Charity, kindness and pity are not what will force the country to open opportunities to Latinos and others. It will be “rock-hard self interest,” veteran newsman Ray Suarez said to open the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual conference.
The movement of Latinos from a tiny minority to one-sixth of the U.S. population means Latinos can no longer be considered "those people over there.” Instead the growth raises the question of whether the country can continue to be the affluent, productive place it’s been for generations if the aspirations of Latinos are not met, said Suarez, host of Inside Story on Al-Jazeera America network.
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Can Latinos continue to be concentrated more than other Americans in cheap houses that fund cheap schools that yield cheap college educations, a lot of debt and not much opportunity, said Suarez, author of “Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy that Shaped a Nation.”
“We are, finally, able to say to the rest of the country, we really are all in this together,” said Suarez, “If you don’t prosper, we don’t prosper. Punto.”
Suarez said Latinos still have to wrestle with the “taint of eternal foreignness.” Hispanics arrived and settled Spanish-speaking towns before there was a U.S. and before pilgrims arrived and now pick strawberries, fight wars, tape drywall and change the diapers of infants and grandparents.
“Yet, we remain somehow strangers, the most familiar strangers possible … We’re always having to explain ourselves, demand our due,” he said.
Suarez moderated a panel at the conference about the lack of Latinos in every day life that included award-winning actor Rita Moreno. The conference’s highlight is an address Thursday by President Barack Obama.