Amidst the vibrant tapestry of the Hispanic/Latino community and culture lies a powerful undercurrent that is overlooked– that is, the steadfast, often default commitment to traditional values. Within this rich cultural fabric, we discover a timeless narrative on how Latino culture is not only conservative but rests on a bedrock of tradition, faith, and family– all core to American conservatism.
Is this commitment to tradition truly a surprise to outsiders? Not necessarily. For instance, the concept of ‘family’ in some of our high school Spanish courses, Hispanic stereotypes in media, and firsthand testimonies by individuals with this background display how Hispanics are known for their emphasis on familial values.
There may be nuances on the individual level or new generations of Latinos (in the US), however, I believe that most of the Hispanic population would prioritize family or at the very least, rank family high in priority given my own experience and Pew Research Center’s studies on Hispanic/Latino individuals (in the US).
Conservatism in American-Latino households thrives and is a rich-default ideological posture whether or not newer generations recognize it. I will achieve this by analyzing the political-social education that American Latinos might receive which in turn, deter them from identifying their roots of conservatism.
I would like to start with a brief story my mother told me about her political stance and development as a first-generation American. To preface, my mother was one of six children of two hard-working parents in a lower-income community.
Her access to public education was not difficult, although not of the highest quality given the community she grew up in. Initially, she was told in elementary school by her teachers and other Latino family members that they should root for Clinton because “he would help out the Latinos.”
Later in life, she recalled an instance where her English teacher in high school told her, and her mostly Latino and Black classmates, that when they are of age, they “ought to vote Democrat” because they are “for the people, like you.” Due to naivety, she and her classmates registered as Democrats, no questions asked. Maybe a little bit of independent research could have skewed their decision if they were to find out that their values did not align with the blatant or subliminal values that the Democratic party encompasses.
Students who are influenced by teachers, classmates, social media influencers, or celebrities are not the only ones to blame for their herd-like mentality and behavior. The lack of research, education, strategic Republican outreach, and a mainstream negative connotation of conservative thinkers unquestionably influence young people who do not do enough research. Perhaps even after superficial research, some Latinos will continue voting Democrat, but I argue that if deeper research is done, they will find that the embedded conservative values in their rich culture are better aligned with conservative-Republican voting.
Many Latinos who immigrate feel homesick and often arrive without any money in the US. For a Latino who is of lower income and new to American culture, it is refreshing to hear that there is a specific political party that loves immigrants and will monetarily sustain them in their time of need. To have heard there was a party that was “for the people” might have empowered someone like my mother, a daughter of immigrants. In essence, the humanitarian characterization of the Democratic Party which the media frequently illustrates creates an emotional bridge between family and politics that may be a front-lining factor in uninformed and Republican-dismissive Latino voting.
Now I’d like to briefly explore what may cause the dismissiveness of Latinos towards Republicans: There is no denying that racism is a real thing. People I know have experienced blatant racism, an undeniable expression of hatred due to the color of their skin.
For example, my grandparents were victims of hurtful slurs when they first immigrated in the 70s, and the people who used these slurs happened to be White Americans, the demographic that makes up much of the Republican party.
I can imagine that a portion of Latinos have also gone through similar experiences, sharing their stories, and putting their guard up against the demographic of those who acted this way towards them. A stereotype is now formed towards a population and possibly held against individuals who do not deserve it.
I hear these stories and I do feel sorry for my grandparents and what they had to endure. However, it is up to us, the ones who hear their stories, to not carry the intergenerational ‘trauma.’ Why should I, an individual who has not endured what my grandparents have personally experienced, feel like I am also an active victim of oppression and hatred? If anything, I am constraining myself with victimization.
In practice, it would be incredibly unfair and irrational for me to fully believe that a person who gives me a ‘bad look’ and happens to be White is automatically racist. If I think this way, the polarization and stereotyping are now happening within myself towards the individual who gave me said ‘bad look.’ The dismissiveness of Latino voters towards the Republican Party runs far deeper into our family trees than we may believe. As thinkers, if we extricate ourselves from all emotions and biases, we can see the issues for what they are and address them accordingly without equipping irrational opinions.
With more education, Latino voters may come to understand that their deep-rooted values of traditional gender roles in the household, respecting elders, communing in their faith, getting married, having children, and forming their own families are found more in American conservatism than in American liberalism.
My claims of Latino values are not only personal but also statistically supported by multiple Pew Research studies. In their 2009 National Survey, Pew researchers found that Latinos ages 16 and older reported that having children (70%), getting married (56%), and living a religious life (56%), were priorities. A significant 69% of Latinos said that their children should stay at home until they get married and 84% of Latinos said that relatives are more important than friends. Finally, statistics on a more controversial topic such as abortion further show embedded Latino conservatism with 56% of Latinos surveying that abortion should be illegal in all cases.
Due to my first-hand experience and the statistics provided, I confidently say that with more unbiased fact-based education accessible to Latinos, a self-evaluation of how we perceive ourselves within society while trying our best not to let biases get in the way of rationality, a great skew towards identifying as conservative and Republican could occur in the Latino community. This can pave the way for future generations of Latinos to embrace the rich, vibrant cultural values that once were the pinnacle of Latino culture.