Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate the presence and contributions of Hispanics/Latinos. It’s an ideal time to acknowledge our individual and shared cultures, as well as the people who represent it.
As we share our customs and culture with the rest of the country, it felt like a good time to take inventory of how far we have come. And decide how and what we can do to work together—as a big and diverse American familia—to build a more prosperous and united nation for all Americans.
As an immigrant kid, I felt that the U.S. was the one place where anyone can achieve with persistence and hard work. Seeing my parents work tirelessly to build a better future for their family pushed me in a way no government program or incentive ever could have. I wanted to reward their work and give back to this awesome nation that had become our home.
Now as an adult with kids, I’m more convinced than ever this country has something special we must preserve for future generations. Honestly, there is no way I could have come this far if my parents had stayed in Mexico. I suspect this is true for the countless immigrants who have come and continue to migrate.
Our Growing Numbers
Relatively speaking, Hispanics have made great strides in a short amount of time. Over the last decade, the number of Latinos in the U.S. has surged to 57.5 million. That’s nearly 18% of the country’s population. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts the Latino population will reach 111 million by 2060.
Population growth is a major driver of Hispanic purchasing power, which is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2021. Consider that a decade ago, our buying power was $1 trillion. In the 1990s, that number barely reached a quarter. The growth has been exponential.
These numbers tell a fascinating story of what success is possible for minorities in the U.S. When individuals are allowed to prosper without government control, tyranny, corruption or failed policies those numbers show what is possible.
However, there’s another number that paints a broader picture of progress. The 2017 report Latino Gross Domestic Product (GDP) revealed that “The GDP produced by Latinos in the U.S. in 2015 was $2.13 trillion.” In other words, “If it were an independent country, the Latino GDP would be the 7th largest in the world, larger than the GDP of India, Italy, Brazil or Canada.” Those contributions can continue to grow with the right environment and policies..
To be clear, Hispanics have not taken baby steps to reach this achievement. They have made monumental leaps that show what is possible through hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and opportunity.
Our Economic Success
Today, Latinos are 28 million strong in the workforce and have record low unemployment. We drive the purchase of small and major purchases across industries. Latinos create businesses at a faster rate than other demographic groups. The jobs we create put Americans to work and drives economic prosperity.
According to a U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce report, nearly 4.4 million Latino businesses are generating $700 billion in revenues for the U.S. economy.
Taking all these numbers into account, it’s easy to see the profound impact Hispanics have had on the U.S. workforce, economic growth and consumer purchases. However, these accomplishments would not have been possible without policies that allow people to keep more of what they earn.
Hispanics seek opportunities to have control of our own destinies, not give control to a bureaucrat or politician. We don’t want government programs to achieve the financial independence we can build with our own hands.
What Obstacles Remain?
To continue thriving we need to identify the obstacles standing in the way of achieving greater success. Some of those challenges include educational access, employment, affordable housing, and public safety. Other challenges are the elected officials and community leaders who are supposed to protect the interests of this growing demographic group but don’t.
Even though the economy has improved in California, Latinos have not kept up with Asian Americans or whites according to a 2018 report by the California Latino Economic Institute, The State of Latino Economic Well-Being in California.
Having worked in California state politics for almost a decade, I saw the number of Latino policy makers grow. Sadly, the improvements we need are not happening on their watch. We cannot blame others. Instead we must ask ourselves what we can do differently.
Removing The Barriers
Policymakers on the West Coast generally place government–not individuals–at the center of a better functioning society. However, to increase our economic well-being, Latinos must ask ourselves what actions and policies will help them get there. Not to mention what leaders we should trust throughout this process.
Whether it’s job creation, business growth or lower taxes, we should be choosing leaders with proven experience. Our community needs good policies and transparent leaders who will champion our interests, not advance their careers at our expense.
We should also stop idolizing people who say the “right” things. Instead we should look at their track record. Numbers do not lie. You have either kept your promises or you have not. It’s also important to recognize the real heroes in our lives. They aren’t those with the most social media likes or follows. It is people like our parents who are doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways to get ahead.
Thriving and united we are stronger. Future prosperity for Latinos means more opportunities for all Americans to succeed. That’s something we can all be proud of.
Let’s continue working to create a better and stronger nation. This will have a profound and lasting impact for generations to come, making Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations more meaningful with each passing year.