California before the word “Latino”
Great column from Hector Tolbar in today’s LA Times (here’s the beginning):
When I was a boy growing up in Los Angeles circa 1970, I did something that brought dishonor to my people.
I tossed a hamburger wrapper onto the parking lot at a fast-food restaurant. This caused my mother to snap that I should never litter because “when people look at you and see black hair and brown eyes, they think you don’t have any manners.”
The word Latino had not yet entered the California lexicon. Hispanic or Hispano was used only by bureaucrats and academics. But my mother and I were not Mexican Americans, the only ethnic label most white Angelenos might have attached to us.
My parents were from Guatemala, a country that at that time had contributed few immigrants to the city. We were newcomers, and it was important to make a good first impression.
A generation or two later, with waves of immigration under our belts, we guatemaltecos, mexicanos, salvadoreños and other sons and daughters of Latin America are way past making first impressions.
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