By Ed Morales
Turn-of-the-century Cuban revolutionary José Martí presaged this with his vision of “Our America,” a call for Latin American unity as the Spanish-American War erupted. As “Americans” with a broader hemispheric perspective, U.S. Latina/os remain a group with much invested in their home countries, and a clear understanding of how free trade agreements cast a glaring light on wage inequalities on both sides of the border. We can theoretically connect issues like the downward pressure on wages—a class issue regardless of race and ethnicity—with the destructive, inequality-creating neoliberal agenda that harms our home countries. Bringing all this into focus is a more comprehensive and potentially revolutionary agenda than merely advocating for immigrants to be allowed a pathway to citizenship solely on the terms of the status quo U.S. hemispheric agenda.
While aligning with the just and noble cause of bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows, Latina/os should also join with other U.S. Americans to demand reinvestment in public education, the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining, the protection of local communities from neoliberal gentrification projects, and economic justice from queer and race-based lenses. Latina/os need not only to protect our most recent arrivals from ruthless exploitation, but also to reignite the legacy of our long history in the United States and continue to engage the struggles we embraces during the civil rights era and its aftermath.
It is encouraging for now that most Latina/os remain progressive, but as a national constituency we have the potential to help move that agenda further to the left. In this historical moment, Latina/os are uniquely positioned to push American politics to truly engage with racial and class differences, the need for a universal living wage, and just foreign policy—radically reshaping “Our America.”
Read the entire essay at NACLA. https://nacla.org/article/radically-reshaping-latinao america?
Ed Morales is a freelance journalist and author of Living in Spanglish (St. Martin’s Press). He teaches at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and is a NACLA contributing editor. His forthcoming book is titled Raza Matters (Verso).