Friday, May 29, 2009

Are All Ethnic Backgrounds Compelling or Just Some?

by Janet Crain
Who is Hispanic? Since some have been saying that Sonia Sotomayor would not really be the first Hispanic on the SCOTUS, Judge Sotomayor and her supporters have begun leaning more toward describing her as a Latina woman. Because it surely cannot be claimed that Cordoza was that. :-) I have to admit that after reading the Freedictionary description below I was more confused than ever. Portugal is not considered Hispanic although all of South America is. And Brazil is Portuguese. My head is swimming. Add to that the genetic simularities of the people and it's even more confusing. Perhaps we should disregard all these labels and start looking at people and not assume having an ethnic background translates as a person who has suffered and is consequently more empathetic toward others. Perhaps that is also not true. I think some people who have suffered become bitter and mean as a snake. Others from privileged backgrounds are very compassionate.

Look at the person, not the background.

Cardozo was born in New York City, the son of Rebecca Washington (née Nathan) and Albert Jacob Cardozo.[1] Both Cardozo's maternal grandparents, Sara Seixas and Isaac Mendes Seixas Nathan, and his paternal grandparents, Ellen Hart and Michael H. Cardozo, were Sephardi Jews; their families immigrated from England before the American Revolution, and were descended from Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula for Holland during the Inquisition.[1] Cardozo family tradition held that their ancestors were Marranos from Portugal,[1] although Cardozo's ancestry has not been firmly traced to Portugal.[2]


Sotomayor is listed as a Sephardic Jewish name dating from the 1450s in Spain. It appears in many Sephardic name lists. In the Pre-Inquisition and for a century-plus after, the term "Portuguese" meant "Sephardic Jewish." In 1492, at the Expulsion, thousands of Jews went to Portugal where they thought they would be safe. Unfortunately, just a few years later, they again had to make the choice of convert to Catholicism under force or leave. In many cases, they were forced to convert through the forcible taking of their children. To Sephardim, there is no difference between Spanish and Portuguese.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Tracing the Tribe - The Jewish Genealogy Blog

The people of Puerto Rico represent a cultural and racial mix. When the Spanish forced the Taíno people into slavery, the entire indigenous population was virtually decimated, except for a few Amerindians who escaped into the remote mountains. Eventually they inter-married with the poor Spanish farmers and became known as jíbaros. Because of industrialization and migration to the cities, few jíbaros remain.

Besides the slaves imported from Africa (Sudan, Kongo, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leona, and the Gold, Ivory, and Grain coasts), other ethnic groups brought to work on the plantations joined the island's racial mix. Fleeing Simón Bolívar's independence movements in South America, Spanish loyalists fled to Puerto Rico - a fiercely conservative Spanish colony during the early 1800s. French families also flocked here from both Louisiana and Haiti. As changing governments or violent revolutions depressed the economies of Scotland and Ireland, many farmers from those countries also journeyed to Puerto Rico in search of a better life.

When the United States acquired the island in 1898, American influence was added to culture.

During the mid-19th century, labor was needed to build roads, initially, Chinese workers were imported for this task, followed by workers from such countries as Italy, France, Germany, and even Lebanon. American expatriates came to the island after 1898. Long after Spain had lost control of Puerto Rico, Spanish immigrants continued to arrive on the island. The most significant new immigrant population arrived in the 1960s, when thousands of Cubans fled from Fidel Castro's Communist state. The latest arrivals to Puerto Rico have come from the economically depressed Dominican Republic.

His·pan·ic (h-sp nik)
1. Of or relating to Spain or Spanish-speaking Latin America.
2. Of or relating to a Spanish-speaking people or culture.
1. A Spanish-speaking person.
2. A U.S. citizen or resident of Latin-American or Spanish descent.

[Latin Hisp nicus, from Hisp nia, Spain.]

Usage Note: Though often used interchangeably in American English, Hispanic and Latino are not identical terms, and in certain contexts the choice between them can be significant. Hispanic, from the Latin word for "Spain," has the broader reference, potentially encompassing all Spanish-speaking peoples in both hemispheres and emphasizing the common denominator of language among communities that sometimes have little else in common. Latino which in Spanish means "Latin" but which as an English word is probably a shortening of the Spanish word latinoamericano refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin. Of the two, only Hispanic can be used in referring to Spain and its history and culture; a native of Spain residing in the United States is a Hispanic, not a Latino, and one cannot substitute Latino in the phrase the Hispanic influence on native Mexican cultures without garbling the meaning. In practice, however, this distinction is of little significance when referring to residents of the United States, most of whom are of Latin American origin and can theoretically be called by either word.·A more important distinction concerns the sociopolitical rift that has opened between Latino and Hispanic in American usage. For a certain segment of the Spanish-speaking population, Latino is a term of ethnic pride and Hispanic a label that borders on the offensive. According to this view, Hispanic lacks the authenticity and cultural resonance of Latino, with its Spanish sound and its ability to show the feminine form Latina when used of women. Furthermore, Hispanic the term used by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies is said to bear the stamp of an Anglo establishment far removed from the concerns of the Spanish-speaking community. While these views are strongly held by some, they are by no means universal, and the division in usage seems as related to geography as it is to politics, with Latino widely preferred in California and Hispanic the more usual term in Florida and Texas. Even in these regions, however, usage is often mixed, and it is not uncommon to find both terms used by the same writer or speaker. See Usage Note at Chicano.

Spanish Inquisition left genetic legacy in Iberia

It's not often that cultural and religious persecution makes countries more diverse, but the Spanish Inquisition might have done just that.

One in five Spaniards and Portuguese has a Jewish ancestor, while a tenth of Iberians boast North African ancestors, finds new research.

This melting pot probably occurred after centuries of coexistence and tolerance among Muslims, Jews and Christians ended in 1492, when Catholic monarchs converted or expelled the Islamic population, called Moriscos. Sephardic Jews, whose Iberian roots extend to the first century AD, received much the same treatment.

© Janet Crain

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir/Madam:

The ignorance of the American people is astonishing. A Spaniard born in Spain is not an hispanic, He is a Spaniard. There is no such thing, person, as an hispanic. This title was made up by the census bureau. People should be identified by the country they came from. For instance, a person from Argentina is an Argentinian, a person from Cuba is a Cuban, etc. There are black cubans and there are Indian cubans, and there are White Spanish Cubans, just like the population of the United States. Why is this so hard to understand?
England and Spain had parallel histories. Where do you think the black American got his English surname from? Where do you think the black southAmerican got his spanish surname from? Please read and educate yourselves.

Thank you