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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tea Party Latino Shows Overlooked Diversity

Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban-American immigrant, won the Texas U.S. Senate nomination of the Republican party this week. .

Cruz was born in 1970 in Calgary, Canada to Rafael Cruz and Eleanor Darragh. The elder Cruz was jailed and tortured by the Batista regime and fought for Fidel Castro in the Cuban Revolution before fleeing to Texas in 1957. Later, Rafael Cruz would say he "didn't know Castro was a Communist" and became a staunch critic of Castro when "the rebel leader took control and began seizing private property and suppressing dissent."  Ted Cruz's mother was raised in Delaware in a family of Irish and Italian descent.

Nominally defined as a "Latino," Cruz is touted (along with Marco Rubio) as an example of inclusiveness in the Tea Party. In truth, Cruz's only connection to Latino culture is a name ending in "z." He was raised in middle-class comfort and his ability to speak Spanish is roughly equal to that of George W. Bush.

Still, this is the reality of the Latino electorate that pundits usually ignore. Latinos do not come in a single political flavor. All the same, every day we hear talking heads seriously discussing how candidates will court the Hispanic vote.

What do you think? Are there issues which unify all Latinos? Is it "English-Only laws"? Is it immigration reform? What defines a Latino? I hope you'll share your thoughts.


Independent Intellect said...

Does being "riased in middle-class comfort" disqualify someone from being Latino? I don't think so. I hope that you are not implying that being poor is a prerequisite to being Latino.

I was born in Colombia, and still, after 40 years in the US, consider myself Latino. Most people see my skin color and facial features and think 'gringo,' and are flabbergasted when I speak in good, grammatical Spanish. Why am I Latino? Because it is inside me, and because I identify with it.

Latinos are as diverse as any other people, politically as well as socially. I can not think of one issue that unites all Latinos. The one that comes closest is immigration, but for Cubans in the US and Puerto Ricans, it is not as important as to others.

"English-only" laws also comes close to being the one unifying issue.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Independent Intellect: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You make a good point regarding "middle class comfort." Perhaps I've allowed my upbringing in a less-than-privileged environment color my assessment.

Like you, I often get the "you don't look like a Latino" line. But I think our differences as Latinos are more than skin deep. Latino/Hispanic is an identity that exists only within the borders of the United States. It's also a relatively recent invention that has emerged only within the last three decades. Yet even in the U.S., this pan-ethnic label is not universally embraced by people with origins in Latin America. However, I believe the primary binding force behind the label is a sense of exclusion from the mainstream.

Some demographers predict this quasi-racial label will become irrelevant over the next century, going the way of "races" such as Brunet, Alpine and Teutonic.

But for the time being, the Latino identity is perceived as real and therefore has very real consequences.