The population that I choose for my Immersion Project can generally be referred to as ‘Hispanics’. This population is best defined as such that consists of the US citizens (as well as illegals) affiliated with the Hispanic (Spanish, South-American, Latino) ethnocultural background, who appears to share a number of the same mental/behavioral traits. The latter is reflected by how these people tend to address life challenges – something that better than anything confirms the discursive soundness of the term ‘Hispanic’ when used to denote one’s cultural distinctiveness.
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The term’s validity can be illustrated even further, regarding the fact that as many recent sociological studies indicate, there is a strongly defined ‘biological’ (race-related) quality to one’s willingness to identify himself or herself as Hispanic. As Hitlin, Brown, and Elder (2007) noted, “In the 2000 U.S. Census almost 15 million Hispanics chose ‘other’ as their best race, implying that ‘White’ does not capture their sense of themselves as a social or ethnic group “(p. 591). Thus, there can be only a few doubts as to the full appropriateness of subjecting Hispanics to the ethnographic research – just as I am going to while working on my Immersion Project.
There are a few reasons as to why I choose in favor of Hispanics for my research as the representatives of the culturally distinctive population in the US. The main of them has to do with the fact that I came of age in the neighborhood where a good half of residents account for Puerto-Ricans. Therefore, I already have a fair amount much preliminary knowledge, relevant to the would-be conducted inquiry.
My choice, in this respect, was also motivated by the qualitative essence of the current demographic dynamics in America, which suggests that it is only a matter of short time before Hispanics attain the status of the numerically dominant ethnocultural group in this country (Diller, 2015). Lastly, I happen to have great respect for Hispanics – all due to what appears to be the sheer measure of these people’s evolutionary aptness, in the Darwinian sense of this word.
My observational activity (concerning the selected population) consisted of attending a birthday party of my friend Kenny (a 35-year-old Puerto-Rican male), who lives in New Haven, CT. We used to work together as movers for the same moving company a long time ago. Because of the job’s ‘heavy-duty’ nature, it is crucially important for movers to be able to rely on each other while doing a particular move.
Kenny and I were able to develop much confidence (initially professional and later personal) in each other – something that explains why we continue to remain, good friends, even today. After having invited me, Kenny mentioned that I was going to be the only non-Hispanic person present at the event, which strengthened my resolution to pay a visit to my friend even further – by doing it, I would be in the position to experience a thoroughly genuine cultural immersion into ‘Hispanics’. The following are the main observational insights that I gained into the research’s subject matter while socializing with Kenny and his Hispanic friends/relatives at the party:
- Hispanics tend to be strongly attracted towards the so-called ‘traditional values’, concerned with a person’s willingness to lead a socially integrated lifestyle while staying in close touch with his or her numerous relatives – especially the elderly ones. The legitimacy of this claim can be substantiated regarding the presence of Kenny’s 82-year-old grandfather at the party, as well as some other guests through their advanced years. There, however, was even more to it. Throughout the party, Kenny’s grandfather never ceased exercising an unquestionable authority over the ritualistic matters of cutting the cake, presenting his grandson with gifts, and pronouncing toasts. There were several of Kenny’s other older relatives at the party, as well, including his aunt and two of his uncles – all of them used to boss younger people around. This represented a striking contrast to the commonly neglectful manner in which older people are often treated in WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) families.
- Hispanics appear to have a culturally predetermined high tolerance for alcohol. While at the party, I could not help noticing that most male guests continued to have straight shots of rum one after another and to chase them with beers. Oddly enough, these people were not becoming too drunk as a result. Most female guests have proven themselves no strangers to alcohol, as well. Kenny’s 18-year-old daughter Sharon must have had no fewer than 4-5 beers. At the same time, however, the alcohol drinking, on the guests’ part, did not seem to make them aggressive. Quite to the contrary – while boozed, these people tended to act particularly friendly towards each other and towards myself.
- Hispanics are endowed with a strong sense of ethnocultural solidarity. As I was able to confirm to myself, most Hispanic guests at the party did not only enjoy the company of each other, but also the fact that this company (except myself) was explicitly Puerto-Rican. In this respect, Kenny’s birthday party was not solely concerned with celebrating the person’s ‘special day’, as something that represented the value of a thing-in-itself. Rather, it served the purpose of providing the guests with the legitimate excuse to experience the sensation of ‘collective empowerment’. This partially explains why my friend has made a deliberate point in exposing the whole neighborhood to the loudly played Puerto-Rican music (Reggaeton) throughout the party’s entirety. At the same time, however, it did not escape my attention that the factor of skin color does affect how Hispanics perceive the surrounding social environment, as well as on their attitudes towards each other. In plain words, the members of the Hispanic community in this country are unconsciously driven to regard the darker color of one’s skin indicative of his or her lessened ‘worthiness’ – something that undermines this community’s unity to an extent.
- I choose Kenny (my Puerto-Rican friend) as a person to have the dialogue with. My choice, in this respect, was determined by the fact that we have known each other for a long time, which in turn provided us with plenty of opportunities to test each other’s trustworthiness – the main precondition for the intended dialogue to prove insightful. After all, the long history of friendship between us presupposes that there is indeed an emotional bond between Kenny and myself – the best guarantee that while indulging in the dialogue, neither of us would be willing to hold anything back from one another. I also decided to conduct the dialogue in a one-time sitting. There were two considerations behind my decision in this regard. First, living in another state, I now cannot afford to get together with my Puerto-Rican friend more often than once or maybe twice a year. Second, I believe that had there been multiple sessions to conducting the dialogue; this would result in making it much harder for both conversationalists to stay focused on the subject, which in turn would hurt the measure of the dialogue’s discursive integrity.
- I expect to complete the dialogue in a few weeks from now when Kenny and his crew will be delivering furniture to the customer in the state where I currently reside. Even though there are good fifty miles to this customer’s town from where I am, I still plan to take a trip to meet up with my friend. I have already informed him about the academic assignment that I am going to work on. Kenny replied that he would be happy to spend a few hours discussing the research-relevant matters of interest. He also agreed for the dialogue to be recorded.
- I believe that Kenny does fit perfectly well the characteristics of the population that I am studying. There are a few dimensions to this statement. First, my friend claims to be of the ‘old Spanish stock’. According to him, this explains the particulars of his physical appearance – specifically, the fact that he does not have what it takes to be referred to as an ‘ethnically visible’ person. In its turn, this is being reflective of the earlier mentioned ‘skin color’ discourse within the Hispanic community. Second, Kenny appears to be endowed with what is being commonly stereotyped as the ‘Hispanic’ mentality. In this respect, I can mention his tendency to disregard the provisions of political correctness/WASP ethics, his emotional comfortableness with being required to perform heavy physical labor, and his preoccupation with trying to prove himself an effective ‘hunter-gatherer’ for his family. Third, Kenny is very fond of Reggaeton music – just as is the case with the majority of young and middle-aged Puerto-Ricans in New England.
- To have the dialogue, Kenny and I agreed to meet in one of the town’s bars at the end of the day. I had a digital recorder on me to record the conversation. I also decided to order some drinks to ensure the natural flow of the dialogue – the kind of gesture, on my part, that Kenny did appreciate. By acting in such a manner, I was able to contribute towards establishing what can be referred to as a ‘conversational informality’ between us. This also prompted Kenny to loosen up his tongue. In the aftermath of having had a few drinks, he became particularly talkative -the development that proved rather helpful within the context of how I was striving to make sure that the dialogue between us would indeed prove insightful. After all, alcoholic beverages have always had the ‘cocktails of truth’ effect on my Puerto-Rican friend.
- The dialogue was concerned with discussing the topics relevant to the notion of ‘Hispanics’, in general, as well as with lending each other’s views on the issues of socio-cultural importance, in particular. The main insights that I gained during the conversation with Kenny are as follows: a). Kenny does not like Whites (WASPs that is) due to what he views as the indications of these people’s intellectual and biological degradation, reflected by their tolerant attitudes towards homosexuality and their rapidly declining fertility rate. At the same time, however, Kenny recognizes that there are many ‘worthy Whites’ (such as myself). b). Kenny considers himself a ‘good Catholic’. However, Kenny’s sense of religiosity is essentially concerned with his respect towards the Catholic rituals, rather than with his genuine willingness to follow Jesus’s commandments. c). Kenny believes that all of the country’s politicians are equally corrupted and that the governmental authorities are out there to cause people troubles.
Because of the particulars of my upbringing and my experiences of having worked as a mover with Hispanic coworkers, I can confirm that the outlined attitudes, on Kenny’s part, do have a cross-sectional value to them. That is, they are reflective of the workings of one’s ‘Hispanic mentality’, as a whole.
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Reaction and Critical Analysis
After having conducted the empirical phase of my immersion research, I came to conclude that the discursively relevant clues that I was able to attain during the process correlate well with my theoretical understanding of the cause-effect factors that contribute towards making one Hispanic identity, as it is being stereotyped by the Media. Hence, the synthesized (final) insights into the subject matter in question:
- Hispanics account for the culturally (and often visibly) distinctive population in the US, which continues to grow exponentially. The population’s largest segments consist of Mexicans (35 million) and Puerto-Ricans (6 million). Even though most Hispanics do cherish the values of ethnocultural solidarity, there continue to persist many tensions within their community. In its turn, this has to do with the concerned people’s hyphened interest in the ‘skin color’ matters, which is being facilitated even further by the specifics of the immigration law in the US. After all, it is not only that as opposed to Mexicans, all the Puerto-Ricans in America have legal status, but they also happen to be visually ‘lighter’ (on average) than the former. Nevertheless, despite the innate divisions amongst Hispanics, the combined socio-political influence of these people continues to increase – something that has been illustrated during the most recent Presidential elections.
- Most Hispanics are strongly affiliated with the mentioned ‘traditional values’ something that is being sublimated in these people’s tendency to prioritize staying in close touch with their friends and relatives, as well as in their strong preoccupation with family matters (Alvarez, 2013). The same can be said about the significance of these individuals’ strongly negative attitude towards the ‘celebration of sexual diversity’ policy, which used to be jammed down the citizens’ throats under Obama. Partially, this can be explained by the strong influence that the Catholic Church continues to exert on the formation of societal attitudes within the Hispanic community. However, there appears to be even more to it. Given the contemporary socio-economic realities in America, the traditionalist/solidarity predispositions of most Hispanics appear to have an evolutionary (concerned with the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle) quality to them, in the sense of making it easier for the group to compete with others for the same resource.
- As it was pointed out earlier, there are some reasons for one’s endowment with Hispanic identity to have ambivalent qualities. On one hand, Hispanics are more than comfortable with adopting a strongly communal approach to addressing life challenges (Beutell & Schneer, 2014). On the other hand, however, many of them cannot help experiencing the essential tribalist anxieties about what should be considered the societal implications of their compatriots’ skin coloring. This, in turn, is best explained by the Hispanics’ continual affiliation with the values of an unmistakably rural living, reflected by these people’s enthusiasm in ‘baby-making’ (children can be turned into agricultural helpers) and their aptness in exploiting the systemic weaknesses of the highly urbanized American society (such as the one concerned with the functioning of the country’s welfare-payment system).
- The Hispanic population in the US is overwhelmingly Catholic with most of its members considering themselves strongly religious. There is, however, a notable peculiarity to one’s ‘Hispanic’ sense of religiosity – the person’s willingness to observe only those Christianity’s provisions that do not directly oppose his or her biological agenda of passing its genome to the next generation and attaining dominance within the society. What this means is that there are strongly defined utilitarian overtones to the average Hispanic person’s religious positioning. At the same time, however, Hispanics are utterly fond of different Catholic rituals and celebrations – especially the ones with the heathen elements in them, such as the Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).
- The earlier mentioned affiliation with ‘traditional values’, on the part of the the studied community has a powerful effect on determining the essence of the relationship between the community members. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated regarding the prominently patriarchal sounding of the socially constructed code of behavioral ethics within the group. For example, most Hispanic women (especially the elderly ones) appear to be perfectly comfortable with the idea that men are in the position to exercise a ‘natural’ authority over them, which is yet another indication of the Hispanic population’s rural roots. At the same time, however, many younger Hispanics have proven themselves thoroughly capable of adopting a broader view on what accounts for the proper relationship between the representatives of both genders.
- Most Hispanics that were born and raised in the US use the English language for communicating with each other. However, they do tend to insert many Spanish words and idioms in their verbally delivered speeches – something that predetermined the emergence of what is being commonly referred to as a ‘Spanglish’ dialect, commonly heard on the streets of just about every large city in the US (Sánchez-Muñoz, 2013). Nevertheless, as time goes on, more and more of the recently arrived Hispanic immigrants (both legal and illegal) make a deliberate point in refusing to learn English. Such their stance is rather understandable – due to the particulars of the current demographic situation in the US, it is indeed thoroughly appropriate to expect the institutionalization of Spanish as the country’s second official language very shortly.
I believe that the outlined insights, regarding the chosen group, are fully consistent with the main idea promoted throughout the paper’s entirety – the ethnographic specifics of a particular population must be discussed in close conjunction with the affiliated socio-economic, political, and demographic circumstances. In its turn, this implies the appropriateness of the specifically Realist (as opposed to Constructivist) approach to defining the societal significance of one’s ethnocultural background and suggests that the person’s sense of ethnic identity never ceases to undergo a qualitative transformation. This, of course, calls for the abandonment of political correctness, as the discursive framework for designing social policies in this country.
Alvarez, S. (2013). Subversive English in “Raining Backwards”: A different kind of Spanglish. Hispania, 96(3), 444-459.
Beutell, N., & Schneer, J. (2014). Work-family conflict and synergy among Hispanics. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 29(6), 705-735.
Diller, J. (2015). Cultural diversity: A primer for the human services, 5th Edition. [MBS Direct]. Web.
Hitlin, S., Brown, J., & Elder, G. (2007). Measuring Latinos: Racial vs. ethnic classification and self-understandings. Social Forces, 86(2), 587-611.
Sánchez-Muñoz, A. (2013). Who soy yo?: The creative use of “Spanglish” to express a hybrid identity in Chicana heritage language learners of Spanish. Hispania, 96(3), 440-441.