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Excerpted From: Francisco Valdes, Race, Ethnicity, and Hispanismo in a Triangular Perspective: The “Essential Latina/o” and Latcrit Theory, 48 UCLA Law Review 305 (December, 2000) (153 Footnotes) (Full Document)


FranciscoValdesIn recent years--both since and before the emergence of LatCrit theory in 1995--much knowledge and understanding has been excavated about “Latinas/os” and our racialization as a transnational, diasporic, and multiply diverse social group living and working under the Anglo American regimes that are predominant in the United States and beyond. During the past five years in particular, LatCrit, RaceCrit, and other allied scholars--“OutCrits” debated the relationship of “race” and “ethnicity” to the construction of Latina/o places, positions, and prospects in American law and society. We have explored the mixture of racism and nativism that afflicts Latinas/os (and other immigrant-identified groups), and elucidated how this combustible admixture props up both white and Anglo supremacy in the United States and beyond. We have found that sometimes Latinas/os have been decreed, or have sought to be identified, as white--and that sometimes they have not. We have confronted the internal reproduction of white supremacy within and among Latinas/os. We have learned that among Latinas/os, as among other groups, those of the nonwhites who are more pale are structurally and systematically more likely to receive the social and material benefits associated with whiteness. In doing this and more, we also have ascertained that racial formation among Latinas/os is indeed “different” than among African Americans, Asian Americans, and other racialized, nonwhite groups in the United States--though in many ways it is similar as well.

This Latina/o-focused, yet intergroup, discourse and its production both of knowledge and of community is long overdue--but timely nonetheless. Demographic trends and forecasts regularly remind the nation that Latina/o communities, persons, groups, businesses, markets, and voting blocs are becoming increasingly significant in national policymaking. The effects of these developments of course have been felt for years, as national attention turns to phenomena closely linked to Latina/o communities, cultures, and concerns. Recent examples, ranging from the anti-immigrant hysteria of Proposition 187 and similar federal laws to the Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez hysteria of contemporary pop culture, attest to these developments and their potential ramifications in legal, social, economic, and cultural domains.

This demography, moreover, appears to be well underway as backlash lawmaking seeks to choke this growth and to stave off its potential impact on national politics, especially relating to race and ethnicity, through a fierce “cultural war” against outgroups. Despite the persistent levels of neglect and marginality endured over time by Latina/o groups, Latinas/os are a pivotal, rapidly growing social group in this country. Inevitably, issues relating to this growth will stretch beyond the familiar and pressing controversies over matters such as immigration and language. As time passes, and even as cultural war abounds, these developments are bound to continue foregrounding and mainstreaming novel legal issues and nuanced social interests deemed to be especially germane to Latinas/os qua Latinas/os. As Latina/o issues and interests become more prominent, sustained critical attention to these developments and to their sociolegal repercussions no doubt will become more urgent for LatCrit, RaceCrit, and other antisubordination scholars and activists. The increasing importance of communities described as “Latinas/os” in national policymaking heralds the continuing importance of Latina/o social and legal studies.

Not coincidentally, therefore, during the past five years “LatCrit theory” has emerged within the legal academy of the United States as one effort to learn more about how law and policy affect this nation's rapidly growing and rapidly changing Latina/o communities, and to then explore how law and policy ought to respond to this knowledge. LatCrit theory, as a collective effort to center Latinas/os in legal discourse and policymaking, reflects today's demographic trends and their volatile ramifications for law and society. Yet, while LatCrit theory both reflects and projects Latina/o growth and its sociolegal implications, this jurisprudential effort seeks to inform our individual and collective reactions to these demographic and political developments with an explicitly antiessentialist and antisubordinationist bent that is both critical and self-critical.

In this spirit, this Article trains attention on a particular racial ideology among and across Latina/o groups both within and beyond the United States. This ideology, known as Hispanismo or Hispanidad, constructs the “essential Latina/o,” namely, the “Hispanic” Latina/o. Evoking a real but often exaggerated connection to Spain, and hence to Europe, Hispanismo historically has been and presently is a crucial ingredient in Latina/o racial formation, both under the domestic racial and ethnic regimes of the United States and under the transnational racial and ethnic regimes of Latin America and other “Hispanicized” regions. Whether in Latin American countries or in Latina/o communities within the United States, Hispanismo constructs both whiteness and white supremacy in Hispanicized social settings.

While LatCrit and allied scholars have noted the permeation of Latina/o life with Spanish cultural artifacts, Hispanismo, as a particular form of racial and ethnic ideology, is a cultural link in Latina/o racial formation and in domestic intergroup relations that remains virtually unexplored in LatCrit theory and outsider jurisprudence. This Article, therefore, centers and explores this ideology, its transnational structure and operation, and its impact on racial and ethnic politics in the United States, from a LatCrit perspective. This centering of Hispanismo, in turn, pursues a triangulation of LatCrit analysis and discourse.

This “triangulation” of LatCrit theory recognizes Hispanismo's historically and presently triangular contours. Hispanismo's so-called ties link Spain, Latin American societies, and Latina/o communities in the United States for varied historical and contemporary reasons. Triangulation, in effect, is the antisubordination mirror image of Hispanismo, and thus serves to frame its critical analysis in and through LatCrit theory.

This triangular framing furthermore recognizes that Latinas/os are a cohesive yet multiply diverse and transnational social group whose history and experience is the combined product mostly of Spain, the United States, and Latin America. This triangular approach specifically recognizes that these three regions and their regimes have most affected the creation and construction of Latina/o countries and communities, as well as their patterns of particular sociolegal issues. This triangulation therefore is an effort, first, to interconnect existing discourses that focus exclusively on one or another of these three regions and, second, to deepen and broaden these existing discourses by joining them to LatCrit theory.

In centering the racial and ethnic components of Hispanismo, this Article focuses specifically on the white supremacist features of this identity ideology. And, in so doing, it defers to another day a direct elucidation of intersectional issues focused on class, gender, sexual orientation, and other dimensions of Hispanismo as ideology. Hispanismo, to be sure, is more than a Eurocentric, white supremacist ideology, and bringing out these interconnections is the point of multidimensional sociolegal analysis. These and similarly pending intersections thus challenge the engagement of LatCrits, RaceCrits, and other antisubordination scholars. It is a challenge that LatCrit projects are taking up, slowly but surely. While not centering or thematizing these points here because of time and space constraints, it bears note at the outset that Hispanismo is a “Euro heteropatriarchal” ideology.

This Article unfolds in two parts. Part I describes some basic notions, constructs, and terms necessary to unpack Hispanismo and its relevance to Latina/o racial formation and politics within and beyond the United States. Part II is devoted chiefly to illustrating the phenomenon and how it operates, focusing on a critique of Spain and its elites' fomentation of Hispanismo in and beyond the United States through political, economic, and diplomatic means--a campaign that indirectly but predictably fuels Latina/o embrace of white-identified racial and ethnic politics within the United States. Jointly, the Article's two parts seek both to center and to critique, as well as to revise or neutralize, the impact and operation of Hispanismo as a white supremacist and neocolonial racial and ethnic ideology. This Article calls on LatCrits, RaceCrits, and allied scholars to recognize and resist Hispanismo's dangers in part because we must embrace a triangular discourse and the politics that invite and include progressive Spanish and Hispanic scholars and communities in our coalitional horizons and global justice agendas.

[. . .]

Hispanismo is an entrenched structure and ideology of racial and ethnic “identity” that can help bring forth a critical, interconnected recognition of Spain and the United States as the two nation-states whose historical and contemporary actions and inactions press most coercively against the everyday realities of Latina/o communities. In great measure, today's Latina/o communities were spawned during Spain's colonial supremacy, during centuries of conquest throughout the Americas, and through its physical and cultural assaults on indigenous communities in the new world and elsewhere. Yet, Spain's colonial wane at the same time and place as the ascendancy of United States expansionism gave way to the modern-day hegemony of Anglocentrism over much Latina/o territory in this hemisphere. This historical process shifted ideological dominance over many Latinas/os' lives from the Hispanic to the Anglo variants of Eurocentric white supremacy. In different ways, this shift facilitated new forms of neocolonial relations for the continued subordination of Latin America and of Latinas/os in the United States under “different” systems of Eurocentric white supremacy. As a result, Latinas/os continue to live and work under Eurocentric systems of white supremacy, whether in the Hispanicized countries of origin or ancestry, or in the Anglocentric giant to the North. Wherever Latinas/os are found, multiply diverse groups live under the hegemonies of Anglo and Hispanic systems of white supremacy despite generations of resistance to both.

To sharpen and continue this resistance, LatCrit, OutCrit, and other allied scholars must become consciously and critically trained on Hispanismo as a form of racial and ethnic politics that, in the end, affirms and buttresses Eurocentric systems of white supremacy. Hispanismo's critical study is crucial to LatCrit, RaceCrit, and all OutCrit scholars, because it operates as a multifaceted process of domination and subordination that combines in complex ways with other forces to delineate racist and ethnocentric identity politics in the United States and beyond. To take this step, LatCrit theorists have begun to triangulate LatCrit analysis; that is, we have begun to unpack Latina/o subordination by interconnecting issues that confront Latina/o communities in the United States to the histories and conditions of Spain and Latin America. Through this form of critical multidimensional analysis, LatCrits not only advance antiessentialism and antisubordination in Latina/o contexts but help also to develop and texture the insights and aspirations of outsider jurisprudence.

Professor of Law, University of Miami.

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