In the wake of an election season that often saw Latino immigrants reduced to sound-bites and insults, it can seem at times that the United States doesn’t quite understand Hispanic America.
An hour-long special by Univision anchor and award-winning journalist Maria Elena Salinas aims to “reintroduce” Latinos to the United States, highlighting their contributions and stories.
From food to business to music, Salinas shows throughout “LatiNation” how Latinos and Latino culture are already woven deep into the fabric of the United States. Originally broadcast in Spanish on Univision, it is now available online in English.
“It’s amazing that after so many years, even though we have very deep roots in this country, sometimes we’re still treated as foreigners,” Salinas told Univision News in an interview.
There are more than 55 million Hispanics in the United States. In Latination, Salinas explores a number of their stories, from that of Angélica Gutiérrez, a business professor in Los Angeles who is educating Latino entrepreneurs; to renowned Chef Jose Andres; to Julio Zúñiga, whose older brother Joel was deported back to Mexico aged 19, after 12 years in the United States.
Gloria and Emilio Estéfan tell Salinas that it often seems that some in the country feel “threatened” by Latinos.
Dr. Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, neuroscience and molecular biology, tells Salinas about his first job in the United States: an undocumented migrant farm worker in the San Joaquin Valley.
Salinas, who was born in the United States to Mexican parents, decided to make LatiNation during the presidential campaign, surprised by the increasingly strong rhetoric against immigrants. The special first aired in March in Spanish.
“I think each and every one has a story to tell,” she says. “In the immigrant experience everyone has a very specific set of circumstances that led them to be here.”
LatiNation begins by looking back at the long history of immigration in the United States.
“Maybe it was Germans in the beginning, and Italians and Brits, but little by little more Mexicans began to come because of the proximity,” Salinas says.
There was even a time when borders didn't exist between the north and the south, she explains. “In fact, many of the country's southwestern states were Mexican territory” and Spanish was spoken.
Now, Latinos in the United States wield tremendous power.
"Latinos represent about 1.5 trillion dollars in business in the United States,” Mark Hugo Lopez, of Pew Research Center, tells Salinas in an interview. “If you think about that, that's almost about 15%, if not more of the US economy as a whole.”
Young Latinos make up one-quarter of all young people in the United States. That means by 2050, a quarter of the population will be Latino.
And Latinos are a very important voting bloc, too. More than 13 million Latinos voted in the presidential election, overwhelmingly against Donald Trump.
A Trump presidency is a “setback” for a lot of the progress made for immigrant rights in the country, she says. But the Latino community also now has to fight back.
“Not only with their vote but [fighting] back against the discrimination, against the negative rhetoric. We have a more important job in proving that we’re here to contribute and showing things we can do and what we contribute to this society in every aspect – culturally, politically, societally, in the labor force, in education.”
But Salinas says the presidential election result, which shocked much of the country, proved that we also “need to get to know each other a bit more.” That means Latinos need to seek out and meet people from “middle America” and vice versa.
“I don’t believe hyphenated Americans are ever going to disappear,” she adds. “There’s African Americans, Jewish Americans, Italian Americans, Hispanic Americans. That’s not going to disappear because this is a country of immigrants, any way you look at it.”