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OPINION: Latinos - More than Meets the Surface, Rooted in Tradition

Latinos in the United States are multicultural despite often being grouped into a homogenous cluster. Turning on a Latin radio station or going down the street to eat provides a different experience depending on which coast of the country you are in.
15 Sep 2019 – 05:27 PM EDT
. Crédito: M_a_y_a/Getty Images

The majority of Latinos in Los Angeles are Mexican, and that culture is felt strongly by its citizens. Jasmine Licea, a Mexican-American living in Long Beach grew up on what she called “Premio Lo Nuestro Mexican Regional music.” Walk into a Latin club and banda music will be blasting through the speakers. Food is another big indicator of the culture. The streets of LA are filled with taqueros and eloteros on every other corner. Even English language radio stations have segments discussing the best taco places in the city. What is most striking, however, is that there are many multi-generational Mexicans and Latinos in Los Angeles; some of these families have even been in the state since it was still Mexico. As each generation passes, Latin culture is becoming more and more accepted as the norm.

Meanwhile on the East Coast, Orlando is a city of new immigrants. Among these new immigrants are Puerto Ricans and Venezuelans. The number of Puerto Ricans in the city greatly increased after Hurricane Maria struck the island while political unrest and violence in Venezuela have driven many to seek refuge in Orlando. Maria Sardi is a first-generation Venezuelan who has lived in the city for most of her life. She remembers a time when she could count the Venezuelans she knew on her fingers, but now she sees and hears them everywhere.

These Caribbean based Latino groups bring along with them the rhythms of their homes in the form of Merengue, Salsa, and Bachata and a certain welcoming warmth is transmitted even if their quick Spanish accents might be harder to understand, for other Spanish speakers.

As a Venezuelan transplant from Orlando to Los Angeles, the culture shock was overwhelming, and living as a minority within a minority comes with its own challenges. Carlos Rivas, a Salvadoran, remembers feeling underrepresented living in his predominantly Mexican neighborhood. “I wrestled with it a lot over the years, seeing Mexican culture be more prevalent than Salvadoran, [and] feeling like your culture is not seen or people just don’t know about it,” says Rivas. “But now, because I understand why the situation is like that, I feel more grateful because I got to see a lot of [cultural] differences as a little kid, and it brightens your horizon.”

At this point in time the differences between Latin culture in Los Angeles and Orlando are clear. However, it's important to remember what it means to be Latino in the U.S. and the commonalities that exist within the community. With the rise of anti-immigrant sentiments, it’s important for Latinos to advocate for each other and continue to focus on what brings us together.