BY ESTHER J. CEPEDA, Washington Post Writers Group
CHICAGO -- “Gerardo Lamas, the official spokesman for all Hispanics in the United States, resigned Thursday night,” the satirical news site pocho.com deadpanned earlier this month. “’... I’ll never be able to please anybody. ... The truth is it’s ridiculous to expect one person to be able to speak for millions from diverse backgrounds, geopolitical situations, economic castes and region-specific cultures,’ he said.”
Leave it to a culture’s court jesters to hilariously reiterate that the homogenous “Hispanic community” is nothing more than a fiction.
Lately it seems that the mainstay “power in numbers” sentiment has been breaking apart.
There are those who think President Obama did the right thing in delaying executive actions for illegal immigrants until after the midterm elections. And there are others who are hopping mad that the president went back on his word and have now lost all faith in him.
There are those who believe the only way Hispanics are going to get the political power they crave -- enough to not be shoved aside by party leaders when things get heated -- is to turn out in historic numbers in every election until candidates take them seriously. And then there are those who say that a boycott at the polls is necessary to punish Democrats for not being more courageous regarding immigration issues.
Even those who are only marginally interested in the political particulars but care about the big picture should beware: Nuanced viewpoints on immigration issues are no longer appreciated.
To hear those associated with the “dreamer” movement -- many of whom are calling for legalization and eventual citizenship for just about every unlawfully present immigrant in this country, and even for some who have already been deported -- tell it, you are either “for” immigrants or you are a hateful, xenophobic bigot.
In fact, if you are Hispanic and not willing to throw in the towel on an eventual, bipartisan immigration overhaul -- or not ready to entertain the idea of throwing our southern border open to everyone who needs economic asylum -- why, you might not even actually be Hispanic.
Though Hispanic icons Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, and labor leader and hunger striker Eliseo Medina have been lumped into a group of none-too-admired Obama apologists, at least no one has gotten mad enough to publicly denounce them as not “truly” being Hispanic.
Yet according to Latino Decisions researcher Gabriel Sanchez, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King, who is running for governor against Republican incumbent Susana Martinez, paraphrased Huerta and slammed his opponent by saying: “’She [Huerta] said you can’t go out there and just vote for somebody for governor because they have a Latino surname, she said you have to look at them and find out if they have a Latino heart.’ King then stated, ‘And we know that Susana Martinez does not have a Latino heart,’” referring to her hard-line stances on illegal immigration.
In his blog post, “The Politics of Latino Representation in New Mexico,” Sanchez marveled: “A non-Hispanic, white man assumed the role of arbiter of Hispanic authenticity, and asserted that the only Hispanic female governor in American history is insufficiently Hispanic at heart.”
That’s how it is these days. You’re either one of “us” or one of “them” -- and there’s no end to the number of people who will categorize you this way based on your views about immigration.
Yet the whole premise is a fallacy. There is no singular, unifying belief on immigration that can serve as a litmus test for anyone’s Hispanic authenticity.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that of Hispanic Democrats polled, 52 percent felt the party was mishandling immigration. But nearly 10 percent of those respondents said their unhappiness stems from the party being too willing to allow immigrants living illegally in the U.S. to gain legal status.
That Hispanics hold differing and sometimes conflicting political beliefs and views on immigration shouldn’t be a surprise and is not a weakness. Their strength lies in their diversity, and they’re better off being a messy reality than a mythical monolith.
Esther J. Cepeda is a Nationally Syndicated Columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and President of The EJC Agency: creative content & marketing/communications http://www.eejayceeinc.com