Back in 1996, in its April 12 issue, the Hispanic Outlook on Higher Education Journal published an article I submitted entitled, “Latinos Adelante: La Lucha Continua.” At that time, I was director of the University of Florida Institute of Hispanic-Latino/Latina Cultures, known by its nickname, La Casita. In that article, based on United States Bureau of the Census counts, I predicted that Hispanics-Latinos would constitute the largest ethnic group in the United States by the year 2000. This prediction became true. Today, based on these trends and using the same source, I predict that by 2030, we will constitute the majority in this country.
An interesting observation is that as Hispanics, Latinos/Latinas, Chicanos/Chicanas, Latin Americans, we do not fit neatly inside a box. In fact, we transcend the archaic concept of race. We make up the largest and most diverse group of mixed descent people. As a mestizo group, we represent the amalgamation, syncretism or mix of all races and all religions. We carry the blood of all the world’s races: Native American, African, Asian and European, practice most of the world’s major religions as well as Afro-centric and Native cosmologies, and we have the most diverse tapestry of cultural expressions, foods, traditions, music, dance, arts, and ideologies. We also encompass a variety of genders and sexual orientations.
This diverse makeup is what Mexican philosopher, José Vasconcelos, termed La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) in 1925. As the fifth race, we embrace the ancestry of all races and are destined to unify humanity. We are here to build bridges and form coalitions. Our presence makes those vigilant of the old separatist paradigm very nervous.
Our success depends on our ability as Mestizos to build bridges, find common grounds, and celebrate the richness of our diversity. As we celebrate our diversity, we celebrate all races and all people simply because we represent all races and all people. After all, oneness is meaningless without diversity.
During my years as director of La Casita, I worked closely with students and with national organizations like the National Council of La Raza and the National Puerto Rican Coalition, in the formulation of recruitment and retention programs for Hispanic, Latino/Latina, Chicano/Chicana, and Latin American students. These programs included the Florida Hispanic-Latino Collegiate Forum, the Hispanic Assembly, the Hispanic Heritage Month, the Latina/Latino Student Retreat, the Latino/Latina Ambassadors, Los Amigos, Las Tertulias, El Café Poetry Slam, and myriad other art, letters, music, and dance programs. Some of the programs provided opportunities for learning leadership development, career development, student advocacy, current affairs, emerging technologies and the internet, and explored the wide gamma of Hispanic, Latino/Latina, and Chicano/Chicana issues. These programs recognized the need to build bridges with other ethnic groups and find common grounds, celebrate diversity, promote social equity, and foster world peace.
On February 17, 2016, twenty-one years later, the students at the University of Florida will be inaugurating La Salita as part of the Department of Hispanic-Latino/Latina Affairs of the University of Florida. Kindly, the current director of La Casita invited me to La Salita’s inauguration. Unfortunately, I will not be able to be physically present due to previous commitments, but I will be there in Spirit.
As part of the inauguration program, I created the video included on this page, which summarizes the events and the programs of the institute under my direction, from 1995 to 1997. It also reflects on our diversity and our responsibility as La Raza Cósmica and includes photos of influential Latinos/Latinas in the United States. Some of them came to UF as part of our programs during those years, including Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, world renown Afro-Cuban pianist Zenaida Manfugaz, John Leguizamo, Los Hermanos Hurtado de Peru, Nestor Torres, Gloria Anzaldua, Alvarez Guedes, Carlos Fuentes and the Cuban jazz band Mezcla.
As Latinos/Latinas, we are indeed everywhere. Even the current Pope is Argentinean!
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