Hispanic Boot Hasn`t Dropped – Yet
To celebrate its 25 anniversary, American
Demographics magazine asked various marketing
research gurus to list both their accurate predictions
(yawn) and their biggest
Youth culture trend spotter
Irma Zandl offered the most intriguing bad
prediction – not because she alone messed up, but
because she had the guts to admit a mistake that has
been made repeatedly since.
“Things That Have Not
Happened—1988: The Hispanic influence
“We felt that this country
would become more Latinized. However, with the exception
of food and beverages and an occasional musician (e.g.
Ricky Martin or J-Lo), we have not seen the kind of
widespread influence that we anticipated. For example,
there are still no mass fashion trends, no mass
entertainment trends, no mass social trends rooted in
the Hispanic culture.”
I certainly don`t blame Zandl for her fallacious
forecast. I assumed exactly the same thing in 1988. The
signs were pointing toward middle class American culture
becoming more Latin.
That year Time Magazine put an East L.A.
mural of the formidable Mexican-American actor
Edward James Olmos on the cover over the headline:
"¡Magnifico! Hispanic culture breaks out of the
barrio." As the laconic Lt. Castillo, Olmos had
provided the moral center of gravity for that ultimate
1980s TV series, Miami Vice. And Olmos earned an
Oscar nomination in 1988 for his portrayal of the
inspiring calculus teacher
Jaime A. Escalante in
Stand and Deliver.
Back then, Corona was the coolest beer and East
Los Lobos was the most talented rock band.
The year before their sensational cover version of
"La Bamba" supercharged the hit
biopic about Mexican-American musical prodigy
Southern California architects had finally returned
to building in the white stucco and red tile roof
style that suited the climate so well.
With the constant influx of new Latino immigrants, I
thought, how could this trend not snowball?
Fifteen years have gone by. Hispanics have
(supposedly) surpassed African-Americans to become the
largest minority. But their impact on American culture
lags far behind blacks – and even behind the much less
numerous East Asians.
This weekend`s Movie of the Century,
The Matrix Reloaded, for example, is full of
black actors and stunts inspired by Hong Kong action
movies and Japanese anime cartoons, but there`s
nothing Latin American about it.
Of the approximately
270 movies to make $100 million at the domestic box
office, only "Spy Kids" had a primarily Latino cast.
In 1999, Time made Puerto Rican singer Ricky
cover boy over the headline "Latin Music Goes
Pop!" But Pop! turned out to be a better
description of poor Ricky`s career.
Even here in L.A., I`m repeatedly struck by how
little impact Hispanic culture has on the tastemakers.
Consider architecture. The lovely and time-honored
Mission style has gone out of fashion again. What`s hot
now, as embodied in the Walt Disney
Concert Hall downtown, is Frank Gehry`s Mangled UFO
Wreckage Look. The abrasive new Roman Catholic
Cathedral, of all buildings, rejects populist Latin
American styles for an intellectualized
European deconstructionist look.
What happened? Why have all the pundits been wrong-
going back to Zandl and me in 1988?
- First, the sheer mass of Spanish-speaking
immigrants had an unexpected effect. Paradoxically,
instead of increasing the cultural impact of
diminished the interpenetration of Latinos and
non-Latinos by making possible the formation of gigantic
Hispanic super-enclaves like
northern Orange County The hundreds of thousands of
Latinos there simply don`t need to have much interaction
with the rest of America.
As Ed Rubenstein
documented in VDARE.com on recently, the number of
residents of America who admitted to the
Census that they speak English less than "very well"
shot up from 14.0 million in 1990 to 21.3 million in
2000. Even among the native-born, those who don`t speak
English very well grew from 4.0 million to 5.6 million.
In turn, these demographic trends fertilized the
Spanish language media, such as the
Univision and Telemundo TV networks. These allow
immigrants and their children to cocoon themselves in a
Spanish alternate universe. (Not surprisingly,
Univision and its Italian-American owner Jerrold
Perenchio were the biggest financial
backers of the campaign against Ron Unz`s 1998
anti-bilingual education Proposition 227.)
- Second, Hispanic immigrants, particularly the
illegals, tend to
lag in education and cultural sophistication.
According to the Census Bureau, 65% of Mexican-born
newcomers did not finish high school. Amazingly, while
California is home to two million people with graduate
degrees, it also hosts
2.2 million adults who have never even seen the
inside of a high school. They are heavily
Exacerbating the problem, Spanish-language television
panders to the lowest tastes of its viewers. In L.A.,
the tawdriness of the
Spanish channels contrasts sharply with the
seriousness of the channel for
Korean immigrants, who come to America with much
The Spanish networks` fundamental rule seems to be:
"There must be at least one
bimbo on screen at all times."
As opposed to the Bush Administration, whose motto
is: “There must always be
Hispanic Republicans on the horizon.”
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and