Mexican Americans – Mexican Americans could probably trace their history farther than any other Hispanic group. The first Mexican Americans would be those living in Mexican lands which were annexed by the growing United States including the states of California and Texas. Today, Mexican Americans comprise 66.9% of the Hispanic population in the United States (US Census Bureau, 2003).
Of all the Hispanic groups, Mexican Americans show the lowest level of English language knowledge. In the 2000 Census, only 24% of Mexican immigrants said that they spoke only English or speak English very well. This is lower than the 39% average of the Hispanic community. However, the rate of English adoption grows with succeeding generations. According to the same census data, 50% of second generation Mexican Americans already spoke English well. This rate of linguistic assimilation was higher than any other immigrant group.
Politically, Mexican Americans are relatively assimilated thanks largely to their long history in the United States and Mexican-American leaders who pushed for equality and civil rights. Mexican-American governors have been elected in some southwestern states such as Govs. Jerry Apodaca and Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Gov. Raul Castro of Arizona.
Today, Mexican immigrants usually fill in for low paying jobs in America that the majority does not want. These jobs are usually blue collar jobs or menial service occupations such as dishwashers, gardeners, house maids etc. The constant threat of deportation usually prevents illegal Mexican Immigrants from availing of social programs and benefits available to American citizens. Stereotypes of Mexican Americans also abound in the public psyche.
Mexican Americans are at an economic disadvantage. While Hispanic-Americans are an economic minority, Mexican Americans as a whole are even more so. Twenty-six percent of all Hispanic workers have annual earnings of 35,000 or more in 2001, compared with only 23.6% of Mexican Americans who achieve the same. There are also a greater percentage of Mexican Americans living below the poverty line – 22.8% than the Hispanic average of 21.4% and even higher than the average for non-Hispanic white people who only have 7.8& of their population living under the poverty line.
The dominant religious tradition among Mexican Americans is Roman Catholicism with 74% of Mexican Americans professing to be Catholic. Twelve percent of Mexican Americans identify as Evangelicals, 4% as mainline protestant, and 7% as secular (Pew Hispanic Center, 2007).
The family remains a strong institution in Mexican American society and serves as the basic unit of social structure. The father still remains a strong authority figure but women are still revered. Extended families are also given equal importance with the immediate family (Franklin, 2006).
Puerto Rican Americans – In 2002, there were around 3.2 million Puerto Rico Americans living in the United States which accounted for 8.6% of the total Hispanic population (US Census Bureau, 2003). Puerto Ricans can trace their ancestry to the Taíno Indians, the native inhabitants of the Puerto Rican islands. Immigration from Puerto Rico into the United States has happened through the many relationships that the island has with the USA, from a Spanish colony up to 1898 to a US Sovereignty from 1898-1952 to a Commonwealth from 1952 to the present day.
Spanish is the main Goleta English is a slang term used to describe the form of English in Puerto Rican communities in Puerto Rico and around the world. Goleta English is English spoken with a Puerto Rican accent and has additional elements taken from Puerto Rican Spanish.
All Puerto Ricans born after 1917 are considered US Citizens. This is due to Puerto Rico being a territory of the United States. However, those living in Puerto Rico cannot vote for the US Presidential Elections nor can they vote for a representative in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. The island of Puerto Rico is represented by a Resident Commissioner who has the right to speak out in the sessions but does not have voting powers. However, these limitations do not apply to Puerto Ricans living in the United States.
Education wise, Puerto Rican Americans are much better off than the Hispanic average with 66.8% of the population having at least a high school diploma, higher than the 57% average for the Hispanic population. Puerto Rican Americans also have better jobs than the Hispanic average with 34.8% of the population having jobs paying $35,000 or more compared to the Hispanic average of 26.3. However, 26.1% of the Puerto Rican population lives below the poverty line as compared to 21.4% for the Hispanic population and 7.8% for the Non-Hispanic white population (US Census Bureau, 2003).
While Catholicism is still the dominant religion for Puerto Rican Americans, it is not as dominant as compared to other Hispanic ethnicities. Catholics make up 49% of the Puerto Rican American population followed by Evangelicals at 27% (Pew Hispanic Center, 2007). In contrast to Mexican Americans, Puerto Rican families are less patriarchal with 40% of Puerto Rican American families headed by women in 1993 though this number is expected to rise (Franklin, 2006).
Cuban Americans – Political upheaval in Cuba in the 1960s has led to waves of immigration of Cubans into the United States. Most of these immigrants settled in and around the state of Florida. Many of these immigrants came from the middle and upper sectors of Cuban society. From the 2002 census, there were around 1.3 million Cuban Americans accounting for 3.7% of the Hispanic population.
Among Cuban Americans less than 18 years old, 69% speak a language other than English at home which is comparable to the Hispanic Average of 67%. Of the 18 and under population, only 12% speak English very well. Of the 18 and above Cuban American population, 89% speak a language other than English at home while 49% speak English (Pew Hispanic Center, 2006).
Of all the major Hispanic groups, only the Cuban Americans identify themselves with the Republican Party with 49% of eligible voters who identify themselves as Republicans. Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and other Hispanic ethnicities are the opposite with 43-50% of voters aligning themselves with the Democrats.
Cuban Americans enjoyed far greater freedom and ease in immigrating to the United States as compared to other ethnicities. After the Cuban revolution up to 1985, all Cuban émigrés to the United States were automatically accepted as political refugees without any need for demonstration of this fact. Cuban Americans also have higher levels of education, median household income, and home ownership rates as compared to the average Hispanic American (Pew Hispanic Center, 2006). Cubans are also one of the most likely to have a bachelor’s degree among the Hispanic groups with 18.6% having a college diploma under their belt (US Census Bureau, 2003).
Catholicism is still the major religious tradition for Cuban Americans with 60% of the population as practicing Catholics. Fourteen percent of the population are Evangelicals and 14% are secular (Pew Hispanic Institute, 2007).
Another distinction with Cuban Americans is their smaller family sizes. Only 10.6% of Cuban American households had five or more members, lower than both the Hispanic Average of 26.5% and the Non-Hispanic White Average of 10.8% (US Census Bureau, 2003).
Colombian Americans – There are 730,510 Colombian Americans in the United States accounting for 0.25% of the total US population (US Census Bureau, 2005). Most of these are a product of the Colombian Diaspora resulting from the economic and violence problems that have plagued Colombia.
Eighty-eight percent of Colombian Americans speak a language other than English while 45.7% of Colombian Americans speak English less than “very well”. Only 11.2% of Colombian Americans speak English as the only language (US Census Bureau, 2005).
Colombian Americans are relatively marginalized politically due to their small numbers and their relatively recent immigration to the United States. Most census questionnaires don’t indicate a Colombian American option, with Colombian Americans falling under “others” or “South American” in demographic studies.
Colombian Americans however have lower poverty rates compared to the Hispanic average. The poverty rate for Colombian Americans is only 12.5% compared to 21.4% for the Hispanic average. Their educational attainment is quite high, with 83.7% having at least a high school diploma. Thirty one percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher (US Census Bureau, 2005).
Colombian Americans are predominantly Catholic with other denominations of Christianity present. However, Catholicism in Colombia also saw the rise of the Liberation Theology movement, a change of focus within the church to concentrate on the needs of the poor. Colombia also has one of the most conservative church hierarchies and has one of the highest percentages of regular churchgoers. For Colombian Americans, religion serves as a way to bind important customs and traditions (Sturner, n.d.).
Family is highly valued among Colombian Americans. Many immigrants choose to come to the United States as a family, however restrictive immigration laws make that objective difficult. Thus, families are usually forced to live separately for long periods of time while the breadwinner immigrates alone to work for better wages in the United States. For those families that manage to arrive in the United States, the experience is different from their traditional family life in Colombia. Economic realities demand a two income households and many women enter the workforce for the first time. This brings greater independence to the women (Sturner, n.d.).
Franklin, R.. (November 1, 2006). Hispanics in America: Culture and Mexicans, Cubans, Venezuelans. In Associated Content. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/78063/hispanics_in_america_culture_and_mexicans.html.
Pew Hispanic Center. (August 25, 2006). Cubans in the United States. In Pew Hispanic Center. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/23.pdf.
Pew Hispanic Center, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, (2007). Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from http://pewhispanic.org/files/reports/75.pdf.
Sturner, P.. (n.d.). Colombian Americans. In Every Culture.com. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/Colombian-Americans.html.
US Census Bureau, (2003). The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 2002. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from US Census Bureau Web site: http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p20-545.pdf
US Census Bureau. (2005). Selected Population Profile in the United States – Population Group:Colombian. In US Census Bureau. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/IPTable?_bm=y&-reg=ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201:417;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201PR:417;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201T:417;ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201TPR:417&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201PR&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201T&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_S0201TPR&-ds_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_&-TABLE_NAMEX=&-ci_type=A&-redoLog=false&-charIterations=047&-geo_id=01000US&-format=&-_lang=en.