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Habla Espanol?

Updated on January 16, 2015

Can we communicate?

Growing up in London in the 1980s, I was surrounded by a myriad of different cultures. The influx of immigrants into the UK (my parents included) had hit a steady flow by that point in time and chances were that almost every one of my classmates was either multilingual or at least bi-lingual. Those who weren't, were eventually taught to speak either French or German in school and were so forced to join the growing ranks of linguistic experts in the city. It just was just a necessity. However there was only one common language spoken amongst us and that was English. I had never even heard the question "Habla Espanol?" until I finally moved to America in the late 1990s and my journey into miscommunication with the local immigrant community began and continues to this day. So how did we get to this point where if your skin tone is a little more tan and your features are a little darker, it's a common occurrence to hear the question "Habla Espanol?"

That's a very good question. Let our brief Latino lesson together, begin right here.

A long history of Migration

I was entirely curious but not shocked to learn that Hispanic history in the U.S stretches as far back as the 16th century. Take a moment and consider your last walk through the aisles of your local grocery store and you'll recall that many Latin products surround you and are very common place in most states. It's probably been that way for quite some time and you may not have noticed.

Hispanics have been in the US continuously since that point in time and apparently founded Saint Augustine in Florida. They are in fact the oldest ethnic group after the Native Americans.It's probably been that way for quite some time and you may not have noticed. When I continued my investigation, I discovered what now seems to be common knowledge in classrooms in the US. Spain had actually colonized large areas of what is now California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas.

Even as late as 1783 Spain still held at least half of the current day U.S and all of these states were also under the Republic of Mexico after its independence in the 19th century. However through a continued history of war, treaties, purchases (and i'm sure some not so mutual agreements) the U.S managed to gain back territory including some pretty major acquisitions in the forms of Texas, California and Florida. While the majority of Latin residents in Florida are now Cuban - 7% of the population , in Texas and California, Mexicans are the largest representation - 33% and 32% of the population respectively.


Latin Flags

Latino Differences

The eventual legal changes regarding some states didn't seem to dampen the Latino growth in America as in 1850 the Spanish population was only 116 943 yet had rapidly grown to a rather impressive population of 53,986,412 by 2010. In fact despite the acquisition of these states, California, Nevada and Texas still boast the top 5 highest proportion of Hispanics per state, yet it's important to point out that when the term 'Hispanic' is used, it is in reference to a different assortment of Latino cultures that exist in America today. Their origins vary from as far as the Dominican Republic to Peru and from Columbia to Puerto Rico. Mexican residents are simply the largest representation of Latinos in the current population.

Population by National Origin 2010 (courtesy of Wikipedia)

(click column header to sort results)
Hispanic Group  
Population  
% of Hispanics  
Mexican
31,798,258
63
Puerto Rican
4,623,716
9.2
Cuban
1,785,547
3.5
Salvadoran
1,648,968
3.3
Dominican
1,414,703
2.8
Guatemalan
1,044,209
2.1
Colombian
908,734
1.8
Spanish
635,253
1.3
Honduran
633,401
1.3
Ecuadorian
564,631
1.1
Peruvian
531,358
1.1
Nicaraguan
348,202
0.7
Argentine
224,952
0.4
Venezuelan
215,023
0.4
Panamanian
165,456
0.3
Chilean
126,810
0.3
Costa Rican
126,418
0.3
Bolivian
99,210
0.2
Uruguayan
56,884
0.1
Paraguayan
20,023
-
All other
3,505,838
6.9
Total
50,477,594
100
 
 
 

Current Latin Influences

The list of Latin influences in the U.S is rather large and detailed and it saddens me that I'm not able to do it justice with my brief descriptions, however I wanted to touch on a few areas of society that have been noticeably influenced by the rich Latin community.

Dulce de Leche

Cuisine

Food has been a very large contributing influence by the Latin community in this country. Mexican food has become one of the nations favorite go to foods with numerous restaurants, fast food chains and even ethnic grocery stores providing a variety of options and catering to many different tastes. Tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, chimichurri, empanadas even dulce de leche - just to name a few have increasingly found their way onto most American dinner tables. Latin restaurants have sprung up and become favorite destinations for the dinner crowd.

Enrique Iglesias

The Rhythm of the Night

Latin music has not only created it's own popular chart but has also crossed over into mainstream music . Thanks to stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony,Pitbull, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin they have bridged the musical divide between English language songs and music now sung entirely in Spanish.

Time to celebrate

Cinco De Mayo has now become an increasingly popular holiday in the U.S with many major cities celebrating with parades, music, dancing and food stalls. It celebrates the defeat of the French at the battle of Puebla which took place on May 5, 1862. Another holiday which is now widely recognized in the U.S is Dia de Muertos/ Day of the Dead. A remembrance festival for friends and family members that have died. It begins on October 31st and lasts for 3 days. Interestingly the date was moved from it's original occurrence in the Summer to deliberately coincide with the Roman Catholic All Hallows Eve/ Halloween.

Political Clout

One of the more interesting and important points I want to quickly mention regarding the Hispanic population is the great importance in their political voices in America through voting power. Current reports in the media have indicated that the next general election could be largely influenced by the Latin vote in this country - with large representation in swing states such as Florida for example changing an entire electoral outcome. Step by step they are also entering the political field as representatives and trying to help shape the future of American politics.

Can you speak Spanish

Habla Espanol?

See results

Time for a Taco!

Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover

It's very easy to assume the origin of a person based on looks alone. With darker hair and olive skin i'm not surprised that it is quickly deduced that I come from a Latin background instead of my true European origin due to the very prominent Latin population in this country. Additionally, for as many people that have asked me if I speak English, I am approached by just as many asking "Habla Espanol?" However there are many countries that populate the earth and multitude that belong under the category of "Latin". They are all beautifully diverse yet share one common bond 'community.'

In England when people get together to eat you will always hear someone suggest "Let's go for a curry?" as the Indian culture in the UK is now so deeply embedded that Indian cuisine has rapidly become the UK nation's favorite food with curry being it's most favored dish. A quick skip over the Atlantic Ocean and within the same scenario the representation is translated into Latin due to it's large representation. So maybe it's finally time to start saying "Let's go for some Mexican food?"

Oh and before I forget, maybe it's time we all began to learned to "Habla Espanol'? After all, Latin culture has been here for centuries and with its ever increasing population and popularity, is definitely here to stay. Wouldn't it be nice to have a little more variety of conversation over some Margaritas?

Cheers Hombres!

Homemade Paella Recipe

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