The number of Hispanics living in the United States is of tremendous importance to business. It is less so to politics.
The number of Hispanics who live in the United States is 50.5 million. That means that more Hispanics live in the United States than in Spain, Colombia or Argentina. Only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population.
From a business perspective, there is one key decision to make. Do you market to them in English or do you do so in Spanish? Politicians have many more variables to consider, and the census does not provide the answer they need.
The first problem comes from the term Hispanic. By law, all Americans are equal. But not all Hispanics are equal. Much depends on where they are born and why they live in the United States. Most are citizens; many are not.
First, subtract the 11 million Hispanics who are estimated to be undocumented. Then set aside those who have Temporary Protected Status that allows them to live and work in the United States but does not provide a pathway to citizenship. Then subtract those who have U.S. citizenship but are younger than 18 and therefore cannot vote.
It doesn’t end there. There are other critical distinctions to make.
Puerto Ricans can vote — if they live in the United States. They are U.S. citizens by birth. But if they live on the Caribbean island, they cannot vote in U.S. elections. Puerto Ricans in New York, the Northeast and Chicago are solidly Democratic. Those tend to make decisions on the candidates, not so much the party. Finally, Puerto Rican voters in the island live their politics every day of every year. In the United States, they do not have the same passion.
Then we have Cuban Americans. There are 1.8 million of them in the United States, and two-thirds of them live in Florida. Because of a 1966 law, Cubans who enter the United States legally can become resident aliens a year and a day after arriving in the country — and citizens after that. Because they are so heavily concentrated in a key swing state, their importance is disproportionate to their number.
Mexican Americans make up 63 percent of all Hispanics in the United States. Traditionally they have lived in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado — and voted for Democrats. In Texas, they have elected several Hispanic Republicans to Congress. In 2010, Mexican Americans helped elect Republican Hispanic governors in Arizona and Nevada.
Furthermore, Mexican Americans are now more likely to live in other areas of the country. There are large Mexican-American communities in Atlanta, Chicago, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida.
Yes, it’s pretty dizzying. That’s why Hispanics are easier to reach out to as customers than as voters.
Author: Guillermo I. Martinez