A man stands next to a stall selling Mexican national flags in Mexico City. (Reuters )
Is it just me, or are Latinos everywhere these days? Kidding! Kidding! Still, we're not very well understood as a group. So in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, here is my list of 10 things every non-Latino should know about Latinos.
Latinos are the fastest-growing minority group in the country. It's crazy how true this is. Latinos made up half of the nation's growth in the first decade of the new millennium. I guess it's good that Latinos get a whole month to themselves then.
Not all Latinos are Mexican. Shocking, right? The way some in the media talk, you'd think every Latino climbed or swam his or her way here from Juarez. But Mexicans make up only 63 percent of the Latino population. So if you guess someone's Mexican, you'll be right more times than not. Just don't forget about the other 37 percent of Latinos who aren't Mexican (like me).
Most Latinos don't consider Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to be Latino. His name sounds Latino, but don't be fooled. Check out #TedCruzIsAsLatinoAs.
Some Latinos suck at Spanish. Myself included. Spanish technically is my first language and I can understand it almost perfectly, but when I try to form my own sentences—especially in conversation—I sound like Forrest Gump. (Side note: If a Latino talks to you in English, you should respond in English.)
Lincoln Park used to be the Puerto Rican neighborhood. I know. Weird, huh?
Latinos are iffy on President Obama. This goes for Latinos on both sides of the fence (no pun intended). Conservatives rail against the president because he hates freedom, and liberals hate him because he deports people like it's in style. Plus, for all the talk about Latino political power, less than 50 percent of Latinos vote. But a record 75 percent of those who voted last year chose to re-elect Obama, so go figure.
Every Latino knows at least one good ghost story. It's just our thing. I'm an atheist, but even I could tell you a few stories that'll make you paler than ... well, a ghost. Latino culture is generally superstitious, and most Latinos grow up believing that the supernatural is a part of everyday life. It's not a matter of if ghosts and ghouls exist, but when one's gonna pop out on you. Add the fact that Latinos like to talk, and you get stories that'll make Stephen King check underneath the bed.
Latinos aren't a race or an ethnicity. People are always trying to define Latinos. Truth be told, even we're not sure what we are. All we know for sure is that being Latino has something to do with the countries south of the United States, Columbus, Europe, Africa, indigenous peoples and coffee. The rest is splitting hairs.
Mexican and Puerto Rican aren't languages. But they should be. As a Honduran, I hardly catch anything my Mexican wife and her family members say. The only person I understand perfectly is my Honduran grandma. Everybody else needs to learn how to enunciate.
Latinos make up 29 percent of Chicago's population. That's way above the national rate of 16 percent. So Latinos are especially everywhere in Chicago. But it's nothing like Miami or San Antonio, which are in the 60s.
Hope this helps. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!
Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.
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