The Clare Spark Blog

June 21, 2012

The “Hispanic vote”

On June 15, 2012, the President presented his “Dream Act Lite” (as some journalists dubbed it):”To qualify for prosecutorial discretion pursuant to the new policy, illegal immigrants must have entered before the age of 16, resided in the United States at least five years, are now attending or graduated from high school or served honorably in the military, are now 30 or under, and have never been convicted of a serious crime. Having received prosecutorial discretion, they can apply for work authorization.” [Jan Ting:]

As covered virtually everywhere, this ostensibly “right thing to do” was seen as either pandering to “the Hispanic vote” or as too little too late to satisfy the same constituency, one that wants complete amnesty, and in many cases American jobs. See

This blog is about the lingering ambiguity attached to the term “Hispanic.” Put briefly, this blood and soil term not only ignores class and gender divisions within the “Hispanic” population, even as racist rhetoric, the term “Hispanic” fails to distinguish between (pure blooded) Spaniards (themselves “pure” only in the imagination of those unschooled in the migrations of peoples), Spaniards who have intermarried with other European persons, and the much despised “mestizo”—a mixture of Spanish and indigenous Central or South American natives, with the latter’s history of slavery and continued poverty. For that reason, ersatz “leftists” have insisted that “Hispanic” be retained for those who conquered parts of the Western hemisphere in the late 15 century onward, while describing their prey as “Latinos.”

First, the Hispanics. Some of the most glamorous and “hot” movie stars in earlier Hollywood were seen as nobly Spanish. For instance, Ramon Navarro, whose ancestry was mixed Spanish and Aztec []. Or Rita Hayworth, whose father was Spanish, but whose mother was of Irish descent [].

Ramon Navarro

Ernest Hemingway, even before his conversion to Catholicism, found young matadors to be ideal males who could fight ferocious bulls and face death with equanimity. Later EH found the earthy Spanish peasants irresistible, unless they were anarchists, enemies to the Soviet Communists who were fighting Franco. And EH’s later approval of Fidel Castro was well known.

The President, however, was surely not appealing to anti-Castro Cubans, refugees from Communist Cuba, but to the imagined community of Latinos, who presumably want more from the government, whether it be amnesty (i.e., escape from underdevelopment and other troubles in Mexico and Central America), the renewed control of California and the Southwest (La Raza), or a larger Catholic electorate.

Who among the punditry is asking 1. Are persons of Spanish or mixed descent uniform in their class interests? 2. Are the legal “Latinos” in California sometimes exploiting the cheaper labor of illegals? Are we all living off the labor of exploited workers, of whatever “ethnicity” or “race”? 3. What about displaced black domestics and construction workers? Are the rival black and brown gangs in Los Angeles and elsewhere fighting only over drug turf? 4. Does anyone care whether or not the multicultural curriculum is perpetuating the discredited notion of “race” or “racial character.”  In a society where “races” are mixing at an increasing rate, why are outdated bureaucratic labels still seen as relevant? [For a related article tracing the origins of the racialist discourse see]

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  1. You are right that Latino does not relate to race. Half of them self-identified as white in 2000 Census.
    “What is Latino” on my site shows that La Raza promoted this phony term when they decided to represent not just Mexicans but all Spanish speakers. Viola, more power! Census Bureau followed along. Consider that this group of self-identified people then qualify for affirmative action.
    Let’s all change our last names to Lopez or Hernandez so our kids will not be discriminated against in college or job applications.

    Comment by Maggie — November 10, 2012 @ 12:56 am | Reply

  2. As an exchange student in Mexico City many decades ago, I asked my rather Castilian host family how they felt about the “Chicano” movement in the northern states and California. They were politely and uncomfortably silent. Others have told me that the “Spanish” and the “Indians” don’t see each others as equals and they don’t get along, and I know from personal experience that Cubans look down on virtually all other Hispanics.

    The only thing I can gather from all this is that the mix of Hispanics in the U. S. is as divided politically and ethnically as Irish Catholics and Protestants or liberal and conservative Jews. Spanish-speaking Republicans won’t necessarily win votes or realign the conservative movement.

    Comment by stereorealist — November 9, 2012 @ 11:26 pm | Reply

  3. […] a very close race.  (See these blogs that directly address the notion of the “Hispanic vote”:, […]

    Pingback by The “demographic change” explanation is racist « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — November 8, 2012 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  4. Ms. Spark,

    You appear to take umbrage with the imprecise nomenclature of ethnic (and class?) categories and to imagine that this confusion somehow serves the interests of unspecified, un-named ‘Leftists.’ In my experience, however, the anxiety about the proper employ of these terms is the province of practioners of identity politics, most of which are ‘leftists’ only in a grossly charicatured sense. Idenitity politics have been embarrassing non-starters for Marxian Leftists; they forever forestall the emergence of a cosmopolitan, radical consciousness in favor of superficial critiques and easy accomodation (to Capital).

    Identity with any particular category was a failed attempt to find an ersatz prolerariat. For that reason, identity politics were de rigeur among the New Left, and then, so-called postmodernists. Only disoriented liberals (in contradistinction of radical leftists) care to take the mantle of identity politics. And then there’s you. In rallying against this failed strategy, what do you aim to highlight, exactly? The complicity of the mainstream media in obfuscating important political topoi? The perfidious nature of the Obama administration’s accomodation to the spanish-speaking peoples of the United States? I doubt very much that anyone who cares to attend to the nuance between these terms is moved to be more or less amenable to this policy decision. I, for one, think that Obama is cynically throwing a bone at the Mexican-American community; he is being counseled by people who fail to coutenance that Mexican-Americans may care about other issues. But is the GOP in any position to lift the discourse to the serious concerns you point out? Of course not. Not that this is my point. My point is that you assert without satisfying evidence, nothing even as simply as hyperlink, that this is an adventitious strategy of the Left.

    Would you care to explain which ‘Leftists’ recommend this term? What criteria do you employ to classify them as leftists as such?

    Thank you,

    Comment by emmanueljonathantellez — June 25, 2012 @ 5:14 pm | Reply

    • Upon rereading the comment and my blog, I added a word. I now characterize the practitioners of identity politics as ersatz leftists. It was liberal foundations, feeding on German Romanticism, who provided the racialist discourse that I deplore in this blog. If you read the essay carefully, no champion of the working class or labor movement in general should be complaining about it. Ethnic categories as a way of sorting out people mask internal divisions of class and gender. I made that crystal clear. Who is raising the issue of exploitation any longer, even as they deplore “racial profiling?”

      What is now called “the Left” is in fact, nothing but social democrats taking the place of Marxists, whom they have read out of the political spectrum, with a few exceptions.
      In my view, our political life has become corrupted because words that once had a specific meaning have lost out to demagoguery. It is true that Marxists have deplored “identity politics”–except for those at Pacifica radio who purged me for attacking racialist discourses. As for the GOP, it remains to be seen if they step away from their complicity with progressives–who invented multiculturalism in the first place.

      Comment by clarespark — June 25, 2012 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  5. […] a related blog see  On February 7, 2012, the hit show Glee buttressed the cultural nationalist view of those Latino […]

    Pingback by “Glee” goes “Duende” « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — June 25, 2012 @ 4:39 pm | Reply

  6. Thanks for your comments on this topic. I should like to add a few of my own. A major problem with ethnic categorization in the U.S. is that it compares apples to oranges. The terms “Black” or “Afro-American” bear strong connotations of “race” however unscientific that notion may be. “Hispanic” and “Latino”, .however, denote linguistic, cultural, and geographic origins, but not racial. Individuals so designated may be by conventional standards Black, White, Indian, Asian, or of any other race. Consequently, attempts to conflate Hispanic/Latinos with Blacks as non-white result in double counting.

    I don’t know the origin of the term “Hispanic”, although it seems, absurdly, not to include Spaniards. I do know that it is disliked by Mexican nationals and Mexican-Americans. I believe that this is because from its earliest manifestations in the eighteenth century Mexican national sentiment embodied a strong anti-Spanish streak.

    “Latino” is the shortened form of “Latinoamericano”. The latter was introduced by French publicists when during our Civil War Napoleon III tried to establish a French protectorate in Mexico. The ideological thrust was to advance the idea that a strategic confrontation existed between Anglo America and a Latin America united by cultural ties with (a Latinate) France. By this definition, not only the nations of Hispanic and Portuguese America but also the French Canadians, the Cajuns, Haiti and other Francophone Caribbean islands comprised a cultural, linguistic, and (hopefully) strategic unity.

    Comment by david gansel — June 22, 2012 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

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