latino experience around mestizaje is a more precise way to conceptualize the Latino experience as it expands on mixed races.

 This is of special importance to Suro given that the concept of the melting pot, which purports that immigrants eventually seamlessly assimilate into society in the United States, is a theoretical concept that is commonly used when in dialogue about the Latino experience in the United States.  It is seldom the case that Latino immigrants experience a seamless transition when attempting to integrate into already-established communities.  Instead, Suso posits that mutuality, permeability, and specificity.  The first of these three conditions, mutuality, calls for Latinos to possess a mindset that is not only conducive to being inclusive of other cultures, but that is also welcoming and engaging of others.

 The second of these three concepts, permeability, involves being able to gain acceptance in aspects of society, such in academia and the labor force, while actively exhibiting a Latino identity.  The third of these three concepts, specificity, calls for special attention to concepts of identity by rejecting antiquated social notions of race.  In sum, Suro’s mestizaje-based notion of the Latino experience calls for others to be proud of and actively engage and partake in their individual culture while simultaneously respecting and embracing existing differences with other subgroups.

All things considered, the Latino experience and identity in the United States is a very nuanced concept that is filled with complexities in regards to Latino people’s’ history, socioeconomic status, racialization, culture, and ethnicity.  Because of these numerous complexities, numerous conceptions of the Latino experience and identity in the United States, most notably the aforementioned conceptions, have come to fruition in order to take these nuances into account either as they are in isolation or how they interact when intersected with other nuances.  Almost needless to say for such an intricate concept, there is no singularly perfect and universally accepted  answer.  Suarez-Orozco’s conception of a Pan-Latino attempts to establish a Latino experience and identity in the United States that is constructed by focusing in on their numerous similarities, including language and struggles encountered during migration.  This conception is well-intentioned in that it aims to build political solidarity in order to allow Latino people to not only mobilize amongst themselves, but to also become a powerful political body.

 However, this Pan-Latino conception exhibits significant theoretical and political inadequacies in that it does not properly represent the unique challenges and cultures of the different Latino peoples.  Instead, it always Latino people to continue to be grouped as a monolith which negates the ability for South Americans, for example, to have their unique challenges properly addressed if they are expected to absorb the challenges of Mexicans, for example, who possess their own challenges.  In regards to political mobilizing, this conception also fails to take into account the role that culture plays in the Latino experience in the United States.  For example, certain Latino peoples may share very little, if anything at all, of a political ideology if they choose to pledge allegiance to a political party that may not best represent the interests of other Latino peoples but that does sufficiently represent their religious beliefs.Instead, the conception that is likely to provide the most accurate understanding of the Latino experience in the U.S is one that extracts and combines all the tenants of the various conceptions of the Latino experience and identity that aim to achieve inclusiveness, build solidarity, and properly represent the interests of sub-Latino groups without considering them as a monolithic or homogenous group.

 To best do this, Oboler’s notion of heterogeneity, which piece together an untrue and inorganic sense of solidarity, simply for the sake of togetherness, must be used as Central Americans, South Americans, and Mexican people all experience life within the United States very differently.  Closely related, Alcoff’s concept of an ethno-race is a great way of incorporating the unique cultures and customs that people have and practice in accordance with their ethnicity, which only further promotes a holistic analysis and understanding the experience of Latinos in the United States.  Moreover, Suro’s tenants of mutuality, permeability, and specificity should be used to foster the open-mindedness that develops a better understanding of different Latino subgroups by promoting active engagement and participation in a person’s individual culture while simultaneously respecting and embracing the existing differences of other subgroups.

In the late 1960s, the United States underwent a historic and significant restructuring process.  The root of these causes and characteristics of the restructuring process were the presence of declining profit rates, particularly in the corporate sector where productivity failed to grow in accordance with wage growth.  These declining profit rates were intended to be remedied by employing a drastic shift in labor and economic policies that entailed lowering the costs of labor and inviting subsidies increasing the percentage of the third world’s manufacturing and assembly operations.  For example, labor policies shifted in such a way that subcontracting arrangements, which lowered the costs of labor as it sometimes meant companies did not have to offer the benefits associated with full-time employment, became the norm.  As a result of this, the proportion of temporary and part-time jobs drastically increased, opportunities for job advancement reduced, and various types of job protections were weakened.  Domestically, companies also began to use technology in a flexible way in order to further drive down labor costs.   Moreover, companies also employed neoliberalist practices in opting to close down operations in the United States in order to shift production overseas to countries in which labor costs were significantly lower.  The demand for cheaper labor costs to increase profit rates resulted in a dramatic shift in immigration patterns, particularly when it came to Latinos.

 This was most clearly exhibited by immigration reform in 1965 that shifted the bulk of migrants coming from Europe to coming from countries with high Latino populations.  For example, in the years following this 1965 reform, 51% of immigrants originated from Latin America.As to be expected, the influx of higher portions of immigrants coming from Latin America created a realignment and restructuring of Latino households and, subsequently, communities.  A significant percentage of Latinos still experience poverty and tend to reside in inner cities with little recourse in sight given their low-paying jobs.  The percentages of Latinos who live a more comfortable, middle class lifestyle, meanwhile, tend to remove themselves from these previously mentioned areas that are heavy in Latino communities and populations which creates a class division between inner-city Latino immigrants and middle-class professional Latinos as they do not have to experience the everyday struggles that the latter of these groups experience because of restructuring.

 Moreover, restructuring at the state level, which occured in accordance with a neoliberal ideology, drastically decreased the role of state in providing social services and regulatory oversight of economic markets.  As part of this, numerous aid-programs were eliminated and responsibility for providing social services was shifted from the federal level to the state and local level.  Moreover, economic policies were adopted that were geared in adopting economic policies that promoted an upward redistribution of wealth.  These patterns of neoliberalist state restructuring affected Latino communities by deteriorating physical community spaces and infrastructure.  To make matters worse, Latino communities began experiencing harsher policies in regards to criminalization of the undocumented (which is best evidenced by the militarization of the United States-Mexico border) despite the fact that the growing Latino immigration rates were a result of restructuring that was done in accordance with neoliberal and globalization to find the most efficient methods of lowering the costs of labor.  This unjustified over-criminalization of Latino peoples also affected Latino communities by deepening notions of illegality and foreignness of Latino immigrants.  In response to the issues that affected Latino communities and peoples, the Latino Civil Rights Movement aimed to improve the living conditions and experiences of Latino people in the United States.  Because of the Latino Civil RIghts Movement, Latinos were able to gain access to “gate-keeper” institutions that allowed for the creation of a larger middle and professional Latino class.

 Despite their best efforts to continuously create a larger middle and professional Latino class, however, the Latino Civil RIghts Movement was unable to service a greater percentage of Latino populations which resulted in a greater division of class within Latino communities.In regards to achieving greater political empowerment for Latino peoples and communities, there are two prominent models of political empowerment: Mainstream Electoral politics and the Household Model of political organizing.  The former of these two models of political empowerment is predicated on the utilization of a top-down structure.  Specifically, the electoral model is aimed at electing legislators and politicians who share racial backgrounds with voters in hopes that representation in advanced institutional positions will precede the implementation of policies that address the concerns of Latino communities.  The latter of these two models of political empowerment, however, differs in that it starts from the perspective of the household rather than the abstract individual as it views the household as the base for confronting and resisting circumstances of marginalization and everyday struggle for survival.

  Both economic models of political organizing present compelling grounds for which to be considered as a more effective model for Latino political empowerment.  All things considered, the Household Model of political organizing possesses a longer-term vision for Latino political empowerment as it aims to rebalance the structure of societal power by making the state more accountable, to strengthen powers of civil society to manage its own activities and actions, and to make corporate sectors more socially responsible.  In practical terms, the Household Model of political organizing advocates for the betterment of different subgroups within Latino communities and, as a result, is more uniting in nature.  Latino political empowerment could potentially service different sectors of Latino communities that may not have their concerns addressed as comprehensively.  The Household Model of political organizing closely relates to the concept of associative citizenship that addresses patterns of differential exclusion and is based on associational networks characterized by relations of reciprocity, mutuality, and trust.  For example, the Household Model of political organizing could better serve the interests and challenges of women in Latino communities by incorporating a feminist ideology in their model of political empowerment.  Additionally, the Household Model of political organizing also closely connects to tenants of associative citizenship in that it aims to acknowledge, validate, and fight for the challenges of marginalized Latino sectors.  In turn, this validation creates an individual individual sense of ability amongst marginalized Latino sectors.

As previously discussed, middle class professional Latinos have settled in areas that are distant to the inner cities that house many Latinos and their accompanying challenges.  Because of this, the Household Model of political organizing could be most effective for Latino communities that still lack a consistent and reliable access to public services, knowledge, or skills by championing for increases and improvements in public services and living conditions offered to Latino people.  Nevertheless, the electoral model of political organizing still possesses qualities that make it a prominent and effective model of political organizing for certain sectors of Latino communities.  Most notably, the sector of middle class, professional Latinos tends to be more inclined to use voting as a means of communicating and displaying their position on various political issues.  All things considered, the most effective model of political organizing is one that combines both models.  After all, different sectors of Latino populations are more inclined to respectively use each model as a means of being politically involved.  A model of political organizing should be constructed as a way of addressing the needs of different sectors of Latino communities without forcing sectors to compromise their needs.  Following this, the most effective model of political organizing will combine the component of the Household Model of political organizing in which the more-marginalized sectors of Latino communities are constantly accounted for.

 Moreover, the most effective model of political organizing will value mainstream electoral politics given that they both represent the sector of Latino middle class professionals and that they have the potential to have an impact on Latino communities across the nation.


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