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July 14th, 2011
Latinos Are “Mixed,” Too

Most times, Americans don’t think of Latinos as being mixed or multicultural, but in reality Latinos are leaders of multiculturalism and mixed families.  Start off with the fact that most Latinos come from a combination of European and Native ancestry, a mixing that began with the colonization of the Americas.

But beyond that there are other historical mixings, including African ancestry, Latinos in the U.S. are also in the unique position of straddling the borders of two dominating cultures, popular American culture and that of their own Latino heritage.  This puts Latinos in an excellent position to understand a variety of perspectives and address multiculturalism with ease.

In fact, Latinos make up a good part of the cultural mixing going on in the U.S. right now.  The Pew Research Center reports that 14.6% of all new U.S. marriages are interracial or interethnic and of those marriages 26% include those who identify as Hispanic or Latino.

But even though Latinos are intermarrying at a higher rate than most and have long been mixing among themselves, it seems that most Americans don’t think of Latinos as culturally and socially mixed and wouldn’t necessarily bring them up in a conversation about mixed heritage or think of them as multiracial and multicultural.

Why?  This is something of a mystery to me. But, perhaps it’s the fact that Latinos have been mixing for so long that it’s hard to see it as an abstract — or maybe it’s the social stereotyping of mixed families as classically “black and white” that prevents Americans from viewing Latinos as part of the big picture? No matter the reason, Latinos are often well-versed in social and cultural mixing and it appears that the census numbers and studies are showing their growing comfort with the topic.

A recent article in Racialicious examines the depth of the “who’s ‘mixed’ and who isn’t” discussion.  While there are some clear distinctions between the experiences of “first generation” mixies and those who have mixed ancestry, some feel that only “first generation” individuals should count.  It could also be argued, however, that both are considered “mixed” since their bloodlines each consist of multiracial heritage.

In one step further though, you could even consider mono-racial, but multicultural families “mixed” in a sense…as in culturally mixed.  Any way you slice it and no matter how you label it, a multitude of mixed families have more in common than not and could benefit from sharing their unique stories, rather than alienating each other when certain “technical” qualifications aren’t met.

Mixed lifestyle isn’t simply a “black and white” topic, and since Latinos make up a rather large piece of the pie, shouldn’t they be a bigger part of that conversation?

Chantilly Patiño writes the blog Bicultural Mom, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @biculturalmom.

[Image Courtesy Pew]

15 thoughts on “Latinos Are “Mixed,” Too

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  8. True our roots are all these things and more but when we start talking about the African Diaspora MOST people who call themselves “Black” are mixed with the same groups you just pointed out. In this case, Dominicans are predominantly mixed with European and African, the Spanish pretty much killed of MOST of the natives of Hispanola. This is the case for MOST black Americans. The history is the same. The English came to America with slaves, raped and killed the Natives just the same way the Spanish came to whatever respective Latin country with slaves, raped and killed the Natives and there you have our mezcla. The history of Blacks in America, Blacks in Latin America, Blacks in the Caribbean as far as slavery is concerned has the same exact mixing, so I’d have to disagree, there really is no difference in terms of mixing. Culture and ethnicity is another thing but when you get down to the crux of how we all came to be, it is the same.

  9. Este interes por los origenes de las personas no se ve tanto en mi pais, Colombia. Solo al llegar a Estados Unidos, me di cuenta de que la gente siempre pregunta por la “nacionalidad” a la que perteneces, pero no se refieren solamente al lugar donde naciste sino de donde provienen tus antepasados. Es por esto que en este pais se ven a muchos “irlandeses” que nunca han estado en Irlanda en mas de 3 generaciones. Lo mismo pasa con muchos “italianos” y demas europeos. En Colombia tenemos mezcla de aborigenes, espanoles, africanos y hasta de libaneses, pero cuando nos preguntan por “nuestro background”, la mayoria simplemente respondemos somos colombianos.

  10. I just had this discussion yesterday with a co-worker who is African American. She mentioned how she was speaking to a man who asked if she was Dominican. She said that she was indeed Black, which, in her opinion, was the same as being Dominican minus the Spanish. That’s when I discussed the differences, pointing out that we, as Dominicans and Latinos in general, are very mixed. We are not just African or Spanish or Native. Our roots are all of these things and more.

    Great post!

  11. Chantilly, I love this article, and agree that it is so important — especially as we look at demographic changes — to address the very real *identity* issues that people face and have to address daily.  When I first met a (now) friend of mine, Elliott Lewis, author of the book “Fade:  My Journeys in Multiracial America” I said, “well, by definition Latinos are multi-racial.”  But it’s true that people don’t conceive of us this way — for a host of historical, social and legal reasons — and he pointed out to me that in part he couldn’t talk about some of these issues because as Latinos we’re counted differently and therefore the data points aren’t there (that is to say, we can’t compare apples to apples the way we can with other groups).  The U.S. Census in 2010 highlighted this issue, and made the definition of our racial construct even more confusing.  Ok, long comment, but a long overdue conversation, and a great post.  Thanks for starting the conversation!

  12. Oh my gosh. Not only are we mixed, but also a little mixed up! LOL Just kidding, just kidding.

    Your thoughts are interesting to me, especially because I am mixed — with Cuban, Spanish and long-time American with roots in Sweden and Scotland…I’ve always thought of myself as mixed heritage and culture and shared of myself in that way. (and goodness knows what else is in there…)

    I can’t really imagine non-Latinos not thinking of us as mixed.

    And really, I find it interesting that there are “experts” who decide who is mixed and who isn’t. 
    If you feel bicultural, bi-racial, mixed, then you are…identity is complex and personal.

  13. I am an American of Hispanic descent. I have faced my share of discrimination. Businesses have rejected me because I don’t look Hispanic and I have a non-Hispanic last name.. My brother has been offered jobs for which I could not qualify. He has darker skin. Same last name. He speaks less Spanish than I do. I was denied a position on the Hispanic Law Review for the same reasons- not brown enough. My mother moved to the US as a six year old child. Her first language was Spanish. Her mother never learned English. My mother was naturalized in her thirties. I was raised among my mother’s six siblings living in San Antonio. Iwas raised in a predominately Mexican American neighborhood. Yet, I am not considered Hispanic. Bigotry runs in both directions. Look at Dan Ramos. He epitomized bigotry. We need to embrace all races equally.

  14. Excellent article. You write so clearly on a topic that can easily become quite convoluted!

    That’s an interesting thought about how many people may see “mixed” as being solely black & white. I would say there’s definitely something there. I remember reading once that while the show “I Love Lucy” brought down a lot of barriers and was way ahead of their time – most people didn’t really see Lucille and Desi as a “mixed” couple. (At the time CBS was concerned that they wouldn’t be accepted but I guess they didn’t prove to be as controversial as a black/white couple may have been.)As for who qualifies as “biracial” or “multi-racial” — that’s rather sticky. I understand why those who are “first generation mixed” may feel the need to define and find others who can identify with the unique struggles they may have faced, but I think any kind of “rule” that eliminates or categorizes people in a way they don’t wish to be, could be a slippery slope.Thought-provoking, Chantilly! Should be a good discussion.

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