Latino Cultural Group
The Hispanic Americans, otherwise known as Latinos comprise the largest growing minority group in the United States (US). Based on the 2006 census, there are 42.7 million Hispanic Americans in the US. They comprise 14.4 percent of the total US population. It is predicted by the US Board of Census that the figures could rise to 50 million in 2025 or 102.6 million by 2050.
The term Hispanic was originally created to refer to those immigrants in the US who have Spanish descent and whose mother tongue is Spanish. However, due to the rise in the number of people from Latin America migrating in the US, the use of the term was widened to accommodate all immigrants from Latin America (Chong and Baez, 2005). Although they are classified under a single name, many Hispanics prefer to be called Latinos which refers to Latin America rather than Hispanics which is mainly relates to the Spaniards (Lamb and Johnson, 2001). Nevertheless, the term Hispanic Americans and Latino refers to the same group of people.
The Latino cultural group is very diverse. It is a combination of people from Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Bolivia, Belize, Colombia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru. However, the three dominant groups in the US are the Mexican Americans or Chicanos, Puerto Ricans or Nuyoricans and the Cuban Americans.
The Mexican population reaches to 21.5 million, registering as the largest subgroup in the Latino populace. Most of them can be found in the South Western United States, New York City and Chicago. The population of the Puerto Ricans on the other hand reaches to 3.5 million, the second largest subgroup. Most of them live in New York and New Jersey. The third largest subgroup is the Cuban population which reaches up to 1.2 million people. They usually live in Florida and Miami. Most of them arrived as political refugees in the country. There is a great number of Cubans who arrived in the US with a good education (MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2008).
There have been various attempts to unify the Latinos; however, this only led to tensions. The difficulty of having them classified under a single identity is their diversity in beliefs and practices. Most if not all, speak the Spanish language but each subgroup utters Spanish words using the pronunciation of their homeland language. The Latinos vary in tastes in cuisine, sports and political beliefs. They hold on strongly to the political principles that they adhere to no matter what happens. Given their huge number, their loyalty indicates a good political ally that is why they are the target of many political parties. Most Latinos have fervent belief in the Roman Catholic faith. Some, however, are identified with the Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Buddhist religions (MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia, 2008).
The Latinos have high regard for family members and the development of close family ties. A typical Latino family includes the members of both the nuclear and extended families. They observe loyalty, respect and unity. They also abide by the rules set without any questions. The father provides for the needs of the family while the mother manages the home. The mother exercises her maternal duties everywhere she goes. However, due to the test of the times, the Latina mother now has to expand her role and work to generate more income for the family (Chong and Baez, 2005).
Many Latinos are living in poverty and are experiencing racial discrimination. There is a prevalent discrimination against Latinos in terms of their standing in the community, the application and keeping of their jobs as well as criminal profiling. It has been reported in the Drug Policy Alliance Network (n.d.) that there is an unequal treatment of minority group members in every stage of the criminal justice system. People in color are more often targeted by the police in drug related operations. They are discriminated by unfair treatment of the police, prosecutors and judges. More often than not, people of color receive harsher punishments than the whites.
Based on the report created by the Human Rights Press Watch (2002), there are four to eight percent Latino men that are incarcerated in US prisons. Hispanic youth are also incarcerated seven to seventeen times greater than whites. This figure indicates the growing disparity in the criminal rate in the United States. It is a challenge for the government and the justice system to make the application of laws equal. The justice system was created for all. It was designed to curb lawlessness and to punish those who do criminal acts regardless of race. It was not designed to apply specifically to a certain group of people neither was it created to implement harsher application to colored races. In this regard, the police and other law enforcers should make sure that they do not discriminate. They should incarcerate offenders based on the act and the severity of the act that they have committed. They should not look at color and pre-judge them. As a basic principle in criminal law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. They should be accorded their legal rights and should be treated as innocent if there are no valid grounds to believe that the accused is guilty of the charge. If there are doubts as to the guilt of the accused, then they should be set free until evidence are presented indicting the accused guilty of the crime beyond reasonable grounds.
Aside from being victims of discrimination in criminal profiling, Latinos are also the target of certain crimes, particularly the commission of hate crimes. Many whites are committing unlawful acts against the Latinos due to their growing number in the United States. There are certain racist groups which oppose the migration of Latinos in the country specially those who arrive in the US illegally. These racists groups should be condemned for their acts. Everyone is entitled to the due process of the law thus; they should not take the law in their hands. Law enforcers should make sure that these people are arrested and should not be given any chance to inflict more harm. Law enforcers should arrest everyone who violates the law and impose the necessary punishments.
Chong, N. and Baez, F. (2005). Latino Culture: A Dynamic Force in the Changing American
Workplace. Boston: Intercultural Press.
Lamb, A. and Johnson, L. (2001). Latino-Hispanic Heritage. Retrieved 30 September 2008
Hispanic Americans. (2008). MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 30 September
2008 from, http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761585657/Hispanic_Americans.html#p4
Race and Incarceration in the United States. (2002). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 30
September 2008 from, http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:Z34ZCoAa1VwJ:www.hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/race/+latino+crime+rate+in+the+United+states&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ph&client=firefox-a
Race and the Criminal Justice System. (n.d.). Drug Policy Alliance Network. Retrieved 30
September 2008 from, http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:-BxdV6CouUgJ:www.drugpolicy.org/communities/race/criminaljust/+Latinos+and+criminal+rate&hl=tl&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=ph&client=firefox-a