A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance CompanyExecutive offices, Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Pres. Spanish Surnamed American Employment in the Southwest One of a series of excerpts from SPANISH SURNAMED AMERICAN EMPLOYMENT IN THE SOUTHWEST by Fred H. Schmidt, Institute of Industrial Relations, University of California at Los Angeles. Prepared for the Colorado Civil Rights Commission under the auspices of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Printed by U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. $2.00. A DIFFERENCE WITHOUT A DISTINCTION This is a study of members of the second oldest, second largest minority in the United States. It is a study of an ethnic minority one that has been called “The Invisible Minority.” Its members are of one race and one religion with the country’s majority. They are white, Caucasian; they are Christian. They descend from Europeans, the very first to settle on this continent and on the land of this country. Their forebearers outdistanced other Europeans in bringing a culture stemming from the Greeks and the Romans to most parts of the hemisphere indeed, to a major part of what is now the contiguous United States. As a minority they stand second in number only to the descendants of those African blacks who were brought to this land along with that culture. This ethnic group has no proper name, none that is universally accepted or descriptive. This is the first problem: What designation is adequate for those who have descended from or shared a common culture with Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Cortez, and all the men of Spain who followed them? The question is a prickly one, for in contrast to English-speaking settlers who drove Indian groups into 300 years of retreat, the Spanish often mingled with and joined the indigenous populations into their society. The multifarious people who issued from this joining cannot now be distinguished by the usual designations of race, creed, color, or national origin. To the contrary, their distinction is that no one of these, nor all of them, suffices to describe their distinctiveness… . The phrase “Spanish-speaking Americans” is but one of the several ways in which allusions are made to the minority group under study. It is not definitive, and is perhaps a careless phrase in this context. . What is considered an adopted and appropriate term in one area may be offensive in another. The extreme sensitivity of slotting people who range, ethnically, from Indian to unmixed Spanish ancestry is apparent. This explains part of the problem of giving this group a statistical existence. Their heterogeneity and their homogeneity is hereafter embraced with the phrase “Spanish Surnamed American.” It is a phrase that has gained an official usage and in no way is intended to suggest any judgment of qualified citizenship. YET, NO STEREOTYPE. Strangely, American ethnocentrism never developed a very firm stereotype of its Spanish Surnamed minority. The reasons for this would be a study in itself. Stereotypes and caricatures become part of our folkways to represent those pecularities of a group that the majority believes exist, no matter how false or exaggerated these might be. The American stage long ago conventionalized the caricature of virtually every immigrant group, usually in comic proportions… . These early caricatures were designed to reveal the strangeness of language and custom of each group as it tried to fit into the national scene. Why was the Spanish Surnamed spared until relatively recent years? Perhaps because he was too far from the scene. He lived too far from the eastern cities which for so long were the major cultural centers of the Nation.. .. The literature of the Southwest concerned itself chiefly with the epic tales of men and women of great courage who peopled a hostile land men and women from the Eastern States.. .. The history that was written does not tell how things appeared to those who resisted or were supplanted by the settlers from the East, for those people wrote very little while retreating, and seldom in English. To this day, one searches almost in vain for Spanish surnameds in the listings of writers, authors, and journalists from the Southwest who are entered in “Who’s Who In America.” The one-sideness of the region’s literature can be judged from the contrast between literary works that were of interest to the nation’s publishing houses and what has survived in the ballads and narrative folksongs, the corridos, of this border country. These last tell the views of . those who were dealt with as intruders in the very land in which they were born. Then, of course, it should be added that the Spanish Surnames could easily escape national attention simply because of their residing in only one region of the country, a region so long considered remote from the Nation. … These observations may suggest some of the reasons for the Nation’s unawareness of’the Spanish Surnameds within its population, but they do not account for the attitudes that have and do prevail toward them in the Southwest. In that region, other explanations must be found. The majority of persons in the Southwest have always been quite aware of the presence of the Spanish Surnamed. Not infrequently that majority has dealt with him in ways that most of the Nation might now wish to disavow. But, of course, history cannot be disavowed. It stands as it was lived. Therefore, it becomes essential that this study include a review of parts of that history. The societal forms that have developed and the attitudes that prevail toward the Spanish Surnamed in the Southwest cannot be understood apart from the events that brought these people into the country…. Statistical accounts of various aspects of present employment pattents … provide but a dim understanding of those pervasive notions that complicate and restrict the employment opportunities of Spanish Surnameds. They are an uncertain guide to corrective action, because the employment problems of Spanish Surnameds can scarcely be dealt with, nor are they likely to be dealt with in any important sense, without some feeling and precisely that for the historical sequence that brings them before the Nation now. For this reason there is one conclusion drawn from the region’s history that must be laid out in advance of the statistics. Simply put, it is that the Southwest once represented an internal colonial empire to the United States. Those persons who first peopled the region, as well as their kinsmen who subsequently arrived, were generally regarded as colonial subjects and were dealt with as such. Their present employment, problems can no more be understood apart from this acknowledgment than can the parallel problems of Negroes be made explicable apart from an acknowledgment of their former enslavement.
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