Hispanic American Diversity

Even though many people in the United States see all Hispanics as being from one group, there are many difference and commonalities between the various Hispanic American groups living in this country.

Mexican Americans
Mexican Americans represent the largest percentage of the Hispanic population of the United States.

Mexican Americans represent almost 67 percent of the total Hispanic population (Scheafer, 2006). According to Answers.com Spanish is the language the vast majority of Mexicans speak, although there are many variations, and about 7 million people in Mexico do not speak Spanish at all (n.d.).

According to the website Answers .com (n.d), “During the Spanish conquest and colonization of Mexico, Roman Catholicism was established as the dominate religion… and today, Mexico is 96 percent Christian of whom 92 percent are Catholic” (¶ 5).

Familial conventions are a very important part of the Mexican American culture, Warrix (n.d), points out that, “The family unit is the single most important social unit in the life of Hispanics. Family responsibilities come before all other responsibilities. Gender differentiation and male dominance are issues to consider while working with Hispanic families” (¶ 8).

According to a report by Grogger & Trejo (2002) Mexican Americans have an average household income more than 40 percent below the comparable average for non-Hispanic whites. They also found that people of Mexican descent receive much less educational experience than non-Hispanic whites which likely perpetuates the income gap between the two groups.
Jones-Correa (n.d,) points out that “Many in this population are relatively recent arrivals to the U.S. Since 1970, about 40% of the more than one million immigrants entering the U.S. in any given year have been from Latin America. Forty percent of all Latinos in the U.S. are first generation immigrants; for those over 18, that figure is over 60%. So while Latinos have consistently split their vote two-to-one in favor of the Democratic Party, many of these new arrivals are newcomers to the U.S. political system, with no strong loyalties to any political institution, and uncertain in their partisanship” (¶ 3).

Puerto Rican Americans
The primary language of Puerto Rico is Spanish; this is a result of the Spanish control of the island in the early 18th century; however both Spanish and English are spoken in Puerto Rico, with Spanish being the dominate language. Approximately 80 percent of the population speaks Spanish (Welcome to Puerto Rico, n.d.).

Welcome to Puerto Rico (n.d.) also points out that the vast majority of Puerto Ricans are Catholics, while as small majority are Protestants, and a very small percentage is non religious. This much like the religions of Mexico is likely due in part to the Spanish colonizers of the early 18th century.
Puerto Rican family life is, like that of Mexicans, very extensive and important. As Culture of Puerto Rico (n.d.) points out, “Puerto Rican family structure is extensive; it is based on the Spanish system of compadrazco (literally “co-parenting”) in which many members—not just parents and siblings—are considered to be part of the immediate family. Thus los abuelos (grandparents) and los tios y las tias (uncles and aunts) and even los primos y las primas (cousins) are considered extremely close relatives in the Puerto Rican family structure (¶ 43).
According to Culture of Puerto Rico (n.d.) the assimilation of Puerto Ricans into American culture has had great success, but has also had many problems. Many Puerto Rican mainlanders have high-paying white collar jobs. Except for New York City, Puerto Ricans frequently have higher college graduation rates and higher per capita incomes than other Latino groups. However United States Census Bureau reports suggest that at least 25 percent of all Puerto Ricans living on the mainland live in poverty.

Most of the political aspects of Puerto Ricans in the past, even from Puerto Ricans living on the mainland, have been to win the independence of the island; first from the Spanish, then from the American mainland. Culture of Puerto Rico (n.d.) points out that voter turnout in the United States mainland has been traditionally low for Puerto Ricans, some reasons offered for this is that the group has not been targeted by either political party. Some suggest that a lack of opportunity and poor education for the migrant population has resulted in a cynical view of the United States political process among Puerto Ricans.

Cuban Americans
As with the majority of Latino cultures the primary language is Spanish, almost exclusively. Cubans use highly expressive hand gestures. There was a brief period of time when French was spoken by European refugees that fled Haiti in 1791, but the French language is no longer used (Culture of Cuba, n.d.).
Religion in Cuba has not been an influential as it has in other Latin American Nations for two reasons according to the website Culture of Cuba (n.d.), “first, in the colonial period the Catholic clergy were almost entirely peninsular (born in Spain). They represented the external power of Spain, and hence Catholicism itself was suspect, especially with the population which supported independence. Secondly, there simply were not very many priests in the rural areas, especially in Oriente. Those Cubans who chose to maintain a faith practice were left to produce a religiosity of their own design. The popular religiosity which did develop among white and creole Cubans was a local version of Catholicism enriched with African influences” (¶ 63).

Family is less important to Cubans than it is to most other Latino cultures. This is a result of the Revolution which took over some of the familial economic and social functions. Families are smaller and less likely to include distant relatives (Culture of Cuba, n.d.).

The vast majority of Cubans support a socialist government, as they have seen the quality of life improve due to the socialist government of Castro. They are leery of capitalism because they are afraid of the rift that it produces between the wealthy and the poverty stricken (Culture of Cuba, n.d.).

Brazilian Americans
Almost all Brazilians native language is Portuguese, which is a Romance language from the Indo-European language family. The linguistic affiliation of the Brazilian people was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century; prior to that the native people spoke various indigenous Indian languages (Culture of Brazil, n.d.)

According to the Culture of Brazil website (n.d.) “Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world even though the percentage of Brazilians who belong to the Catholic Church has declined in recent years, down from 95 percent in the 1950s. Today about 73 percent of Brazilians identify themselves as Catholic but an unknown number are Catholics by tradition, not by faith” (¶ 108).
Most families in Brazil consist of parents and children; it is not the isolated nuclear family that is common place in the United States. The Brazilian culture puts great importance on the extended family. Brazilians like to live close to their kin, regardless of their social class. Grown children usually remain at home until marriage. It is common in among the urban middle class for extended family members to live in different units of the same apartment building (Culture of Brazil, n.d.)
It is interesting to note that the Brazilian government is similar to that of the United States; so Brazilian immigrants often do not have a difficult time understanding the political process in the United States. Brazil has a constitution and three arms of government: executive, legislative, and judicial (Culture of Brazil, n.d.)

Difference and commonalities
It is apparent that the Latino cultures outlined in this paper have many things in common. For the most part each of the different cultures is predominately Catholic. Many of the groups place family above all else; unlike the culture in the United States, people living in the United States have become accustom to only rarely seeing extended family; those in the Latino community deeply value their familial ties. While Spanish is the most common language spoken in many of the Latino cultures it is by far not the only language spoken, as shown in the example above, the native language in Brazil is Portuguese. The political ideals of each group is also different, many of the groups native countries have governments very similar to that of the United States, some are the complete opposite. To group all Latinos under the term Hispanic is often looked upon by those being described by this term as an insult. Most immigrants from these various countries will not classify themselves as Hispanic, but as Cuban American, Puerto Rican, Brazilian American, Haitian American, etc. While there are many often many similarities there are just as many differences; in some instances the only similarity is the hemisphere they originate from.

Answers.com. (n.d). Culture of Mexico. Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.answers.com/topic/culture-of-mexico
Culture of Brazil. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Brazil.html
Culture of Cuba. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.everyculture.com/Cr-Ga/Cuba.html
Culture of Brazil. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Brazil.html
Culture of Puerto Rico. (n.d.). Puerto Rican Americans. Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Pa-Sp/Puerto-Rican-Americans.html
Grogger, J. & Trejo, S. (2002). Public Policy Institute of California. The Economic Progress of Mexican Americans. Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/-rb/RB_502JGRB.pdf
Jones-Correa, M. (n.d.).The American Political Science Association. Latinos in the 2004 Elections. Retrieved March 27, 2007 from http://www.apsanet.org/content_5213.cfm
Warrix, M. (n.d). Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet. Cultural Diversity: Eating in America. Retrieved March 27, 2007 from http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5255.html
Welcome to Puerto Rico. (n.d.). Puerto Rican Culture. Retrieved March 28, 2007 from http://welcome.topuertorico.org/culture/