Spanish is the second widely spoken language in America. It is therefore common to hear most people speaking it along the streets. The number of US residents from Spanish speaking countries has been increasing considerably since 1950. According to research, it accounts for approximately 14 percent of the American population. Hispanics refer to people from any of the Spanish-speaking countries or those whose ancestry can be traced back to Spain or its territories. Half of the Hispanic population originated from Mexico while the other half can be traced back to countries such as Colombia and El Salvador (Schefer, 2006, p. 236). Majority of U.S citizens with a Spanish background live in California, Texas, New York and Florida. We should not be deceived into thinking that the Hispanics have recently migrated into the US, because their heritage goes way back to 1620, when St. Augustine was celebrating its 55th anniversary and Santa Fe was in its first decade. The southwest area of the US, Gulf coast and the Florida Peninsula were initially developed for Spanish settlements. Puerto Ricans were engrossed into United States during the U.S expansion at the end of the 19th century, but did not migrate into the U.S. Generally, Hispanics predominantly differ by race and identification. We will discuss four of the major groups of Hispanics; the Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and South Americans (Essman, 2007, p. 1).
The Mexican Americans may be the most recent immigrants or descendants of Mexicans who settled in the United States. Their primary languages are Spanish and English. Some Mexican-Americans obtained their American citizenship following the ceding of the Mexican’s territory to the U.S after signing the Guadalupe-Hidalgo treaty, which ended the US-Mexico war. Mexicans on migration carried their culture with them. The language was purely Spanish especially at home where most families conversed purely in Spanish. The family was the core cultural institution; most people migrated as in families, either nuclear or extended. This encouraged the conservation of native folk practices, incorporating their music as well as storytelling. Religion was and is an important part of Mexican’s lives, with their daily activities ascribing to demands and requirements of the church, in this case the Roman Catholic. The church incorporated some Mexican cultural practices, which also gave it political power other than its influence on its people’s social life (Garcia, 2002, p. 21-26).
The Puerto Ricans include the Spanish born and raised in the US and the Puerto Rico immigrants. Puerto Rico is itself an incorporated territory of the United States with its own government. It was ceded by Spain to the US after the Spanish-American war under the treaty of Paris, which has seen a strong relationship between the US and the state. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917 through the Jones Act.They have a republican government subject to jurisdiction and sovereignty of the US.
Most Puerto Ricans ascribe to Spanish as their primary language, though they speak English as well. Actually, a number of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico do not speak English to an advanced level. This is perhaps due to influence from their ancestral languages. With regards to religion, the Roman Catholic is the major denomination for Puerto Ricans. This notwithstanding, Protestantism is growing due to the American rule which is making the modern community interconfessional. History has it that, the first catholic dioceses in America were erected in Puerto Rico, hence the history with the church. Traditional religious practices are still respected. Puerto Rican culture has persisted, with the most notable part being music. The global community has appreciated their culture through adoption of the famous Salsa dance which is very popular in areas such as Japan and Africa among others. The economic position of Puerto Rican families in relation to other families has considerably declined. Family structures have changed for most Puerto Ricans with more female-headed families gaining prevalence especially in New York City (Rodriguez, 2004, p. 69-89).
Cuban Americans are citizens of the United States whose origin can be traced back to Cuba. They are the third largest Hispanic group in the US and are evenly distributed. Miami, Florida boasts of a larger Cuban American settlement probably because of its close proximity to Cuba, closely followed by Tampa Bay Area, Union City and West New York. Cuban immigration has been influenced by political upheaval as a result of communism introduction. Initial immigrants to USA consisted of mostly the educated, upper and middle classes. Among other Hispanic groups, they are more conservative and pro-republican. There is a good number of Cuban Americans who are members of The United States House of Representatives where a number serve in high ranking judicial positions, exemplifying their political prowess however conservative they are.
They hold dear to Cuban food which explains its presence in Miami food outlets. Economically, Cuban Americans have a household income considerably much higher than that of other Hispanic groups albeit lower than that of non-Hispanic whites, probably because of the migration pattern earlier stated. They are also better educated compared to their counterparts. US born Cuban Americans boast of higher incomes and better education-college degrees- even better than non-Hispanic whites. They are mainly Roman Catholics though some practice traditional religions like Santeria for Africans, there are Protestants and a minute number of Jewish Cuban and Muslim Americans (Gonzalez, n.d, p. 14-15).
The South American Hispanics are mostly immigrants of Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela and other South American countries. They consider themselves the stewards of elegant Spanish. They value education and a large number of South Americans have at least a high school diploma. A 2000 census of Hispanics showed that 25 percent of South Americans had attained at least a bachelor’s degree (Census, 2004, p. 11). South Americans are concerned with preserving their families and culture against degradation in a diverse cultural environment like the US and so uphold strong family ties. Similar to other Hispanics, Roman Catholicism is the norm though indigenous beliefs are incorporated. Politically, they are less concerned, like it is said Colombians are more concerned with Colombian politics other than those of the United States.
It is clear that all Hispanics are not natives of the US; they have Spanish as their primary language which actually form the basis of their name. They are all affiliated to strong religious beliefs and in this case are mainly Roman Catholics. Though some have been born and raised in the United States, Hispanics are conscious of their culture and families. Cultural practices like dances and storytelling are eminent and their traditional cuisine has found its way into the general market. However, Puerto Ricans seem to have deviated from the belief that the nuclear family is vital. This is evidenced by the increased number of female-headed families. The Cuban Americans have prominently identified themselves in business and education, and hence a remarkable economic prowess on their side compared to their counterparts.
Generally, Hispanics are potentially successful, be it politically or economically, probably because of their familial, social or religious values. Often, they have been referred to as the ‘sleeping giants’, and their presence brings diversity within an already diverse community.
Census 2000 Special Reports (2004). We the people: Hispanics in the United States. Web.
Essman, E (2007). Life in The USA: Hispanic people. Web.
Garcia, A. (2002) The Mexican Americans. Web.
Gonzalez, M. (n.d) The Cuban Americans. 2010. Web.
Rodriguez, S.V (2004) Historical perspectives on Puerto Rican survival in the United States. Web.
Schefer, R. T. (2006). Racial and ethnic groups. (10th Ed). New York: Prentice Hall.