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Latino Politics in the U.S.

Latino Politics in the U.S.
Kendall-Hunt, 2012 (2005)

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Social Historical Context of “Natural Disasters”: Haiti

The Social Historical Context of “Natural Disasters”: Haiti

“Poor Mexico, so far away from God but so close to the United States”
---Porfirio Diaz

“Those who forget their history are condemned to repeat it”

Victor M. Rodriguez Dominguez

Just like we have learned earlier from the Katrina disaster, it is important, while we share our solidarity and our support for the tragedy being endured by the courageous people of Haiti, not to forget the historical and social context that frames this most recent disaster in the Haitian experience. After hearing the news and the self-congratulatory speech of President Obama about the “historical ties” of Haiti and the United States, I could not but recall a different narrative of “historical ties” than the one the media is conveying. This counter narrative is more congruent with a famous quote from former Mexican Dictator Porfirio Diaz which applies to the Haitian experience in an ominous way. Dictator Diaz in the last half of the 19th century opened Mexico to foreign capitalists, especially U.S. investors and created the precursor of today’s neo-liberal policies in that country. By the early part of the twentieth century half of Mexico’s wealth was in foreign hands. Today, Haiti is under the total control of the United States and its institutions. A country that used to produce its own rice, now imports it from the United States.

One aspect of these “historical ties” that are not told in United States’ high school history textbooks is that Haiti, by being the first independent country in the Americas, led by people of African descent, created fear in the white slave holding elites throughout the world. Haiti was the most prosperous European colony in the Americas and one that brought to France a significant amount of the wealth that catapulted it to the rank of a developed nation. But, France’s and the United States ascent to the developed world were rooted in the sentencing of Haiti to centuries of economic despair and political instability. This is the story we are asked to forget.

In 1804, Haiti declared its independence from France under the leadership of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who succeeded the brilliant military strategist and former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture. In the preceding years the Haitian army defeated the most powerful European army in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte’s army of tens of thousands and at different times defeated smaller attempts by the British and the Spanish to subdue the Haitians.

Europe and the United States never forgave Haiti for becoming a model of freedom against the infamous system of slavery and after Haiti was in a state of political weakness because of internal strife imposed economic blockades (like in Cuba). Ironically, France collected “reparations” for its loss of “property” (slaves) during the Haitian war of liberation and Haiti was isolated (worse than Cuba is today). The United States waited sixty years before it granted recognition to the nascent republic. What today we call the global north, dominated by the United States created the conditions for perpetual Haitian underdevelopment. The example of an African nation which was prosperous in the Americas was too much to swallow for the slaveholders of the United States and Europe. In fact, President Jefferson initially supported the French efforts against Haiti until it discovered that Napoleon wanted to then expand the French empire beyond the Louisiana territory. After Napoleon’s defeat, it sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States dramatically expanding the United States’ empire. So thanks to Haiti’s victory, the United States began its modern phase of territorial expansion. We paid them with economic sanctions.

Unfortunately, Latin American nations in struggle for their own independence from Spain, also betrayed the nascent Haitian nation. Simon Bolivar, the liberator of the most of Latin America, received military support and weapons from the Haitian revolutionaries in 1816. Yet, in the end Bolivar denied support and recognition to Haiti when they needed it. Their own fear of a “pardocracia” (government of the people of color) instilled more fear in the Bolivarian revolutionaries than the Spanish or the United States imperialists. Brazil did not abolish slavery until 1888, being the last country in the world to do so.

The economic disaster created by United States and Europe policies of isolation, let to the creation of one of the first debtor states. Haiti, in what was latter debt peonage, was forced to endure a period of formal colonialism when the United States marines invaded Haiti in 1915. After 19 years they left the country neatly re-organized to become a neo-colony of United States. In order to assure obedience and discipline to the imperial requirements, the United States military trained the Haitian National Guard (like in recent years the formerly called “School of the Americas” trained Latin America’s military) and left the military forces that would lead to the eventual dictatorship of Francois Duvalier in 1957, probably (together with another U.S. protégé in the other side of the island, the Dominican Republic’s dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo) one of the most cruelest and murderous in the Americas.

In recent decades, after the end of the Duvalier dynasty period of bloody control, the Haitian nation has attempted to stand on their own feet and establish a democratic and prosperous nation. Each time their efforts have been thwarted, this time again by the United States and the support of Europe. Father Bertrand Aristide, who despite his weaknesses was by far a step in the right direction for Haiti, was elected democratically by the Haitian people twice and twice removed by forces supported and directed by the United States. The last time, in 2004, President Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown by former military forces influenced by the Duvalierists and other forces allied to the light-skinned elites who have ruled Haiti for decades in alliance with the United States. Marx said that history repeats itself, the first as tragedy the second time as a farce. The first tragedy was that President Bertrand Aristide was kidnapped by United States agents, placed in a United States military plane and whisked away to the Central African Republic. Today he lives in exile in South Africa. Last summer 2009, President Zelaya from Honduras was also overthrown and later kidnapped and exiled in a sequel that seems more like a farce. Today, he is also still in exile.

Someone has said that “Americans are the people with the most access to information and the least informed.” As we watch the coverage of the Haitian tragedy and we hear President Obama’s words, the first African American president, let’s not forget white supremacy is alive and kicking in the United States. The main networks are in a self-congratulatory mood about how we are the first responders and celebrating the spirit of giving of the nation. The United States people are a generous people and they will respond but we should not forget the reasons why this disaster has been amplified. The government and the infrastructure of Haiti are so inefficient and inexistent that the coordination of efforts will be more difficult.

Ironically, corporate media in the United States, because they are monolingual and do not read Spanish or Creole, are cheerleading the arrival of Canadians and U.S. planes late on Wednesday, the fact is that the first responders came from Venezuela, which sent its air force with medics, food and equipment a few hours after the tragedy, Cuba, which already had 344 medical doctors on the ground and more teams with 151 more specialized medical doctors that arrived (Cubans already had two tent hospitals serving 800 wounded), the Dominican Republic which sent a 20 member Urban Rescue team, and through which Puerto Rico attempted to coordinate and sent a team of three helicopters, dozens of urban rescuers (who had earlier served in New York during 9/11 attack) and 20 structural engineers. However, Puerto Rico was unable to send them as quickly as they wished, at least until last night (1/14/2010) teams of technicians with water purifying systems, communications and military police did not receive permission from the Southern Command. As a colony of the United States, they had to wait for approval from the U.S. Southern command. God forbid Puerto Ricans and Latinos upstaged the U.S. rescue efforts.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Racism and Identity in Puerto Rico

A version of this article was published in Spanish in:
"Censo 2000: Nacion, raza y el discurso independentista" in two parts in Claridad (Puerto Rico) January 7-13, 2000 pp. 14 & 31 and January 14-20, 2000 p. 14 & 31.

Racism and Identity in Puerto Rico

Dr. Victor M. Rodriguez Domínguez
Department of Chicano& Latino Studies
California State University, Long Beach

(Draft. Please do not quote without consulting with the author. E-Mail:

There is an increasing divergence between the mode of racial representation Puerto Ricans use in the Diaspora and Puerto Rico to describe their sense of self, their identity. After the U.S. Census of 1950, questions about race where not included in the questionnaire used in Puerto Rico. This article attempts to trace the political context which led to the decision by the colonial pro-statehood government in the late 1990s to utilize the U.S. Census racial categories which have brought this rupture to the fore of public and academic discussion. This piece also discusses the perspectives on race held by the leadership of the pro-independence movement and how its stances on race can be the Achilles heel for the movement. Finally, essay argues, that the Puerto Rican experience in the United States is increasingly becoming so differentiated from that of Puerto Ricans in the island that the long held notion of being part of the same nation has become problematic. It also suggests, a theoretical perspective about race, rooted in the anti-racist social movement that could provide the framework within which this gap can be mediated. This analysis and practice incorporates anti-racist and anti-colonial perspectives in ways that help develop a politics of liberation for Puerto Ricans in the metropolis and in the island.

Since 1950, the population decennial census questionnaire used by the U.S. Census Bureau in Puerto Rico, did not include questions about race. For the first time in 49 years, during the 2000 Census, Puerto Ricans had to self identify themselves as Black, white, Asian or Native American.

In 1999, Hermenegildo Ortiz Quiñones, former member of the Puerto Rico Planning Board, wrote an article in Claridad, a local weekly, reporting that the federal government, in response to a petition by the Puerto Rican government, would ask Puerto Ricans to fill out the same race and ethnicity questions used in the questionnaire administered decennially in the United States. While this change had been reported earlier in the island´s mainstream press, little public attention was provided to the portentous reform this bureaucratic decision was effecting on notions of racial representation in Puerto Rico. Later, in June of 1999, members of the “Puerto Rican Group on Race and Identity, ” a group of academic scholars who researched issues of race and ethnicity, called on Puerto Ricans to answer the racial items that would appear in the 2000 census in order to gather the empirical data necessary to challenge racial discrimination in Puerto Rico.

For many years, anti-racist activists in Puerto Rico had complained that the “racial paradise” image that Puerto Rico had carefully cultivated for many years, was in fact a facade that veiled a society where racial stratification limited and excluded black Puerto Ricans from full participation in civil society. With some exceptions, there is a deafening silence about the role of race in everyday life in Puerto Rico. Race is not part of the public or private discourse in the island, for this reason, anti-racist activists have not been able to muster popular support or significant public attention in the island, At least since 1950, there was no official and reliable data on the racial make up of Puerto Rico and of the social and economic experiences of the various racial groups. A dialogue on race and racism in Puerto Rico was a tabu subject, one that could lead individuals to experience ostracism and to be considered a “paranoid.” The politically correct perspective, was that racism, was an “American” problem, not a Boricua problem.

The presence or absence of questions about race in Puerto Rico was not merely a methodological problem, it was a profound question about Puerto Rican identity. But also, it was a political issue that brought into play the eternal debate about Puerto Rico’s colonial status. Juan Mari Bras, a prominent leader in the movement for Puerto Rican independence called this move by the local government: “the Rossello strategy for automatic integration.” In other words, this bureaucratic change was part of a strategy by the pro-statehood administration to gradually annex Puerto Rico into every social and institutional sphere of the United States. The local government contended, however, that this change would allow census statistics about Puerto Rico to be issued simultaneously with other regions of the United States. Since 1960, census statistics about Puerto Rico were released after all the data of the 50 states were processed.

Since 1898, Puerto Rico has experienced a process of social, economic, and cultural subordination. This process, has also included a process of racializing Puerto Ricans, just like Puerto Ricans are being racialized in the United States.

However, the consequences of both processes have had divergent results. In the United States, Puerto Ricans increasingly reject white or black racial identities choosing, instead, a hybrid racial identity, “other.” In Puerto Rico, the process of racialization has promoted a process of “blanqueamiento” (“whitening”) of the population. According to the latest data from the 2000 Census, 80.5% of Puerto Ricans chose “white” while only 8% chose Black. The data for Puerto Ricans in the United States has not been released yet ( as of October 2002) but in 1990, only 45.8% of Puerto Ricans in the Diaspora chose white in the census form, in contrast, 47.2% chose “other.” While the population of Puerto Rico is “whitening,” the mainland Boricuas are “browning.”

This “rupture” as Jorge Duany describes it, represents an important issue for the future relationship between Puerto Ricans in the island and those in the Diaspora. Particularly, since, in a few years, more persons identifying themselves as Puerto Ricans will live in the mainland of the United States than in Puerto Rico. Additionally, this issue goes to the core of Puerto Rican identity, the politics of liberation and to the anti-racist struggle in Puerto Rico and in the United States.

Census 2000: The Lies

In 1998, the colonial administration of the New Progressive Party, a pro-statehood political party in Puerto Rico, called for a referendum on the island´s political status. After being re-elected once, Governor Pedro Rossello felt that for the first time in that century, pro-statehood forces could defeat those favoring the status quo in a referendum. With that victory in his hands he could go to Washington, D.C. and begin a process to convince Congress that Puerto Ricans were ready for statehood. In 1996 he was re-elected, with 51.1% of the electorate, the widest majority ever for a pro-statehood party. However, in a complex election with 4 alternatives, statehood was defeated by a de facto coalition between supporters of the commonwealth, autonomists and pro-independence supporters. The alternative, “None of the Above” received the support of 50.3% of the Puerto Rican voters while statehood only received 46.5%.

The pro-statehood governor, initiated a series of policies and programs which were designed to reduce the social, cultural and political distance between Puerto Rico and the United States. While bilingual education in Puerto Rico was a process of integrating English speaking Puerto Ricans into Puerto Rican culture, new bilingual programs were created to create bi-cultural, English speaking students. Pro-independence sectors argued that asking the question of race was a way of insinuating a destructive “Trojan Horse” into Puerto Rican society in order to divide the national unity of the Puerto Rican people.

Historically, nationalist discourse discouraged raising racial issues because it was feared they would divide the nation. Two of the most prominent Puerto Rican political leaders in the early 20th century, Pedro Albizu Campos and Jose Celso Barbosa, both of African descent, for different reasons, did not raise the issue of race throughout their careers. Barbosa, leader of pro-statehood forces chose not to discuss racial issues and proclaimed: “Today, superiority is manifested not in the race, not in the more or less quantity of color in the skin but in the quantity of grey matter . . .” However, Barbosa was the victim of discrimination by the Jesuits and also in Harvard where he graduated. In fact, he did not choose an academic career because he did not think it was prudent for a man of color to aspire to that position. Pedro Albizu Campos, however, also a victim of discrimination during his student days at Harvard, did not raise the issue of race within the nationalist movement he led for many decades. Racism, was a “Yankee” phenomena, not a Puerto Rican issue.
This was not only the independentista position it was also the position taken on race by the majority of the island intellectual, cultural and political elite. This was evident during the 1930s, a period of much economic uncertainty in Puerto Rico as in most of the world. This uncertainty and a host of other factors led the island's intelligentsia to explore the meaning of "Puertoricanness." In some sense it was a way of answering the question of whether Puerto Rico was a nation of just an aggregate of people.
This exploration took place within the context of racializing policies such as the imposition of a public school system that had displaced Spanish as the medium of instruction in 1900 in order to “Americanize” Puerto Ricans. In order to accomplish this educational process white teachers were brought from the United States. These teachers and the language also introduced the Anglo-Saxon race paradigm into the island.

Like in the United States and within the Mexican economy, the process of racializing, subordinating Puerto Ricans included a dual wage system. A newspaper an article said in 1900:

“The American teachers enjoy a better salary than the Puerto Rican teachers, yet instructions are given to the School Boards in the official newspaper, La Gaceta,
that all American teachers must sign their contract for next year. No mention is made of Puerto Rican teachers, who are in more need because they earn lower salaries.”

This dual wage system taught American teachers they were superior and taught Puerto Rican teachers that they were inferior. This institutional arrangement was part of the process to socialize the Puerto Rican population into acceptance of its new inferior status vis a vis the white “Americans.”

Some of the island’s most important cultural critics, like Antonio Pedreira, in a noted essay titled "Insularismo" echoed the racist ideologies so prevalent during that era. By stating that the "African and Indian "races" were inferior to the European races and particularly the "Spanish" he places himself in a stream of Latin American thought that shared a racist ideology. Juan Flores notes that from the 19th century Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's Conflictos y armonias de las razas en America (1883), José Enrique Rodó's Ariel (1900) to La raza cósmica (1925) of José Vasconcelos all assumed the inferiority of the contribution of Africans and Indians to the Europeans. For Pedreira, this confusion experienced by Puerto Ricans during this period was precisely a result of amalgamation.

But these ideas were also ideologically supported by a scientific discourse that was still popular among the Europeans since the later part of the 19th century. Gobineau in history, Herbert Spencer in sociology, Cesare Lombroso in criminology and Francis Galton in eugenics all articulated an ideology of scientific racism. De Diego, an ardent proponent of independence for Puerto Rico at times evidenced the influence of these ideas. In fact, even a person that was an anti-imperialist seemed to experience some self-doubt about the notion of equality of the human race.

These ideas found much support among significant sectors of the Latin American elites, including Puerto Rico's colonial elite. Specifically in Puerto Rico, these perspectives found a substratum of support among the elite because of their daily interaction with North Americans. The local elite was mostly an economic intermediary between United States business and Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans. In many ways, members of the intermediary elite coped with their own racialization as junior partners in the colony by uncritically adopting the racial world view of the metropolis.

Another way of coping was by an attempt to “erase” from the collective memory the role and presence of Africans in Puerto Rican society and culture. Often these attempts took the form of minimizing the obvious African presence in Puerto Rican history. For example in 1948, Tomas Blanco, another prominent social and cultural critic said:

“Our people has an abundance of Black blood, although in general, there are no pure Blacks, and although our population of color is completely Hispanic, culturally, the African contributions to our culture are very scarce in our environment, except in our musical folklore.”

This attempt to erase Africans from the collective memory is a form of cultural genocide that is rooted in a reaction to the racialization of Puerto Ricans. Blanco was trying to “blanquear” Puerto Rican culture in order to challenge the racialization of Puerto Ricans by the United States. Puerto Ricans were not natives, were not uncivilized (African), Puerto Ricans were also European in character and culture. Antonio Pedreira who earlier had joined the effort to “whiten” the most important symbol of Puerto Rican culture and Puerto Ricans, the “Jibaro.” In 1957 he says:

“From the mixing of pure Spanish, who struggled in the island against disadvantageously against the climate, diseases, the creole was born . . . the Jibaro . . . generous, cordial, hospitable, festive has had to hide in his shrewdness to protect himself from the urban sprawl and black competition in the coast.”

This symbol of a “true Puerto Rican” began to spread through Puerto Rican popular culture during the 19th century. The opposite racial “other” were the Spanish, but in the 20th century, the “other” were U.S. whites and their process of “Americanization.”

Lillian Guerra develops Jose Luis Gonzalez’ Pais de los cuatro Pisos in 1993 analysis of how the “Jibaro” became an instrument that was used as a pivot to leverage into a whiter status within the racialized hierarchy in Puerto Rico. The myth of the “Jibaro” as representation of true “Puertoricanness” was pivoted on a ”denial of an Afro-Mestizo historical reality from which many Puerto Rican customs and world views were derived—even by creole peasants, the jibaros themselves”.
However, U.S. white colonizers were not entirely convinced:

“Brigadier General George W. Davis, one of the colonial governors of Puerto Rico, stated that ‘between the Negro and the peon there is no visible difference. Davis found it difficult to ‘believe that the pale, sallow and often emaciated beings’ were indeed ‘the descendants of the conquistadors . . . ‘”

The “civilizing” mission of the United States, utilized the Americanization efforts as a way of bringing the “native” into a close, yet unequal status with U.S. whites. The natives were constructed as violent, overly sexual beings that required domestication. In 1906 a dockyard strike in San Juan was described by colonial Governor Winthrop as a an uncivilized crowd: “August 1 saw the climax of the situation. The mob became turbulent and ungovernable . . . The police used force but the gangs retaliated in the same measure.”

These efforts to deny any role for race in Puerto Rican society, was coded in the attempts to deny the African role in the island´s culture in order to challenge the process of subordination that colonialism represented. In order not to be what white Anglo-Saxons said Puerto Ricans were, it was necessary to expunge the culture and society of any stigma and marker of blackness. Unfortunately, by denying blackness they were perpetuating a racist system that denied people of African descent not only their humanity but also confined all Puerto Ricans to live a lie. Puerto Rico was never a racial paradise and until it addressed its racial and class inequities it would never achieve the true democracy Puerto Ricans aspire.

These efforts to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the racializing forces, also found their counterparts and supporters in the institutions of the colonial government. In 1958, then Governor Luis Muñoz Marin reached an agreement with the Department of Commerce (where the U.S. Bureau of the Census is administratively located) to assure the participation of Puerto Rico in determining what type of questionnaire will be used in the island. This agreement made sense for supporters of the commonwealth since they believed in some degree of autonomy from the United States. This would allow its own local planners to determine which items would appear in the questionnaire so that it would reflect Puerto Rican realities. In reality, some questions in the form used in the United States did not make sense in terms of the climate and culture of Puerto Rico. The plan was to form an interagency committee that would be responsible for choosing which items were necessary to gather the information that would guide short and long term planning. The first items to go where the items using racial classifications. The argument was that they did not reflect Puerto Rico´s reality. However, the interagency committee never reached an agreement to develop racial items on the basis of Puerto Rico´s racial system.

Race in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, contrary to the polarized and bifurcated white-non/white racial system in the United States, has a system of racial classification based on phenotypical characteristics where color is a major variable. Because of the amalgamation of the island's population, phenotypical traits were clustered in a number of categories that were points along a gradual, continuum. The phenotypically constructed categories still had "whites" as their reference point, but also were influenced by the class position of the labeled individuals. For example, references to a person's color were used less often than references to their class position.

" the Iberian areas...the overt references to one's economic circumstances ("nosotros los pobres") might be more frequent than one's color. The term "blanquitos," by which certain sectors of the dominant classes are referred to, has a "racial" connotation spiced by the suggestion of a racial mixture..."

As the quote suggests, even in the use of "racial" designations there is a questioning of them because of the high degree of amalgamation. Also, since class was more important than race, people of "mixed" race could legally have their "racial status" changed if they had the economic means to finance it. They obviously could not change the physical traits but they could "buy" a higher racial status. In societies where dichotomized racial characters exist, the only practical means of leaving behind a stigmatized racial category is by "passing" but not by a legally accepted process. "Passing" is the only informal way open for people with lighter complexion to escape stigmatized racial categories. In societies that make distinctions based on color and other phenotypical traits society validates (since the categories are not discrete) means of "upward mobility."

This is a system that Vadi calls "highly elastic system of racial classification." One important feature of it is the "mulatto escape hatch." Rather than the system being based on some mystical lack of mixture of black and white genes (unscientific) it is the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: wealth, class, education, gender, etc. The composite combination of all of these factors places one within the stratification system.

Because of the larger number of factors involved in placing people within social strata, you end up with a system that has a larger number of gradations, that are less sharply defined as in a system of either/or. All of these gradations serve as buffers that alleviate stress in the system being the "mulatto escape hatch" probably being the most interesting. Since it is more dynamic it allows for greater movement between strata. Charles Degler believes that the mulatto for example is like a bridge that spans racial categories that dulls the sharpness of the racial distinctions.

"The existence of the mulatto, for example, makes most difficult if not impossible, the kind of segregation patterns that have been so characteristic in the United States. With many shades of skin color, segregating people on the basis of color would incur both enormous expenses and inconvenience...Furthermore, in a society in which distinctions are made among a variety of colors, rather than race as in the United States, families would be split by the color line...Moreover, in a society in which the mulatto has a special place, a racist defense of slavery or of Negro inferiority cannot easily develop, for how can one think consistently of a "white" race or a "Negro" race when the lines are blurred by the mulatto? The search for purity of race is thus frustrated before it begins..."

However, one consequence of the existence of a population that straddles the categories is that it tends to deny the role of race in social life. The “mulatto, at times, because he or she can “pass” as white will not feel the need to raise issue of racism and discrimination. As a result of this refusal to engage in an anti-racist struggle the basis of support for the system of racism is widened by the unconscious support of those who benefit by not having to be Black. As follows from this brief description of the historical roots of Puerto Rico's system of assigning social identities, Puerto Ricans developed an emerging sense of national identity where race occupies a less significant influence as in the historical formation of United States national identity. Being "American" in the minds of most residents of the United States is being "white." This is also true for foreign perceptions of United States national identity. This despite the obvious fact of the multiracial and multi cultural roots of the United States. In Puerto Rico, in some sense, for many years, being Puerto Rican is not being, “non-white.” Recent self-definitions as white in the 2000 census may indicate some transition in how “Puertoricaness” is defined in terms of race. While in the minds of white American Puerto Ricans are non-white, increasingly Puerto Ricans see themselves as white in this utopic perspective on race.

Race, National Identity and Politics in Puerto Rico Today

There is a resurgence in studies of Puerto Rican culture and identity. Sponsored Identities by Arlene Davila in 1997, Nancy Morris’ Puerto Rico, Culture, Politics and Identity in 1998, Juan Otero Garabi’s Nacion y Ritmo in 2000 and more recently Carlos Pabon’s Nacion Postmortem in 2002. Only two recent studies, one by Lillian Guerra and Jorge Duany have attempted to insert race within a discussion about Puerto Rican culture and/or identity. Clara Rodriguez, who as a sociologist has done significant research on race, has mostly focused her extensive work on the race paradigm within the United States. This absence is richly meaningful of the silence about race in Puerto Rican society and culture. This silence is even more deafening among progressive sectors in the island.

Both in Puerto Rico and in the Diaspora, we have seen a powerful expression of national unity in the political struggles around Puerto Rico’s political prisoners, the struggle for peace in Vieques. The continued fragmentation of every day life in Puerto Rico, the ubiquitousness of United States cultural symbols and ideologies, the expansion and deepening of a consumer and values, the continued return migration of Puerto Ricans from the Diaspora and the phenomenal growth of an informal economy have wrought dramatic changes to the architecture of Puerto Rican life. These changes have laid out the foundation for a new, emerging society whose features still seem fuzzy and unknowable. To Pabon the nation seems “undead” while for Jorge Duany “Puerto Rico” has become a “translocal” entity with deep cultural continuities bridged by circular migration.

In some sense, being a Puerto Rican today in an internet connected world means in many ways living across cultures and geographic boundaries. However, this connectedness does not erases the social and cultural consequences of face to face interaction in Puerto Rico and the Diaspora. While we can feel immersed in Puerto Rican daily life by reading Puerto Rican papers, hearing videos and CD’s the experience is still vicarious. While the connections exist between the two wings where the “Trans-Rican” lives, these lives are lived within specific and contextual social spaces which shape those experiences in powerful ways. The presence of Wal-Mart, or being able to see CNN news in Puerto Rican cable companies can not reproduce the social experience of living in the Bronx, or Irvine, California for that matter.

Particularly in Puerto Rico today, civil society has acquired marked characteristics that create a different society from a decade ago. The changes Puerto Rico has experienced has changed the relationships between “the people” and the island’s most basic institutions. These changes are evident in the relationship between Puerto Ricans and “their” political institutions. In many ways, political parties don’t seem to exact the same kind of blind loyalty they did in the previous decades. A recent poll by the local daily, El Nuevo Dia, indicates that all political parties have lost a significant measure of legitimacy, in the eyes of most people all political parties are responsible of corruption. However, this does not mean the complete demise of political parties, it means a different relationship with other sectors of civil society. Pro-independence forces and political organizations have, for many years been the leading edge of progressive politics in many areas, with the exception of the struggle against racism.

During the last decades, the major struggles that have mobilized thousands of Puerto Ricans, both in the Diaspora and in Puerto Rico were rooted in cultural nationalism. While initially these struggles were led and energized by pro-independence sectors and forces, eventually their own success in tapping into the sense of nationalism of Puerto Ricans, extended the movements beyond the control and hegemony of the political nationalists. This success was of such a magnitude that the largest public gatherings of people achieved by any social movement in recent history were achieved in support, for example, of the efforts by the people of Vieques to stop naval bombardment of their island and recuperate the territory expropriated by the U.S. navy. These efforts, were not only the result of the independentistas it was also an accomplishment of a coalition of religious, labor, political, professional and other segments of the island’s civil society. Included in these sectors were supporters of all of the three status alternatives that have divided Puerto Ricans for 104 years.
Unfortunately, this incredible resurgence of cultural nationalism has not been able to re-energize the social and political infrastructure of the pro-independence movement. Th reason for this, seems to be the lack of a strategic vision that includes in visible and concrete ways a struggle against the divisions that exists within the Puerto Rican nation. The often cited Benedict Anderson in his classic Imagined Communities (1991) sees nations as a cultural artifact that create a sense of community based on “deep, horizontal comradeship.”

But that deep sense of equality cannot be based on a fiction or on a lie, it needs to be based on the trust that rises from a deep commitment to justice and democratic ideals. This can only take place within a movement that struggles against classism, racism, sexism and heterosexism. Since the demise of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, most political organizations in the pro-independence movement (with the exception of the smaller Frente Socialista) do not have comprehensive strategy or program to combat any of these ills, even less a mode of initiating a conversation among race in Puerto Rico.
In informal conversations I held with some leaders of the pro-independence movement during the summer of 2000, most agreed that the race issue is not raised in any significant form within the movement. Some leaders even argued that there is no relationship between the national question and the racial question in Puerto Rico. The recent response by Puerto Ricans in the census form validates the concern that race has become a pivot around which Puerto Ricans organize their sense of self. It is not the product of dialogue and conversation but the outcome of a process of 104 years of racialization in Puerto Rico. White supremacy has established a beach hold in Puerto Rico, the census responses speak loud about the racial content of “la puertorriqueñidad.” Being Puerto Rican is imagined as being white, in performing this exorcism, Puerto Ricans imagine a “deep, horizontal comradeship,” but this is a castle built on sand, a castle who walls will begin to crumble. This opting for “whiteness” is intensified by the changing demography of Puerto Rico and the arrival of Dominicans and Haitians who have become the “other” in the racialization process today. On one extreme, Anglo-Saxons represent the white pole, and on the other extreme darker Dominicans and Haitians become the unwanted others. As Duany, Hernandez and Rey (1995) have clearly shown, Puerto Ricans do not want to be black, and the most concrete symbol of blackness are the ne immigrants who occupy the lowest rungs of Puerto Rican society. In many ways, the racial system in the United States is being reproduced in the island.

This process of racialization, both in the diaspora and in Puerto Rico is challenging the notion of the national unity of Puerto Ricans in the United States and Puerto Rico. In the 1970s, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party argued that the diaspora and the island were part of the nation. While this was not implemented and deconstructed to all its implications it was an acknowledgment of the bonds between “los de aqui y los de alla.” What these recent census reports indicate is that this rupture is probably the most important sign that the two communities are moving apart.

It remains to be seen how Puerto Ricans in the United States identified themselves in the Census 2000 (SF 4 files still pending) but if the trend is continued, they will increasingly reject white or black and chose the racialized “other” as evidence of the fluidity of their process of self-identification. This category does not necessarily means a rejection of the system of race, it could quite well mean an accommodation, like Jorge Duany argues or a way of coping with a society that is increasingly racializing people of Latin American origin.

While Boricuas in the diaspora increasingly see themselves as “others” as part of a “browning” process, Puerto Ricans in the island take a u-turn and chose to imagine themselves as white. This process began immediately after the arrival of the United States in 1898 and reflected in each census until 1950 when the last racial items were dropped from the questionnaire. However, despite the prodding by the census the process of “whitening” continued unabated until this last census when an overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans saw themselves as white. In fact, Puerto Rico is even “whiter” than the United States where only 75.1% of Puerto Ricans identified themselves as white. Unfortunately, both processes do not represent a frontal challenge to white supremacy, but at least choosing “other” represents son awareness that the system of race is a fiction that kills. As David Hollinger said in his 1995 book, PostEthnic America, “Race is a myth, Racism is not.”


The racialization of Puerto Rican ethnicity has important implications for both the 3.4 million Puerto Ricans residing in the United States and those 3.8 million residing in the island of Puerto Rico. It also has implication for political alliances in the United States between Latinos, Latinos and other groups and between people of color/and language and progressive whites in a movement to search for justice for all people. It also has long term implications for the future of an anti-racist movement that will contribute to the dismantling of white supremacy in the United States.

The decision to be “white” chosen by 80.5% of Puerto Ricans moves Puerto Rico closer to the United States system of race. The closer Puerto Rican culture approximates the United States system of bi-polar racialized categories wide-ranging political alliances will become less possible. The potential of building a "common ground" both in the United States and in the island become more elusive as Puerto Rican ethnic identity becomes “cleavaged” by racially polarized racial distinctions. This phenomena has already taken place throughout United States history and has precluded it from developing a broad based movement of social justice. The "racial wedge" issues, "racial politics" has served to separate constituencies that could benefit from such a broad alliance.
While racial politics are not as prevalent in Puerto Rico as yet we already have some glimpses of it in recent years. During one internal primary squabble inside of one of the colonialist parties, a dark-skinned Puerto Rican was considered as a candidate for mayor of San Juan, the island major city. This candidate had to retire from the competition and it was widely assumed that the issue was his color although the debate was codified in terms of his being a forced candidate of the party's ruling guard.

Finally, Puerto Rico's more than centenary struggle for independence depends on a broad, inclusive multi-class alliance if it is to succeed. The adding of another cleavage to these liberation politics makes the achievement of this goal not impossible but more complex. This is particularly more challenging since we do not even have a language to begin a conversation about the intersection of race, class, gender and other isms in Puerto Rico. This becomes a greater challenge since in the nationalist discourse that pervades the pro-independence movement issues of race and color are still considered anathema and subject to marginalization. Ironically, if the racialization of Puerto Rican ethnicity continues not to acknowledge it will become the movement's Achilles heel.

During the United States early colonial administration race was used to divide Puerto Ricans. Race and other factors partially led a significant group of Puerto Ricans including the pro-statehood leader Jose Celso Barbosa to become advocates of the United States. The popular support for statehood today among Puerto Ricans of clearly visible African heritage is relatively high. This heritage seems to be rooted in the intersection of race and class during the early years of United States domination, another chapter of this history that deserves closer scrutiny. In the meantime, there is a need for a broad based effort to initiate a discussion on race in Puerto Rico. One that begins to define the issue in terms that allow people in different experiential places to be able to imagine themselves in the experiences of people of African descent in Puerto Rico, a group, that includes a higher percentage than the 8% Census 2000 would have us believe.

. Claridad April 2-8, 1999, 8.
. Since January of 1999, local newspapers had reported that Puerto Rico was to be included in studies and reports conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. See Leonor Mulero, “Ingresa la Isla a las estadisticas del censo federal” January 9, 1999; “P.R. to be part of U.S. census stats” San Juan Star January 9, 1999.
. “Racialization is the social and historical process of assigning individuals and groups a socially constructed racial identity and status.” Victor M. Rodriguez “Internalized Racist Oppression” (manuscript).
. See Victor M. Rodriguez “The Racialization of Puerto Rican Ethnicity in the United States” in Juan Manuel Carrion, Ed. Ethnicity, Race and Nationality in the Caribbean. San Juan: Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico, 1997.
. “Neither White Nor Black: The Representation of Racial Identity on the Island and in the U.S. Mainland,” in Puerto Rican Nation On the Move: Identities on the Island and in the United States. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
. Some of this material was published before in "Censo 2000: Nacion, raza y el discurso independentista" in two parts in Claridad January 7-13, 2000 pp. 14 % 31 and January 14-20, 2000 p. 14 & 31.
. Unless specifically noted, translations are my own. This quote is from Martin Sagrera, Racismo y Politica en Puerto Rico. Rio Piedras: Editorial Edil, 1973, p. 25. This interesting book has received scarce attention by scholars despite the paucity of books addressing the issue of race and racism in Puerto Rico. This is an example of the silence about race in the island.
. Sagrera, 25.
. In Aida Negron de Montilla. Americanization in Puerto Rico and the Public School System: 1900-1930. Rio Piedras: Editorial Edil, 1971, p. 55.
.. See Juan Flores' excellent analysis of Pedreira, his Insularismo e ideología burguesa. La Habana, Cuba: Editorial Casa Las Americas, 1979.
.See Flores (1979).
. According to Juan Flores' essay "National Culture and Migration" in Divided Borders Houston: Arte Publico Press, 1993, DeDiego, citing his readings of Lombroso describes North Americans as "the superhuman of the modern age" and "descendant as they are from one of the superior races of Europe."
. Sagrera 22.
. Antonio Pedreira, Insularismo. San Juan: Biblioteca de Autores Puertorriqueños, 1957, p. 27.
. In her book Lillian Guerra. Popular Expression and National Identity in Puerto Rico: The Struggle for Self, Community and Nation. Gainsville,FL: Florida State University Press, 1998 she explores the role of race in the formation of a multi valenced Jibaro symbol.
. Guerra 55
. In Kelvin A Santiago-Valles."Subject People" and Colonial Discourses: Economic Transformation and Social Disorder in Puerto Rico: 1898-1947. Albany: SUNY Press, 1994,
P. 45.

. Santiago Valles 107.
. Interestingly, in a phone conversation with Lillian Torres Aguirre, who was then chair of the interagency group that framed items for the local census and director the social and economic planning office of the census in Puerto Rico, she said that it was not until 1980 that the Supreme Court and the federal district court decided that racial items were not necessary in Puerto Rico. But according to a letter sent to Jorge Duany on January 21, 2000 she said that “the race question was dropped because the local government is not required by law to collect racial statistics in order to provide social services.” (Duany 252). However, the racial items in the local census were dropped in 1960, previous to the court’s decisions.
.. Jose Vadi (1989) mentions this quote from Harry Hoetink's "Africa and the Caribbean: The Cultural Links" in M. Crahan and F. Knight Africa and the Caribbean: Legacies of a Link. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1979.
. In 1783, King Carlos III issued a decree in which a person of mixed, Spanish and African heritage could receive a “cedula de gracias al sacar” This “cedula” would grant the status of “white” to the recipient (Guerra 215).
. Jose Vadi (1989) p. 3
. Charles Degler. Neither Black Nor White. New York: MacMillan, 1971.
.. Charles Degler. Neither Black Nor White New York: MacMillan, 1971, p. 225. I appreciate the suggestion of this reference by Jose Vadi (1989).
. There is a growing body of literature that is exploring the construction of "whiteness" as a privileged category in the United States. Recent examples include Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race Verso, 1994 and How the Irish Became White 1995. In addition to the role of the state in establishing greater social distance between whites and Blacks through legal means, the notion that "one drop of Black blood" made a person Black reinforces ideologically even today a polarized system of racial classification.
. Her most recent book Changing Race: Latinos, The Census and the History of Ethnicity in the United States . New York: NYU Press, 2000 is probably the most thorough contemporary treatment of racial and ethnic Latino identity from a social science perspective.
. In 1975 Isabelo Zenon Cruz wrote his path breaking two volume Narciso Descubre su Trasero (Humacao, P.R. : Furidi) where he breaks the silence for some time. Despite some focus on his courageous critique of racism at all levels of society, in a few months, silence became the norm. More recently a number of essays and books, (the most noteworthy is La mujer negra en la literatura puertorriqueña Rio Piedras: Editorial Universidad de Puerto Rico who in 1999 came out with a social analysis of short stories and their treatment of women of African descent in Puerto Rico), have tried to break the silence.
. Puerto Ricans identity is becoming a “Trans-Rican” identity that bridges the gap between the two geographic spaces where Puerto Ricans live, to use Juan Flores terminology in From Bomba To Hip Hop 2000.
. See “Todos los partidos son responsables: La Corrupción” Tuesday April 30 2002.

. It must also be noted that a large percentage of the leadership in civil society organizations involved int these movements are independentistas,
. Benedict Anderson Imagined CommunitiesReflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism . London: Verso, 1991.
. Jorge Duany, Luisa Hernandez Angueira, Cesar Rey. El Barrio Gnadul: Economia Subterranea y migracion indocumentada en Puerto Rico. Caracas: Nueva Sociedad, 1995.
. In a manuscript by Victor M. Rodriguez, “The Racialization of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans, 1890-1950" it is argued that that the process of racialization of Latinos has significantly increased post-1965.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Latinos Lost Big in Santa Ana; After a short hiatus, this elite is back in control,1,912005.story  

Orange County Commentary; Latinos Lost Big in Santa Ana; After a short hiatus, this elite is back in control.; [ORANGE COUNTY EDITION]
Victor M. Rodriguez. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Feb 23, 2003. pg. B.17

Section:      California Metro; Part B; Editorial Pages Desk
ISSN/ISBN:      04583035
Text Word Count      850
Document URL:      

Latinos Lost Big in Santa Ana
After a short hiatus, this elite is back in control.
By Victor M. Rodriguez

February 23, 2003

While some national papers picked up the story of a political brawl in South Gate, very few in the national media highlighted the most important political shift taking place in the participation of Latinos in local politics. In Santa Ana, with the most Latinos of any U.S. city its size, the rising grass-roots participation of Latinos was dealt a setback in fashioning public policy on education.

Whether this is a trend or a fleeting event remains to be seen.

Early this month, 69% of the voters chose to recall Nativo V. Lopez from the Santa Ana Unified School District board. Lopez, who heads Hermandad Mexicana Nacional of Santa Ana and is probably most responsible for dramatic shifts in the incorporation of Latinos into the political process, suffered a decisive loss with only about 21% of the voters showing up at the polls. Even in the most Latino wards, the vote went against one of the most effective advocates for Latino immigrants.

Since 2001, when the city elected its first Latino-majority board in this century, public policy about educational issues affecting Latino children has been decided by Latinos. Today, with the replacement of Lopez by Rob Richardson and the selection of Audrey Yamagata-Noji as vice president of the school board, Latinos are effectively back where they were close to a decade ago.

This change in Santa Ana underscores a political strategy to exclude independent political voices that have challenged the economic and political elite that ruled the city in recent decades. After a short hiatus, this elite is now back in control.

Before Latino representation came to the Santa Ana school board, hundreds of Latino children were summarily expelled each year and the dropout rate was significantly higher than it is now. Some of its test scores were among the worst in the state. The new Latino majority mobilized Santa Ana voters in 1999 to pass a $145-million school construction bond. California averages 1,660 students per 40-acre campus, while Santa Ana averages 3,000 on 25.

Political research has clearly shown that when Latinos have a significant role on school boards, they affect public policy in a way that benefits the upward mobility of Latinos. Before the Latino majority was in place, in a school system where 90% of the students are Latino, less than 10% of the teachers were Latinos and only 20 Latinos were in administrative or departmental positions in the district. Today, 30% of the teachers and administrators are Latino.

These efforts were successful because of the values held by the Latino majority on the Santa Ana school board. They believed that all parents had a right to participate in the development of educational policy. Bilingual meetings with interpreters became the norm, and the legal status of parents no longer was an issue for full participation in educational policies. But to effect these changes, Lopez and the Latino majority had to be independent from the economic and political interests that had ruled Santa Ana for decades.

In the recall election against Lopez, the Republican Party was able to influence a group of Latino parents who were dissatisfied with the slow pace of school construction and impatient with the educational improvements carried out by the board. As the new chairwoman of the board, Audrey Yamagata-Noji, has said, finding unpolluted land in a built-up community like Santa Ana is a daunting task. Ironically, these parents were the unwitting catalysts in returning to power some of those who represented the past policies that never served the Latino majority well. Together with multimillionaire Republican Ron Unz, the Republican Party took over their grass-roots protest.

But in the Lopez recall, Republicans also had the support of some Latinos. Conservative Latino politician Miguel Pulido, now the mayor of Santa Ana, jumped on the race-baiting wagon. Pulido had supported Proposition 187, an initiative that if it had not been declared unconstitutional could have deprived thousands of the city's undocumented children of access to education and other social services.

Another Latino, school Supt. Al Mijares, wrote an inflammatory column two days before the election in the Orange County Register. In that column, he accused Lopez and board chair John Palacio of being "cancerous cells" on the board. Though he never had raised objections to the board's actions, he jumped onto the anti-Latino bandwagon. His negative portrayal so late in the campaign did not allow the victims to clear the air.

The Democratic Party, to its shame, slunk into a corner when it smelled defeat. Two recently elected Latino politicians, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and state Assemblyman Lou Correa -- two local legislators who owe their seats to the mobilization efforts of naturalized voters by Lopez -- distanced themselves from him.

The Republican Party discovered it can beat back the Latino surge by using power and wealth. That is a lesson Latinos also should also learn, and never forget. They must not allow their voting power to be minimized by a group that does not have their interests at heart.


Victor M. Rodriguez is an associate professor of Chicano and Latino studies at Cal State Long Beach.

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Rebuilding the Pro-Immigrant Movement: Lessons from MacArthur Park

Rebuilding the Pro-Immigrant Movement: Lessons from MacArthur Park

Victor Manuel Rodriguez
Professor, Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, California State University, Long Beach

May 4, 2007

In the aftermath of the police riot which captured the focus of the media and political pundits this week, one fact is clear: the pro-immigrant movement has lost momentum. While what happened in MacArthur Park was an atrocious violation of civil rights and constitutional protections, it is important to discern what is going on with a social movement that seemed invincible just one year ago. It is also important to understand what is happening with law enforcement in Los Angeles as the context for the May 1 events.

Most of the media characterized the attacks on the marchers as a return to the “old LAPD.” Probably a more accurate analysis is that the Los Angeles Police Department as an institution seems to be intractable to deep reform. Only 15 years ago, Rodney King was awarded $3.8 million for suffering a beating by a few “bad apples.” In 1993, members of the LAPD beat a peaceful demonstration by hundreds of Latino janitors and their families, some women miscarried and eventually, the Service Employees International Union settled with the police department for a sum of $2.35 million.

After the 2000 Democratic National convention in Los Angeles, a federal lawsuit was filed by seven news reporters, initially represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and then handled by Michael Diamond and Sharon Jackson of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP a major Los Angeles law firm. The department settled with an agreement to develop a protocol that would govern the way LAPD handled their relationship with the press.  This protocol included training about first amendment rights, setting up a place to provide access to the media and the appointment of a press liaison officer to coordinate between the police and the press.   

Last July 8, 2006 Los Angeles Police Department officers beat and injured, Christen Westberry, José Villa, and Natividad Carrera, three participants in a peaceful demonstration against the anti-immigrant minutemen organization.

All of the previous events are captured in video, but contrary to the public response to the Rodney King beating these latter events seemed to have encountered a desensitized public and normalized the way law enforcement deals with citizens, especially citizens of color, engaged in constitutionally protected activities.

Very likely, the three investigations which are being carried—internal affairs, police department and inspector general---out will issue a critique of law enforcement’s “over reaction” and “abuse of authority” and develop new protocols and reforms. Unfortunately, “bad apples” will again be blamed and LAPD will continue its institutionalized practice of political repression. The problem with the LAPD is not a few “bad individuals” the problem lies in that the institution’s default operating system is one of controlling dissent and not of protecting civil liberties. Since the “Red Squad” days to today, this institution was created for control of the masses and today the masses are immigrant Latinos. All “reforms” of the LAPD have basically just scratched the surface. This institution has changed as much as it could in order to continue performing the function for which it was created. The only way of making the department accountable to the community that pays the taxes that finance this organization, is creating structures that oversee it that are connected to the community. This is the challenge that Mayor Villaraigosa faces, but a challenge that given the state of the immigrant social movement he will not choose to face.

Anyone who has followed the immigrant social movement after the huge demonstrations of last year are not surprised by the weak performance this time around. Internal divisions between immigrant organizations and leaders about strategy, tactics and ideology have fractured the movement.  Despite efforts to develop consensus and the creation of fora for their development  in the form of summits and conferences, the fractures continue to expand.

Also, the shifting of energy and resources into the legislative arena has diffused the movement’s energy. The Civil Rights movement began to lose momentum as it began to shift its arena of struggle from the streets into the courtroom. A false sense of success provided by the early court victories and congressional legislation led to the belief that racism in the United States had been tamed. Unfortunately, as we have learned since then: racism does not obey the law. The organizers were substituted by the men in suits, and the masses returned to their daily life. What was left was a network of bureaucratized organizations led by the middle classes for whom litigation and the legislative arena where the main spaces for struggle.

Today, something similar is happening in the immigrant social movement. Major mainstream Latino organizations are supporting the recent legislative effort at “comprehensive immigration reform” by congressmen Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Their legislative piece, H.R. 1645, the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 or the STRIVE Act of 2007 would basically enshrine in the law a system of indentured servitude in the form of another shameful guest worker program. It would also place onerous obstacles to an effective and speedy process of amnesty for undocumented immigrants. The only way to explain how Congressman Luis Gutierrez has agreed to this oppressive legislation, particularly given his long-standing progressive actions and positions on immigration is that the weakening of the immigrant social movement has diminished the leverage the movement had on congressional politics. Politicians after all, whether progressive or not are about compromise and results.  

Finally, probably the most important strategic and tactical advance that a segment of the immigrant social movement has achieved was the development of alliances with other groups. One reason for the initial success of the Civil Rights movement was its ability to cut across racial, political lines and forge broad coalitions. Jews, Catholics, whites, Latinos, Asians and American Indians all developed coalitions that were initially effective in broadening the movement. This building of cross-racial alliances is still an objective but not one that seems to be a focus of much of the immigrant movement. It is somewhat ironic that the event in MacArthur Park, organized by, among others, the Multiethnic Immigrant Workers Organizing Network (MIWON)  was the most diverse mass demonstration held in Los Angeles and the one that suffered the most repression.

On May 1 when it was most necessary to evidence the potential strength of the immigration social movement, most of the politicians who have ridden on the immigrant wave were not there. Last year, millions marched and no police brutality occurred. This time around, did the LAPD feel emboldened by the perceived weakness of the movement? It may be time again to return to the streets and bring in more organizers and less attorneys.                 

Sunday, January 3, 2010

¿Quién educará a la próxima generación de Latinos? La crisis fiscal y la educación universitaria en California

¿Quién educará a la próxima generación de Latinos? La crisis fiscal y la educación universitaria en California

Víctor M. Rodríguez Domínguez*

(13 de julio 2009)

La educación universitaria en California enfrenta el reto más grande en su historia, pero serán los jóvenes latinos los que pagaran un precio desproporcionado por esta crisis en los próximos meses. El tranque legislativo entre el gobernador Schwarzenegger y la legislatura estatal han creado las condiciones que conducirán la economía de este estado a una debacle similar a la depresión.

El corte de $584 millones en el presupuesto de la Universidad Estatal de California, llevó al rector Charles B. Reed, informar que además de los 10,000 estudiantes que no serán admitidos al sistema estatal de educación superior de California (CSU) este otoño 2009, los 23 recintos universitarios no aceptaran admisiones en la primavera 2010. Esto significa que cerca de 45,000 estudiantes cualificados para una recibir educación universitaria no podrán tener acceso a la universidad estatal de California. La Universidad Estatal de California (CSU), con sus 23 universidades, cuenta con mas de 433,000 estudiantes. Junto a la Universidad de California (UC) y los colegios de la comunidad (CC) representan el esfuerzo de este estado en proveerle una educación universitaria a las futuras generaciones de Californianos.

Esto ocurre en un momento en que es crucial, si este estado pretende salir de la recesión económica, proveerle a las futuras generaciones, particularmente a los jóvenes latinos, la educación que necesitan para ser competitivos en el mercado de trabajo. De los tres sistemas, es la universidad estatal de California (CSU) la que contribuye mayormente a la educación de los latinos en California. La Universidad de California (UC), que es la universidad de más prestigio y que provee educación doctoral, cuenta con 220,000 estudiantes pero solo un 3 por ciento de los estudiantes son latinos. En los colegios de la comunidad (CCC), aunque el 29 por ciento de sus 1,548,000 estudiantes son latinos estas instituciones solo proveen grados asociados. Además, muchos estudiantes de los colegios de la comunidad no se transfieren a las instituciones de cuatro años tales como la CSU y la UC donde se proveen las carreras profesionales. Un título profesional aumenta dramáticamente la capacidad adquisitiva del trabajador.

Es por esta razón que el anuncio de $584 millones en recortes presupuestarios a la universidad estatal de California, el anuncio de posible despidos de profesores y administradores, junto al incremento en 10 por ciento en el costo de la matricula, tendrá un impacto desigual sobre los jóvenes latinos. En un momento en que las nuevas generaciones requieren mas acceso, tendrán menos. También se vislumbra la posibilidad en la próxima reunión de la Junta Rectora de la CSU, el próximo 21 de julio, el costo de la matricula se aumentará un 20 por ciento para un total de 32 por ciento en los últimos años. La calidad de la educación sufrirá, aumentando él numero de estudiantes por instructor, a la vez que disminuirá el tiempo que los profesores invierten en orientar a sus estudiantes. Y tal como reveló un estudio de Deborah A. Santiago para el Instituto de Política Tomas Rivera en el 2006, el porcentaje de estudiantes latinos que están siendo admitidos a universidad que proveen una licenciatura (bachillerato) no ha variado significativamente en 25 años. El porcentaje se ha mantenido entre 8 y un 10 por ciento. Estos recortes posiblemente pintaran un peor cuadro para los jóvenes latinos de este estado.

La reducción de acceso a una institución de educación universitaria no ha podido ocurrir en un peor momento. Estudios recientes indican que para el 2025, cerca de dos de cada cinco trabajos (41 por ciento) requerirán un grado universitario. Y dado que hoy día los jóvenes latinos representan casi el 50 por ciento de todos los estudiantes en el sistema de educación publica, esta crisis representa una crisis especial para la comunidad latina de California. La falta de un incremento en el acceso al sistema universitario implicara que los niveles de pobreza, y de ascenso social y económico serán altos para muchos sectores de esta población.

Irónicamente, la restricción en el acceso de una educación universitaria para la próxima generación de jóvenes Californianos, especialmente los latinos, tendrá un efecto económico negativo para todos los residentes de este estado. Se espera que para el 2010, el 36 por ciento de la fuerza trabajadora en California sea latina, y para el 2020 la proprocion de latinos pudiera alcanzar el 50 por ciento. Si esta fuerza trabajadora no está altamente calificada, la salud fiscal de California estará amenazada, los sistemas de pensiones sufrirán y la economía sufrirá un descenso aun peor.

Esto se agrava debido a que en los próximos años, los tres grupos generacionales con las más altas tasas de educación universitaria, constituidos por Californianos (en su mayoría Anglos) entre las edades de 55 a 59 años, (35 por ciento con grado universitario), 50 a 54 años, (32 por ciento con grado universitario), y entre las edades de 60 a 64, (32 por ciento con grado universitario) comenzarán a retirarse del mercado del trabajo. Los llamados “baby boomers” crearan una brecha entre la demanda de trabajadoras altamente cualificados y la oferta. De acuerdo a un estudio reciente (2009) de Hans Johnson y Ria Sengupta del Instituto para una Política Publica en California (PPIC) el estado necesitara un millón más de graduados universitario que la oferta. Estos cortes aseguraran que California no podrá mantener su competitividad económica en las próximas décadas.

Como han dicho muchos estudiosos de la comunidad latina, el futuro de este estado dependerá del acceso a las oportunidades de ascenso social y económico, las mismas que se le proveyeron a generaciones anteriores.

Pero si las tendencias en el pasado reciente son una predicción del futuro, no se vislumbra un futuro mejor. El compromiso de este estado con la educación publica ha decaído desde el 1980, cuando el 17 por ciento del presupuesto de estado se invirtió en la educación universitaria. En el 2007, solo se invirtió un 10 por ciento del presupuesto estatal. Este descenso va paralelo al incremento en la proporción de los estudiantes que son latinos en el estado.

Hay que invertir en el futuro ahora. Y nos toca a todos decidir que rumbo debemos tomar.

*Correo: Sociólogo y catedrático de ciencias sociales en el Departamento de Estudios Chicanos Y Latinos en California State University, Long Beach. Autor de Latino Politics in the U.S.: Race, Class and Gender in the Mexican American and Puerto Rican Experience. Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt Press, 2005.)

Racialización, Polarización y Política: Los latinos en los Estados Unidos

Racialización, Polarización y Política: Los latinos en los Estados Unidos


Dr. Victor M. Rodríguez Domínguez
(sociólogo y catedrático asociado en el departamento de estudios latinos y chicanos de la Universidad de California, Long Beach. Correo electrónico:

“Cuando alguien con la autoridad de un maestro describe al mundo y tu no eres parte de ese mundo, hay on momento de desequilibrio psíquico, es como si te miraras en el espejo y no vieras nada.
-------------- Adrienne Rich, “Invisibility in Academe”

Ronald Takaki, el historiador norteamericano de descendencia japonesa, en su clásico “Un Espejo Distinto” nos anuncia que los Estados Unidos se apresta a enfrentar una grave crisis racial. Sus palabras no han encontrado eco en los medios de comunicación latinos y anglos; estos medios, por el contrario, exaltan el éxito en la incorporación económica y cultural de los latinos a la cultura y sociedad norteamericana. Pero debajo de las imágenes que nos proveen los representantes de la elite norteamericana, encontramos un patrón distinto. Existe una creciente brecha económica en las comunidades latinoamericanas , y una fisura cultural en términos del sentido de identidad en algunos grupos, particularmente entre los boricuas de la diáspora y la isla.

En momentos como este, cuando enfrentamos guerras y rumores de guerra, la incertidumbre sobre el futuro de Vieques, renovados debates sobre nuestra identidad nacional puertorriqueña, es importante mantener nuestra óptica en lo que sucede en la comunidad latinoamericana en los Estados Unidos. Durante el pasado año 2002, los latinos en los Estados Unidos nos presentan una imagen algo confusa y bifurcada. Los recientes libros de Jorge Duany “Puerto Rican Nation on the Move” y Susan Baker sobre la identidad y la pobreza entre los boricuas en los Estados Unidos, nos recuerdan la complejidad de la experiencia de los inmigrantes latinoamericanos en los Estados Unidos. Complejidad, que se homogeneiza en los medios de comunicación al presentarsenos imágenes del éxito de individuos como Jennifer López, Marc Anthony, Benicio del Toro, Salma Hayek, María Celeste Arraras y otros que han podido abrirse camino en el espeso matorral de la sociedad norteamericana. Pero en realidad, y de forma concurrente, la comunidad latinoamericana también sufre la exclusión, la discriminación racial y la creciente perdida de una cultura común con sus países de origen. A la misma vez, los latinos dejan su huella en la cultura popular norteamericana.

Otra tendencia que es discernible, en la experiencia política, es la bifurcación política entre los boricuas y los chicanos. Durante la guerra civil norteamericana, la linea Mason-Dixon separaba no tan solo el norte del sur, también separaba dos cosmovisiones del mundo muy diferenciadas. Hoy día, el río Misisipí, que separa al este y al oeste norteamericano, también representa una aparente brecha política: grandes sectores de los boricuas y los cubanos apoyaron candidatos republicanos, mientras los mejicanos en el oeste, fundamentalmente apoyaron al partido Demócrata. Pero esta tendencia, mas que un patrón de cambio fue una anomalía que pudiera no representar un cambio permanente.

Raza, Identidad y Política en los estados Unidos

La clave para comprender este proceso complejo y arrollador es la forma en que la cultura y sociedad norteamericana racializa a sus miembros. Racializar es el proceso por el cual las diferencia culturales que nos distinguen los unos de los otros se transforman en diferencias raciales. Los latinoamericanos, igual que otros grupos que han sido incorporado a los Estados Unidos, ya sea por la conquista o a través de la inmigración, a medida que pasa el tiempo, comienzan a ser encajonados en la arquitectura racial norteamericana. Este proceso, se intensifica a medida que sucesivas generaciones de inmigrantes se adentran al espacio institucional norteamericano. Ya adentro, las características culturales que los distinguen se convierten y son representadas, a nivel de la cultura popular, en diferencias raciales. Este es un proceso en el cual participan todas las instituciones sociales norteamericana, la educación, la economía, la política, etc. Sin embargo, las clases dominantes niegan que la racialización sea parte de la vida cotidiana norteamericana. Es un lugar común pensar hoy día en los Estados Unidos, que la raza no constituye una característica determinante en la cultura y la política estadounidense. Sin embargo, para los sujetos del proceso de racialización, esta es una experiencia muy real, muy concreta.

Cuando el inmigrante latinoamericano arriba a los Estados Unidos, el mejicano se convierte en un “mexican-american” o chicano, el puertorriqueño se convierte en “Porto Rican,” y en conjunto se convierten en “latinos.” Estas etiquetas, en el contexto racializado de la cultura popular en los Estados Unidos, representan fundamentalmente, diferencias raciales. Estas diferencias son internalizadas hasta el punto en que se convierten en parte de la nueva identidad americanizada y racializada. Estas diferencias, vienen a representar distintos estamentos en un sistema de jerarquía social que define la sociedad norteamericana. Los Afro-Americanos ocupan un lugar, los blancos el sitial mas alto, los asiáticos un nivel intermedio y los latinos, han experimentado, utilizando el concepto de Duany, un “vaivén “en su posición dentro de la escala racial en los Estados Unidos.

Una de las esferas sociales donde podemos observar este fenómeno con mas perspectiva es en el mundo de la política. Uno de los asuntos mas comentados en la prensa norteamericana este pasado año fue, ¿cual sera el rol de los latinos en la política norteamericana? ¿Seguirán la vía racializada de los Afro-Americanos? O, por el contrario, ¿tomaran el otro camino también racializado, el de los inmigrante europeos? ¿Seguirán este patrón, convirtiendose en otro grupo étnico mas dentro de el grupo poblacional blanco? Este pasado año ambas preguntas tuvieron variadas respuestas.

La batalla por incorporar el voto latinos

Uno de los retos que enfrentan los grupos subordinados en una metrópoli, es como mantener su visibilidad. Sentirse invisible en el mundo de la cultura es sentirse deshumanizado. Ser racializado significa perder un poco aquella parte de nuestra humanidad, nuestra cultura, que nos representa en formas que afirman nuestra existencia. La racialización homogeneiza al latino llevandole a perder lo que lo diferencia culturalmente. Deja de existir como ente cultural único e insustituible y comienza a vivir como un ente homogéneo, categorizado, una entidad racial. No existir como grupo representado en el espacio cultural, es vivir en un vacío. Como dice la poeta Adrianne Rich, grupos como los latinos necesitan verse en el espejo de la cultura, pero a veces, la imagen que ven es una racializada, distorsionada. Es por eso que cuando una Salma Hayek, un Tito Trinidad o una Jennifer López llenan las pantallas de sus televisores o los cines los latinos sienten un alivio en la opresión. Pero, el alivio es un espejismo que no refleja la realidad que se vive.

Durante las elecciones del año 2000, los latinos recibieron serenatas con salsa, rancheras, especialmente la elite del partido Republicano quería capturar una porción del voto latino. Los medios de comunicación en español recibieron millones de dolares en anuncios políticos dirigidos al mercado hispanoparlante. La mayor parte del “crossing over” que se dio en la política, no fueron latinos presentando una imagen “americanizada” sino anglos entrando al espacio cultural latino. Desempolvando el español mal aprendido en la escuela superior, decenas de políticos republicanos y demócratas entraron a las salas de los electores latinos diciendoles “Vote pour me.”
El partido Republicano en los Estados Unidos ha sido muy agresivo en su lucha por incorporar al sector de la clase media latina en sus filas. Durante las pasadas elecciones de noviembre 2002 fue bastante efectivo en colocar cerca de 32 candidatos latinos para puestos estatales y federales. Una de sus tácticas era la de colocar candidatos latinos en áreas donde ya se postulaban candidatos Demócratas, particularmente, si estos eran latinos.

Estas tácticas están basada en la realidad socio-demográfica de la comunidad latina en la metrópoli. La encuesta científica mas precisa que se ha conducido entre los latinos hasta ahora, el “Latino National Political Survey” (LNPS) demostró hace unos años atrás, que la población latina es socialmente conservadora, pero liberal en asuntos económicos. Es conservadora en asuntos tales como el aborto, la familia, y liberal en términos del rol del gobierno en proveer servicios tales como educación y beneficencia publica. Esta bifurcación en la perspectiva política ha sido avalada por encuestas mas recientes como la “PEW Hispanic Survey” (diciembre 2002) y el “Hispanic Opinion Tracker Study” (octubre 2002).

La estrategia republicana consiste en tratar de incorporar a aquellos sectores de la población latina a través de un discurso que enfatiza los valores que son cónsono con la cultura latinoamericana. Para esto han utilizado a latinos que ya han experimentado el proceso de asimilación como puentes entre la mayoría dominante anglo y la creciente población latina. Esta estrategia produjo muy buenos dividendos durante las pasadas elecciones. De hecho, casi produjo los mismos resultados de hace unas décadas cuando parecía que una proporción substancial de los latinos formarían parte de la base del partido Republicano.

Antes de la llegada masiva de inmigrantes latinoamericanos luego de la reforma de las leyes migratorias en el 1965, el proceso de asimilación cultural iba gradualmente conformando una población latina que se iba integrando, mas rápidamente que hoy, a la ruta asimilista que siguieron los inmigrantes europeos. Cuenta el historiador chicano Rudy Acuña en su libro “Anything But Mexican,” que cuando enseñaba en una escuela publica 30 años atrás, los estudiantes mejicanos no hablaban español. Ese proceso de asimilación fue el responsable de que cerca de 42% de los votantes latinos votaran por Reagan en las elecciones del 1980. Luego de esas elecciones los latinos habian dejado de coquetear con el partido republicano hasta las recientes elecciones del 2002.

Desde el 1980 hasta el presente ha surgido una mas compleja incorporación de los latinos al espacio social estadounidense. No solamente los latinos aprenden las normas culturales anglo-sajonas, sino que también comparten las suyas a niveles sin precedentes. La masiva inmigración, los nuevos medios de comunicación y transportación, han moldeado el proceso de asimilación y lo han diversificado sustancialmente. Pero, por otro lado, la intensificación de la racialización ha creado un proceso donde la diversidad dentro de la población latina se incrementa. Hasta el 1970, boricuas y mejicanos se les consideraba blanco, hoy día como grupo social son considerados no-blancos. Hay diferencias fundamentales entre los nacidos en los Estados Unidos (o que inmigraron bien jóvenes) y aquellos que nacieron en sus países de origen. Hoy día, cerca del 40 por ciento de la población latina nació en un país latinoamericano. Hay también diferencias regionales que crean procesos de racialización distintos en distintas áreas del país. El proceso de asimilación en el noreste, con la gran presencia de la población boricua es cualitativamente distinto al de la Florida, con la presencia cubana. Así, el oeste, con los mejicanos, como la población latina dominante, conforman un proceso distinto de asimilación.

Por ejemplo en California, hoy día, aun a nivel universitario, una buena proporción de los estudiantes latinos aun mantienen cierta facilidad de conversar en español. La razón para esto no es que el proceso de asimilación cultural se haya detenido, es que se ha puesto mas complejo por la gran cantidad de inmigrantes latinoamericanos. Cerca de la mitad de todos los estudiantes en el sistema escolar publico, son latinos. Mas que asimilación, lo que se da es un proceso de aculturación. Este es un proceso donde grupos negocian el intercambio de normas culturales y ambos grupos experimentan un cambio cultural. El nivel de negociación depende del poder y posición de cada grupo envuelto en este intercambio. A todas luces, los latinos enfrenta la mayoría dominante anglo en desventaja social y económica. Pero sus números, le ayudan a moldear el proceso a través del cual se “americanizan.” Pero esta “americanización” también incluye un proceso de Racialización.

La forma en que la racialización se expresa en la comunidad latina de los Estados Unidos, es muy distinta a lo que se da en términos raciales en Puerto Rico. En los Estados Unidos, la nueva identidad conformada por la racialización aunque tiene un fuerte tono racial indica la formación de una nueva categoría racial intermedia. Aun cuando esta es una forma de resistir la racialización, y evitar ser encajonado en las categoría bifurcadas de blanco-negro-indio-asiático, la forma de la resistencia esta aun inserta en el discurso racial. Durante el Censo del 1990, el 52 por ciento de los latinos se identificaban como blancos, en el 2000, solo el 48 por ciento se identifico como blanco mientras que el 42 por ciento de los latino se identificaron como de “otra” raza, y 4 por ciento como negros. Pero como muy bien señala Jorge Duany en su libro, esta resistencia a encajonarse en las tradicionales etiquetas raciales se hace dentro del marco racial. Ser latino o hispano mas que etiquetas étnicas marcando diferencias culturales son categoría con un contenido racial.

La mejor evidencia de lo expuesto arriba es que a medida que los latinos se adentran al espacio institucional norteamericano, su sentido de identidad es moldeado por el discurso racial norteamericano. El LNPS, utilizando data del Censo del 1990, por ejemplo, denota un claro patrón entre los boricuas. Mientras el 49 por ciento de los boricuas nacidos en los Estados Unidos se identificaban como “otro,” rehusando encajonarse en las categorías raciales bifurcadas, el 63 por ciento de los nacidos en la isla y residentes en los Estados Unidos se identificaron como blancos. Por otro lado, el 46.5 por ciento los boricuas nacidos en los estados Unidos usaron “latino” o “hispano” como forma de referirse como grupo pan-latino, solo el 33.2 por ciento de los nacidos en la isla utilizan la categoría pan-latina.

Mientras se da un proceso de hibridación racial en la comunidad latina de los Estados Unidos, en Puerto Rico, los boricuas parecen optar, frente al discurso racial bifurcado norteamericano, el blanqueamiento. Desde el primer censo conducido por los Estados Unidos en Puerto Rico en el 1899, cada vez mas, los puertorriqueños optan por identificarse como blancos al enfrentar las categoría raciales. Esto proceso, aunque aun no están claro todos sus perfiles, indican una internalizacion del discurso racial norteamericano. En Puerto Rico, desde el 1950, el censo de los Estados Unidos proveía cierta autonomía al gobierno colonial de Puerto Rico para decidir el tipo y contenido de las preguntas a utilizarse. Por ejemplo, la pregunta sobre identidad racial desapareció del cuestionario utilizado en Puerto Rico luego del 1950. Pero, comenzando con el censo del 2000 la pregunta racial reapareció como resultado de una decisión del entonces gobernador de Puerto Rico Pedro Rossello de utilizar el cuestionario usado en los Estados Unidos sin ajustarlo a la realidad de Puerto Rico (ver mi articulo sobre la política de este proceso en Censo 2000: Nación, raza y el discurso independentista" en dos partes en Claridad enero 7-13, 2000 pp. 14- 31 and Enero 14-20, 2000 p. 14 - 31.). El resultado fue que el 80.5% de los puertorriqueños en la isla se identificaron (o fueron identificados) como blancos. Todos los aspectos relacionados con este censo no están aun esclarecidos pero claramente indican una dinámica racial completamente distinta a la experimentada por los latinos en los Estados Unidos y particularmente los boricuas. El 47.5 por ciento de los boricuas en los Estados Unidos se identificaron como “otros” y solo el 45.8 porciento como blanco en el censo del 1990 (los datos del 2000 no están disponibles aun).

Racialización y política en la comunidad latina

“. . . la mayor parte de la gente vota en base asuntos filosóficos, no en base a la raza.”
----------David Beckwith, portavoz del Senado Tejano John Cornyn

En la búsqueda de visibilidad, en la lucha por humanizarse, los latinos utilizan tácticas variadas. Los materiales a su disposición, en esa lucha por establecer un espacio para la supervivencia en las entrañas del monstruo, son limitados. Es por eso que la adulación de instituciones como el partido Republicano tienen algún éxito en incorporar sectores de los latinos a sus filas. Este éxito se da apesar de la tradicional identificación de los latinos con el partido Demócrata en los Estados Unidos. Esta identificación no es una basada en una lealtad suprema al partido sino en una identificación con lo que supuestamente este partido representa. Como muy bien indican los estudios de identificación política, los latinos, mayoritariamente, se identifican con la plataforma demócrata. La encuesta de la PEW, el LNPS y otros estudios indican que los latinos son una compleja comunidad la cual elude las caracterizaciones simplistas. Pero es claro que es fundamentalmente una comunidad de clase trabajadora que se identifica con la necesidad de un gobierno que se enfrente a los problemas sociales de la educación, el trabajo y la salud. Estas áreas han sido asuntos en las que el partido Demócrata ha querido representarse como el portaestandarte de los excluidos y marginados. En cierta medida, ha podido mantener un balance precario entre los intereses de la clase dominante que representa (y que controla el partido). Y a pesar de que los analistas políticos conservadores niegan el rol de raza en el proceso político, las ultimas elecciones (2002) dieron muestra fehaciente de su relevancia e influencia.

En California, el estado con la población latina mas grande, es un ejemplo del rol que la racialización ha tenido en el proceso político. A pesar del gran apoyo que recibió el presidente Reagan de parte de la comunidad latina en el 1980, los latinos hoy día están profundamente incorporado al partido Demócrata. Ni un candidato mediocre como el gobernador Davis pudo alejar a los latinos del partido. A pesar de una campaña intensa en las comunidades latinas de California el partido Republicano solo pudo atraer el 25% de los latinos a apoyar al republicano Simon. Lamentablemente, la falta de coherencia ideológica del partido Demócrata no motivo al electorado latino. A pesar que desde el 1996 el electorado latino había ido aumentando gradualmente en California, el proceso de crecimiento se estanco. En el 1998 el 13 por ciento del electorado era latino, y se esperaba que aumentara a 16 porciento en noviembre del 2002. Los latinos solo constituyeron un 10 por ciento del electorado.

En Nueva York, los latinos apoyaron a el republicano Pataki, un moderado que había hecho grande esfuerzos para obtener el apoyo latino. Su visibilidad en el apoyo a la lucha por sacar la marina de Vieques lo convirtió en una figura respetada en muchos círculos latinos, particularmente entre los boricuas. Se estima que Pataki recibió entre el 40-50 por ciento del voto latino. A pesar de contrario a lo que los medios de la prensa dominante arguyen, esto no necesariamente representa una tendencia permanente en el espectro político de el noreste de los Estados Unidos. Los boricuas no han estacionado sus intereses permanentemente en ese partido.
Pataki, convencido que en un estado fuertemente democrático, y donde la base tradicional de ese partido seguía aumentando (los afro-americanos y latinos constituyen el sector creciente de la población) era necesario desarrollar una campaña mas demócrata y menos republicana. Dennis Rivera, el boricua dirigente de la poderosa unión 1199, que organiza los trabajadores de la salud, apoyo el candidato Pataki. Así también lo hicieron la unión de los maestros. Contrario a la practica republicana, Pataki aumento los salario de los maestros y de los empleados de la salud, esto cemento el apoyo de estas organizaciones. Ademas, Pataki organización el grupo “Amigos de Pataki” el cual realizo bastante trabajo para captar el voto de la comunidad latina. Así, Pataki capto una porción de la comunidad latina representandose mas como demócrata, que de republicano.

En Tejas, los mejicanos, a pesar de una campaña mediocre de parte del candidato méjico-americano Tony Sánchez, se mantuvieron en el espacio político del partido Demócrata. El 72 por ciento del voto de los blancos estuvo claramente en el bando de el nuevo gobernador republicano Rick Perry. A pesar de que los medios dominantes de la comunicación consistentemente niegan el rol de la raza y la Racialización en el proceso político, la racialización se incrementa y evidencia en la creciente polarización racial y económica que refleja los Estados Unidos.

Como señalara recientemente el encuestador Stan Greenberg, la victoria republicana fue una victoria estrecha que se debió a la inhabilidad del partido Demócrata en captar a su base tradicional a través de un mensaje claro y distintivo. Muchos candidatos como Sánchez en Tejas trataron de imitar a los republicanos. Aparentemente, los republicanos son mas diestros en imitar a los demócratas que los demócratas en imitarlos a ellos.

Pero la realidad es clara, la Racialización en los Estados Unidos continua teniendo un peso significativo en el proceso político l igual que en otras esferas de la vida institucional norteamericana. De hecho, los datos de las elecciones de noviembre del 2002 indican que raza ha superado al genero, la edad y en cierta medida la clase económico, en término de la distancia entre el partido Demócrata y el Republicano. Tradicionalmente la mayor parte del voto femenino, se latino o blanco, se inclinaba por el partido Demócrata. Durante estas ultima selecciones ha comenzado una tendencia distinta donde el comportamiento electoral de las mujeres blancas se bifurca del resto de las mujeres en los Estados Unidos. Por ejemplo, los Demócratas perdieron apoyo entre las mujeres, antes, estos recibían alrededor de 8 porciento mas del voto de las mujeres que los republicanos. En estas ultimas elecciones, la diferencia se redujo a dos puntos de diferencia (48 por ciento republicanos y 50 porciento Demócratas). Y la diferencia se redujo fundamentalmente porque las mujeres blancas abandonaron su apoyo al partido demócrata. Las mujeres blancas apoyaron candidatos republicanos aventajaron por 9 puntos a las que apoyaron candidatos Demócratas. Las mujeres blancas demuestran estar moviendose mas cerca al voto del hombre blanco en los Estados Unidos. Su experiencia como mujer esta significada mas poderosamente por su experiencia racial que por la experiencia como mujer. Esta tendencia, en que raza se refleja como un factor mas determinante en el comportamiento electoral, se da en casi todas las categoría de los votantes. Entre los votantes casados, los que viven en los suburbios se da la misma tendencia, mas mujeres blancas votando por el partido republicano.

Entre los envejecientes, el patrón de el rol de la raza se repite. Hace cuatro años, los Demócratas aventajaban a los Demócratas entre los votantes de 60 años o mas. En estas ultimas elecciones, estos votantes votaron con el partido Republicano. El 51 por ciento de este grupo generacional voto con el partido republicano y 46 por ciento con el partido Demócrata.. De nuevo, entre los envejecientes blancos las distancia política es aun mayor, la brecha entre los que votaron republicano y los que votaron Demócrata se incrementa en 11 puntos a favor de los republicanos.
Usualmente, el partido Demócrata podía contar con una buena porción del voto de la clase media trabajadora norteamericana. Si la ultima elección es una premonición del futuro, este partido esta en un grave aprieto. Los republicanos ganaron el 51 porciento de los votantes con ingresos entre los $50,000 y $70,000 anuales, los Demócratas solo un 46 por ciento. De hecho, entre los votantes que han sido su base tradicional, aquellos que reciben ingresos entre los $30,000 y los $50,000, estos dividieron su apoyo entre los dos partidos. Pero los votantes blancos en esta categoría económico, apoyaron al partido Republicano por mas de 10 puntos. Solo en la categoría de los votantes que ganan menos de $30,000 anuales pudieron los Demócratas mantener una ventaja. Es este el electorado con las mas bajas tasa de participación y donde se encuentran muchos de los latinos y otros grupos racializados en los Estados Unidos.

En las semanas siguientes a las elecciones, el director del partido Demócrata declaro “No estoy seguro en que nos equivocamos.” El error consiste en negar el rol de raza y clase en el proceso político y en obviar la necesidad que existe de desarrollar un programa que responda a las necesidades de las grandes masas norteamericanas. Un estudio reciente del departamento de la vivienda federal indico que los latino, especialmente cuando intentan alquilar apartamentos en las grandes urbes norteamericana, sufren discriminación racial. Lo insólito, es que contrario a el pasado, cuando los afro-americanos sufrían la mayor parte de la discriminación, en muchas ciudades de los Estados Unidos, especialmente en Nueva York y los Angeles, los latinos sufren mas discriminación que los afro-americanos. Los latinos continúan enfrentando un proceso incrementado de “otredad” a la misma vez que se ven representadas por algunas imágenes suyas racializadas en los medios de comunicación. A pesar de el optimismo que expresan las imágenes blanqueadas de los latinos en los medios de comunicación, la crisis racial que predecía Ronald Takaki se insinúa lentamente entre los espacios sociales de la metrópolis norteamericana. La pregunta que hay que hacerse, ¿cual espacio ocuparan los latinos?