Hispanics Turn 40 in U.S. Years….

By Juana Bordas…

May 12, 1977 Hispanics become a recognized group in the US 

Considering the vibrancy and influence of Hispanics today it is hard to believe that this growing demographic wasn’t officially recognized until  the Office of Management and Budget Directive 15 on May 12, 1977 which added Hispanic as a racial and ethnic category to the US Census. From then on there would be five colors in the US palette: American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black White and Hispanic.

 It is not that Hispanics didn’t exist before then, our heritage goes back to before the US was a nation. Fully one-third of territorial US was Mexico until 1848 and this is reflected in the name of our states, such as Colorado, Arizona and Montana; and cities like Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Las Vegas.

For the past 500 years, Hispanics have built our country and leaders have worked endlessly to equalize disparities.

The addition of Hispanic to our nation’s census signified that Hispanics were recognized as an integral part of our nation. OMD Directive 15 legitimized Hispanics.

So let’s begin the birthday fiesta. US Latinos have just turned 40! But wait – many people still wonder – why is this important to me?

Well Hispanic heritage is part of our history, but Latinos will also shape our future. Latinos have the highest job market participation; are the fastest growing small business sector; and in 2015, their buying power was $1.3 trillion, an amount larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Australia or Spain. 

Just as important, Hispanics are adding sabor and gusto through their food, music, art, and cultural values such as inclusion, generosity, family, community, service, and civic engagement. This influence will continue one third of Latinos are under 18 and 20% of Millennials are Latino. Young Latinos will ensure that our influence and impact continue to enrich America.

 Forty years is a short time for a people to forge their identity especially considering the multifaceted Latino experience. Latino leaders today are challenged to forge unity from diversity and to integrate a collective identity from the many facets of the Latino familia. Our birthday celebration can signal a new maturity and a catalyst for coming together.

Juana Bordas in Mexico City

Juana Bordas is the author of two award winning books:

The Power of Latino Leadership and

Salsa, Soul and Spirit.

She is Nicaraguan by birth. Her ancestry is Indigenous, French, and Spanish. She is Mexican by culture and a US citizen who served in the Peace Corps in Chile. So she is Chilean by corazón or heart. “Complexity and diversity are at the heart of Latino identity and we embrace it!”