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Pew report underscores underlying reasons why Latino community has no national leader

LatinaLista– The results from the Pew Hispanic Center’s latest report, “National Latino Leader? The job is open,” underscored two realities that exist in the current Latino community: There is not an overriding issue that unanimously unites all Latinos and broadcast media has an undue influence on the Latino community.


According to the bilingual survey, the 2010 National Survey of Latinos, which was used as the basis for the new report, of the 1,375 Latinos surveyed 64 percent said they could not name a person they considered to be “the most important Latino leader in the country today.”

When forced to name someone or choose among a given list, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor topped both lists. It makes sense.

Not that Sotomayor fits the traditional definition of a leader but she was someone who truly galvanized the entire Latino community to fight for her inclusion onto the Supreme Court.

It’s during these kinds of “common causes” that have not only united disperate Latino communities across the country but gave birth to natural born leaders. Whether it was Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers or Dr. Hector P. Garcia in the formation of the American GI Forum or the hundreds of local community leaders that stand up and speak out for their own Latino communities, these are the leaders people know about.

These days, on a national scale, we have no leader that emerges to be the unifying voice for the Latino community. There could be a number of reasons for this:

1. Since the Latino community is not homogenous, the concerns of Cuban Americans are not the same as Mexican Americans or Dominican Americans or Puerto Ricans, etc.

2. Because the Latino community is essentially a community-within-a-community — the undocumented within the greater Latino community — the concerns of both groups don’t always mesh, and at times are even at odds.

3. The greater Latino community doesn’t see their concerns as separate or unique from mainstream America and don’t feel the urgency to have a Latino or Latina represent these viewpoints as opposed to having an Anglo representative.

4. And lastly but very importantly, there has not been anyone who has the political prowess, charisma, eloquence, camera appeal and passion for a particular cause that has captured the attention of the Latino community.

As long as the Latino community is divided among itself over issues, no one single leader will emerge. It’s not because they don’t exist but because those who disagree will not recognize that person as someone who can speak for Latinos on a national stage.

Yet, if that person has media appeal, there is hope.

On the survey, people were given the names of eight prominent Latinos and asked if they considered those people to be leaders. The top two considered to be leaders were: Sonia Sotomayor and Univision anchor, Jorge Ramos.

In fact, Sotomayor received the highest leadership score: 45% of respondents considered her a leader while Ramos was next at 38%.

The idea that a news anchor would be considered a Latino leader illustrates how much influence broadcast media plays on the Latino community. Also, one has to wonder what generation of Latino was being surveyed since many third, fourth generation Latinos don’t know Ramos or watch Univision.

Until the Latino community can truly unite — not behind an issue, but among each other — there won’t ever be a single face or voice that represents all Latinos.

And that may just be a good thing.

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