It is important to understand that there isn’t just one type of Spanish-speaking person in the United States. Spanish-speaking Americans come from a variety of places and belong to a variety of different ethnic groups. Some examples of Spanish-speaking American groups are Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans, to mention a few. Although tied by the same language, Spanish-speaking Americans don’t share the same historical, political or social experiences. Furthermore, their conditions upon entering this country varied significantly.
Mexicans, for example, were residents of a section of Mexico that became part of the United States following the Mexican American War. They soon supplied a demand for workers in the country’s mining and agricultural resources. Their entering differed significantly from Puerto Ricans, whose island and population was colonized 50 years later by the United States. The exploitation of Puerto Rico’s human and material resources led to the massive migration of unemployed Puerto Ricans whom were attracted by the postwar demand for labor in the east coast of the U.S.
Just as it is wrong to assume that Spanish-speaking Americans share the same culture and history, it would be erroneous to compare the more recent Latin American immigrants with earlier European arrivals. New immigrants face a declining demand for unskilled workers and entry-level jobs and they cannot follow the kinds of labor market insertion open to earlier groups. The particular historical and economic situation when Latin American populations arrived in the country has shaped each national group’s experiences.
One aspect in the history of many Latin American countries that sets them part from Europeans, is the repeated U.S. military interventions in their native land. There have been U.S. interventions in Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama. There was an overthrow of democratically elected leaders as in Chile and the constant policing of Latin American governments. Our own history reveals our government’s intention with Monroe Doctrine, which basically gave the United States an excuse to intervene in Latin America affairs. Monroe was vying the Caribbean with plans of turning it into an “American Lake.”
Expansion to Latin America was a reality. The U.S took over Puerto Rico in 1898 with intentions of making it a naval base. Despite pleas to end the military regime, Puerto Rico remained colonized by Americans and the military governors soon began the process of “Americanization” of Puerto Rico by implanting U.S. institutions, influencing education, culture and economy. One of the tools of Americanization was the teaching of English as the primary language in the public schools.