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Navarrette: Hispanics in 2013 -- an accounting

Members of the Puerto Rico Coalition for a

Members of the Puerto Rico Coalition for a Better Community, a local group, march down Fifth Avenue while proudly displaying the Puerto Rican flag during the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Day Parade in Brentwood on July 22, 2012. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

We've now concluded another installment of Hispanic Heritage Month, the 30 days set aside each year by Congress -- Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 -- for corporations, academia, media and the political parties to make the nation's 53 million Hispanics feel valued, appreciated and wanted.

During the other 11 months, those in power can go back to doing what they normally do with Hispanics: ignore them.

Granted, that's not easy. You're talking about a group of people that spends $1.3 trillion a year, makes up 17 percent of the U.S. population, helps decide presidential elections, and represents most of the population growth in the last 20 years. For some Americans, ignoring Hispanics would be an improvement. Take the reader who fired off an angry screed in my direction. He wasn't exactly caught up in the spirit of Hispanic Heritage Month.

"I am sick and tired of the in-your-face attitude of Latinos," he wrote. "There are special holidays for Latinos, special contests, special stations, special newspapers, special organizations, but that is not enough. . . . When are you and the Latinos going to be grateful for what you get in the USA????"

Well, if you're going to get worked up about something, you should study the subject so you know what you're getting worked up about.

Sure, you'll find Hispanics who get in people's faces, protesting this and demanding that. Some feel entitled. Others are so consumed with asserting their rights that they've forgotten to fulfill their responsibilities. That's not a Hispanic thing. It's an American thing.

But many Hispanics are famously humble people. As I've often said: If humility were an Olympic sport, Hispanics would show up and win all the medals.

As for all the "special" accommodations for Hispanics, I've never met one of them who asked for that. In this regard, Hispanics are like other Americans. They don't want special treatment, just equal treatment.

They have earned that much. While East Coast media companies and Hollywood studios routinely portray Hispanics as recent immigrants, a visit to New Mexico or Arizona will turn up Hispanic folks who can trace their family histories to the 17th century. They were part of this country before it was a country.

Finally, the U.S.-born Hispanic people I know are extremely grateful to be Americans. And they show it every day by working hard, building businesses, paying taxes, saluting the flag, emphasizing the value of education to their children, sending their sons and daughters to the military, and honoring those who don't make it home.

Still, not that everything is perfect in Hispaniclandia. Far from it.

While other ethnic groups study the issues, many Hispanics have issues. We make mistakes, and we have shortcomings. We have a bad habit of waiting around for institutions -- government, schools, etc. -- to save us. What we really need to do is concentrate on saving ourselves.

We struggle with insecurity, stemming from how we were treated growing up in communities where whites controlled everything and mapped out for our lives a path that went not much further than field work. We delight in attacking one another, fighting over petty jealousies and insisting that no one is better than we are. We're too deferential, and too willing to keep quiet when we're being mistreated. We worry too much about what people think of us, and we've learned not to ask for too much out of life. And in recent years, like many other Americans, we can't seem to master the art of disagreeing with someone without trying to discredit and destroy them.

In the last four centuries, Hispanics in America have overcome just about every obstacle, challenge, setback and misfortune. Now, for many of them, it's time to overcome the instinct to self-destruct.

Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes a syndicated column for The Washington Post Writers Group.


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