The Millenial Latin American Identity Crisis of the United States

Young people of the United States, most particularly of Latin American ancestry, are facing a very difficult question. This question is as profound as it is simple: “Who am I?”

Personally, I know who I am but I also don’t know at all. I’m freakin’ confused, man. Here’s a little bit about me:

My name is Rubén Sebastián Muñiz. I’m 23 years old. I was born and raised in The Bronx, a borough of New York City. I just graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, with a B.A. in English with a minor in Psychology. I’m also the lead singer of Solitaire Revival, a New York City based alternative rock and hip hop band.

That’s me on paper. Now here I am as a person:

I’m a new age thinker with a love for the performing arts and free expression. I’m a musician and a writer. I’m a Nichiren Buddhist from a long line of Latin American Catholics and I also went to private Catholic schools from Pre-K through my undergraduate career. I love life and everything about it; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awesome.

Now here’s me ancestrally:

My parents were both born in my hometown, The Bronx, New York. Both sets of my grandparents came from different towns in Puerto Rico. Until recently I had no idea what came before that. This is because Puerto Rico’s ancestral diversity is a mix of so many nationalities and immigration waves, similar to the United States today, not to mention the indigenous Taino tribe that lived there before Columbus came in 1493.

I did some basic genealogical research recently, by which I mean I looked up and cross referenced meanings of the surnames in my family on various genealogical websites. It turns out the surnames in my family originate from a number of different places, including, but not limited to: The Iberian peninsula, particularly Galicia, Asturia, Castille y Leon, and possibly Portugal. Ireland, and possibly Sweden and Holland are also possible ancestral locations. I am also of Taino heritage, which is held true by primary accounts of my family’s elders. There are also many physical features of myself and my family that point to indigenous ancestry, like the curved shape of my eyes, my fair skin color that is darker than the typical Caucasian, and the darker, clay-colored skin of one of my great grandmothers.

I was very surprised when I found out about all my places of heritage. It proved that I could really come from anywhere in the world. Whoa.

This confusing conglomerate of characterization through social labels is pretty mind blowing. The thing is I’m not the only one going through this. Not by a long shot.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States’ population was 16.7% Latino in 2010. That’s 1 in every 6 American citizens, roughly. Here’s a quote from The U.S. Census Bureau’s May 2011 issue of The Hispanic Population: 2010 to put the astronomical rate of the Latino community’s growth in the United States into perspective:

“The Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010, accounting for over half of the 27.3 million increase in the total population of the United States. Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, which was four times the growth in the total population at 10 percent.”

The numbers speak for themselves in terms of how big this new wave of people is in this country. I mean, damn. We are emigrating to, and reproducing in the United States like a giant herd of nomadic rabbits.

Let’s take a step back for second. What is a Latino, or a Latina, or a Hispanic as defined by The U.S. Census? It’s this:

“Hispanic or Latino” refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central

American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

– The U.S. Census Bureau, May 2011 issue of The Hispanic Population: 2010

 

The language there is kind of intriguing, don’t you think? Look at the last three words again: “regardless of race.” According to the U.S. Census, Latinos are not a race. Hmm, what are we then?

The melting pot of Puerto Rico is not by any means exclusive to the tiny, beautiful island that my grandparents came from. It’s everywhere in Latin America. There are Latin Americans of Japanese descent in South America, particularly in Brazil; this demographic also applies most famously to controversial former President of Peru, Alberto Fujimori. Guyana is a home to many cultural backgrounds, mainly from Africa, India, and indigenous peoples, and they speak English. All of the nations and locations mentioned in the U.S. Bureau’s definition of race have this demographic trait about them. Ah, now I know why they said “regardless of race.” It’s because Latin Americans are every race in the world combined!

In a rapidly changing world where new ideas are battling tradition, one can only imagine how the Millenial generation, otherwise known as people born from 1985-1995, is handling these rapid changes. Here’s a few statistics to show how they, and by ‘they’ I also include myself, are handling things:

The Millenial Generation, people from the ages of 15 to 25 years old as of 2010, accounted for 16.2 percent of the entire Latino community in the United States according to statistics gathered in the data set The Hispanic Population in the United States, 2010. That’s an estimated 7,914,000 in total, about 2.6 percent of the United States’ population.

A study entitled LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective from The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States found:

“With regard to support for legal gay marriage, Gallup has been tracking support within the overall U.S. population since 1996.  They most recently found that 53 percent of Americans support legal gay marriage.  This compares quite nicely with our data on Hispanics, for whom 54 percent offered their support.”

On the flip side of that statement, the same study also states:

“We find that if there is one concern with LGBT acceptance in the Hispanic community, it resides at the intersection of Hispanicity and religion. While the differences are not there for every measure of LGBT acceptance and policy support, for the majority of measures it is the case both that the most traditional, that is, unacculturated, Hispanics are among the least tolerant.”

The following is quoted from an article from the website of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) entitled Latino Religion in the U.S. Demographic Shifts and Trend:

“[Statistics via 2005]

70 percent of Latinos are Catholic, translating into 29 million Catholic Latinos in the United States (compared to 22 million white mainline Protestants).

23 percent of Latinos are Protestant or “other Christian” (including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). That translates to 9.5 million people.

85 percent of all U.S. Latino Protestants identify themselves as Pentecostals or evangelicals. That translates into 6.2 million people. 37 percent of the U.S. Latino population (14.2 million) self-identifies as “born-again” or evangelical. This figure includes Catholic charismatics, who constitute 22 percent of U.S. Latino Catholics. 26 percent, or 7.6 million, of all Latino Catholics self-identify as being born-again.

1 percent of Latinos identify with a world religion, such as Buddhism, Islam or Judaism.

37 percent of all Latinos are atheist or agnostic.”

I am part of the 1% as a Buddhist.

There seems to be many discrepancies within the religious affiliation statistics since certain belief systems overlap, i.e. Christian and Catholic.  It is intriguing to see that 37 percent, a large plurality of Latinos in the United States self identify as agnostic or atheist. This statistic implies that younger Latinos are breaking away from tradition, as well as their elders who are already set in their ways of religion, and therefore usually intolerant of new ideas about accepting LGBT culture and other religions and belief systems.

The issues and statistics regarding LGBT and religious populations were highlighted to show the obvious conflict arising within the Millenial generation of Latinos in the United States:

The progressive culture of the 21st Century is driving a wedge between older and/or more religiously rooted Latinos and younger and/or more progressive Latinos in the United States. This rift is not exclusive by any means, but is especially confusing to a Millenial Latino whose own racial demographics represent a giant question mark in itself. The growing population of Latinos in the United States when juxtaposed with the Millenial demographic provides a good cross section to inquire about the future of religious trends, LGBT acceptance and can open new questions about how the United States will fair as the Millenial generation become the new wave of young, educated professionals. With more technology and culture at one’s disposal than ever before as well as being the fastest growing demographic, Millienial-Latinos and Latin Americans in the United States are dealing with the age-old, beautiful plight of figuring out who they are as adults and people, yet in an entirely new era. Latino Millenials in the U.S. are asking themselves in new ways: “Who am I?” -RSM

Works Cited:

Dutwin, David, Ph. D. “LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective.”http://www.nclr.org. National Council of La Raza, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nclr.org/images/uploads/publications/LGBTAS_HispanicPerspective.pdf&gt;.

Ennis, Sharon R., Merarys Ríos-Vargas, and Nora G. Albert. “The Hispanic Population: 2010.” http://www.census.gov. U.S. Census Bureau, May 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf&gt;.

Murray, Bruce. “Latino Religion in the U.S.: Demographic Shifts and Trend.” http://www.nhclc.org. National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nhclc.org/news/latino-religion-us-demographic-shifts-and-trend&gt;.

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