Letters to the Editor

Latin America: Not a Single Culture

Luis F. Olivieri-Robert, February 1990

It was nice to read Susan Shapiro's article about the teaching of Latin American history as part of high school and university curricula. The main reasons for her position are a) the 7.9 percent of Latin Americans that are part of the total U.S. population; and b) the importance of the experiences of Central and South America and its analysis in order to understand today's world. I think Ms. Shapiro is clear in her viewpoints. However, I think it is necessary to add another viewpoint to her thought.

It is clear that there is not a unique and only culture under the Rio Grande River. The cultural, political, economical, and historical realities among the more that twenty-five nations under the river are not the same. Just think about the differences between Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Trinidad, and Tobago. This must be a first step in your cognoscible task. It is also important to understand the difference between "Hispanic" and "Latino." In the old Europe, "Hispania" was the name for what today is Espana. So, the correct use of the term "Hispanic" would be for the people from Spain. When the word "Latino" is correctly used it refers to the old groups that inhabited today's Italy. Latin Americans would be the word for those from American nations that speak languages derived from the Latin (used now in masses). But what do we do with those from the British colonies in the Caribbean? They are not Latin Americans for they speak English. What do we do with those from the Dutch colonies in the Caribbean? Also, what do we do with the nearly thirty million people that speak American Indian languages? We cannot treat every one under the Rio Grande River the same? Maybe it is time to eliminate the concept of Hispanic? The concept of Latino?

I think it is great to take courses on history at universities, but how about the idea of traveling to the countries under the Rio Grande River and having the experience of sharing with us the daily struggle for existence and survival the task of the affirmation of our identity. Thanks, Susan Shapiro for bringing and leaving this issue on top of the desk. It could be a good topic for future meetings and seminars.

Luis F. Olivieri-Robert
Head Start Education Coordinator
Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico