The racial and ethnic picture unveiled by the 2020 Census clearly reflects the demographic trends of recent decades: The color of the United States is becoming less white and more brownish-white.
Both the absolute number and the proportion of non-Hispanic whites are declining, while people of Latino origin accounted for about half of the population growth: the almost 62.1 million Hispanics are now 18.7% of the country’s population.
The United States thus advances, unstoppably, to consolidate itself as an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural nation.
But beneath the surface of the general statistics of the growth of our community, which increased 23% between 2010 and 2020, there is a revealing statistic: One in every 4 young people under the age of 18 across the country identifies as Latino or Latina.
In the individual states of the country, the demographic weight of the new generations of Latinas and Latinos under 18 years of age is greater: In New Mexico they represent 59.4% of that segment; in California 51.6%; in Texas, 48.6%; in Arizona, 43.7%; in Nevada, 40.6%, in Florida, 32.5% and in Colorado, 31.6%.
The figures clearly have serious social, political and cultural repercussions. Arturo Vargas, the director of NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials), is right when he states that the United States, “cannot address challenges such as poverty, poor health care, or lack of access to quality education without personalized approaches that improve opportunities and well-being for women, Latino families and children.”
That is, within the priorities of the massive 3.5 trillion-dollar social infrastructure package that Congress is currently examining, social spending for youth in general, and Latino youth in particular should be seen as the seed of a long-term investment for the strength of the nation.
The statistics can also have a political reading: the one that will sway these new generations is the party that knows how to speak in the language of these young people, most of whom were born in the United States and live in a bilingual and bicultural space, although English is their dominant language.
And speaking the language of these young people does not mean simply communicating with them in English, Spanish or Spanglish, but connecting with them in depth: understanding their reality, their challenges, their needs and their aspirations.
It seems to me that Democrats took an important step in that direction by insisting on investing more than $65 billion in enabling high-speed Internet throughout the country, as it could especially benefit communities of color, including Latinos, and reduce the digital divide in the United States.
That age-old debate between the sleeping giant or the awake giant is a thing of the past. The demographic powerhouse of the Latino community is here among us, (the numbers prove it), and it has a youthful face. Now the task of investing the human and financial resources necessary to prepare those leaders of the future continues.
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