This page contains details of the historical context and present-day use of anti-Latiné hate and rhetoric. The following may be sensitive or disturbing to those of Latiné/Hispanic background or ancestry.
- Hispanic: referring to language and those who speak Spanish and/or are descended from Spanish-speaking communities
- Latino/a: referring to geography, a term to describe a person from Latin America in response to Hispanic, which centers Spain, the colonizer
- Latinx: inclusive word describing people of all genders with Latin American heritage, though not used in Spanish
- Latiné: inclusive word describing persons with Latin American heritage, utilizing already existing Spanish language
Racism has been a pervasive element of U.S. culture and is unfortunately on the rise as seen in the increase of hate crimes and hate incidents. Rhetoric and hate crimes specifically targeting Latiné people have increased as xenophobia, hispanophobia, and scapegoating have increased in the past few years. From burglaries to assault to the 2019 El Paso domestic terrorist act that killed 23 people specifically targeting Mexican Americans.
The Latiné comunidad makes up about 18% of the US population and will account for a third of this country’s residents by 2050. The Latiné community is also extremely diverse, though many times lumped together. While many Latiné folx are born in this country with the privilege of documentation, they are often associated with the anti-immigration rhetoric heard throughout U.S. history, especially as discussed during the 2016 election. “Build the wall”, “Go back to your country”, and other insults when speaking Spanish in public have grown into common incidents, impacting many Latiné communities, not just Mexicans and Mexican Americans. These hate incidents also build on racial anti-immigration (link to anti-immigration site) and xenophobic stereotypes that have permeated U.S. culture for centuries; this hate has had devastating economic, physical, and psychological effects like job and housing discrimination, decreased chance of receiving treatment or prescriptions from doctors, and multiple barriers to mental health care.
These systemic and social effects are also seen in the disproportionate rates that COVID-19 has impacted the Latiné community. Though only 18% of the U.S. population, 25% of COVID-related deaths have been the deaths of Latiné people; many Latiné people work essential jobs that demand in-person labor with minimum compensation, language and insurance barriers, chronic health issues resulting from systemic racism in healthcare and social services, and the economic downturn that systematically impacts low income communities all combine to ensure “catastrophic” impact on Latiné communities.
The Stanford bubble is not immune to this anti-Latiné rhetoric. Two community whiteboards in Casa Zapata had “Build That Wall” and “#MAGA” written on them, in an obvious message of racial aggression last spring. Similar messaging around deportation and #BuildtheWall was reported in 2018 in Kimball Hall. Anti-Latiné messaging seen in direct hate incidents as these, as well as systemic neglect of Latiné students and staff persists even at Stanford.
Hatred towards Latiné people can be traced back to the Founding Fathers; within a few years of drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson suggested that the United States might want to snatch Latin America “piece by piece”, though John Adams saw those living south from the United States “a people more ignorant, more bigoted, more superstitious, more implicitly credulous in the sanctity of royalty, more blindly devoted to their priests . . . than any people in Europe”.
By the mid-19th century, the United States had expanded its borders into the formerly Mexican lands that are now Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which marked the end of the Mexican-American War. Presidents John Tyler and James Polk seized one territory after the next in a campaign to expand America’s Manifest Destiny, or as President Taft put it bluntly, “the whole hemisphere will be ours in fact as, by virtue of our superiority of race, it already is ours morally.” This seizure of lands meant that those already living in these areas, indigenous and otherwise, were now in a different country meaning that they “didn’t cross the border, the border crossed [them]”.
Those people already living in this newly taken land by the United States were not welcome as fellow citizens; thousands of men, women, and children were lynched and assaulted from California to Wyoming during those years, sometimes with the complicity or active support of law enforcement. As more White settlers looked to expand into the Southwest, lands were forcibly taken from Mexicans landowners and indigenous people alike, resulting in massacres, vigilante mobs, and increased rhetoric of Mexicans being foreign squatters, undeserving and dangerous. As the early 20th century progressed, the political situation in Mexico spurred even more emigration to the United States, benefitting American businessmen who needed cheap labor to build railroad tracks, erect towns, and toil on ranches and agricultural fields. This shifted once the Great Depression hit; blamed for “stealing jobs”, Mexicans, the majority of whom were U.S. citizens, were forcibly detained and deported from the United States, denied charitable aid in the middle of the Depression, and/or forced to deny their ancestry so as to avoid discriminatory behavior. It’s important to note that this time period is when current institutions, like the U.S. Border Patrol, were founded; within overtly racist times where the goal of systems was to protect White capital and life.
Other systems also continued to mistreat Mexicans and other Latiné Americans. While not made legal like in the South, Juan Crow laws (like Jim Crow laws used to discriminate against Black Americans) barred Latiné people from restaurants, movie theaters, and schools. Mexican children were sent to “Mexican schools” because “Mexicans [were inferior in personal hygiene, ability and in their economic outlook.” Latiné people were pushed into segregated communities in under-resourced areas. Continued messaging of Mexicans being undeserving, stupid, foreign, and lazy continued to be exploited, resulting in growing resentment and hatred towards Latiné people. One such manifestation of this hatred culminated in the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots where White military servicemen and civilians took to streets across the country to assault and brutally attack anyone who looked to be Latino or of color.
Unfortunately this open hostility and hatred towards Latiné people is not a thing of the last century. Despite civil rights advances around immigration, workers’ rights, and citizenship, Latiné people continue to face widespread hate crimes, legal discrimination, and dehumanization as evident in the separation of families and rejection of DACA. Increased scapegoating and continued use of stereotypes contribute to this hatred, exacerbated by bigoted presidential messaging. In fact, hate crimes towards Latiné people has risen 21% since 2019, with a 16 year high of violent hate crimes. It is imperative to understand the history of hatred towards Latiné people in our country, so that we can identify and fight it in all dimensions of society.
Identifying, confronting, and dismantling anti-Latiné hatred can feel overwhelming. The pervasiveness of this hatred in our systems and structures can feel daunting and impossible to change. However, all change has come from the ground swell of passionate activists who refuse to give up, even in the face of bigotry and bureaucracy. So, where do we start in fighting anti-Latiné hatred and rhetoric?
As discussed a few times throughout this page, anti-Latiné hatred is tied to other forms of oppression like xenophobia, anti-Blackness, anti-indigenous hatred, and classism. Fighting anti-Latiné hatred requires acknowledging this interconnection and fighting this interlocking system as a whole. Fighting for Latiné folx means fighting for indigineous people, fighting for low income communities, fighting for all communities that are oppressed by White supremacy and colonialism.
Remember, fighting such deeply woven structures is a marathon and requires ongoing vigilance, learning, and humility. Unlearning these deeply ingrained anti-Latiné messages about borders, stereotypes, etc. is a continual process. This process is uncomfortable, challenging, and unbelievably transformative. To carry out this journey, remember it is important to take care of oneself in order to continue in the fight for liberation.
Engage in ongoing learning
Learn about the diversity and the multiple histories of Latiné cultures beyond holidays and food. Continue to learn about migration, colonization, indigeneity. Learn about the legislation and impact. Learn about cultural appropriation and how this impacts Latiné folx. Follow Latiné activists and leaders on social media. Watch narratives of Latiné people and cultures and question derogatory depictions of Latiné people in news and entertainment. Learn about Latiné artists and follow their work. Most importantly, listen to and center the experiences of Latiné people. Empathize with their experiences, asking yourself what you would do in similar situations. Learn about Stanford’s eugenics foundation and anti-Mexican scholars. Connect with El Centro and engage in programming and events, celebrating Stanford’s Latiné communities.
Advocate & Allyship
While learning and empathizing is integral, it is not the whole journey. It is important to leverage one’s privileges and social positionality to ally with Latiné communities and advocate for changes that will help them. Take action towards equity and healing. The following are some examples of how to take action:
- Dispel inaccurate information about stereotypes and provide accurate information.
- Retell histories of Latiné peoples, colonization, and resilience that center Latiné communities, not the colonizers.
- Identify when words, languages, and practices are exclusionary. A powerful article on this topic can be found here.
- Use your voice, energy, time resources, talents, and unearned privileges to work toward equity of Latiné people. For example, ask "Are there Latiné people at the table?" "Should I be at this table, or should there be a Latiné voice?"
- As you engage in action, be mindful of ways you can share the burden of emotional labor because you have the capacity to do so.
- Leverage your consumer power by supporting local businesses and spaces owned and run by Latiné folx.
- Learn about how COVID-19 is targeting Latiné communities and widely share specific resources for Latiné folx during COVID-19.
- Fight other arms of white supremacy, like the Model Minority Myth or the ideas of meritocracy by speaking with others and your parents.
Exercise your vote to change systems.
As the previous section illustrated, change can come from pressure on our legal systems. Vote in leaders who advocate for Latiné communities and issues that affect them. Do your jury duty. Vote for legislation and inform yourself about policies that protect Black communities and their rights. Continue to march, protest, sign petitions until change is made.