We just may be! America is getting browner and browner—not only population-wise, but also culturally and politically. But with great power comes great responsibility, as the saying goes, and Latinos have taken that on as well. Take a look at the evidence below of how Latinos are taking on bigger and more influential roles on the American stage.
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We have the numbers
Every decade has seen Latino growth, but never like this. We number 50.5 million in the United States and accounted for more than half of the country’s growth since 2000. And with Latinos’ median age at about 27, we are, quite simply, the future of the USA.
We are an important voting block
The impact of the Latino block was felt in a big way when we helped Barack Obama win key western states and you can count on it being crucial again in 2012’s presidential election. But this year, we flexed our muscle without casting a vote, when, after months of intense protests and pressure from immigrants and activists, President Obama suspended deportations for 300,000 people in order to review each case and make sure that only criminal offenders are being sent back. That’s power.
Latinos have $1 trillion purchasing power
In a country where money talks, Latinos’ wallets are screaming. Our growth has fueled us to reach $1 trillion purchasing power, with experts saying it will climb to $1.3 trillion by 2015. That means that more and more, we will influence what products manufacturers make and how they market them. Ka-ching!
We guard the Constitution
A Puerto Rican woman who grew up in the projects with a widowed mother and went on to earn an Ivy League education sits on the Supreme Court as the first Hispanic ever to do so, making sure that the country’s courts are upholding the rule of law and the Constitution. Two years after Sonia Sotomayor’s ascension to the top court, that still swells us with pride.
We are politically diverse
Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval made history thanks to their historic 2010 midterm election victories. Martinez became the first ever Latina governor and Sandoval the first ever Latino to hold the top job in Nevada. Both prove that though two thirds of Hispanics are Democrats, far from being a monolithic group of people, we are individuals.
We are the political future
Julian Castro and Marco Rubio are turning heads from different ends of the political spectrum. As the mayor of San Antonio, Castro has instituted reforms in the city that have sparked nationwide acclaim and hopes that he will one day be a national Democratic superstar. Republican Rubio is already one. His eloquent speeches and youthfulness have made him the focus of a party in dire need of attracting Hispanics.
We will shape the next generation of American girls
Anna Maria Chavez has become the first Latina to lead the Girl Scouts, essentially putting her in charge of part of the development of 2.3 million American girls, of which Latina chicas are a growing part and to whom the Girl Scouts teach values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship, along with practical skills.
We have stewardship of our education
Eduardo Padron, president of Miami Dade College, has consistently drawn praise over the years as an education leader. So it’s no surprise that Obama appointed him his point man on one of our most important issues, education. As chair of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, he will direct a committee that will recommend steps and policy changes designed to increase Latino high school and college graduation rates.
Latino culture is a ratings smash
Earlier this year, Univision President Cesar Conde vowed to make Univision the #1 network in the country and it’s not a far-fetched goal (it’s already #3), thanks largely to telenovelas. Soaps like Univision’s Eva Luna and Soy tu Dueña and Telemundo’s La Reina del Sur attracted so many viewers that they beat their English-language competition and at times beat all of English-language prime time. They are the biggest moneymakers for networks that are challenging the boob tube status quo.
We will dictate what Hollywood puts out
Latinos are the fastest-growing movie audience in the country, and as you read this, studios are trying to figure out what moves us to hit the theaters. That may mean that in the near future, the silver screen is going to be a lot browner.
We risk our lives to save others’
Daniel Hernandez ran through gunfire in Phoenix to save the life of his boss, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, earning him praise and a trip to Washington DC to attend Obama’s State of the Union address in January. In August, Antonio Diaz Chacon chased down a man he had seen shove a 6-year-old girl into a van and speed away in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That he did that makes him hero enough. That he’s an illegal immigrant that could have been deported makes him twice the hero.