Changes Wrought By U.S. Hispanics And Latinos Subject of UB Symposium On Culture And Identity

Release Date: October 8, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The U.S. population today includes 22.3 million Latinos and Hispanics, a number that has grown by 7.7 percent in 10 years. They already constitute the country's fastest-growing ethnic population and may be the largest discrete minority group by the year 2025. In fact, in many parts of the country, Hispanics and/or Latinos already constitute the principal minority and in some, are the majority population.

The ensuing social change has brought much joy, diversity and excitement into American culture, but it has raised as many difficult, complex and troubling issues for Americans of Latino and Hispanic descent.

Many of these issues will be addressed on Oct. 24 and Nov. 14 as the University at Buffalo continues a series of symposiums titled "Ethnic Identity, Culture and Group Rights: A Discussion across the Disciplines on the Situation of Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S." The symposia will feature talks and commentary by some of the country's leading scholars in philosophy, political science, language, law, arts and other fields.

The event is the first of a planned series of annual symposiums sponsored by the Samuel P. Capen Chair in Philosophy at UB, held by Jorge Gracia, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy. It will feature presentations by experts in many fields from across the nation whose identities are grounded in many different Hispanic- and Latino-American cultures.

Presentations will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 and Nov. 14 in the Center for Inquiry, 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst. (See attached program).

The events are free of charge and open to the public, but pre-registration is required due to space limitations. To register, call 716-645-2444 during business hours. The Web site can be found at .

Transnational cultural flow will continue to bring more and more people of Latin-American and Hispanic descent into American life, along with a host of cultural, social, political and economic expectations. Even as they define their need for cultural space and identity, the many

generations currently living here have modified America's sense of its own national identity and have had -- and will continue to have -- an enormous impact on our shared culture.

"Our purpose here," said Gracia, "is to raise some of the fundamental issues faced by Hispanics and Latinos today. Their presence and impact on American society cannot be ignored and their values, views and rights must be taken into account by the American population at large."

He pointed out that, contrary to the opinions of many, Latino-Hispanic culture is far from homogeneous, made up as it is of different origins, races, languages, religions, political affiliations, customs, social attitudes, physical appearances, classes, economic status, education and tastes.

Participants will discuss how the various concerns of this diverse population are played out across linguistic and cultural lines, in gender and family roles, and in cultural structures. Among the general questions to be addressed are:

o What "cultural spaces" actually are, and the influence upon them of the dominant U.S. capitalist political economy and culture

o Who comprises the vast, heterogeneous U.S. cultural group we call "Latinos" and "Hispanics" and how are their identities affected by the colonization of their cultural spaces by the dominant culture?

Gracia said presenters also will raise questions about issues that arise in the context of American democracy, many of which recall concerns voiced over the past 200 years about immigrants from other cultures and their descendants.

"For instance, does the very existence of ethnic groups, and especially Hispanics and Latinos, threaten the foundations of our democratic society?" he asked. "Can a democracy survive in a pluralistic society where there is no homogeneity, where values differ in fundamental ways and there is no common commitment that unites the population?"

The speakers and commentators come from a variety of Latin backgrounds, including Anglo-American, Argentine-American, Brazilian-American, Colombian-American, Cuban- American, Mexican-American, Peruvian-American, Puerto Rican-American, Spanish-American and Venezuelan-American. Among them are Gracia, Rodolfo O. de la Garza of the University of Texas at Austin, John Ladd of Brown University, Ofelia Schutte of the University of Florida at Gainesville, Pablo de Greiff of UB, Walter Mignolo of Duke University, Suzanne Oboler of Brown University and Iris Young of the University of Pittsburgh.

Co-sponsors of the event are the Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Philosophy, the Program in Latino Studies and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, all at UB.

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