Monday, November 28, 2005

Half of Hispanics living in South consider themselves Southerners

The Charlotte Observer reports in this article that language, ethnicity, religion, politics, and the lack of a warm welcome keep Hispanics from integrating into Southern culture. Barely half of Hispanics in the South consider themselves Southerners:

"A recent Associated Press/Ipsos poll was consistent with an analysis of 10 years worth of surveys by UNC Chapel Hill, both finding that barely half of Hispanics living in the region identified culturally with it. In fact, in the UNC studies there was a 20-point drop in the percentage of Hispanics who identified themselves as 'Southern' from 1991 to 2001 -- the largest of any ethnic group in the region."

"'They're arriving in the United States and in the Southern United States at a time of declining regional identity,' said Tulane University professor Carl Bankston, who has studied migration patterns in the South. 'Much of Southern regional identity is an identification with the past that Latinos simply don't have. They're much more likely to develop an American identity than a Southern identity.'"

"Aside from language and folkways, another factor working against Hispanics embracing a Southern regional identity is that the vast majority are Roman Catholics. Only about half of the region's Catholics (Hispanic or otherwise) consider themselves Southern, UNC sociologist Larry Griffin said in a recently published study."

"Griffin found that both ethnicity and religion 'independently dampen' identity rates. And he suggests that racial and religious minorities, in general, may feel unwelcome by whites and Protestants, the so-called 'authentic Southerners.'"

"'Hispanics are going to change the very meaning of being a Southerner,' he said. 'And the only way that wouldn't happen, I think ... is if those of us in the South and those of us who embrace its identity now, if we do not permit these folks to be Southerners.'"

"Angeles Ortega, a leading advocate for the Hispanic community in Charlotte, said a political atmosphere that's often hostile to immigrants makes questions of Southern identity relatively unimportant to most newcomers."

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