Heritage month highlights Hispanic destiny

Rachel Baez

Hispanic immigration “will shape this country’s destiny for the rest of your lifetimes,” Roberto Suro, keynote speaker of Hispanic Heritage Month, told an audience of about 30 people Wednesday night at McCormick Auditorium in Norris University Center.

Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, addressed the immigration challenges facing America in his speech, “New Faces, New Places; Understanding the Impact of Latino Population Growth.”

The Pew Hispanic Center is a Washington, D.C.,-based research and public policy think-tank focused on the Latino community.

Current estimates of Hispanics living in the United States range from 40 to 42 million people, but it’s impossible to know exact figures, Suro said.

“It’s exciting because of the unknowns,” he said. “The rapid growth of the Latino population is an extraordinary unfolding mystery.”

The success of the current immigration, which can be compared to the influx of Europeans 100 years ago, will be ultimately judged by the role second-generation Latinos adopt in society, Suro said.

These children of immigrants, who are United States citizens, are the fastest growing segment of the Latino population.

“The danger is if current levels of educational performance don’t change, a large part of this second generation is set for poverty,” Suro said. “They’ll do no better than their parents did.”

Suro said education is one way for Latinos to keep from being “trapped at the lower end of the labor market.”

“And this isn’t about affirmative action,” he said, “but enlightened self interest.”

The event — one of many throughout October and November for the heritage month — was sponsored by seven Latino-associated campus groups, including Alianza, the department of Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs, and Kellogg School of Management’s Hispanic Business Student Association.

“I wish more people were here,” said Kellogg student Kyle Shinseki, who also is president of HBSA.

Shinseki said Suro was an important speaker for NU students to hear because the Pew is a research center devoted to “credible research that can present more accurate information” about Latino affairs.

At the end of his speech, Suro called on students to “rediscover the magic that creates strength out of diversity.”

“We have to ask ourselves of this group of newcomers, will it be a group apart, left on the margins of society?” Suro asked. “Or will we as a society move to incorporate the newcomers?”

Reach Rachel Baez at [email protected]

Heritage month highlights Hispanic destiny