La Raza en Nueva York: Social Pluralism and Schools

by Glenn Hendricks - 1973

The intention of this paper is to describe the development of an Hispano-American culture in New York, and to indicate how the politicization of ethnicity which results is affecting the New York City schools.

Glenn Hendricks is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. The research project from which this article was drawn was supported by a grant from the Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute, Teachers College, Columbia University.

As a major and visible social institution, schools cannot help but reflect, in their operation, organization, and structure, the stresses of the society of which they are a part. At present, a significant shift in ethnic relationships is occurring in New York City, indicative of a larger national shift: a tripartite social pluralism based upon categories that are both physical (racial) and cultural is emerging. As a result, institutions are changing to reflect a pluralism not heretofore characteristic of the modern urban American experience.

The intention of this paper is to describe the development of an Hispano-American culture in New York,1 and to indicate how the politicization of ethnicity which results is affecting the New York City schools.

A great deal has been written about cultural and social pluralism. It is beyond the scope of this paper to reconstruct its theoretical basis. In brief, however, the proponents of the plural society model argue that institutional differences serve to distinguish differing cultures and social units. One of the difficulties inherent in this viewpoint is its inability to specify the operational level at which institutional differences become such markers. Despres distinguishes between minimal (e.g. kinship) and maximal (e.g. market structures) institutions as ideal types and argues that to the degree maximal structures serve specific culture groups the society may be labeled pluralistic.

It is suggested the definition of the plural society must take into account two related sets of facts: (1) the extent to which the specific groups are culturally differentiated in terms of specific institutional activities, and (2) the level at which institutional activities serve to maintain cultural differentiation as the basis for sociocultural integration.2

Pluralism has been examined most often within multi-ethnic colonial or postcolonial situations. Implicit in these discussions has been the political dimension and consequent emergence of social pluralism as ethnic groups vie for access to sources of power. Vincent rightfully points out that "cultural pluralism then becomes politically relevant when differential access to positions of differing advantage is institutionalized in ethnic terms."3 One area in which this ethnic competition is visibly expressed is within the public school system of New York City. The black-white-brown lines become ever more rigidly drawn as each group cajoles, pleads, and threatens for programs developed specifically to meet its particular social and cultural circumstances.

New York City, as the primary port of entry for millions of immigrants into the United States, historically has been a polyglot of diverse ethnic groups exhibiting various stages of assimilation into that culture complex labeled "American." In the past several decades, we have come to recognize, however, that the popularized conception of the dominant pattern of American assimilation, the so-called melting pot theory, has proved to be an inadequate framework in which to describe what has actually taken place. Persistence of ethnic identity for large segments of almost every immigrant section for generations after it was assumed to have been lost4 indicates the inadequacy of the melting pot formulation. Political activities based upon "ethnic arithmetic" continue to exist and reward the patient political practitioner. Nevertheless, however persistent this ethnic consciousness may be, it would be both unfair and inaccurate not to recognize the American experience as having woven the fabric of a viable society from very diverse ethnic strands.

Immigrant populations of the nineteenth century, who are usually included among those having successfully integrated, shared two important attributes: (1) they were phenotypically white-skinned, and (2) they came to the United States as citizens of another sociopolitical unit to assume residence in the United States. Upon arrival, citizenship rights were not necessarily automatically conferred, and until they were given, these immigrants were seldom in a position to make overt political demands. They could only indirectly affect public policy.


The passage of the first immigration laws in 1924, restricting numbers and national origins of potential immigrants, was of tremendous importance in changing the nature of the incoming stream of immigrants. The elimination of the national quotas in 1968 and the placement of a ceiling for the first time on immigrants from other countries of North and South America will also dramatically change the immigrant stream. The impact of this change is just beginning to emerge and is not yet adequately documented. However, during the last half century a new pattern of internal migration developed as the agrarian economy of the United States changed and large numbers of persons were forced to leave the land and seek urban employment. The shifting economy of the South had special implications for New York as the city became one of the target areas for millions of blacks who migrated northward. A later but parallel internal migration was that of the Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican. As his island home began to feel the effect of burgeoning population growth, he found economic relief by seeking employment in New York. Not unlike some previous immigrants, both the blacks and Puerto Ricans arrived as members of socially subordinate groups, subject to the vicissitudes of American racism, unskilled and often functionally illiterate, speaking a completely foreign language or nonstandard form of English, and bearers of a cultural pattern that was to varying degrees contrastive to the mainstream dominant culture. But (and an important but) they shared two latent powers: American citizenship and significantly large numbers.

In the last decade a third large immigrant group has arrived on the New York scene. But because the wider society misidentifies them as Puerto Rican, the magnitude of this immigration has been almost unnoticed. This is the mix of nearly a million Spanish-speakers from the Caribbean islands of Cuba and the Dominican Republic and a variety of South American countries. The size of this group is difficult to ascertain because it has arrived since the 1960 decennial census.5 The growth of this "other than Puerto Rican Hispanos" segment is the result of both internal events in the countries of origin as well as United States relationships to those events. Since the takeover of Cuba by the Castro government, daily flights from Havana to Miami have been airlifting three to four thousand Cubans monthly to mainland United States. Large numbers have settled in New York and continue to do so in spite of massive government attempts to settle them out of the New York and Miami areas. The Dominican diaspora began shortly before the death of Trujillo in 1961 and was reinforced by the political instability that has occurred in the decade since, including the intervention and landing of United States forces in the Dominican Republic for the third time in the twentieth century. Estimates of the total Hispano population in New York generally place it at slightly under two million, only half of whom are of Puerto Rican origin.6 This is in contrast to a 1970 preliminary census estimate of 1.7 million blacks living in the city.7 At minimum it can be said that black and Hispano populations are of approximately the same size. Together they represent 3.5 million persons or 40 to 45 percent of the city's population.

A necessary legal distinction must be made between the Puerto Rican and the "other Hispano" in that Puerto Ricans are legal citizens of the United States and have the same legal right to enter and exit New York as a New York resident has to move to Miami. The others have passed through the screen of U.S. immigration law (or illegally by-passed it) and by and large still retain citizenship in their native countries. This fact not only disenfranchises most of them from participation in United States political events, but also results in a population of large but unknown numbers who are in a precarious illegal situation similar to the large number of "wetbacks" in the Southwest. Their presence has important consequences not only for them but also for the nature of the interaction between the entire non-Puerto Rican Hispano segment and the wider American society. While Cubans as political emigres are not in quite the same position, they have as yet failed to obtain United States citizenship in large numbers. The result of this disenfranchisement is that even when political units acknowledge that Puerto Ricans are but one segment of the total Hispano group, they are of necessity forced to recognize the Puerto Ricans as the spokesmen for the larger Hispano segment.

Not unlike the members of most immigrant groups, the Hispano immigrant most often considers his new residence to be only temporary and assumes he will one day return to his native country. However, this assumption is a far more realistic one for the Hispano than for previous immigrants who arrived earlier and from more distant countries. Modern forms of transportation plus the proximity of San Juan, Santo Domingo, or even Caracas to New York make ingress and egress relatively simple. Ties to kinsmen and friends in the countries of origin need not be severed or even attenuated. (Here we must except the Cuban who at this time cannot return. However, very often his kinsmen have also arrived in the United States.) For many Dominicans migration to New York is but one segment of the individual's life, and a portion of their active social field remains geographically located in the Dominican Republic. This failure to make a permanent commitment to immigrate to the United States has significant consequences to the patterns of assimilation and acculturation that take place. I use the word commitment purposefully to imply intention rather than actual behavior patterns.

Most of the Hispano settlers in New York come from areas of Latin America where there has been a massive infusion of Negro phenotypic characteristics into the population's genetic pool., A smaller segment is generated out of areas where the mixture includes Indian characteristics, both physical and cultural. The majority of the native population pools of the three most significant segments of Hispanos (Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican) in New York are consequently classified as mullato. While racial consciousness and discrimination is indigenous in these societies, it is of a far different order than that practiced in the United States, where little distinction is made between brown and black. One of the first problems the immigrant faces upon arrival is the encounter with this new social classification as a person of "color." The unsolicited inclusion in a common category of black and Puerto Rican is acceptable to neither blacks nor Hispanos.8 The Hispanos have reacted defensively, not only retaining Hispanic characteristics, especially the language, but accentuating them in order to avoid classification as Negroes. Since both groups are often competing with each other for available economic and political resources (e.g. poverty program grants, positions as minority representatives on committees and commissions, and special school programs), the cleavage and the tensions between these two groups are great.9 By the same token, to be a Puerto Rican is said to carry with it a more socially subordinate stigma than to be "South American," and therefore "other Hispanos" are often careful to point out that they are not Puerto Rican but Cuban or Dominican or whatever.


A further factor which must be considered is the ethnocentrism that is a prominent part of the Hispanic culture. The Hispano is quite conscious of the concept la raza, literally meaning the race, but actually connoting a complex of ethnocentric values which imply the inherent superiority of Hispano lifeways. Superimposed is a nationalistic attachment that is expressed in far more emotional terms than is found in American culture. There fore, despite acculturation into United States society, strong ties are still retained to the country of origin. Thus a politicized Puerto Rican is often more concerned about statehood for Puerto Rico than about his position in New York. This is even more true of political emigres from Cuba and the Domican Republic. Almost all political activity found among Dominicans in New York is bound up with events in Santo Domingo and not New York. During the Dominican elections of 1970 the key political speeches of President Balaguer were broadcast in New York simultaneously with their transmission in the Republic. Colombians formed long lines before their Consulate in order to vote in their presidential elections in 1970.10 In the case of Puerto Ricans, this pattern is slowly changing as second and third generations are born on the mainland and there is an emergence of an identification with Puerto Rican problems here. Attempts to coalesce as a national group are often negated by charges and countercharges of individuals gaining political advantage in the home country. A recent election of a New York Puerto Rican Day Parade President, a prestigious position among Puertoriquenos, was punctuated by charges that the election was being used to promote the individual's political position in the San Juan government.11

In spite of the divisive social and political factors operating to prevent its coalescence as a formal corporate group, the sheer number of Spanish speakers, sharing a largely similar cultural complex, has led to the development of a very visible if not viable Hispanic subculture in New York City. Two daily newspapers in the Spanish language are published in New York. Two television stations and at least a half dozen radio stations broadcast primarily to a Spanish speaking audience. Dozens of Spanish language movie theaters are to be found in the areas of Hispano settlement. Innumerable stores, especially those selling food, either cater exclusively to this population or have whole sections devoted to food stuffs preferred by Caribbean- and Latin-Americans: plantains, yucca, rice, beans, and condiments. (A slang term for Puerto Ricans among this population is that of Goya, actually a trade name for a popular brand of processed foodstuffs originally aimed at the Puerto Rican market.) At least three banking institutions identified as Puerto Rican have opened numerous branches in New York and aggressively pursue business of the Spanish speaking population. A credit card system catering to the Hispano customer has been launched by one of them.


Cohen's analysis of the Hausa living in Yoruba towns of Nigeria provides one theoretical framework in which to consider the growing Hispano segment in New York. He notes that the Hausa adjusted to the new social situation not by rapidly losing their cultural distinctiveness, but by:

…adjust[ing] to the new realities by reorganizing its own traditional customs, or by developing new customs under traditional symbols, often using traditional norms and ideologies to enhance its distinctiveness within the contemporary situation.12

This process he labels retribalization, as opposed to detribalization.

Obviously, value systems do undergo significant changes upon arrival in New York. Life in the major metropolitan area of the United States is not that of San Juan, a rural Dominican village, not an Ecuadorian provincial town. But the process of the cultural shift is often, to use Spicer's definition, more intergrative than assimilative;13 that is, new culture traits are taken on and integrated in such a way to conform to the meaningful and functional relations within the individual's ongoing culture system, rather than his accepting the totality of a new system. The new life in New York makes certain functional demands upon the individual. He obviously must learn to use the subways and conform to the rigidity of time requirements of factory employment. Again using Spicer's typology, these elements are more likely to be isolative or compartmentalized than assimilative. El Boss is part of the American's way of life and at the end of the day one retreats to family and friends where compañerismo is the basis of social relationships.

The newly arrived Hispano immigrant at this point in time enters an ongoing social system that is significantly different from that of the dominant culture but is so encompassing that the pressures to assimilate to the dominant culture have been effectively mitigated. A virtually complete subsociety of a New York variant of Hispano culture has been erected. The immigrant does change, but this change is most often best characterized as retribalization. Presently this process is most apparent in subsets of the total segment (e.g. Puerto Ricans or Dominicans), but it still can be documented for the total Hispano group.

Among the group I am most familiar with, Dominicans, movement to New York carries with it possibilities for great upward economic and social mobility. This is especially so for the campesino who in his own country has little opportunity to gain employment even by moving to urban areas of the Republic. Settlement in New York provides opportunities not only for a job but the ability to acquire quantities of capital most middle-class Dominicans are hard pressed to accumulate. However, his economic success in North American terms is relatively unimpressive. In New York he is usually classified as poverty stricken and is often a slum dweller. But if he views himself in terms of his former position in his native society, he has indeed achieved much. Thus the frame of reference by which to measure his success must come in relationship to other Dominicans either in the Republic or among his fellow countrymen in New York. Hence the New York dweller finds sources for reinforcement of his retention of Hispanic cultural attributes by the very nature of the rewards system. Attendance at an English language public school represents higher social status in Dominican terms for at least two reasons. First, mere attendance of school, especially at the secondary level, is a privilege for a relative few in his own country. Secondly, large numbers of the social and economic leading classes have for generations sent their children to schools in the United States. Bilingualism is not seen as an opportunity to become an American, but rather a functional skill which allows greater economic and social maneuverability as either a Dominican or a Hispano. However, attendance at a typical New York public school is not accepted without some reservations. For many parents and even children the school is seen as an instrument of "Yankee imperialism," robbing the Hispano child of some of the basic values of his own culture.

A genuinely successful product of the New York experience is seen as the individual who gains the economic, social, and political power to return to the island home with enhanced status. Among the politically oriented Dominicans in New York a significant lesson is to be found in the experience of the current President of the Republic, Joachim Balaguer, who is alleged to have rebuilt his political power base on 57th Street in a Horn and Hardart cafeteria while in political exile following the assassination of Trujillo. Among the Dominican campesinos with whom I worked in New York, the true success story was the individual who returned home after a purgatorial sojourn to New York with sufficient capital accumulation to live a comfortable existence. This New York experience allows him to gain access to many material items: automobiles, refrigerators, television sets, and medical care, items that are not unknown in his own culture; but which because of his socioeconomic status, were seldom available to him. Traditional values in marriage patterns, kin relationships, and religious beliefs undergo only slight transition in the Dominican move to New York. Marriages are contracted exclusively with other Hispanos, usually their own countrymen and often among persons from their own village. This is true even for young persons who have been reared primarily in New York.

While the majority of the total immigrant population of Hispanos is recruited from either the urban lower class or from the rural peasantry, significant numbers are drawn from the middle and even the upper class of some countries. Upon arrival in New York few, if only because of the language barriers, possess employable skills and thus all tend to be thrown into the same labor pool, working, for example, as factory operators (machine operators in the garment industry) or in service occupations (restaurant workers, especially dishwashers). The mastery of English, and hence occupational mobility, is usually a function of previous education, which in turn reflects to some degree the socioeconomic segment of the society from which the Hispano has come. Within a short period of time the social stratification system of the home country begins to re-emerge. By the same token there is a stratification system emerging between national groupings. Cuban immigrants, large portions of whom were drawn from the entrepreneurial class of their home society, seem to have re-emerged as the most successful economically. An often quoted joke among Hispanos is that a Cuban arrives in a Spanish speaking establishment to begin work as the floor sweeper and by the end of the year he has become the manager. The relative obscurity of Cubans in visible positions of leadership among the Hispano segment is a function of both their recent arrival and their lack of citizenship and hence political enfranchisement. However, there is every reason to believe that future leadership will emerge from among Cuban-Americans. Cross cutting relationships within the Hispano population have developed as marital unions are formed between members of these national groupings. Based upon my observations of Dominicans as well as a survey of marriage announcements made in the Spanish press, the tendency is for these unions to be formed along class lines even when national lines are crossed for mate selection. It is possible that a lower class Dominican may find a marital partner from among a higher placed Honduran, but seldom would the mobility take place through mate selection from members of his own nationality. Far most common is the linking of middle-class individuals from different countries through marital unions.


Tensions do exist between the national segments which must be recognized in any description of the Hispanos of New York. Even though Spanish is the common language, each national grouping has variants of it, if only in pronunciation or in specific vocabulary terms. These variations are most pronounced in the spoken rather than in the written language. Radio and television stations face the difficulty of carefully balancing the nationalities of their announcers due to criticism over what is "correct" Spanish. The organizers of a block association party in a Hispano neighborhood with which I was familiar had to carefully balance the choice of musical groups in order to avoid offending either the Puerto Rican or Dominican participants. In a similar fashion, several years ago the Hispano banking institutions in New York were accused in the Spanish press of undergoing a process of "Cubanization." This intragroup competition is a significant factor in the schools. As more Spanish speaking individuals are recruited to teaching positions within the school systems (both public and private), the middle-class, educated Cuban, often a former teacher in Cuba, most often fulfills the requisite educational requirements. This has led to resentments among Puerto Ricans who claim their children are not being taught "their own" Spanish.

Previous periods of large scale single ethnic group immigration by the Germans, Italians, and East European Jews have led to attempts by sensitive socially conscious individuals and groups, both public and private, to alleviate their problems and accommodate to their needs. But underlying these activities was the assumption that the newcomers would eventually assimilate to the language and values of the dominant American society. What is unique about the current Hispano experience is that portions of the social and legal systems which heretofore operated to impose the dominant culture's norms are now utilized to reinforce and retain the Hispano's separate cultural identity. Judicial decisions at all levels plus administrative policy (which is both a result of and independent of judicial decree), bolstered by a value system that pays at least lip service to the "right of individuals to maintain their own culture," have led to the emergence of an intra-structural pattern which not only permits but encourages the development of cultural and social pluralism. Literacy in English is no longer a requirement for voting. Driver's license examinations are now administered in Spanish—a social reality that intimately touches thousands of Hispanos. In New York State, consumer credit contracts must be written in Spanish as well as in English, and courts are required to furnish bilingual interpreters in Spanish and English for those cases requiring it. Most widely used municipal forms, such as those applicable to rent control, are written bilingually. When feasible, and of necessity, governmental offices which serve the general public are staffed by bilingual individuals. Subway warning signs are now routinely posted in both Spanish and English. Recognition of both the political power as well as the legal and moral right for representation is demonstrated by the now almost standard practice of seeking out black and Hispano representatives on any commission, delegation, or committee that seeks an image of widespread representation. The first United States Congressman identified with the Puerto Rican segment of New York City's population has been re-elected, and undoubtedly there will be more following. This recognition has not evolved without some degree of militancy on the part of the Hispanos themselves as they first sought recognition and then equality. The activities of the Young Lords, an ethnically oriented separatist movement of mainland born and reared Puerto Ricans, represent at least one direction that this new Hispano self-consciousness might take.

The degree to which the Hispano now constitutes a recognized segment is seen in the growing practice of bilingual advertising. Thus in a great many places in New York Coca Cola's "Es la cosa real" is seen as frequently as "It's the real thing." A growing advertising and public relations industry caters exclusively to Hispanos. The newly created New York City Betting Commission aimed a specific advertising program at the Spanish speakers (another separate program was aimed at the black).

Settlement patterns of the Hispano group are dominated by the shortage of all types of housing in New York, which is especially severe among low priced rental units. However the propensity of Hispanos to live in concentrated groups is as much a result of their desire to live near familiar persons as it is a result of the competition to secure any kind of housing at prices they can afford. The concentration of many individuals in a single living unit is an outgrowth of their own behavioral patterns of living in relatively limited space, as well as an efficient way of mobilizing sufficient resources to pay the relatively high rents demanded for even minimal accommodations.


The most widely known residential area for the Hispano population is el Barrio, the eastern part of Harlem located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. However, this area is almost exclusively Puerto Rican and contains only a small segment of the total population. Hispanos can be found throughout the city, with the heaviest concentration in Manhattan and the Bronx, but increasingly in Brooklyn. Table I indicates school population characteristics and provides as reliable an index to relative settlement patterns as any currently available.14 In addition to the 68,500 Hispano children in the Borough of Manhattan public schools, almost fourteen thousand more attend Catholic parochial schools in the Manhattan diocese. This writer, however, would argue that use of school statistics for total population projections is still erronous since the "other Hispanos" have just started to establish households and marital unions in New York. Because of their recent arrival, their children have yet to reach the schools in large numbers. In addition, many do not enter the immigrant stream until after they are past school age. A further caveat is that the large number of illegal residents seldom are accompanied by school age children. However, what the table does indicate is that, with the exception of Staten Island, significant numbers of Hispanos reside in all boroughs of the city.


I should like to turn now to a brief discussion of the impact all of this has had upon the schools of New York City. As Table I indicates, at least 25 percent of the public school population of the city is of Hispano origin, coming from family units that retain varying degrees of that unique cultural identity. Were these 25 percent distributed throughout the system their impact would undoubtedly be of a different order. In both Manhattan and the Bronx, however, they constitute 40 percent of the population, and were these figures broken down by district and school, one would find individual schools with 80 to 90 percent Hispano registrants.

Among the catalogue of problems this large population brings to the schools is the obvious one of language. A special language census in 1969 revealed that 95,482 Hispano children attending New York public schools faced language difficulties ranging from moderate (i.e. they speak English hesitantly) to severe (they speak little or none). (See Table II).15

A wide variety of experimental programs has been proposed and in some cases implemented in attempts to cope with this


very real language problem. In the past few years there have developed a number of pilot experimental programs due to the infusion of federal aid funds under the Bilingual Education Act of 1968.16 The most radical of these are at least two schools in the Bronx in which Spanish is the language in which all major subject matters are taught and English is introduced as a foreign language. Variations on this concept exist in many schools depending upon the number and kind of Spanish speaking teachers who can be recruited. Besides deliberate proposals for separate secondary schools catering to the Spanish speaker, de facto segregation in certain areas is also leading to high schools which are largely Hispano. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin High Schools in upper Manhattan have increasingly large numbers of Spanish speaking students. The opening of Maria Hostos Community College, as part of the city's two year college program, is an overt attempt to create an institution of higher education specifically aimed at this population.

A discussion of the merits of such programs is not my purpose here; rather it is to note the consequences such programs, if fully implemented, might have. Burnett raises the issue of the significance of schools as instruments of developing pluralism.

I question whether the objectives of cultural pluralism can be pursued in the presence of highly centralized political and economic control of schools. The recent posture of teachers' unions has added to my doubts.17

In New York City, part of the current battle over decentralization is over just such issues. The degree that each district achieves autonomy, especially in the recruitment of its teachers, will affect the implementation of Spanish language programs. If our definition of ethnic pluralism, especially in a sociological sense, includes the construction of "maximal" institutions that serve to socialize individuals into separate language (hence ethnic) segments, it would seem obvious such Spanish language schools are inherently part of this social movement towards pluralism. The selection of the first Puerto Rican District Superintendent, by a knowledgeable and militant board, who is dedicated to the development of these truly bilingual schools is evidence of how far this movement has progressed. One can only speculate how far such a development might proceed before the intercession of other countervaling forces. However, both the possibility and the direction already taken is clearly demonstrable.

Vincent's argument that ethnicity becomes politically salient when it involves a competition for access to available strategic resources is pertinent here. If separate schooling facilities for the Hispano population indeed become an alternative to which a significant number have access, it is possible to foresee further coalescence of this ethnic segment and the accentuation of ethnic divisions. This is particularly true in the division between blacks and Hispanos as they pi s for schools emphasizing their particular cultural points of view.

A usual rebuttal to the kind of argument presented in this paper is that other ethnic sections in New York, notably the Jews, have passed through the school system and used it as a route toward acculturation. Greer, in a recent historical examination of the role of the schools in New York in the processes of assimilation, raises the serious question that this centrality ever existed. Rather he posits that:

Public education was the rubber stamp of economic improvement; rarely has it been the bootstrap…the key factor is more probably the indigenous grounding of the unit within the ethnic boundary—the establishment of an ethnic middle class before scaling the walls of the dominant society.18

As I have said, it can be further argued that historical analogy cannot be used in the Hispano case because neither their position vis-a-vis the political structure nor the dominant society's at least token acceptance of cultural pluralism was previously present.

The legal position of the majority of Hispanos, their great numbers, American racial attitudes, and the Hispanos' historically demonstrated penchant for retaining major cultural traits in spite of pressures toward acculturation are all salient conditions which combine to aid the emergence of new forms of social organization and structures in New York City. Certainly, the direction of this pluralistic development is not irreversible, and even at present a considerable number of persons of Hispano heritage choose to assimilate into the dominant society. Others may situationally select when to be American and when to be Hispano. And further, policy decisions made by political and educational leaders concerning the school's response to societal change will obviously affect the future course of events. What is clear, however, and what I have attempted to demonstrate, is that the situation is a dynamic one in which dynamic processes of culture and social change are in full operation.


1 The term Hispano is used here to mean all persons originating from countries which are the bearers of a culture complex that originated in Spain and who make use of the Spanish language. This includes Puerto Ricans, Cubans, South Americans, as well as persons from Spain. There is no term in Spanish or English to cover just those persons who originate in Hispanic countries other than Puerto Rico. Therefore, it is necessary to use the awkward phrase beginning with the descriptor "other." Official records usually now break the categories down into "Puerto Ricans" and "other Spanish surnames." Until a few years ago this latter group was lumped into the "other" category meaning all persons who were not Negro, Oriental, or Puerto Rican, thus further concealing this growing non-Puerto Rican Hispano segment. Still, Hispanos living in the United States lack a generally agreed upon generic term. Mexican-Americans use the term Chicano to distinguish a particular subset of this group. What is needed is a term covering the entire set of Hispanos. Although used in a derogatory sense, the Mexican term pocho (literally faded out or bleached) to denote Americanized approaches the term that will undoubtedly some day be coined.

2 Leo. A. Despres. Cultural Pluralism and Nationalist Politics in British Guiana. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1967, pp. 21-22.

3 Joan Vincent, "The Politics of Ethnicity," paper delivered at the 29th Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Boulder, Colorado, April 1970, p. 2.

4 Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Beyond the Melting Pot. Cambridge, Mass.: The M.I.T. Press, 1963.

5 At the time of this writing, even preliminary reports of New York's 1970 count of the Spanish speaking population have not been released. The fact that the count of blacks was released less than three months after the count was made is perhaps indicative of the relative political clout carried by blacks vis-a-vis the Hispano population.

6 New York State Division of Human Rights. Puerto Ricans in New York State, 1969, mimeo.

7 Deirde Carmody, "True Black Count Urged in Census," New York Times, February 11, 1970, p.


8 So frequent is the term "black and Puerto Rican" (actually meaning Hispano) used together as another synonym for "the poor" that it is often pronounced as a single unbroken morphemic unit, "Blackandpuertorican."

9 I have been witness to public arguments between black and Puerto Rican representatives who base the argumentation for acceptance of their particular point of view on the fact that they as a group are more discriminated against than is the other.

10 According to a New York Times account of the affair the more than 5,000 persons who voted in New York "turned the area on 57th Street in front of the Colombian Center into a fiesta." One participant is quoted, "For us, Colombia is all that is important in our hearts. America can give us jobs, but it cannot give us a heart. New York Times, April 20, 1970, p. 3.

11 Alfonso A. Navarez, "Aide to be Named by Puerto Ricans," New York Times, November 29, 1970, p. 57.

12 Abner Cohen. Custom and Politics in Urban Africa. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1969.

13 Edward H. Spicer, "Types of Contact and Processes of Change," in Edward H. Spicer, ed. Perspectives in American Indian Culture Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961. pp. 517-544.

14 Board of Education of the City of New York. Annual Census of School Population, October 31, 1969. The problems inherent in making such a census leave the reliability of these figures open to question. Teachers were left to make these determinations without asking the pupils. The Central Office of Educational Program Research and Statistics specifically instructed that each school was to make its own interpretation of these categories without consulting their office. A number of Dominicans, for example, do not carry Spanish sounding surnames. Lack of information makes it difficult for a non-Spanish speaking teacher to determine the place of origin of a child and thus everyone who speaks Spanish is Puerto Rican. This is not a problem unique to New York City. In Minneapolis the ethnic census is referred to as the "sight count" and is literally based upon the observatory powers of the teacher.

15 Board of Education of the City of New York. Survey of Pupils Who Have Difficulties with the English Language, Publication 334, September 1970.

16 It might be noted here that the Bilingual Aid Act grew out of problems existing in the Southwest among Mexican-Americans and was eventually funded only because President Johnson made special efforts to see that it was pushed through Congress. Implicit in the discussion of this paper is the significance of recent decisions on the national level to further aid the Spanish speaking portion of the American population as well as court rulings requiring equality of treatment for Spanish speaking citizens.

17 Jaquetta H. Burnett, "Culture of the School: A Construct for Research and Explanation in Education," Council on Anthropology and Education Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1970, p. 11.

18 Colin Greer, "Immigrants, Negroes, and the Public Schools," Urban Review, January 1969, p. 11.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 74 Number 3, 1973, p. 379-394 ID Number: 1525, Date Accessed: 10/22/2021 3:20:43 PM

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