The term ‘Hispanics in America’ implies the Americans belonging to the Hispanic society, who chiefly follow the Hispanic cultural customs and tradition. Hispanics comprise nearly fifteen percent of the total U.S. population which can be calculated to approximately 45 million people making them rank second amongst ethnic groups, only after the European-Americans (2006 American Community Survey).
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Hispanics also comprise secondary groups or sub-divisions including Mexican Americans, Colombian Americans, and many such like. The populace of Hispanic legacy has resided constantly in the contemporary United States ever since 1565 when St Augustine, Florida, was instituted by the Spanish who have been the longest residing among all the European American ethnic groups and undoubtedly rank second among all the surviving all U.S. ethnic groups only after the American Indians (U.S. Census Bureau, July 2001).
There are considerable variations in the culture of the Hispanic Community but the occurrences of several common elements serve in uniting the Hispanics from varied backgrounds. The English language is used commonly and Spanish is not used as a means of communication habitually. The children and grandchildren of some immigrants’ families by and large speak English with some use of Spanish words and phrases. On the whole, about three-quarters of the Hispanic populace speaks English, with the majority of them speaking very well because sixty percent of the Hispanics are born in the United States.
Hispanic Americans are chief benefactors to the financial system as a majority of them are in fundamental occupations such as dry-cleaning, catering, dish-washing, cleaning, production, construction workers, etc. There are numerous besides these who have established their private enterprises by setting up eateries, provisional stores, and many such smaller business units.
Hispanics in America are a varied group that comprises persons belonging to diverse origins such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, along with Central and South Americans. Thus, the Hispanic Americans are a group that embodies an assortment of people from numerous cultural backgrounds among which are included the Europeans, American Indians, and even the Africans.
Approximately two-thirds of American Hispanics are Roman Catholic. (Joseph Claude Harris, 2000). In Latin America, the number rises to about 80 percent. (Jean-Pierre Bastian, 1998). The Spanish language and the Roman Catholic religion are among the oldest and most important cultural bonds uniting Hispanics. Individual prayer is an important characteristic and is extremely common among Hispanics. Many homes even enclose small places of worship for the family members to perform their prayers.
Hispanics are generally Catholics by religion and as such follow the traditions and features of the Catholic community. Christmas is the chief festival and a majority of workers take leave and most of the schools are closed for the concluding weeks of December to rejoice. The Hispanic Americans additionally celebrate the ‘Cinco de Mayo’ with great fervor and enthusiasm which is also one of the most famous days of the year in the United States for and is in honor of the 1862 Mexican defeat of the French army.
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Hispanic families follow the traditional nuclear family systems and may consist of the extended family along with godparents. In Hispanic tradition, the family is of ultimate importance and there is great value for life as also the intelligence of senior members of the family. They greatly value the family constitution and truly believe in the concept of hard work, honesty thereby aspiring for achieving the objective of a healthy life.
Other aspects that Hispanics greatly value and cherish our friendship, faithfulness, offspring, and most importantly mothers. The concept of divorce is not accepted well and as such is a rarity in Latin America, but with the changing times, the number is now on the rise. Traditionally, the father or the oldest male member of the family is the chief of the family unit, making his judgment the ultimate one.
The Hispanic community mostly follows the practice of nonverbal communication which stems from the high esteem and respect they have for all people in particular. They avoid straight eye contact with not only power and senior people but also with those who they perceive to be of a different or superior class. Handshaking is considered polite and is usually welcomed. Family members may show respect for health care providers by standing when he or she enters the room. Elderly Hispanics should not be addressed by using his or her first name.
High proportions of the Hispanic immigrants are from the rural regions and have traditionally lived in poverty which adversely has affected their overall health and welfare. A majority of immigrants who had been employed in their homelands worked for very low wages in unskillful occupations. As such numerous Hispanic Americans live in poverty.
There is high growth in the rate of poverty among Hispanic Americans in general. (Greenstein R., Porter K., Shapiro I., Leonard P., Barancki S., 1988). According to a survey, the average annual earning for Hispanic men, in 1993 was about 22,000 dollars. It has been established that a quarter of Hispanic American families live in acute paucity with the female populace, children, along the aged being the most vulnerable to the high rise in the percentage of poverty among them. (Shinagawa, Hajime L., Jang, Michael., 1990).
The high rate and the constant growth of poverty among Hispanics have been attributed to several factors such as the inability to speak and write or lack of fluency in the English language and the lack of the necessary education or skills, as being the major causes. This results in a reduction in the opportunities for employment for the unskilled and uneducated Hispanics, or miserable wages among those who are employed but not educated or skilled enough.
There are further cultural and traditional restrictions in the Hispanic groups which coupled with the dearth of communal welfare programs can be seen as the major causes of the escalating poverty among the Hispanic population. (Rodriguez, S, 1995). Needless to say, poverty brings with it a multitude of problems that the Hispanic community in America is bearing the brunt of. To add to it, there is a racial bias towards the community in America most people misguidedly presume that all Hispanics are identical and therefore have the same attitude and traditions. Thus, we see that despite being a major community in terms of population, the Hispanics are by and large facing numerous economic as well as social problems.
Greenstein R., Porter K., Shapiro I., Leonard P., Barancki S., (1988), ‘Shortchanged: Recent Developments in Hispanic Poverty, Income and Employment’, (Washington, D.C.: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).
Jean-Pierre Bastian, ‘The New Religious Map of Latin America: Causes and Effects. Cross Currents’, Fall 1998.
Joseph Claude Harris. Are American Catholics in Decline? 2000. America.
Rodriguez, S. 1995. ‘Hispanics in the United States: An insight into group characteristics’. Department of Health and Human Services.
Shinagawa, Hajime L., Jang, Michael, ‘Atlas of American Diversity’, 1990, AltaMira Press 75-95.
U.S. Census Bureau, ‘State and County Quick Facts’. 2001.
The Britannica Encyclopedia website, Florida, United States. Web.