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Lazos Latinos
Hispanization: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage
By Cristina Benitez

Hispanization - - - The Process or Behavior of Embracing the Latino Culture
Hispanization commemorates, validates and celebrates Latino values and contributions. Today we see it demonstrated in the United States in two ways

  • The process whereby Hispanics embrace the Latino culture.
  • The current acknowledgement and acceptance of Latino culture by the Anglo population.

Hispanization is the behavior of the Latino population that holds on to, reclaims and embraces the culture of their native countries. This is not assimilation, where we try to become a homogenous culture, and it is more profound than acculturation, which is the blending of one culture with the other. Because of the growth and strength in the Hispanic population, we see Hispanization all around us. Over 31 million Latinos live in the U. S. and nearly _ of today’s immigrants come from Spanish speaking countries. Latinos will account for 40% of US population growth in the next decade.

Today, because of the explosion of communication technology, we can maintain ties to our homeland. And, those of us who are first and second generation Hispanics, are reclaiming our Latino identity more strongly than ever before. Our relationship with the mother country is now easier, faster and cheaper, due to e-mail, teleconferencing, frequent flier miles, digital cameras, cellular phones and fax machines. This ease of communication and receiving information about our culture from home, reinforces the value of Latino music, food, art, sports and news to all of us here.

Hispanization is also affecting the Anglo population in the United States as we see an increase and acceptance of Latino culture by the general population. Today being Latino or being "in tune" with the Latino culture is trendy and hip. Latino culture is crossing over because it is based on family values which the whole country is hungry for. It is a culture that is hard-working, social, fun and effusive with emotions. While the 21 nationalities that make up the US Hispanic population are unique, with their own history, music and food, they have a common bond through language, family and religion.

Three "Hot" examples of Hispanization: Politics, Music, Food

El Voto Hispano
Geographic location, family values and a youthful population, make Latino voters every politician’s dream. Hispanics are clustered in 11 key states with a total of 217 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to elect a President. Between 1994 and 1998, Latino voting nationwide, in midterm elections jumped 27% while overall turnout dropped 13%. Today the presidential candidates are actively courting the Hispanic vote nationwide. Al Gore and George W. Bush, Jr. are using Spanish because they recognize the importance and strength of the Hispanic vote.

The growth in popularity of Latin music has created new dance clubs and dance subcultures with electric rhythms of salsa, merengue, tango and Mexican banda music. Gloria Estefan, Cristina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, and Santana caputured eight Grammy award winning record, Supernatural are all on the top ten charts throughout the nation. The fusion of Latino styles with English lyrics is sweeping the musical charts. Never before have Caribbean sounds such as The Buena Vista Social Club, resonated through the mainstream culture as they do today.

We are seeing more Nuevo Latino restaurants, which combine the best of all the Latin American foods. These new restaurants attract a broad base of mainstream customers with more upscale sophisticated menus. Bacardi Rum used its Cuban roots in a retro themed campaign to elicit fantasy, romance and glamour of the 40’s and 50’s. Led by the highly popular Corona beer, Mexican brands are the fastest growing imports in the beer industry today and Mexican food manufactures are exporting favorite Mexican foods because of the 18 million Mexican consumers who will buy their native foods in the U.S.

Today, it is more comfortable to celebrate and embrace our Hispanic values and thus we are seeing the Hispanization of all Latinos, both new immigrants and those who have been here for many generations. Americanos old and new salute the many contributions of the Latino people ¡Viva Hispanization!