Arizonas Latinos take back seat to no one
Arizona Republic
Apr. 29, 2005


I almost didn't have time to write this column.

I was on my way to work earlier this week, and I was pulled over at gunpoint by a man who wanted to check my status.

He wasn't a cop or Border Patrol, just someone who wanted to help his country. When I told him I didn't carry my passport or birth certificate at all times, he said I should. I quickly recited the Pledge of Allegiance and as many presidents as I could before he got confused and let me go.

What? It could happen.

It didn't, and I made it all up to say that if County Attorney Andrew Thomas had his way, it might. His decision to not file charges against Patrick Haab last week for holding "illegals" at gunpoint is one of many acts and lawmaker proposals that discriminate toward people of all colors.

Despite being blamed for all the state's ills, Arizona Latinos have much to be proud of and continue to make strides in almost every sector of society. It's a testament to a work ethic and desire to become successful that Hispanics, like all other Arizonans, continue to stay focused, go to school, work, and keep families together.

And as Cinco de Mayo, a day to mark Latino heritage and culture, approaches, there are examples of success all around:

• In about a month, thousands of Hispanic high school seniors throughout Phoenix will graduate. Many will go on to college, many others into the workforce. In about a week, many college students will walk across the stage and get their degrees and soon enter the workforce as professionals. Phoenix, GateWay and South Mountain community colleges and Arizona State University are turning out more degreed and highly qualified individuals.

• Even as lawmakers and zealots hope that all Latinos would disappear, corporate America keeps wishing that Latinos (the undocumented included) would take their paychecks to its stores. Of all companies, Sweden-based IKEA is now pushing hard to win the business of Latinos (Gasp! I heard Spanish spoken at Tempe's IKEA during my last visit), and NASCAR, a former bastion of Southern hospitality (the kind where only good old boys are welcomed), desperately wants Hispanics to attend its races.

• Arizona Latinos continue to positively impact the economy by starting up new businesses every day, carry the construction industry on their collective backs and meet the demand of the giant tourism and services industries by feeding and cleaning Arizona and by contributing millions and millions of dollars to our tax base in sales taxes (the kind that pave your streets and build your parks).

• Latinos also continue to serve and die for this country honorably and bravely. They serve and die so that people like the so-called Minutemen can lawfully bear arms.

Whether you like it or not, bad or good, Latinos are the center of debate in Arizona. There is plenty to get frustrated and depressed about (and thank goodness there's folks out there luchando every day), but there are plenty of positives to pass around, too.

Let's not forget about those; and do yourself a favor, keep an eye on the road.

Teclo Garcia is the editor of ˇExtra! and an assistant city editor at The Republic. Contact him at (602) 444-8281, or