generation Latinos mean wave of change Power as leaders, consumers emerges
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2005
Ivan Vasquez is reshaping the profile of the U.S. Latino.
He is better educated than his immigrant parents, fluent in two languages
and likes Chinese food more than Mexican.
Before moving to Arizona 17 years ago, his parents made their living selling
food on the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico. Vasquez doubles as a host and cashier
at El Caminero, his family's 10-table Mexican and seafood restaurant in
Sunnyslope. At 15, he already is making plans to take over and expand the
"We don't have to struggle like my parents did," said Vasquez, a student at
Central High School. "They didn't get the education we're getting."
Vasquez is part of a monumental shift taking place across the country and in
Arizona: a wave of second-generation Latinos who experts say will give rise
through 2020 to sweeping changes among U.S. Latinos, according to Datos
2005, a report being released today on Hispanic trends.
The rise of the second generation is a logical result of the recent decades
of heavy immigration into the United States, experts say. And in 15 years,
it will become, at 21.7 million, the largest group among Latinos,
outnumbering immigrants and third-generation Hispanics, the report says.
They are of all ages but are concentrated in youth. Today's 20- to
30-somethings are the leading edge of the transformation, and their impact
is being felt in music, food, classrooms and businesses."Never before has
opportunity been greater (for Latinos)," said Loui Olivas, assistant vice
president for academic affairs at Arizona State University. He compiled the
report for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and will present it
today at a breakfast meeting.
"They've been through the school systems, are employed and are leaders on
boards and commissions," he said. "This generation knows no boundaries in
language, in color or ethnicity. They're not bound by the traditions of the
prior generation . . . but have not lost their own customs."
Here are some of the key areas where the ripples of change will be felt.
Latinos' share of purchasing power in the United States will nearly double
over the next decade, to more than 11 percent. In 2009, they will spend $1
Alberto "Beto" Rodriguez, 26, knows where he's going, but he'll never forget
where he's from: the son of Mexican immigrants, one a mariachi musician, the
other a homemaker. He has kept in mind his parents' dreams for him: earn a
college diploma, get a good job and buy a home.
Rodriguez, who lives in south Phoenix, graduated from ASU in 2002 with a
communications degree. Today, he is a special-events and communications
associate for Valley of the Sun United Way.
Although Hispanics have a strong presence in the labor force, lower-level
jobs have left them with smaller incomes than some other consumer groups,
the Datos study says.
But as Rodriguez and second-generation Latinos enter the professional ranks,
they will close the gap between representation in the labor force and
Purchases by second-generation Latinos will largely drive that growth,
"People are understanding and realizing this is the largest untapped
market," said Harry Garewal, president and chief executive officer of the
Hispanic chamber. "They are going to be more affluent, and they're going to
be more influential with their money."
Like Rodriguez, they will continue to buy homes, putting Hispanic
homeownership in 2012 at 53 percent nationally, compared with 47 percent
today. At 61 percent, Hispanic homeownership in Arizona is above the
Latinos also will open more businesses, converting storefronts into
restaurants, markets and flower shops. Rodriguez dreams of one day opening a
nightclub or public relations agency. "Those are my two big dreams. You're
able to be your own boss."
About 177,000 Hispanics were enrolled in K-12 in Arizona from 1994 to 2004,
representing 60 percent of the growth in schools.
It is in the classroom where Latinos are likely to be acculturated, to move
closer to the mainstream than their immigrant parents.
"Much of their future lies there," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew
Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research center in Washington, D.C. "The high
school dropout rates are all going in the right direction and are improving.
They have gotten better for the second generation."
Hispanics in Arizona have lagged in education, but small gains in college
degrees indicate an upward path.
Maritza Esponda, 28, a second-generation Latina, embodies the trend. She was
the first in her family to move away from home, the first to go to college,
the first to have a career.
"My parents always stressed the importance of education, especially since my
dad had only a third-grade level," said Esponda, a Chandler resident and tax
analyst for Salt River Project. "I remember in first, second and third
grade, he'd sit down and read with me . . . even though he doesn't speak
The Hispanic teen population is set to grow 62 percent by 2020, compared
with 10 percent for Anglo youths. Hispanic teens spend $19 billion a year.
Second-gens are creating a hybrid of Latin and American cultures. Those like
Vasquez, Rodriguez and Esponda listen to all genres of music, from Blink-182
to Pepe Aguilar. They watch telenovelas on Univision and The Apprentice on
NBC. They celebrate Mexico's independence with Fiestas Patrias and el grito.
They carry cellphones with built-in video screens and cameras. They drink
the traditional rice milk horchata and eat grilled salmon.
They also have embraced the Internet: Half of the nearly 14 million Latino
Internet users have been online less than three years, according to Datos.
Five percent of them are 55 and older.
"There's kind of a cosmopolitan feel among these kids, which could end up
being something very distinctive," Suro said. "It's a mishmash of stuff, and
it's all just sort of thrown together, which is very much what this
generation is like: a mixture of what they take from their families . . .
and purely American kids."
The number of Latino-owned firms in the nation will grow by 60 percent from
2004 to 2010, to 3.2 million.
Community and political empowerment follow education and wealth.
And ownership of capital marks the journey.
Experts forecast a higher number of Latinos running for public office and
increased voter participation.
"These are the people who don't look back," said Edward Escobar, an
associate professor at ASU's department of Chicana and Chicano studies.
"They don't think of Mexico as their home. The U.S. is their home.
"This is where their lives are . . . and they understand their rights. They
understand the American Dream. And they expect to achieve that dream."
Angelica Torrez, 30, has voted in every presidential and local election
since turning 18 in Miami, Ariz.
"It symbolizes everything my parents worked really hard for us to have,"
said Torrez, of Laveen. "It's an extension of what they wanted for us and
the dreams they had for us: of living in a country where we had more choices
and more opportunities."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-4712.