News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fredo's Fall

The resignation by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, known to his boss as Fredo, came as no surprise. More surprising to some political pundits is the relative silence of Hispanic groups. Few have rushed to Fredo’s defense in this long ordeal.

However, those who grasp the diverse nature of Spanish-surnamed people know that “Hispanics” are not a true political constituency. Few mainstream Americans would expect political homogeneity from everyone named “Johnson.” Yet when the name is “Jimenez” the same people are surprised to learn Spanish-surnamed people do not vote as a bloc. Not surprisingly, they do not reflexively rush to the defense of someone with a similar name.

Spanish-surnamed people in the United States are labeled “Hispanic,” a quasi-racial designation that exists only within this nation’s borders. Routinely categorized alongside African-Americans, Asians, and other “minorities,” this label creates an illusion of homogeneity. Yet, the people of Latin America and Spain, much to the surprise of most Americans, are just as diverse as the population of the United States. Few would expect a group of American expatriates living abroad to think, act, vote, or even look alike. Why should we expect the same from people whose origins are from Latin America and Spain?

The muted reaction by Latinos over Fredo’s fall is an indicator of the colossal misunderstanding most Americans have about the majority of the population of this hemisphere.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez