The making of "Latinos"

Whether Hispanic or Latino, it is clear that today’s generation feels some pressure to identify itself as members of a panethnic group. This came home to me in a conversation I had with a very young Los Angeles anchorwoman of Central American origin who identified herself as Latina in conversation with me in mid-2013. I asked why she did that, and she gave me a sheepish look. “I feel this is what I’m supposed to say,” she said.

One of the biggest ironies of this story is that an identity wholly crafted by members of the bureaucracy is being foisted on people who may or may not be ready to accept it but who certainly did not initiate the effort. Generally, it is assimilation and integration as an American that are popularly derided as coercing immigrants into “losing their identity.” Apparently no one has thought that forcing people to accept an identity they had never thought of—as Hispanics—also may be coercive.

The knowledge-making elites in the academy, the culture, and the media—always the handmaidens to the federal bureaucracy in liberal endeavors—have strongly nurtured the panethnic group identity. The Spanish-language media are one such strong force, working to create a Hispanic or Latino identity fit for a people who would vie for power not as individuals but as an ethnic group.