Hispanic Heritage Month, which started Sept. 15 and ends on the same day next month, gives us a chance to celebrate the presence and contributions of Hispanics and Latinos from a number of different Spanish-speaking countries. It’s a perfect time to celebrate not just heritage and culture but also the people.
This year, as we get ready to celebrate the food, culture, heritage, and influence associated with Hispanics, I thought it would be good to take inventory of how far Hispanics have come in the U.S. and to briefly discuss how we can all work together—as a big and diverse American familia—to build a more prosperous and united nation for all Americans.
Growing up as an immigrant kid, I always felt that the United States of America was the one place where anyone could achieve whatever they set their mind to if they just worked hard enough and long enough at it. Seeing my parents work tirelessly and sacrifice to build a better future for me and my siblings fueled me to push myself the way no government program or incentive ever could have done. I wanted to reward their work and give back to this awesome nation that had become our home.
As an adult with kids of my own, I am more convinced than ever that there is something very special about this country that we must preserve for future generations. To be honest, there is simply no way I could have come this far if my parents had stayed in Mexico, a place I love and a former home where I still have family. I suspect that the same is true for the countless immigrants who have landed here from other parts of the world over the centuries.
Relatively speaking, Hispanics have made great strides in a short amount of time. Over the last decade, the number of Latinos living in the U.S. has surged to 57.5 million, accounting for nearly 18 percent of the country’s population. Naturally, that number will continue to rise in the coming decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics is projected to reach 111 million by 2060.
Not surprisingly, the population growth is a major driver of Hispanic purchasing power, which is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2021. To put this in perspective, consider that a decade ago, buying power stood at $1 trillion, and in the 1990s, that number barely reached a quarter. The growth has been exponential.
No wonder companies and businesses representing a wide array of industries from medical to housing, to automotive and so on, are spending billions to gain Hispanic market share. Winning over Hispanic customers means increased revenues for those with the right message and marketing approach. The opposite, of course, is true for competitors who fail to connect with this growing demographic.
These numbers tell a fascinating story of what success is possible for minorities within the U.S., and they are a testament to what is possible when individuals are allowed to prosper without government control, tyranny, corruption or failed policies, and systems of wealth redistribution.
However, there’s another number that paints a broader picture of how far Latinos have come in the U.S. that revolves around the sizeable and undeniable economic contributions they are continuously making. Back in 2017, a report entitled, Latino Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report, was released which revealed some very insightful points. According to the researchers, “The GDP produced by Latinos in the U.S. in 2015 was $2.13 trillion.” While that certainly is a large number, it is easier to appreciate its magnitude when it is put into context.
The researchers went on to write: “If it were an independent country, the Latino GDP would be the 7th largest in the world, larger than the GDP of India, Italy, Brazil or Canada. The Latino GDP would trail only the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, the U.K., and France.” These are global economic powerhouses that the researchers are referencing. Given the right environment and policies, these economic contributions will increase with time.
To be clear, Hispanics have not taken baby steps to get to where they are today in the U.S.; they have made monumental leaps that show what is possible through hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and opportunity in this exceptional nation we call home.
Today, Latinos don’t just make up a fair share of the workforce—nearly 28 million strong with record low unemployment—or drive the purchase of small and major purchases across a diversity of industries; they are also creating businesses at a faster rate than other demographic groups, helping to put Americans to work and driving further economic prosperity.
According to a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce report (pdf), nearly 4.4 million Latino businesses are generating $700 billion in revenues for the U.S. economy.
Taking all these numbers into account, it’s easy to see the profound impact that Hispanics have had on the makeup of the U.S. workforce, business and economic growth and consumer purchases.
However, the recent accomplishments related to job gains, starting businesses and building generational wealth would not have been possible without the kinds of policies that allow people to keep more of what they earn.
Hispanics seek opportunities to have control of their own destinies, not turn control of their lives over to a bureaucrat or politician; they don’t want government programs to achieve the financial independence they can build with their own hands.
To continue to thrive, Hispanics need to identify the obstacles that are standing in the way of achieving success quicker. Some of those challenges revolve around educational access and starting jobs, affordable housing, public safety, etc.; others around implementing laws and regulations that hold businesses growth back; and, still others around the people we put in office or trusted community leaders who are supposed to protect the interests of this growing demographic group.
Last July, a report released by the California Latino Economic Institute entitled, The State of Latino Economic Well-Being in California (pdf), showed how even though the economy has improved in the state, Latinos have not kept up with Asian Americans or whites.
Having worked in California state politics for almost a decade, I saw the number of Latino policymakers increase not just in Sacramento but in other cities, so it’s disheartening to see that the kind of improvement we seek isn’t happening on their watch. We cannot blame others, but we do have to ask ourselves what we can do differently.
What Tools Do We Need to Get There? What Obstacles Do We Need to Overcome?
Policymakers on the West Coast generally tend to place government, not the individual, at the center of a better functioning society. However, to reach higher levels of economic well-being, Latinos must ask themselves both what kinds of individual actions and policies will help them get there, and who are the leaders they should trust throughout this process.
If Hispanics want jobs, they should get behind people that will fight for those jobs. If they want to build businesses, then they need to vote people into office that have experience building businesses, because it’s not just about making campaign promises, it’s about real-world experience that many career-politicians lack. If they want lower taxes to spend money as they deem best, then they need to vote for politicians who will lower, not raise their taxes.
The bottom-line is that Hispanics need good policies and upright and transparent leaders who will champion the interests of the community, not those that advance their own careers at their expense.
To get ahead, Latinos should also stop idolizing people who say things that sound nice and instead look at their track record. Numbers do not lie. You have either kept your promises or you have not. And, it’s also important to recognize that the real heroes in our lives are not the people with the most likes on Facebooks or Instagram, but most often, it is people like our parents who are doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways to help us get ahead.
So, as you enjoy your favorite cerveza, your Latino dish or the latest reggaeton beat this month, consider all the things worth celebrating and keep in mind just how important it is for all Americans to tap into the unique things that make our nation great, like our shared diversity.
We are stronger when we are united and when we are thriving. Future job, economic and business growth for Hispanics will invariably mean more jobs which means more opportunities to succeed for all Americans. That’s something we can all be proud of.
Let’s continue working to create a better and stronger nation, because this will have a profound and lasting impact for generations to come, making Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations more meaningful with each passing year.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.