Latino Crossings by Nicholas Degenova


Amongst one common group there are many smaller groups. These groups may carry many similar traits, but at the same time also possess differences that keep them arms length apart and maintaining beliefs that each hold of one another. Two groups in particular are Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. The two groups are closely examined in an area where they both immigrate to and quickly populate. The area of concentration is Chicago. We will take a closer look into the book Latino Crossings, by Nicholas De Genova and Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas. The examination interest is Mexican and Puerto Rican’s relationship with work. There are different aspects of this so I will serve you a sampler platter of what I find important and noteworthy.

First impressions can last a lifetime, even generations. Latino Crossings opens its third

chapter by touching on the subject of welfare and opportunities. “ Through a stigmatization of “welfare dependency”, the U.S. citizenship of Puerto Ricans invariably came to be conflated with their racialized denigration as “lazy” lacking a good “work ethic”, and, in effect, being the kind of undeserving poor who were ultimately a liability to the U.S. nation. In this sense, many Mexican immigrants commonly constructed themselves in contradistinction to precisely these images--- as being “hardworking,” and capable of making do without having to ask for “handouts”—and so, implicitly subscribed to hegemonic stereotypes about the virtues of “good immigrant values.”” (Page 57) Here our first stop, we have our images of both groups. It is said that Puerto Ricans come to the U.S. with an advantage of welfare, only to use this to their full capacity. They are visualized as the lazy one’s because the money is put on the table already. While on the other hand the Mexicans fall into a stereotype that is created for them by what they shouldn’t act or be like. When you need some work done in San Francisco, but you do not want to hire a contractor or professional, any native San Franciscan will tell you to head over to Army and Mission to pick up a coupla’ Mexicans for some great cheap labor. They’ll do whatever you need, yard work, painting, and roofing, amongst many other handy jobs. Just give em’ some lunch, and a decent cash pay when the work is done.

There are exceptions to every rule right? It would be illogical for me to agree with the assumption that Puerto Rican’s are lazy based on the mere fact that they may be entitled to governmental aid. With this being said we can examine Carmen’s story. (Page 62) Carmen, a Puerto Rican woman who had 3 sons and was widowed, worked hard to support 3 growing boys, going through different jobs, no job, even public assistance. Seemingly distraught, Carmen held her head high and continued on her journey of strenuous work, only to receive minimal benefits, though she qualified for the maximum. This is a great example of hard work for a struggling mother, who stands against the expected. Realistically we must understand that there are more women like Carmen, men too, who strive to achieve ends meet for themselves or their family. For instance later in the chapter (page 79), Ramos-Zayas talks with an acquaintance from Humboldt Park, a neighborhood in Chicago. They discuss the living experience of this individual in reference to the economic situation amongst Puerto Rican Chicagoans. In the new neighborhood it is noted that houses are nicer, people work because they want to, versus the prior area where many were on welfare. Possibly it is not that they are lazy but stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. It becomes difficult to get oneself out of poverty, adolescents in the family sometimes get out of this as they grow, but these opportunities are sporadically available.

Another issue that these two groups are supposedly opposite on is accomplishment. According to Ester Garcia, (Page 79) a beauty school owner, one of her students who was Mexican, had almost finished the program. Rather than waiting a few more weeks to become certified she went back to Mexico. Garcia notes though that in Mexico the certificate is not required to style hair, whereas in Puerto Rico it is. This difference will surely create some economic striations between the two groups. In the United States, certification is required, commonly one might find in home hair salons, where the individual may have experience with styling, but not actually have documentation, these folks usually have a clientele of family and close friends who receive a deal or “hook up” on the price. Simultaneously we have those who own or rent shops, have a full staff of experienced and certified workers. Prices are moderate to high, and tips are expected. Elsa Ayala, another colleague of Ramos-Zayas touched on the fact that Mexicans don’t know the system, this in reference to mine and Garcia’s outlook. It seems as if they have no set system and do not understand the concept of moving up.

The notion that Puerto Rican’s are lazy, untrustworthy, and sneaky is present throughout the chapter. Ramos-Zayas speaks and meets with different people, who discuss their experiences. One Puerto Rican worker, while him and some classmates we taking a test, joked with a Mexican female classmate that she was cheating on the test. Her immediate response was, “What do you think, I’m Puerto Rican?” (Page 82) Here the student automatically feels discredited, and offended that one might think she does not do her own work, that she needs to look on with someone else, and perceives a Puerto Rican identity. In another instance two Mexican men talk about the way they were duped into health cub membership, by bilingual representatives who only gave them partial information. Their vision of these telephone representatives is that they are Puerto Rican. Interestingly enough I spoke with a few Latino’s of different country origin, and asked what they thought of Puerto Rican’s? The majority of them answered with words like: lazy, scummy, broke, wanna-be Blacks, amongst many other choice words. They went on to tell me that on the contrary they felt Mexicans and Salvadorans were the most hardworking. It was quite interesting for me to get those types of answers. Aside from a few classes I am mostly unfamiliar with the Latino groups, I felt there might be more unity and similar values and ethics, which I have been proved otherwise.

As mentioned earlier, there are exceptions to the rule. Some Puerto Rican’s are hardworking, like those of the new neighborhood where a colleague had moved. Similarly there may be Mexicans who are lazy, but the difference in values, understanding the workforce, will keep these two group miles apart. A question for me to think about is, what will happen for these groups in the future? How will they carry on or stand up to these stereotypes for which we all hold of them? It is hard to not be credited for something that you continuously do or act upon.

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