LatinaLista-- A longtime criticism of Latino immigrants is that they don't like to assimilate. Critics always cite the propensity of Latinos to stay within their own groups or neighborhood sectors where Spanish is dominant and everyone, if they don't know each other, at least feel a greater sense of ease with one another.
That's understandable with first-generation and even a few second-generation but what about English-dominant third-fourth-fifth generation? For these later generations, assimilation has been learned too well.
A Pew study released today reveals something that runs contrary to Latino culture -- Latinos have the poorest record of knowing their neighbors.
In the Pew Internet & American Life Project report titled "Neighbors Online," researchers found that:
Latinos, 18-29 year olds, those without a high school diploma and those with a household income of less than $30,000 per year are among the groups that are least likely to speak to neighbors in person about community issues.
These groups are also relatively unlikely to know most or all of their neighbors by name; there is a strong correlation between knowing one's neighbors and having face-to-face interactions to discuss community issues.
In the Pew poll measuring how many know all or most of their neighbors, 49 percent of whites and 28 percent of blacks said they did. Only 23 percent of Latinos, both English and Spanish-speakers, said they knew their neighbors.
The finding goes against the grain when it's understood how social the culture really is. In this sense, where U.S. society basically demands that people respect one another's "boundaries," Latinos have learned the lesson too well.
Instead of interacting with our neighbors like our parents did in their time, we work, come home, work in our yard or stay inside and socialize only with family or old friends. Hardly is there an effort to socialize with neighbors, who are virtual strangers.
If we don't socialize with them why would opinions be shared on any topic?
When it comes down to it, most Latinos are very private individuals who don't willingly share opinions with people they don't know well for fear of putting themselves on the line and opening themselves up to be challenged, ridiculed or worse -- ignored.
Maybe that's why historically too few Latinos get involved in community affairs and speak up.
If this poll serves a purpose, it's the fact that finally someone is holding up a mirror to the Latino community and the reflection is not pretty.
As the fastest growing demographic in the nation, Latinos cannot afford to let others speak, act or make decisions on their behalf without getting involved, getting educated about the issues and making sure their voices are heard.
Luckily, Latinas have taken the lead so far in this arena. Now it's time for the young and the seniors and the men to catch up.