Monday, January 4, 2010

A turning point for Hispanics

HOUSTON — In the annals of U.S. social life, 2009 will go down as a turning point for Hispanics.


Fifty-seven years ago, the election of Dwight Eisenhower marked the first mainstream recognition of Hispanics as a constituency in presidential elections.


The 1960 election of John F. Kennedy, when Mexican Americans played a major role in turning Texas, demonstrated the pivotal role some Latino groups could play in presidential contests.


In 1975, President Gerald Ford allowed an amended Civil Rights Act to cross his desk. It included the Southwestern states, where widespread voter abuse, intimidation and disenfranchisement were legendary.


In 1976, Latinos were major contributors to the election of Jimmy Carter in Texas and in Ohio.


During the decades since the 1950s, the Latino population was changing — by age, education, ethnicities, national origin, geographical spread and religious affiliations. Individual issues segmented the Hispanic identity but not the understanding of itself as a community, a constituency, and a source for leadership.


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