Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 1Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia Jeffrey Hastings University of Phoenix
Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 2 AbstractThe demographic categories Hispanic American and Latino American are overlapping and imperfect,referring to a quickly-growing segment of the American population who are of Spanish-speakingdescent. As troublesome, vague and vast as the twin designations may be, it is nonetheless importantfor Americans whose origins fall outside of either characterization to attempt to understand thesegroups culturally, even if a crude aggregate has to serve as a starting point for that understanding.What follows will no doubt verge on generalization, but it reflects the efforts of the author to present,compare and contrast the cultural norms of Hispanic/Latino Americans to the general population of theUnited States. Much of the cultural information is derived from CultureGrams World Edition 2010entries detailing the cultures of the nations whose emigrant families have come to represent theHispanic/Latino American spectrum.
Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 3 Hispanic Culture—Mia Familia The 2011 online edition of the World Book Student encyclopedia estimates that there areapproximately 45 million Hispanic Americans currently living in the United States. Together, theyrepresent almost 15 percent of the entire U.S. Population. The vast majority, about 64 percent, areMexican Americans. Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican Americans, respectively, follow indiminishing percentages of the total Hispanic American pie, but each, the source says, constitutes underten percent of Hispanic Americans. Citizens from Central and South America, combined, make up anadditional 13 percent, while only a “small percentage” of Hispanic Americans are from Spain. (Garcia,2011). While some cultural conventions of Hispanic/Latino Americans might be seen as “acceptable”by Americans outside the growing minority, others require a bit more understanding. Heres a summaryof both, starting with those outsiders might deem “acceptable,” or even “endearing.” According to CultureGrams, Mexican Americans, like many peoples, express a tender respectfor loved ones by referring to them as if tiny treasures, using Spanish diminutives. Thus the word forgrandfather, abeulo, becomes abuelito. (ProQuest, 2011). The same source indicates that HispanicAmericans originating from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico both touch more and stand closer to oneanother during normal social interaction than non-hispanic Americans; a handshake is common whensaying goodbye, a kiss on the cheek a common greeting to females (ProQuest, 2011). MexicanAmericans value verbal expressions of deference and respect, con permiso, being the equivalent of“pardon me” when passing, and gracias the expected expression of thanks for any business service orpersonal favor (ProQuest, 2011). Cubans, CultureGrams says, value eye contact as a sign of sincerity,and often touch or tap the person with whom they are conversing (ProQuest, 2011). Both Cubans and
Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 4Puerto Ricans beckon each other by waving the fingers with the palm down, to do so otherwise wouldbe impolite. (ProQuest 2011).In general, all of the major nationalities/ethnicities that contribute to the Hispanic/Latino-Americanspectrum seem to have a few social characteristics in common: a value of human familiarity andmeaningful physical/social contact, a high regard for family and the importance of associated ritualsand hospitalities, and rigid adherence to a protocol of respect when addressing strangers and elders.Linguistically, this deference plays out in the use of Tú and Usted. In Spanish, there are four forms ofthe pronoun “you.” One says, in the singular, Tú, when speaking to a friend, but Usted when addressingsomeone older or less familiar. Vosotros and Ustedes are the plural forms, respectively (Irving 1992). Though most Hispanic/Latino American cultural norms would strike most non-HispanicAmericans as being warmly human, expressing a value for familial intimacy and respect worthy ofadmiration, if not emulation; other cultural norms might be seen as less acceptable to outsiders.According to CultureGrams, for example, Mexican males often make flirtatious remarks (piropos) tofemales as they pass, suggestive comments generally not acknowledged by their female targets. Whilethat is an extreme example of a cultural divide reportedly peculiar to Mexican men, CultureGrams alsosays that many nationalities contributing to Hispanic/Latino American cultures also exhibit a relaxedattitude toward schedules, timetables and deadlines (ProQuest, 2011). While the first example of these differences may seem difficult to defend, the second is moreeasily attributable—across the board—to peoples who value the substance of meaningful humaninteraction and exchange above the temporal tick-tocks that may or may not lead to them. In bothcases, though, these mores challenge non-Hispanics to be more circumspect when judging individualbehaviors and to take into account the greater societal differences from which they were borne. Ofcourse, for better or worse, cultures collide and commingle. Both these examples, as such, may befading vestiges of characteristics that do not long survive the crossing of geographic and cultural
Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 5boundaries. Religion is another dominant force in Hispanic-American Culture. In particular, according toDISCovering Multicultural America, over 75 percent of Hispanic Americans consider themselvesCatholic. (Gale, 2003.) As such, colorful fiestas, many based on Roman Catholic holy days and saints,continue to be celebrated by Hispanic Americans. Secular holidays persist too, celebrating nativeagricultural rituals, sporting events, and national holidays. Las Navidadas is naturally important, withthe January 6 Epiphany being the big capper; and Puerto Ricans continue to celebrate their officialsaint, San Juan, with a feast in late June. Cubans mark a girls fifteenth birthday with a religious serviceand party called a guinceanera, a coming of age celebration akin to the mainstream “sweet sixteen,”but much more steeped in tradition and meaning. Of course, theres Cinco de Mayo, MexicosIndependence Day, and perhaps the most curious and meaningful of all Hispanic holidays: el dia de losmeurtos, the Day of the Dead, a two day celebration that begins each November; one in which familiestake time to celebrate and venerate their dead loved ones (Nickles, 2001, p. 28). The Day of the Dead may serve as the most poignant example of what unique elementsHispanic/Latino Americans contribute to the cultural fabric of the United States: all those things deeplyhuman; the elemental, sexual, spiritual and earthly cyclical; the stuff every culture needs for meaning,but the stuff that most modern cultures tend to eventually discard and forget.
Hispanic Culture – Mia Familia 6 ReferencesGale (2003). Hispanics and Religion. DISCovering Multicultural America. Retrieved January 23, 2011 from Gale Student Resources in Context.Garcia, H.D.C. (2011). Hispanic Americans. World Book Student. Retrieved January 23, 2011 from World Book Online database.Irving, N. (1992). Learn Spanish. London: Usborne Publishing.Nickles, G. (2001). The Hispanics. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company.ProQuest (2011). Cuba. CultureGrams World Edition 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2011 from ProQuest database.ProQuest (2011). Mexico. CultureGrams World Edition 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2011 from ProQuest database.ProQuest (2011). Puerto Rico. CultureGrams World Edition 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2011 from ProQuest database.