Tag: American Dream

Dude, Chill

Like most Americans, I’ve watched this election season with a combination of amazement, amusement, befuddlement, and stark terror.

After all, we are perilously close to electing a president who is openly racist and misogynistic, ignorant of the Constitution, fond of fascism, and quite possibly demented.

But you know who is not afraid of this development?

That’s right — my fellow Latinos.


You see, a recent poll found that despite Trump’s “harsh anti-immigration rhetoric throughout this year’s presidential campaign, Hispanics are less likely than either whites or blacks to strongly agree that they are afraid of what will happen if their candidate loses.”

Just 38% of Hispanics say they are worried about the outcome of the presidential election. In contrast, 53% of whites fear the outcome, while 64% of blacks are nervous that their choice won’t become president.

Breaking down the numbers further, 45% of native-born Hispanics are afraid of what will happen if their candidate loses, compared with 30% of Hispanic immigrants.

Now, this may seem odd, in that Hispanics are second only to Muslims as objects of loathing in this election. And Latino immigrants, in particular, should be jittery as hell about the possibility of a Trump presidency. And yet, Hispanic immigrants are among the least worried about what happens in November.

But it actually makes sense.

Think about it — when was the last time you heard a Latino say, “If my candidate loses, I’m moving to Canada”? We don’t make empty threats like that, possibly because so many of us have already endured tremendous hardships to get here to America, so we’re not going to pack up and flee just because some jerk becomes the chief executive.

Also, there’s that whole thing about Hispanics being more optimistic about the future, more confident about the American Dream (however one defines it), and in general, just happier about life.

So yes, despite my fascination (bordering on obsession) with this year’s election, I’m not really worried about the outcome. Oh, don’t get me wrong. A Trump presidency would be a disaster. However, despite what you’ve heard from commentators both respected and fringe-dwelling, electing that narcissist would not mean the end of civilization.

Throughout our history, we Americans have overcome war, civil unrest, and economic calamity. Just add “terrorism” to that list, and you’re talking about the last decade alone. And yet we’re still here.

Certainly, four years of a delusional, mean-spirited little man at the helm would be extremely harmful, but it’s not going to destroy us.

And if that isn’t an all-American, patriotic, can-do viewpoint, then I don’t know what is.


This Is Either the Best Idea or the Worst Plan Ever

So I’ve been following the advice of the Freakonomics guys, who advise us to think like a child and ask seemingly naive questions in the pursuit of higher truths.

At first, my childlike wonder led to such inquiries as “Why do men have nipples?” and “Can you hit a baseball thrown at the speed of light?” and of course, “If zombies aren’t alive, why do they need to devour the brains of the living?”

But let’s face it, some questions are just unanswerable.


So I turned my attention to one of America’s big issues, and a subject that I have written about at length: immigration.

I asked myself, “Would something like the Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants be a good idea?”

For those of you who skipped U.S. history class to go smoke in the parking lot, here is a quick refresher: The Homestead Act was passed in 1862. It encouraged Western migration by giving settlers 160 acres of land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a filing fee and completed five years of residence before receiving ownership of the land.

So how does that relate to undocumented immigrants?

Well, right now, undocumented immigrants are either caught in an expensive, inefficient loop of deportation/return/deportation, or they live in constant fear of la migra. The system doesn’t work very well, which is something that both conservatives and liberals can agree upon.

And don’t fall for the classic mistake of saying undocumented immigrants should just wait in line to get their papers. It is well-established that for many people, there is no line and never will be.

So here’s my proposal: We say to undocumented immigrants, “Well, we can’t just hand you citizenship. But you can stay in the country if you agree to move someplace where your insane work ethic and tireless pursuit of the American Dream can benefit the nation.”

And then we give them the option of claiming an abandoned house in Detroit’s inner city, or moving to a small town that’s dying, or going to some other location where they can help reestablish a troubled community and work off their debt. If they live in the location for a certain number of years without getting into legal trouble, and pay a filing fee, they get citizenship.

Yes, that’s crazy. Because we can’t solve a societal issue by giving away vacant homes… except that we can. And an influx of newcomers won’t revive rural America or fading cities… except that it can. And the cultural clashes that would erupt over such a policy are insurmountable… except that they’re not.

In essence, there is a precedent for each element of this idea. It would be a massive undertaking loaded with political landmines, but hey, what isn’t these days?

Also, this would not be the only way for undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. It would be one of several potential pathways available to them.

Now, I’m not saying this a great idea. I’m just asking the question and looking for feedback. So what do you say? Is a new Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants worth pursuing?

Publish or Perish

It may be apocryphal. But supposedly an unnamed New York publishing executive was once asked why there were so few books by Hispanic authors, or novels featuring Latino characters.

His response was a blasé “Hispanics don’t read.”

This is indeed bad news, as apparently none of you Hispanic readers are literate enough to even comprehend this article. And I’m not literate enough to write it, which is quite the paradox.


In any case, that publishing exec was clearly not familiar with Latin America’s rich literary tradition, exemplified by the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the greatest writer of all time (let’s not debate this). He also didn’t know that one Latin American country, Cuba, has the highest literacy rate in the world.

But closer to home, why hadn’t this exec heard of the brilliant Junot Díaz or the groundbreaking Sandra Cisneros? Or did he believe only white people were reading those authors?

For whatever reason, our anonymous publishing executive refused to believe that the largest ethnic minority in America was interested in books. And in this refusal came justification for the continued blackballing of Latino authors.

“There are several factors contributing to the paucity of published books written by Latinos,” says Marcela Landres, an editorial consultant who publishes the award-winning e-zine Latinidad and co-founded the Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference.

“Primarily, we need more Latinos on the inside working in key positions, such as agents, publicists, sales reps, bookstore owners, and especially as acquisitions editors,” she says.

Landres adds that Hispanic culture itself is another barrier.

“Latinos immigrated to the U.S. so their kids could live the American Dream, which is defined by financial security,” Landres says. “Writing generally does not pay well, so our parents understandably pressure us to choose more sensible careers. In order to be successful as artists, Latinos need to respect our parents but perhaps not obey them.”

As any Hispanic can tell you, disobeying your parents is a tall order. But that is another story.

In any case, some Latino advocates believe that the big publishing houses have hoodwinked us into buying their mainstream books, giving them little impetus to change the formula.

Of course, one strategy to force change is to bypass the big publishing houses altogether. That’s what I did with my novel Barrio Imbroglio.

After some nibbles of interest from the majors, I got the picture that my black comedy tale — about a reluctant detective named Hernandez — didn’t fit in with the preconceived notions about Hispanic literature. Yes, I had the word “barrio” right there in the title, but where were all the undocumented immigrants and magic realism and metaphors using avocados? It was a little too different. So I’ve done what more and more authors — Latino and otherwise — are doing, and publishing directly to Amazon.

But this end run has its drawbacks.

“There are few Latino self-publishing success stories,” says Landres. “I have yet to see literary writers, and/or writers who take years to produce a single manuscript, whose self-published books have sold well. If you write genre and have a bunch of books ready to go, the odds are in your favor. If you’re a literary writer who spends years polishing a single manuscript, not so much.”

In addition to the self-publishing crapshoot, there is the unpleasant fact that — like it or not — the NYC houses still have the most influence on what people read. And they are not packing the midlist with Hispanic authors.

Now, this isn’t just a matter of fairness, nor is it even all about artistic integrity and the myth of meritocracy. A more fundamental reason becomes clear when one considers that “Latino children seldom see themselves in books.” Education experts say, “the lack of familiar images could be an obstacle as young readers work to build stamina and deepen their understanding of story elements like character motivation.”

Basically, there are only so many tales of brave and adventurous white people that Hispanic kids can read. At some point, they disconnect.

And if that is the future we want — a self-fulfilling prophecy where Hispanics truly don’t read — then we should just preserve the status quo.


Faith or Delusion?

I’ve written before that Latinos tend to be more optimistic about life and have more confidence in their economic futures.


Well, a new survey confirms that Hispanics’ “faith in the American Dream exceeds that of whites and African Americans,” adding that this optimism “contrasts sharply with the current economic status of Hispanics.”

Basically, even though the Great Recession hit Latinos harder than most groups, it is those same Hispanics who have the strongest belief that everything will work out fine. According to the survey’s authors, “the upbeat attitude … is due in part to the fact that Hispanic immigrants often start with little and expect to sacrifice much to move up, while native-born adults may have already seen their expectations lose ground in an ailing economy.”

So whites and blacks, whose roots in America are more likely to go back generations, tend to say, “This sucks worse than ever.” But Latinos often shrug off the same bad news with “I’ve seen worse.”

Still, as great as it is that Latinos are remaining optimistic and staying strong, “the reality for most Hispanics is less rosy” than their faith implies.

So the question becomes, is this determined mindset a self-fulfilling prophecy, where hard work and a never-say-die spirit is rewarded? Or are Latinos just saps for still believing “they are more likely to move up than down in social class over the next few years”?

In any case, the survey points out that “the hopes and struggles of Hispanics are of particular interest now as they are exercising unprecedented political clout.”

Yes, it’s good to have faith. But it’s better to have power.



I’ve written before about the asphyxiating grasp that rich people have on the American Dream. As we know, the concept of social mobility is, at best, a faded myth that may never be relevant again. At worst, it is delusional pabulum served up to the masses to prevent them from revolting.



But just in case you thought you could get ahead by sheer hard work and a can-do attitude, consider the following fact: According to one study, your degree of social mobility depends to a large degree upon where you live.

So for those of you who are poor in, say, Georgia, the odds are pretty good that your children are not going to swing the middle-class lifestyle. But don’t worry, “the chances that affluent children grow up to be affluent are broadly similar across metropolitan areas.” So again, the rich are going to be ok.

But wait — isn’t education the great equalizer? Well, nabbing a college degree is indeed one of the best ways to increase your income. Unfortunately, many kids are being priced out by tuitions that can only be called obscene. Again, however, you don’t have to fret over the wealthy. Because “college students have a better chance of getting financial aid if they come from affluent backgrounds than if they are lower on the income scale.” Yes, once again, the wealthy get a break denied to others, even if — as in this case — they don’t need it nearly as much as people on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale.

Of course, Hispanic kids are less likely to be rich in the first place. And thanks to backward cultural priorities, the odds are good that their children and grandchildren won’t be financially secure either.

Well, at least it won’t be awkward at Thanksgiving dinner, because we won’t have to endure about those rich relatives flaunting their wealth. Because everybody will be broke.


What? Me, Worry?

A year ago, I wrote about how the Great Recession hit Latinos hard. At the time, I was hopeful that the worst was behind us. Perhaps that was my natural Hispanic tendency to be optimistic.

After all, Latinos “are worse off, but they are still more positive about where the country is going” compared to most Americans. In particular, “Latino small-business owners are among the fastest growing and most upbeat [groups] in the nation,” and they “worry less about job security and are more positive and humble.”

To continue reading this post, please click here.


Getting Down to Business

So the Baby Boomers, as they are wont to do, are ready to take the money and run. Apparently, many older entrepreneurs will soon sell off their business and retire.

Well, we shouldn’t worry. After all, entrepreneurialism is a cornerstone of the fabled American Dream, and small businesses drive the economy. So I’m sure some young, smart, hardworking go-getters will keep the new ideas coming…unless of course, we’ve decimated educationpromoted ignorance, and ravaged the social safety net to the point that we are unleashing a generation ill-equipped to tap into their own creativity.

OK, now I’m worried.

To continue reading this post, please click here.


We’re Number One…Maybe

There is no room for second place.…If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?

—Vince Lombardi


Recently, I wrote that American education pales in comparison to other countries’ school systems.

But America is still the place for those hardworking, ambitious people who want a better life, right? After all, one reason so many Latinos have come to the USA is that it is the land of opportunity.

Well, when it comes to social mobility — the cornerstone of the American Dream — we have more of a caste system than most industrialized nations, so “if you want your children to climb the socioeconomic ladder higher than you did, move to Canada.”

To continue reading this post, please click here.



Climbing Out of the Hole

As of right now, America still has a functioning economy. We’re not sure if we can pay all our bills, of course, and maybe China will just take ownership soon and have a fire sale on things we never use, like national parks and the state of North Dakota.

But for now, we’re still standing. That fact means different things to different people, however.

For example, the gap between Hispanics and prosperity has rarely been so vast.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

A Trio of Sensitive Topics

Every now and then, I have to undertake a quick roundup on contemporary issues that befuddle, perplex, or amuse me. Considering that I have been in a nonproductive haze for the last week or so (it’s a long story, and you don’t want to hear it), this is a good time for me to tackle these mini controversies, these bite-sized morsels of interest that might not warrant a full, in-depth post but that should be addressed.

First, as befitting its status, we will start with the female breast. I think we’re all big fans, but this week, the news about breasts took a decidedly Hispanic turn.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Latina moms are more likely than any other group to breastfeed their babies. The study gave no reason for this, but I have to presume that the strong Hispanic emphasis on family (and therefore, upon babies and children) is one reason that Latina mothers are more willing to put up with sore nipples and occasional social awkwardness.

The researchers said that “breast-feeding benefits both mothers and their babies” but add that “the longer Hispanic immigrants are in the U.S., the more accepting they are of using baby formula. They also tend to adopt worse eating habits and lifestyles for themselves.” One researcher said, “Their health actually begins to decline.”

So for all those who say that Hispanic immigrants don’t assimilate, here is further proof that you’re wrong. Given enough time, Latinos from other countries quickly grow obese and sickly, just like the rest of us. God bless America!

Speaking of the American Dream, the favorite immigrant of Republicans, Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued yet another idiotic faux pas this week. My state’s governor said that Hispanics are naturally temperamental and “are all very hot. They have the, you know, part of the black blood in them and part of the Latino blood in them that together makes it.”

It’s an interesting theory of eugenics, but then again, it does come from a man who knows a thing or two about mixing races – or mingling circuitry with human flesh, same thing.

I’m not a huge fan of Schwarzenegger’s politics. For that matter, I’m not too crazy about a lot of his movies. So it’s not bias toward the governor when I say that his comments sound more like a moronic attempt to be funny than an outright slur. The target of his joke, a Latina state official, said as much. Therefore, I think we can let the guy off the hook, especially because he quickly apologized. But let’s watch it, Mr. Governator.

This brings me to my final item. It seems that I have fresh competition in the Latino blogosphere. This week, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that he’s starting his own blog. Chavez said, “I am going to dig my own trench on the Internet,” with the intention of spreading his revolution through cyberspace. I, for one, look forward to reading the insights of a touchy head of state who is, quite frankly, a bit of a lunatic. I’m sure it will not be boring.

In addition to these brief updates, let me thank, as always, everyone who has commented on my recent posts. Yes, I’m talking to you, Niall, Clairela, Pete, and Mary Lynn. And here’s a special shout out to Ankhesen, who posted a treasure trove of Hispanic humor in the comments section for my post “A Priest, a Rabbi…”

Take a look.

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