Latinos in the United States: Then and Now

Silvia Pedraza, University of Michigan

LATINOS IN THE UNITED STATES: THEN AND NOW. Silvia Pedraza University of Michigan Although Latinas/os have gained the national spotlight only recently, largely as a result of a climate of political hostility, in many cases they are very old Americans. The oldest migrations date to 1848 for Mexicans (the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo), 1898 and 1917 for Puerto Ricans (who became a territory of the U.S. at the end of the Spanish-American war and were granted U.S. citizenship by the Jones Act), and 1961 for Cubans (the result of the Cuban revolution and its consolidation due to the Bay of Pigs failure). Other groups are more recent, as is the case of the migrations from Central America and South America, most of which began in the 1980s but have taken force at the dawn of this new century. All of these groups of Latinas/os continue to immigrate now. The purpose of this paper is to place stress on the empirical changes in social characteristics that have taken place in this population over time, particularly in the last half or so century, relying on data from the various U.S. Censuses and the Pew Hispanic Center Research Reports, as well as my substantial participant observation in various communities over time. In so doing, I lay stress on the extent to which Latinos share (or not) l) common structural conditions; 2) common values; and 3) lived historical experiences. The analysis highlights Latinos’ contrasting processes of incorporation, focusing on: their time of arrival in the U.S.; regional concentration; type of migration and legal status; social class, and race; generational consciousness; and political life. Due to the sharp contrasts in their social histories and processes of incorporation in America then, Latinos in the U.S. lacked these essential elements, yet they are increasingly developing them now.

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 Presented in Session 189. Immigrants Then and Now