“My name is Jones (hoe-ness)”

Being a news and politics junkie, I spend hours every day reading news articles and watching cable news channels – especially items about Hispanics.
I burst into laughter while reading an article of how Republicans are reaching out to Hispanics. Specifically, the article was about Republican Hispanic candidates running for office in Arizona. The list of candidate names was interesting.
Most were Spanish surnames, of course, but more than one had Anglo names — that is what made me laugh…there are many men and women with Anglo names that self-classify as Hispanic; e.g. Raquel Welch. It was Tejada before she married Mr. Welch.
Arizona is a perfect example of the confusion caused among “professional” ethnics. One young Republican state legislator – T.J. Shope — tried to join the state legislative Hispanic Caucus and was denied because he was a Republican and his name wasn’t Hispanic; the Caucus was all Democrat. No matter, he hung in there like an angry Pit Bull, produced his Mexican mother and the caucus gave in.
Another ethnic miscalculation is classifying ethnicity by looks. In Florida recently I had to see or hear a Hispanic surname before I knew if the people were Hispanic or not, unless they spoke Spanish in front of me. South Florida is full of Hispanics of different national origins but few have Amerindian blood like 90 percent of Mexicans. Thus, most South Floridian Hispanics don’t look like me.
Funny thing…Living in the West and surrounded by Mexican Americans and Mexicans I have been surprised by the number of these people who are (A) surprised that I speak Spanish and, (B) surprised that I am Mexican born and bred with a healthy natural tan, dark hair, brown eyes and speak Spanish when the occasion calls for it.
Granted I am not short like most Mexican men, or have curly black hair or wear a mustache (stereotypical ethnic markers). Nonetheless, I am surprised when a Mexican is surprised I am Mexican.
What’s funny is that after my step-father (Lowery) adopted me and changed my name from Contreras to Lowery, the opposite of what is happening today happened to me during my school, college and post-college endeavors. When people met me they were surprised that I was what I was. Usually they said something like my English “was very good.”
I had the same problem the Arizona Hispanic legislator (T.J. Shope) had with his state’s Hispanic legislative caucus, some didn’t want to believe I am Hispanic despite paperwork documenting my Mexican birth, my Spanish ability, my permanent tan and my rascally good looks. By the same token, I had to produce no documentation about my American citizenship (natural born through my mother who was U.S. born) when I joined the United States Marines, mainly, I think because my name was Lowery and my English “was very good.”
Back then to the facts. While Black and White intermarriage is less than 17 percent nationally, intermarriage between Hispanics and “Anglos” is 26 percent and in some areas higher than that according to studies done by Pew Research – Social and Demographic Trends (2-16-2012). Asians have a slightly higher intermarriage rate than Hispanics – 28%.
Interestingly, there is no difference between Hispanic males and females in marrying “out” – that is, each marries out at 26 percent — while there is a huge gap between Black males who marry “out” at 29 percent and Black women who marry “out” at only 9 percent. Black women complain bitterly about Black men abandoning Black women.
A similar but opposite gap occurs among Asians who marry “out” with 36 percent Asian females marrying “out” compared to 17 percent of Asian males who do. There doesn’t appear to be a problem with this gap, however.
What do all these intermarriages mean?
It means that the growing cohort of Hispanics (16-17 percent of the U.S. in 2010) will grow larger every day and it means that the experience of the Arizona Hispanic legislator will occur more and more because there will be many, many Hispanics with Anglo last names because so many Hispanic women are marrying “out” and becoming more and more American in the process. That is, one of every four Hispanic men and women marrying “out.”
The Census Bureau and Pew Research project that before the year 2050 (36 years from now) twenty-nine of every hundred (29 percent+) Americans will be Hispanic. That is not from immigration, mostly it is from American born.
Hispanic intermarriage rates what they are, it’s fortunate that we brought refried beans, jalapenos, tacos, burritos and enchiladas with us, it makes acceptance/assimilation so much easier – and, a mile wide and ten miles deep.

Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times