The 1963 birth of the Latino vote


Despite widespread belief that Barak Obama‘s 2012 reelection campaign was when the Latino vote “finally [awakened]” in a U.S. presidential election, John F. Kennedy has him beat with his 1963 race to return to the Oval Office.

President John F. Kennedy. Source:

According to The Huffington Post Latino Voices, the Latino vote earned respect from politicians much earlier than most believe. Historians credit Kennedy with being the first to “officially [acknowledge]” this “important voting bloc” when he made a speech in the Rice Ballroom in Houston in November 1963.

Kennedy earned the votes of many Hispanic in his 1960 race to the White House, especially Mexican-Americans who gave him 85 percent of their vote. When Kennedy failed to appoint Latinos during his administration, he faced backlash from the community that helped him. When it came time to start campaigning for reelection in 1964 and a close race at that, Kennedy knew he had to soothe the waters with his Hispanic supporters.

The president made a trip to the Lone Star State in 1963. While there, Kennedy was advised he should make an appearance at a League of United Latin American Citizens (the “largest Latino civil rights group in the country” at that time) gala in Houston. The activists hosting the event were excited about a visit from the president, but could not advertise his coming since it was not part of his official schedule.

Kennedy showed up to the Rice Ballroom with First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson. The president delivered a speech about “foreign policy in Latin America” and the importance of the civil rights group to whom he was speaking. Then, the first lady spoke in Spanish about the shared history of Latinos and Texas. The crowd shouted “Viva Kennedy!” in response to both speeches.

Thus, the acknowledgement of the Latino vote as an important force in American politics was born.

Latino voting numbers are growing. Source: CNN

Latinos have gone on to influence a number of “presidential elections for more than 50 years,” but they seem to be “attracting attention in 2012” because “Latinos are now the largest minority group in the U.S.” and “voter participation is up.”

Hispanic voters will only continue to grow in their presence and their influence in American politics. It will be in ways outside of the voting booth too, with more Latinos running for office, supporting their favorite candidates as campaign volunteers and being activists than ever before.

The U.S. has come a long way in its approach to race and ethnicity. Despite the challenges the Latinos faces now or in the future, at least members of the community know they have the power of democracy behind them.

The power of the vote is in every American’s favor, regardless of race and/or ethnicity.

Source: The Huffington Post Latino Voices

See Jackie Kennedy speak to Latino voters for the 1960 election in Spanish:

Source: YouTube

Fewer Latinos at UT Austin?


The University of Texas at Austin has long been fighting the Top Ten Percent law and now that the college’s wish has been partially granted, the number of Latinos admitted into the university may drop.

The UT Austin campus. Source: Portal to Public Health at UT Austin

According to a story released by The Houston Chronicle, UT Austin will only take the top 7 percent of graduating classes for the summer/fall 2014 semesters. The 2013 (and 2011) UT Austin freshmen were admitted by the top 8 percent and the freshmen for 2012 were admitted by the top 9 percent.

The changes to the Top Ten Percent law for UT Austin were due to allowing the university to allocate only 75 percent of the incoming freshmen slots to be filled by automatic Texas resident admission. A change that was welcomed by the school in order to allow the admissions office a chance to offer other students a chance into the school based on other criteria, which includes ethnicity.

But what does this all mean for Latinos?

Under the Top Ten Percent law, 29 percent of the 5,432 admitted students to UT Austin were Latino. The other quarter of the incoming class admitted by other criteria only had 13 percent of 2,660 students be made up of Latinos.

Will we see less of Latino/Latina students at UT Austin in the future? Source:

The law was originally created and passed in order to increase minority student numbers at Texas universities. The problem that has arisen from this law, which is the same problem UT Austin has with it, is that there are too many students in this Top Ten Percent pool applying to mainly two schools: UT Austin and Texas A&M. There are too many students demanding too few spots and the universities have no choice but to turn away other students in order to comply with the state law by admitting the overflow of Top Ten Percent kids.

It seems that no matter which way you go, whether we keep the Top Ten Percent law or we do away with it completely, some students are going to lose out while others gain new opportunities. It’s a sticky situation and no one person or organization seems to have an exact answer on how to solve it.

How can we make sure everyone gets an opportunity to graduate college? Source: PHLMetropolis

I think the changes to the admission policies at UT Austin will certainly have an effect on the number of Latinos admitted to the university. At the same time, I think the admission policy changes will have an effect on all future applicants to the university, not just the ones with a Hispanic background.

UT Austin is wanting more freedom to admit students they feel deserve an opportunity to go to school who may not have been the best at academics. The argument is that a school should be able to admit a talented musician into its music school so they can grow in their music and have a prolific career instead of having to turn them away for a student who was part of their school’s Top Ten Percent. Or that a college can increase the diversity of talents on its campus by admitting students with talents outside of academia. Then, there are also those students who have better GPAs than other admitted UT Austin freshmen, but who were just outside the Top Ten Percent of their graduating class.

I think we have moved past the days where we had to worry that institutions would not admit certain people because of racial, gender or any discrimination. I especially believe that to be true of our higher education institutions were progressive thinking, education and contributing to the betterment of society are key goals.

Let UT Austin and other universities have says in who they admit. The schools obviously have good reasons for wanting their admission policies certain ways so we should hear them out. We can monitor the policies to make sure they do not discriminate any groups. These colleges want what is best for their students, for their staff/faculty and for society.

With the number of Latinos in the United States and especially in Texas growing, it is inevitable that the number of Latinos applying and being admitted into college will grow. More Latinos continue to pursue higher education now than ever before so their presence on university campuses will become more abundant. We just have to wait and watch the numbers grow.

Source: Huffington Post Latino Voices Latino Politics

Former state Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos discuss the passing of the Top Ten Percent law:

Source: YouTube

Disney’s first Latina princess…or not?


Recent reports have said that Disney has their first ever Latina princess, Princess Sofia. But if this is true, why does she look so…white?

No one makes princesses quite like Disney, but they have had an issue with diversity with their royal ladies. In the past two decades, Disney has tried to remedy this with the introduction of a few of their first ethnically diverse princesses: Jasmine (Arabian), Mulan (Chinese), Pocahontas (Native American) and Tiana (African-American.) But Disney has yet to create a princess that celebrates having a Latina heritage, which is where many thought this new princess would come in.

Meet Princess Sofia. Source: Sofia the First Facebook

Why did so many people think this was a possibile reality with the latest Disney princess? According to Entertainment Weekly, during a press tour for Sofia the First (the television series featuring Princess Sofia), a blogger commented on how Sofia’s mother, Queen Miranda, had a “darker complexion than the other characters.” The executive producer responded by saying it is because “she is Latina” and thus began the speculation about Sofia being the first-ever Disney Latina princess.

Queen Miranda, Sofia’s mother, with her new husband, King Roland II of Enchancia. Source: Sofia the First Facebook page

Imagine the surprise of the public when the images and videos of Princess Sofia were released. With auburn hair, blue eyes and a very fair complexion, the Latino community “questioned if such a character could really resonate” with Hispanics. The young everyday girl-turned-royalty Sofia had to not only learn the ropes of being a new princess (as is her TV movie and series’s storyline), she also had to deal with criticism that she didn’t look “Hispanic enough.”

The outcry wasn’t a muted one either. More reports about the new princess’s ethnicity dispute arose than proclaimed her arrival. Some in the Latino community felt Sofia didn’t have a dark enough complexion to be accurately considered “Hispanic” while others argued that not all Hispanics have dark complexions. It was even said that Disney lightened Sofia’s skin tone in order to appeal to a broader audience.

But what does Disney say about all this? Disney recently made a statement on the Sofia the First Facebook page that said they never claimed the new star of their Disney Junior show to be Latina. She “is a fairytale girl” and all of Disney’s characters come from “fantasy lands” that are meant to “reflect elements of various cultures and ethnicities but none are meant to specifically represent those real world cultures.” A coexecutive producer and writer for the show further explained to E! News that Sofia is actually of “mixed-heritage” with her mother hailing from a Spain-inspired fairytale kingdom and her father from a Scandinavia-inspired kingdom.

Sofia on her way to her royal new life. Source: Sofia the First Facebook page

While I can understand how frustrating this whole situation might be for the Latino community, all is not lost. Yes, this princess is not Latina, but at least we didn’t find out that Disney did intend for Sofia to be Hispanic. So the argument that Disney lightened the little girl’s skin in order to appeal to a broader audience can be stricken from the record.

Honestly, I am not in any uproar over this situation. While we still don’t have a Latina princess, we did get a new princess that has unique qualities from her counterparts. For the first time, we do have a princess who is of “mixed-heritage” and even though she is of mixed-heritage, she considers herself Enchancian like anyone else. This idea is similar to how a lot of US Hispanics come from a many backgrounds but still consider themselves Americans. Sofia also does have Spanish-inspired roots, even if they aren’t as prominent as some Hispanics.

This situation has shown Disney how popular and important the idea of having an official Latina princess in their royal lineup is. We want to teach young girls that all ethnicities are beautiful and there is no one form of “beauty.” We don’t all need to be as pale as Snow White or as blonde as Cinderella to be “beautiful.”

All the Disney Princesses teach us that diversity and celebrating who we are is important. This lesson alone is enough to show that it is time for an official Latina Disney Princess to expand the diversity of the royal ladies.

I am positive the carriage with the first official Latina Disney Princess will arrive. I am also positive that both her fellow princesses and the world will greet her with a warm Disney Princess welcome!

Source: The Huffington Post Latino Voices

Watch the trailer for “Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess:”

Source for video: YouTube

Lack of Latino Culture Acknowledgement at Harvard University


According to the Harvard Crimson, the daily college newspaper at the university, while the peer institutions of Harvard “offer either specific programs for scholarships of Latinos or cultural centers for their students,” Harvard “has no equivalent.”

The class of 2016 for Harvard was 11.2 percent Latino students, but these students will find only student organizations where they can embrace and celebrate their culture at one of the nation’s oldest universities. But “efforts to bring such ressources, including attempts to create a center where students can have access to researchers and resources related to the Latino experience, stretch back approximately 40 years.”

Harvard has a unique standing on “how it chooses to support ethnic and cultural student groups.” Outside of the Harvard University Native American Program, which supports the Native American student population with an office and space to support the students’ education, “no cultural student groups on campus have University-allocated centers.”

Harvard students celebrate the unveiling of the portrait of the first Native American to graduate Harvard, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck. Source: Harvard Gazette

But students that are part of “the nation’s largest ethnic minority” feel “neglected” as one student put it. Latinos are “part of Harvard’s past” and “are a vibrant and undeniable part of its present” so why should they not get the same recognition their fellow Latinos receive at peer universities?

While some believe that “Harvard is heading in the right direction” with their recent “expansion of the Committee on Ethnic Studies,” which “through curricular offerings and collaboration with student groups, offers support for those interested in the study of Latinos both in and and outside the classroom,” others think this is not enough.

David Carrasco, a Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America, leads a session for the Latino Leadership Initiative, which trains college students in community organizing and networking. Source: Harvard Gazette

As a student who attends a university that does offer cultural centers for ethnic and cultural student groups as well as scholarship programs for Latinos, I can understand why these Latino students at Harvard are so frustrated.

Latinos are a major part of the future of this country. They are the fastest-growing demographic and their population is expected to reach 30 percent of the population by 2050.

We no longer live in the days of the “melting pot” and need to accept the idea we live in a “salad bowl” of a country. Immigrants no longer just acculturate to the United States, especially the ever-growing Latino population. We have to get our heads out of the sand.

The good news is that there are many places in this country that have realized this and adapted to it. For example, universities across the country now offer cultural centers and academic study programs dedicated to various cultures. I can personally account for this because I participate in the Latino Media Studies program (LMS) at the University of Texas at Austin.

We need to embrace diverse, but fellow Americans.
Source: University of Michigan Department of Psychology

Centers and programs, like the LMS program, that celebrate culture are important to the education of future generations. As an Anglo-American, I study in the LMS program because I want to better understand and be educated on this growing population.

But why is any of that important? The answer is quite simple: we are a diverse mix of people in the United States and it will take a better understanding of the various cultures that make up our communities to be able to best serve them. It will also lead to less ignorance and prejudices. To me, that sounds like a win-win for everyone.

Hopefully, Harvard will better realize this and grow their university acknowledgement of and involvement with various cultures and ethnic communities. It is really is inevitable because with many other universities showing their cultural engagement and the ethnic populations not slowing down in numbers, Harvard will have to participate in order to stay competitive in the world higher education.

Source: The Harvard Crimson

Learn more about the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University:

Source for video: YouTube

Media Still Perpetrates Latino Stereotypes


Despite the social progress the United States has made, it still has quite a way to go with the Latino community.

According to a new study by The National Hispanic Media Coalition, a third of non-Hispanic Americans, which includes whites, African-Americans and Asian-Americans, still believe that over half of the US Hispanic community is made up of large families of illegal immigrants with little education. These same people also believe the media portrayals of Hispanics as criminals, dropouts, maids and gardeners (to name a few) as the whole reality of this community.

Latino Stereotypes: Maids

The study also showed that Americans who watched the negative portrayals on news and  entertainment programs held the most negative, in addition to hostile, views on the Latino community. It also pointed out that these negative portrayals can even influence people with positive views on Hispanics. And the portrayals are too common.

This all means the idea that negative racial stereotypes no longer plague our society is a false notion. It also illustrates the power the media has on influencing people’s views on issues like a growing ethnic community.

The growth of bicultural communities in America: the US and Mexico.

This study is worrisome on more than just the level of stereotyping. Some argue that if people hold such biased views, this could affect how they think about major political issues associated with the Latino community like immigration and economic mobility. Many of these people get their political thinking from the news as well so the fact that the Latino stereotypes are fueled by the media just adds to the fire.

It is depressing to think that stereotypes of any kind still exist in the 21st century, especially when we are all taught in school the dangers of prejudices. Unfortunately, the Latino community is now having to go through what the female and African-American communities have dealt with before. But even those communities still struggle with stereotypes to this day so the road ahead of Latinos is indeed a long one.

The solution to a problem of this magnitude and depth is not simple nor is there just one solution. As a society, we will have to take measures to stop fueling these stereotypes and we will have to perpetrate the truth, which is that the Latino community has plenty of successes like any other American ethnic community.  For example, not every Latino is uneducated and many Latinos graduate college.

Successful Latina college graduates.

We don’t still segregate schools because we still believe African-Americans aren’t up to par with whites. We don’t still believe a woman’s place is at home and she needs a man to make decisions for her because she is too fraile and emotional to know any better. We’ve moved past the days of those stereotypes and one day, we will move past the days of Latino stereotyping as well, especially as the number of US Latinos continues to grow.

It’s time to promote the successes of Latinos and Latinas rather than entertain with stereotypes. Source:

But until we learn to promote the story of successful Latinos and Latinas like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rather than entertain audiences with that stereotype of the Latina maid who doesn’t speak any English, we will continue this cycle of stereotyping. We will get there, it’s just a matter of when.

Source: International Herald Tribune’s Rendezvous blog

Huge victory for undocumented Latino youths


President Obama made an announcement this week that is a huge victory for young undocumented Latinos in the United States.

The Commander-in-Chief’s announcement stated that illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. prior to the age of 16 and who have not turned 30 will be granted immunity from deportation. In order to be eligible for this, the individual is required to have no criminal record, lived in the country for five years consecutively and have either graduated with a high school diploma/GED or served in the military.

And he isn’t going through Congress to try and get this policy change passed. He is doing it though an executive order.

President Obama speaking. Source: NY Daily News

As with any major political move, controversy surrounds his decision. Some say it was a key move to make with less than 50 days until the election to try and sway last minute Latino voters while others say it was a violation of the Constitution (those people being political opponents of President Obama.) I think it was a great move to make whether it was politically-motivated or not.

The president had a fantastic point when he said this order applies to people who “study in our schools, play in our neighborhoods” and who “are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way except one — on paper.”

As a non-Hispanic white who has lived her whole life in Texas, I have met and been friends with many of these people. My two best friends are Hispanic. In fact, one of them had parents that emigrated here from El Salvador. Even though she is lucky enough to be legal, why should other Latinos and Latinas be denied the right to be an American because their parents weren’t able to gain American citizenship upon their arrival to the US?

Latinos applying for citizenship. Source: Instituto Del Progreso Latino.

I am a firm believer in the fact that this country was built and will always be built by many different groups of people who ALL emigrated to this land at some point in their family history. My grandmother emigrated here from Italy in the 1950s: why is my story any different from a Hispanic teenager whose grandparents emigrated here from, for example, Mexico? She is no less American than I am. We both were raised here. We have pride in our family’s cultures, but that doesn’t make us any less American.

This same idea applies to young Latinos who were brought to this country when they were too young to make a choice, let alone apply for citizenship. Some of these children were too young to even remember the country they emigrated from. Why should they be punished for their parents’ decisions? Why should they be deported from the land they have grown up in and loved?

A young American Latina wants the rights to this country too. Source: Being Latino US

I don’t even want to hear the argument that allowing illegal immigrants to stay here will raise the crime rate or cause other negative consequences to the communities where they reside. The requirements in this order don’t allow just ANY illegal immigrant to stay here. They maintain a standard that calls for the people who want to be apart of this executive order to be responsible. Responsible citizens help society, not hurt it.

I am happy with the president’s decision to change his policy and make this executive order. We have seen how much gridlock exists in Washington D.C. nowadays and how no one is willing to compromise. We needed a move like this to propel the immigration issue forward rather than just sit around, twiddle our thumbs and just argue about it some more with no real solutions.

Check out the video of President Obama’s announcement here.

Source: NY Daily News