Is America Becoming a Hispanic Country?

Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN, March 18, 2011

The United States is becoming an Hispanic country. And it’s happening much faster than anyone expected.

According to an analysis of newly released 2010 U.S. Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, the Hispanic population in the United States is growing more quickly and more dramatically than demographers had estimated.

In the 33 states for which data has been released so far, there are almost 600,000 more Hispanics than previously thought. Twenty-eight states had more Hispanics than expected. And, while the current count is 38.7 million Hispanics, there is still data coming from 17 states, making it likely that the final figure could surpass 55 million, or 17% of the U.S. population.

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One day soon, Hispanics will help define the worlds of media, politics, commerce, fashion, music, entertainment, sports and science. There will be no turning back.

But you knew that already. Maybe your first hint was the Latina models on magazine covers. Or that salsa is more popular than ketchup. Or the Spanish-language billboards you see on rural highways. Or that some members of Congress gather weekly for Spanish lessons.

Or maybe you figured out that the Hispanic population in the United States was exploding when you saw the quixotic efforts of some to stop the trend by cracking down on illegal immigration and–for an encore–trying to limit legal immigration as well.

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Still, for many Americans, changing demographics isn’t cause for celebration. Rather, it’s cause for alarm. It brings a sense of fear, anxiety and desperation. They know enough to know that the country in which they grew up is changing, and they’ll do whatever they can to reverse those changes and return the cultural landscape to what it used to be.

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Ultimately, you can’t fight demographics. Hispanics are already here, and most of them aren’t going anywhere. Instead of wishing otherwise, Americans would be better off accepting this new reality. While they’re at it, they should acknowledge the positive impact to their communities and their country of having a growing population of people who are, by nature, conservative, hardworking, optimistic, patriotic and entrepreneurial. Hispanics aren’t a threat to the United States; they’re an essential component.

Visit any military cemetery in the United States and count the Spanish surnames. You’ll see that Hispanics have already contributed so much to this country. And, in the decades to come, they and their children stand ready to contribute so much more–if we put aside our prejudice and let them. {snip}

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