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Entre Nosotras/os: Theorizing, Researching, and Constructing Cross-Latina/o Relations in the United States

  • Gilda L. Ochoa

In 1996, thousands of people from throughout the United States walked shoulder to shoulder as part of a historic Latino March on Washington. Flags from places such as Puerto Rico, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the United States filled the sky. Bilingual chants echoed in the streets and salsa, rancheros, and Afro-Cuban music set the beat. Latinas/os from different states and countries highlighted specific concerns. Californian Latinas/os denounced Governor Pete Wilson, the 1994 passage of Proposition 187 that sought to deny undocumented immigrants access to critical social services, and 1996’s Proposition 209 that involved the elimination of affirmative action. Whereas many Central Americans carried placards calling for amnesty, groups of Puerto Ricans advocated for independence from the United States. Nydia Velasquez, the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress from New York, addressed the audience by speaking first to Puerto Ricans-citizens by birth-stating that attacks against immigrants are also attacks against Puerto Ricans. Amid such heterogeneity, there was a feeling of unity. This march was a perfect display of Latina/o pan-ethnicity. The demonstrating students, union members, politicians, teachers, and families were motivated by various critical issues, but the general platform included support for educational, health care, and citizenship rights for immigrants and workers.

Ten years later in 2006 in the midst of a resurgence of nativism against Latina/o immigration, Latinas/os again took to the streets. The demonstrations were sparked by the U.S. House of Representative Bill 4437: The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act that proposed building a 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border and making undocumented immigrants and those who assist them felons. Millions of Latinas/os responded fervently to this draconian anti-immigration bill. Along with massive demonstrations, school walkouts, and economic boycotts in long-time Latina/o areas, the growing number of Latinas/os in the U.S. South and Midwest also protested such anti-immigrant policies.

Despite these impressive displays of unity and activism, not all Latinas/os agreed with these demonstrators, and their critiques varied. For example, over 30% of California Latinas/os voting in the 1994 and 1996 elections supported Propositions 187 and 209 (Acuña, 1996, 1998). This division among Latina/o voters has persisted since the 1980s when about 40% of Latinas/ os endorsed conservative national and state issues (Martínez, 1998, pp. 200-201). Some are resentful of new immigrants who they believe are not acquiring the English language and are expecting special privileges. Others, concerned that non-Latinas/os might ignore class, generation, or country of origin differences, attempt to distinguish themselves from groups perceived to be more marginalized and stigmatized (Beserra, 2003; Ochoa, 2004; Paerregaard, 2005). Most recently, there are examples of Latina/o participation in anti-immigrant groups that are patrolling the Mexico-U.S. border against undocumented immigrants and protesting day labor sites.

In spite of the range of interactions among Latinas/os in the United States-from political mobilization to outright hostility-until recently, most scholars have ignored the interethnic and intraethnic relationships among the groups included within the broad Latina/o pan-ethnic category. Following a review of some of the academic reasons for this limited scholarship, this chapter synthesizes the literature on intraethnic and interethnic Latina/o relations to argue that cross-Latina/o relationships are dynamic and contextually specific and vary from conflict to solidarity. Cross-Latina/o relationships are best understood by analyzing the interplay of macroscopic factors, dominant ideologies, institutional practices, group dynamics, and individual experiences and perspectives. Greater awareness of these multiple factors influencing Latina/o relationships is an important step in the social justice project.

Keywords

Institutional Practice Undocumented Immigrant Mexican Immigrant Class Position Dominant Ideology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

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  • Gilda L. Ochoa

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