Friday, October 17, 2008

Latino myths

One of the interesting topics we discussed on the radio this morning is the persistence of myths with regard to Latinos (this was also the theme of the book The Latino Threat, which I reviewed last month). One of the callers mentioned her concern about illegal immigration, particularly that people come to the United States and "demand we change our language." None of us participating in the show had ever heard anyone make such a demand. Yet such myths persist.

We know the myths exist, but I would like to know more about their origins and dissemination. Federico Subervi, who is in the School of Journalism at Texas State University and was on the show (because he is giving a talk here later in the month) argued that it originates with the most intensely anti-immigrant groups, and then spreads through talk radio and some political candidates.

This seems plausible enough, but the range of myths is so broad, the number of them so large, and they are so pervasive. They have deep historical roots and plenty of coverage even in the mainstream media. It would be fascinating to focus on specific myths and uncover the ways in which they emerged and then were disseminated.

Ultimately, I also think there is an unfortunate gap between academia and the public. There is a lot of very important research being done on Latino health, criminality (or lack thereof), use of public services, learning English, etc. but it doesn't penetrate enough beyond universities and think tanks.


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