It’s no surprise that today, the booming Hispanic population is a large part of Madison Avenue’s marketing agenda. To use one of capitalism’s greatest clichés, advertising products in Spanish is “good for business.”
However, according to the latest series of surveys, at the same time that Main Street is profiting from this mega dollar market, the very same Hispanic consumers suffer from gross income inequality.
Major research assessment also reveals another overall disheartening bit of news. Top-level wealth has set a new record; distancing itself further from middle income families whose average income has stagnated for over thirty years. That’s in addition to existing pain in minority racial/ethnic groups. For example, the net worth of Hispanics is one-tenth of non-Hispanic Whites.
It’s a frustrating problem for Mexican-descent Texans at the very bottom of the quality of life scale. A recent San Antonio Express News article lists some sobering statistics. Career term lost earnings for today’s Mexican-descent Texans without a diploma amount to $27.6 billion; resulting in a loss of $18.2 billion in sales and a corresponding loss of $1.2 billion in state sales tax. Those stark figures come at a time when Texas state legislators continue to refuse to restore vital education program funds that they previously cut from the budget.
The major cause of the disparity isn’t a revelation to the descendants of the first citizens of Texas struggling for equality since 1848. Still, one can’t miss the correlation between earning power and level of education. The question is how can we get the two factors to match each other? As a member of this group and as an 8th generation South Texan, I’m tired of hearing excuses. Also, I’m convinced we can fix it ourselves, so long as all the players involved commit to help. For example:
Hispanic students in elementary, high school, and college/university grade levels: You are the main characters in the story. Being a winner depends on three things: high self-esteem, confidence, and hard work. Self-esteem comes from being proud of who you are and where you come from. Confidence means that you must believe in yourself and your ability to do great things. Hard work is vital because essential tasks that need doing are rarely easy to do. You must follow this basic 3-ingredient success recipe if you expect to have a solid, dependable lifeline for the rest of your lives.
Parents don’t be intimidated. You have a moral obligation. Your ancestors left you a sense of pioneer spirit. Tap into it! Re-learn the virtue of sacrifice! Have courage! Instill in your children the value and power of education, self-discipline, and an unrestrained level of aspiration. Join the PTA and attend school board meetings. Most of all, be the anchor that secures the three “Ropes of Hope” for your children: (l) Build up their self-esteem by reminding them of their rich heritage that founded this great place we call Texas; (2) Demonstrate a can-do attitude so your children will attain confidence; (3) Lead by example and be a good role model so that they can see that hard work pays off.
Teachers and School Administrators of Hispanic Students: Yours are important roles, too. Mexican-descent kids in Texas deserve a future where earning a college degree is the rule, not the exception. It is within your power to help forge a new path. The long-overdue Tejano Monument in Austin is showing the way. Carry its message into the social studies and history curricula, as already approved in the STAAR curriculum. Thereby, you will motivate Mexican-descent students in reclaiming their pioneer character. Advocate early Texas Spanish Mexican history stories as examples of American Exceptionalism, such as, José de Escandón, General Bernardo de Gálvez, and Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara.
Successful Spanish Mexican-descent citizens in the community: Saving this group for last, my special plea goes out to those of you who (like me) were able to climb out of poverty so long ago. Let’s agree to give leadership just as successful people in other ethnic groups do. For example, what inspired us and shouldn’t we share our experiences with present-day youth in the barrio who are still trying to step onto the same ladder of success we used?
The importance of our involvement is crucial. Over 47 percent of Texans 30 years of age and under are of Mexican-descent. Reports add that if the thriving economy in Texas is to continue, a corresponding educated, trained workforce is a must! Thus, closing the education gap is a most important objective. How can you help? Be a mentor. Equally important, if you fill positions of authority in the world of work, use your influence and let your voice be heard in Austin in support of providing the necessary education program funds to get the job done.
Once before (in 1964), Mexican-descent Hispanics had a chance to do something about it, but as a group, we have steadily remained at the lowest economic level. In contrast, even though they have not yet reached income equality with white Anglo Saxon males, the Black community and women in general did not miss their chance and have made great strides. In comparison, Mexican-descent Texans are 50 years behind their minority group counterparts in achieving economic parity. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Finally, let’s work on what unites us, not on what separates us. Regardless of political, economic, or religious motivations, we can solve the education gap dilemma from within. Our goal is a difficult one. It’s an uphill journey, but together we can help our young people reach their potential. In the inspiring words of President John F. Kennedy in 1962, “We choose to do difficult things not because they’re easy, but because they are hard.”
José Antonio “Joe” López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He now lives in Universal City, Texas. He is the author of three books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero,”, “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas)”, and “The First Texas Independence, 1813”. Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and www.tejanosunidos.org, a web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.