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UNITED STATES: Hispanic Population

The loose use off ethnic terms in the US bothers many WAISers. Luis Sanzo, who lives in the Basque province of Alava, writes:

"Your reference is very interesting as I had a lot of problems with my daughter when she was sending applications to some Colleges in the States. The reason was the question of Racial Background. For Spanish it's not easy to answer. The reasons are not difficult to explain:

1. First of all, Spanish people with relation with the USA tends to think that the term Hispanic does not apply to Europeans but only to Latin American people. There is frequently out there a racist approximation, naturally, as this people want to be considered as white but, at the same time, it s true that in Spain most of us are white. My daughter, for example, is a near blond, blue-eyed, very pale white skin, young woman. In our travels in the States, no one out there has ever considers us as non-white. In fact, I never find a place when it was easier to be integrated. It is easier for us to be considered as white natives in the USA that anywhere else in Western Europe (outside Spain, Portugal or Italy).

2. Culturally, anyway, we are evidently also Hispanic. In fact, Spanish-speaking people consider us differently when we talk with them in Spanish. I remember a problem in a Rental Car Office with a Hispanic man. His initial aggressive attitude changed completely when I asked him if I could talk in Spanish, as my English was bad.

3. Finally, is a fact that culturally a Basque has a lot of differential elements to be considered specifically. But, at the same time, it is also true that Spanish Basques have also an important Spanish background, at least in the most important areas of the Spanish Basque Country.

So, it is not easy to answer. As I am from Madrid and my wife is Basque (from Spain); my daughter has the aspect of my family which comes from Asturias, a territory of Celtic heritage, what is she? Is she white, Hispanic, other or, as for example in the Boise State University application, just Basque. In reality, the answer is clear: she belongs to a lot of cultural or ethnic backgrounds and not just to one (fortunately)."

My comment: This is true. Absurdly, Americans do not consider Spaniards Hispanic or Italians latino. We have discussed earlier the use of "Iberoamerica" (by the Spanish government and scholars like Américo Castro) to designate Spain and Portugal, together with the old Spanish and Portuguese American colonies. We have an "Iberoamerica Forum" (see heading), because it seems to be the least bad term. The Peruvian APRA uses the term "Indoamerica", which for some leftists includes all "Latin" America.

These terms are divisive and should be avoided, but how? The demands for bi- or multi-lingualism indicate a desire not to be assimilated culturally. There are 25 US states in which English id the official language. One of them is Alabama. A Spanish-speaking woman living there has demanded that she be allowed to take a driver's test in Spanish. The case is not before the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Were she to win, Alabama would join the states where these and other tests are given in a variety of languages, at great expense. The taxpayers of poor Alabama would have reason to resent this waste of public funds. I don't think she will win. I hope she does not.

Ronald Hilton - 1/17/01