History of Hispanic People in the United States: Analytical Essay

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Hispanic History

In the United States, Hispanic people experience a lot of inequalities ranging from the labor market to education and health to housing. States have, for a long time, been struggling with racial prejudices, violence, and discrimination that has profoundly affected people of Mexican heritage. In these states, these struggles have never been acknowledged even when Hispanic people openly protest for the accompanying inequity. Radical and radicalized American citizens have always believed that Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries send people who are not the best (Amadeo, Par. 12). So, there has been a notion that immigrants from these countries are rapists, criminals, drug traffickers, and many other negative descriptions. Such racial undertones are so profound and overt that they are, oftentimes, utilized by politicians in soliciting for votes. In a real-life example, President Donald Trump once say immigrants from Mexico “…bring drugs. They bring crime. They are rapists” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 14) Like his counterparts, Trump conjured up anti-immigration and anti-Hispanic sentiments which are significant to a large portion of American electorates. Unconsciously, these kinds of sentiments arise from rich and complex Hispanic people’s history on immigration and racial supremacy than people realize.

In perspective, the population of Hispanic people is the largest among minority groups in the United States, and it is the fastest growing. Trejo (p. 1235) shows that the estimated population of Hispanic people in 2012 was around 53 million, constituting 17% of the United States population. In a survey conducted by A Pew Research Poll, Hispanics, as an ethnic group, experience profound discrimination that comes second after African-Americans. Today, there are no structures of law and policy that disadvantage Hispanics, except for some cases where the action is slow and sluggish against them compared to mainstream Americans. The United States government and policymakers have come a long way to protect the interests of these people and other discriminated ethnic groups. Although this has protected Hispanics from structural discrimination, such as offering voting rights and the abolition of voter ID and many others, it has given way to subtle yet very destructive ethnic charged treatments. Often, as shown is a survey conducted by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (p. 2), discrimination is taking on racial prejudice, profiling, and bias on individual people rather than Hispanics collectively. This has a huge impact on economic growth and development among Hispanics. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (p. 12) finds that in 2011 alone, an estimated 30 percent of Hispanic students finished their high school and graduated successfully. However, as mere as 4 percent of them earned college spots.

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Hispanics are intensely affected by institutional discrimination within housing markets or the workplace. Overall, this negatively affected their economic well-being and increases their susceptibility to poverty. Hispanic people are less likely to get a job when they are competing with whites. And when they get them, discriminatory practices in a work environment such as lower wages may force them into depression and stress especially when they are not able to meet family needs. Rutgers University finds that 22 percent of Hispanic workers say they experience discrimination at the work environment relative to 6 percent of whites. As a consequence, parents take less money to their homes, which makes it hard for them to cater for their children’s health, education, food, and shelter needs. This means that majority of Hispanic children are raised in poverty at any given time, which is linked to poor health, education, and development outcomes. Though poverty is quite a complex thing, it majorly arises form exploitative and discriminatory practices that Hispanic people are forced to cope up with in their everyday lives. According to Reimers (p. 570), Hispanic men in the labor market have a lower wage rate compared to their white counterparts. On average, Hispanic men earned $4.31 per hour compared to $5.97 for white non-Hispanic in 2012. This means than whites earn 18 percent more than Hispanics for the same job.

In the United States, Immigration is quite a contentious issue. Increasingly, a huge segment of American citizens holds that immigration is becoming a burden to them and the country at large. They believe that, as an influx of illegal and undocumented immigrants, issues of increased social ills such as crime ruin the values of their society. They argue that the increase in immigrants pushes the government to raise taxes in order to meet their education, health, and housing needs. They also point out that immigrants stretch health care systems because they were not factored in during resource allocation. Many are critical about the immigrant immigrants may have on their culture. Some say that immigrants are taking up jobs due to the fact that they are accept lower wages compared to citizens. Even though it has been proved that immigrants strengthen American society, some people still hold on to its drawbacks. Latin American immigrants have demonstrated that these perceived negative effects of immigration are wrong and baseless. According to Amadeo (par. 26), since 2011 alone, for instance, “immigrants have solely driven two-thirds of the United States of America’s economic growth.” Even in the early days, say the 1960s and 70s during President Lyndon Johnson's tenure, immigrants were granted visas if they had the needed skills or were expected to join families in the United States of America. Then, they were shopkeepers, stonemasons, and tailors –skills that were highly sought after by the American economy. So, there is no reason as to the way these people should be unfairly treated because of their ethnicity. They have helped the economy grow and improve the quality of life of Americans, who are themselves blindly meeting injustices on them.

These discriminations have always existed even before the United States of America came to be. Struggles among Hispanic people to overcome racially charged notions has pervaded through centuries while some changes have been realized. In the State of Texas, for example, Hispanic people were subjected to catastrophic massacres and mob violence conducted by Texas Rangers. Mexican people were loaded to trucks and deported to deserts for fighting for their rights. In the 1930s, during the great depression, Mexican immigrants were extremely affected by food shortages and job crises. And because Hispanic people are generally seen as second-class citizens, they were faced with an extra threat of deportation. As the United States was hard hit by unemployment, hostilities toward immigrants sky-rocketed, and programs aimed at repatriating Hispanic people were developed. Essentially, this repatriation was affected by racial undertones that some United States of America citizens were repatriated on suspicion that they were of Hispanic heritage. Free train program effected so as to offer Mexica immigrants rides to their country. Although repatriation was voluntary, many immigrants and Mexican Americans were coerced or tricked into repatriation. Sometimes migration raids were used where Hispanic communities were the ultimate victims. More than 500,000 immigrants and Mexican American citizens were repatriated against their will. As a consequence, it is very common for discussions regarding the repatriation of Hispanic people to surface during the economic downturn.

Hispanic people who evaded repatriation were forced into camps created by U.S Farm Security Administration, FSA. These camps offered food, housing, and medicine to vulnerable migrant families of workers. They also protected them from criminals who capitalized on their vulnerability as immigrants. When the great recession ended, businesses, farms, and organizations recovered offering jobs to millions of jobless Americans. As such, Hispanic people were re-accommodated again. However, as Hispanic people moved into society, they were faced with unfair policies that excluded them in homeowners, organizations, and business associations. Several laws and policies annihilated them from the mainstream white population. Hispanic people were not allowed to move into white residential areas. Generally, they lived in deplorable states devoid of basic amenities such as piped water, health facilities, schools, and many more. To protect this kind of arrangement, states created and entrenched real estate policies and segregation laws that prohibit Mexican American citizens from interacting with whites. The results ranged from housing to school segregation, employment to voting discrimination, social injustices to lack of security, and many more. Courts were constituted by all-white jurors who made judgments based on racial prejudices and biases rather than the truth. Many Hispanic people’s rights were largely curtailed, as some were framed and ultimately incarcerated for no apparent wrongdoing.

Most of all, anti-Hispanic sentiments arise from territorial disputes between Mexico and the United States. In independence wars, America was pitied against Mexico over the contentious Southwestern territories. Mexico believed that these territories, including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico belonged to them and thus formed one of the most significant parts of their nationalism (Flipper & Parrado, 667). These territories were considered to belong to Spain, as they had invested in the region by establishing catholic missions and plantations. When these nations gained their independence, each one wanted to take over these territories. However, the territories were predominantly occupied by people of Mexican heritage. As such, it was expected that these territories would automatically be partitioned as part of Mexico. The United States did not wish to give up these territories either and therefore entered into war with Mexico. The war ended with the defeat of Mexico resulting in the great loss of these territories to the United States (James, par. 7). Mexicans who lived in these territories during the time of ceding were allowed to stay. However, they would be treated as second class because their defeat meant that they were instinctively a “property” of the United States. The defeat and ultimate loss of these territories is still a thorny issue as it was then.

The effects of the annexation wars resulted in the perception of Hispanics and other Native Americans, as innately dangerous, savage, hostile, and profoundly violent. These racial undertones are very overt in the United States (Trejo, 1236). In schools, for example, abusive mascots are used during sports. Hispanic people and other native groups have always fought for the abolition of these mascots. And each time they do so, schools argue that they are celebrating the heritage of the native people. However, according to James (par. 12), this is not true for many cases. In Amherst College, for example, students were forced to action for the continued use of Lord Jeff Mascot. Lord Jeff Amherst was a British Army office in the 19th century who was vocal in support of the mass killing of Native Americans. It would take a contentious voting process for the mascot to be abolished (James, par. 12). Another mascot that highlights cultural stereotypes and sensitivity that Hispanic people are forced to battle with each day is the Rio Grande Valley’s Vaquero, used by the University of Texas. Vaquero is a Spanish word for “Cowboy”. Hispanic people feel the choice of the word directly targets them.

With the souring political events in Mexico in the 19th century, movement into the United States was the next big thing. Mexicans were promised better lives and economic difficulties experienced in their country. Meanwhile, the United States desperately needed workers to build Railroads and new tracks. Employers saw an opportunity in this influx, as it meant labour would be cheap and reliable. Employers entered into a period of the gold rush where employees where the new commodity. Employers could send recruiters to Mexico to solicit more people into emigrating. In the process, they flouted immigration laws and oversupply of labor to a point that workers and American citizens were becoming disadvantaged. Anti-Hispanic and anti-Latino sentiments increased as the effects of uncontrolled immigration worsened. As a result, they become victims of immigrant raids, segregation laws, barred from accessing urban areas, and many other discriminatory treatments. From then, everything from their color, and country of origin to language was increasingly becoming a pretext for discrimination.

Although the perception of the annexation war among American citizens was ambivalent, it later come to define how Hispanic people would be viewed and treated. In 1917, for example, Germany's foreign secretary, Arthur Zimmermann, sent a telegram soliciting a German-Mexico alliance. Germany proposed an alliance against the United States as they advanced into World War I (James, Par 2). It promised Mexico the return of its southwest territories. This telegram was intercepted by British intelligence and its contents were shared to members of the public across the United States. Together with the then heightened threat from Germany, her allies, and the frightening World War I era, American citizens unfairly developed hostilities towards Hispanic people (Flipper, 21). They felt that they are traitors and deserved to be repatriated back to their countries. The perception of Hispanic people were significantly tainted. They were less likely to secure a job or attend prestigious schools, and those who were lucky to do so were subjected to discrimination or sometimes seen as less intelligent.

The tainted image resulted in the perception of immigrant Hispanics as detrimental to the economy and harmful to the safety of the American public. However, according to Suarez-Orozco & Pa´ez (P. 164), immigrants do not directly compete with native workers in the labor market as people would perceive. New immigrants tend to be channeled to different segments of the labor market, such as farming, and rarely would they compete with natives. As per findings presented by Suarez-Orozco & Pa´ez (p. 171), public opinion will always become resentful or relaxed depending on the status of the economy. When the economy contracts, public thought becomes resentful and vice versa. On the other hand Bansak, Simpson, & Madeline (p. 179), people often compare the impacts of immigration in areas that received an event of immigration shock and one that did not, so that figures indicate uninviting figures. A phenomenon that often leads to the resentful perception of immigrants’ yet they benefit the macroeconomic (Baker, & Tsuda, p. 246).

In conclusion, discrimination against Hispanics largely arises from immigration and annexation wars. Considering Mexico lost to the United States in the annexation wars, it meant that she lost her southwest territories to the latter. Citizens who remained in these territories were offered citizenship and become Mexican-Americans. Though this was fairly good, it meant that they could become foreign underclass individuals in the land of Anglo-Americans by the virtue of the war. Mass immigration as occasioned by demand for cheap labor and the unscrupulous United States employers who flouted immigration laws meant that Anglo-Americans lost their jobs. In the aftermath, anti-Hispanic resentments and stereotypes arose. Hispanic people were said to be stupid, lazy, and undeserving. This resulted in mass deportations, lynching, and segregation of schools and Hispanics to poor areas.

Works Cited

  1. Amadeo, Kimberly. Immigration's Effect on the Economy and You. thebalance.com N.P. 2019 Web. 10th Aug. 2018.
  2. Baker, Brenda, & Tsuda, Takeyuki. Migration and Disruptions. University Press of Florida. 2015, pp. 245-269
  3. Bansak, Cynthia, Simpson, Nicole, & Zavodny, Madeline. The Economics of Immigration. London & New York: Routledge. 2015. Pp. 175-238
  4. Dizikes, Peter. Understanding anti-immigrant sentiment. News.mit.edu N.P 2010. Web. 10th Aug. 2018
  5. Flippen Chenoa. Laboring Underground: The Employment Patterns of Hispanic Immigrant Men in Durham, NC. Social Problems. 2012; 59:21–42.
  6. Flippen, Chenoa & Parrado, Emilio. Perceived discrimination among Latino immigrants in new destinations: The case of Durham, NC. Journal of Social Perspective. 2015 Dec; 58(4): 666–685.
  7. James, Henry. Zimmermann Telegram published in United States. History.com N.P., 2018. Web. 21st April 2019.
  8. M. M. Sua´rez-Orozco & M. M. Pa´ez (Eds.), Latinos: Remaking America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
  9. Reimers, Cordelia. Labor Market Discrimination against Hispanic and Black Men. The Review of Economics and Statistics. Vol. 65, No. 4 (Nov., 1983), pp. 570-579
  10. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Discrimination in America: Experiences and Views of Latinos. PDF (2017). 27p. Available at: https://www.npr.org/documents/2017/oct/discrimination-latinos-final.pdf
  11. Trejo, Stephen J. 1997. Why do Mexican Americans Earn Low Wages. The Journal of Political Economy, Volume 105, Issue 6, 1235-1268.
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