One day during my freshman year of college I was talking to a Hispanic classmate about our school's upcoming football game when his phone rang, it was his mother. Without blinking he answered his phone and started talking to her in Spanish about his little sister's upcoming quincinera. He proceeded to calmly end the call and then turned back to me and we continued our discussion (in English) about our school's quarterback and if he would lead us to victory that Saturday. I thought nothing of this exchange until later that night when it dawned on me. For the first time in my life I had seen behind the curtain, into a day in the life of a Hispanic American, and I instantly wanted to see more.
Chances are you have had a 'Spanglish' encounter as well. The alternating between Spanish and English, often mid-sentence, is a microcosm of the interchanging cultures Hispanics live in. One minute it's Dia de los Muertos, the next it's the super bowl. From Chicharito to Albert Pujols, Hispanic Americans live in two worlds and we as a country choose to see only the half we are familiar with. Often times non- Hispanics think of Latinos as immigrants, Spanish-speaking, or Mexican. When in reality this could not be further from the truth. Hispanics are not 'foreign' or 'other'; they are ingrained within American society. Latinos represent 1 of every 6 people in this country, and 1 of every 4 children under the age of 18. With a population over 50 million there are more Hispanics in the U.S. then any other country in the world besides Mexico. That is why Washington's focus on putting up a wall to keep Hispanics out misses the mark. Hispanics represent over 55% of this nation's growth over the past decade and almost 70% of that increase is domestic growth. Hispanic births not immigration, is the driving force behind Latinos' surging presence. This is why we as a people need to realize that acculturation is not a one way street, Americans must wake up and reach out to Hispanics not solely on a lingual level, but culturally. There is no cultural Rosetta Stone, one must live and breathe the traditions, music, food, dance, and other social highlights to truly understand the heritage and flavor of a people.
That is why we launched Huffington Post Latino Voices, to speak to Hispanics on a cultural level. There is a huge white space online for U.S. Hispanic news and information in English. Over 57% of Hispanics 18+ prefers their online content in English. Publishing articles about Shakira, Alex Rodriguez and immigration in Spanish ignores English speaking and bilingual Hispanics who thirst for culturally relevant content in their preferred language. As the score of third and fourth generation Hispanics enter society they remain Hispanic by heritage, but English speaking by nature. This is the future of the Hispanic marketplace.
The numbers speak for themselves; Latinos are the largest and fastest growing minority segment in the United States. With its sheer size Hispanics will impact our economy, politics, and culture like no other sector of the population for years to come. So I encourage you to take a peek behind the curtain and learn about 'the other world' your Hispanic friend lives in. Go beyond 'tacos and margaritas'. Because America must stop confusing Hispanics with Spanish, Hispanics are not a language; they are people, our people. You cannot put a wall up between cultures; you can only build a bridge.