Why Hispanic Heritage Month Shouldn’t Be a Thing

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We’re in the first week of Hispanic Heritage Month, yet another 30 days of identity-focused celebration, following on the heels of Black History Month in February and Gay Pride Month in June.

But although the ubiquity of the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” might make it seem that they’ve always been there, Heritage Foundation senior fellow Mike Gonzalez contends that those terms were invented by Marxist activists attempting to persuade so-called Hispanics that they were oppressed.

“I’m very proud of [my heritage], but this amalgamation, this artificial label that is created, the officiality of it is what I’m opposed to, because I know that it is done on purpose and with malice aforethought toward the country of the United States,” Gonzalez says.

The veteran journalist and communicator joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the Marxist history of terms such as “Hispanic” and “Latino,” and to detail the radical left’s plans to use identity politics to seize power.

We also cover these stories:

  • President Joe Biden announces his frustration with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in Democrats’ ongoing fight to raise the debt ceiling.
  • McConnell tells Biden he should ask Democrats, not Republicans, to vote to raise the nation’s debt limit.
  • Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., criticizes left-wing activists who followed her into a restroom at Arizona State University and yelled at her to support Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.

Doug Blair: Our guest today is Mike Gonzalez, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow for foreign policy as well as the Angeles T. Arredondo e pluribus unum fellow. He is also the author of the new book “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution,” highlighting the Marxist underpinnings of the Black Lives Matter movement. Mike, thank you so much for joining us.

Mike Gonzalez: Thank you for having me.

Blair: I wanted to have you on the show today to discuss Hispanic Heritage Month. You’ve done a lot of really fascinating research on terms like Hispanic and Latino and where they come from. So to start off, could you explain to our listeners a brief history of the invention of these terms?

Gonzalez: So, if by Hispanic Heritage Month we were celebrating what unites, actually, all the “Hispanics” in the United States, that is the founding by the Iberian kingdoms of Portugal, Spain of their lands, I probably wouldn’t have any problem with that. I think that we should learn more about Columbus’ exploration, his brave courageous trek across the ocean to join all of humanity finally together. Leif Erikson, a Viking, is said to have done it, but Leif Erikson was not interested in uniting humanity and forging new and permanent links as Columbus did.

If we mean that, then by all means. If we mean the wondrous actions of Junípero Serra in the West to bring the promise of salvation and Christ to the natives of that land; if we mean by no means all good, but still very brave exploration of Cuba, Mexico, Peru, etc. by Velázquez and Cortes and Pizarro, and looking at all aspects of it, looking at the good things they did and the bad things they did; then yeah, I would be for that kind of Hispanic Heritage Month.

What I’m not for is for the creation of a Hispanic category by leftists—well, the instigation of the creation—because the leftist activists in the ’70s were the ones who really went all out and prodded the bureaucracy, a very reluctant bureaucracy, I must add, who did not want to do it, starting in the late ’60s and culminating in 1977, when OMB, the Office of Management and Budget, finally created the Hispanic category.

And the culmination, I guess, would’ve been when it’s placed on the 1980 census for the first time, and this very large and growing group of Americans are hauled off and counted away from the other races that are recognized by anthropologists, not by leftist activists acting on the pay of the Ford Foundation.

So that is what I’m against. And the reason I’m against it, we can go into that later on, depending on what questions you ask, because it is very clear from the beginning that it is done in order to instill grievances in the members of this category in order to transform the country.

Blair: So what it sounds like you’re saying is that these terms like Hispanic and Latino were not naturally occurring. They weren’t invented by the communities that they were invented to describe. It sounds like these were pushed by leftist academics.

So with that being said, do you consider yourself Hispanic?

Gonzalez: So, opposition came not only from the bureaucrats, it also came from the grassroots. The grassroots wanted no part of this. The activists were the only people that were interested in doing this. And they were very adamant that Hispanic be created. … They always say, the activists, they hate colonization, but Hispanic and Latin America are both words that are used by colonizers.

I consider myself an American, to be honest. I consider myself a father, first of all; a husband; a Catholic, that’s an affiliation that’s very important to me; an American. I consider myself a Cuban American also, although that is less important than the other things I mentioned.

First, I’m very proud of the contributions of Cuban Americans to this country. I love, love, love Desi Arnaz. He was a pioneer who was considered a god in the ’50s and ’60s, who creates the first sitcom, really. He was the first to film it, and I am very, very proud of that.

My family was torn asunder in 1975 during the World Series, because both the Reds and the Red Sox had a Cuban in them. The Cincinnati Reds had, of course, Tony Perez, and they wouldn’t have won the World Series without him. And the Red Sox had Luis Tiant, a fantastic pitcher, and they wouldn’t have gotten through the World Series without Luis Tiant, as we know.

So we were sitting there in the basement, happy in Queens. This is before the creation of Hispanic, by the way. This is before we knew the wonderful term and label that was going to be applied to all of us. We sat there in our basement in Jackson Heights, then known as Jackson Heights, you know, torn up about which side to root for. I’m very, very proud of that.

Very proud of my family. I love my family. I love the history of my family, what it accomplished both in Cuba and in Spain before, because I have very recent ancestors, grandparents who are Spaniards.

And when I say “accomplished,” I’m not looking only at my Cuban ancestors who were members of the establishment. I’m looking at really sometimes even more the immigrants. My immigrant grandfather, my immigrant five great grandparents, all of whom poor, who came from Northern Spain and made it in Cuba.

So I’m very proud of all that, but this amalgamation, this artificial label that is created, the officiality of it is what I’m opposed to, because I know that it is done on purpose and with malice and aforethought toward the country of the United States.

Blair: With that history in mind, and with the way you view yourself in mind, I’m curious, what are the views of the communities that these terms were invented to describe, South and Central Mexican nationals, on terms like Latino and Hispanic? Are these terms popular with them? And then further on, how have these terms been embraced by the wider American population? Is this something that they accept as well?

Gonzalez: Well … I don’t know 58 million of them personally. It’s funny, every time somebody says to me, “Hey, do you know this Cuban?”, it’s like, “Nah, there’s almost 2 million Cuban Americans. We don’t really know each other, all of them.”

Look, we can only look at the opinion polls. Pew Research, every poll that I’ve looked at—Pew is very good by the way. It’s center-left and the analysis is center-left, but if you look at the numbers that Pew puts out, I swear by them. And what they find is that between 20% and 25% uses Hispanic or Latino. The rest uses Dominican or Mexican or Puerto Rican or American.

So the Hispanic and Latino—I’d love to get into Latino, by the way, because that story is not known at all. And of course, Latinx, that term only known to NPR and [President] Joe Biden. I can tell you that nobody in Miami is having a cafecito thinking he’s Latinx, and nobody walks into a bodega in Manhattan thinking she’s Latinx. My goodness, my goodness.

Blair: Well, I’m really glad that you actually brought that up, because as radical leftists kind of continue their war on language, and as they decide that these terms are not far enough, Latino and Latinx are now these things. Chicanx, I’ve heard a couple of times. I mean, how does this evolution of identity-based language, like, Latinx, Chicanx, and all these other crazy ones, how does this play into the sort of Marxist underpinnings of the phrases themselves?

Gonzalez: By the way, I often tweet that I did the Ancestry test and I came back 55% Hispanix, 20% Portugex, 20% Irix, and less than 1% Indiax.

So what they do is they create these categories. … And they’re very open about this, by the way. If you listen to Maria Teresa Kumar, who is wonderful in her ability to just speak the truth, sometimes when she’s on Chuck Todd or doing a show with Nikole Hannah-Jones, she will say, “Look, it’s really, really hard.” She’s the head of Voto Latino. “It’s really, really hard to instill grievances into the members of these categories, because they’re not aware that they’re being oppressed.”

This is, of course, pure and classic critical theory and critical legal theory and critical race theory. They believe from the beginning that what happens is that the members of the population are not aware of their oppression.

[Max] Horkheimer, one of the godfathers of critical theory, writes in the 1930s that, “One cannot rely on the proletariat to overthrow the system because the proletariat will not understand that he’s suppressed. He has no idea that he’s suppressed.” His assistant, Herbert Marcuse, then writes in the 1960s that, “Liberation can only start with the consciousness of servitude.”

And so it is with these activists and the heads of these groups, who grab an immigrant from Uruguay or his progeny and say, “You might be happy here. You may have fought really hard to leave Guerrero, Mexico, and immigrate to this country, and you may think this is the land of opportunity and milk and honey, but you’re wrong. You’re enslaved. You’re oppressed. The dissatisfaction of your material needs through capitalism, even though you’re happy with your Wi-Fi and your split-level home, this is a very oppressive, superstructure.”

This is what they believe, why they created the category. And they created this category as a vehicle to attain that goal of liberation that Horkheimer and Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci, though he was not really a member of the Frankfurt School, think of.

The creation of these categories and the instilling of grievances, the curating of the grievances, they’re saying, “You must not forget. You must write these things down.”

In fact, in order to apply for the incentives to do this, you get maybe a preference for a city contract, but in order to get a preference for a city contract, you must write down how you were discriminated against 30 years ago. You must never forget. And my goodness, you must never forgive.

So this is very well thought out, and it works if we let it work. And what I set out to do in my books, in my latest, “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution,” but also last year’s “The Plot to Change America,” is to make all this clear, to shine the spotlight on it.

Blair: We’ve discussed some of the implications and some of the biases and things that the radical left does with this terminology, like Hispanic and Latino. But one of the things that I’m always curious about is, in an article you wrote for The Daily Signal called “The Invention of Hispanics,” you write, “What all of these radicals sought and were quite successful at eventually achieving was to analogize the experience of black Americans to that of Latinos. The term La Raza, literally ‘the race,’ by itself epitomized this process of racialization.”

The question now being, why? What is the motivation here? Is it to bring a new Marxist world order? What is the end goal here?

Gonzalez: Oh, no, of course it is. It is exactly that. It’s liberation. And they say that.

By the way, notice how Marxists never really promise liberty or freedom, because they know they’re not promising liberty or freedom. What they’re promising is liberation because they believe in the oppressed/oppressor narrative. And so they say, “It’s liberation from oppression that we’re after.” And yes, very much so.

This is just one individual, but a very influential individual. You know, Marcuse had been very influenced by the riots and revolutions that he saw in his native Germany during the First World War, especially in 1919. And he thought that was going to come to fruition with the German Soviet, just like you had a Russian Soviet, and that didn’t happen. And then he moves to the United States, and again, then 40 years later, he sees the riots of the ’60s.

And the penny drops for Herbert and he writes that, “It is in the ghetto population,” his words, “that you’ll have the revolutionary agents. They must continue to be guided by a communist, a Marxist intellectual class.” They need to have revolutionary consciousness, which he doesn’t believe they have, but they have revolutionary potential, and he sees that they can be prodded into violence.

And he’s behind demonstrations, by the way, when he begins to teach in San Diego at the university. He’s behind some demonstrations there and he’s behind some militant Chicano demonstrations. So he thinks that these groups must be created.

And you’re quite right, that the unique and exceptional suffering of black Americans, that suffering must be analogized to these new groups, which is wrong, it’s false. And it is in many ways just ugly because obviously, I or my family, my name is Gonzalez, famously, and nothing like what happened to African Americans happened to my family or to anybody named Gonzalez.

That’s not to say that people named Gonzalez did not experience discrimination, especially in Texas and parts of the Southwest. Earlier on in the last century, that was very real, and there’s very substantial evidence of it. And we know from the experience that they relate that that happened, but nothing ever approximates what blacks suffered in this country.

Blair: So we’ve seen some of the consequences of this kind of hyperfocalization or hyperintense scrutiny of race and identity on American politics and American social cohesion. What do you think are some of the most severe consequences of the left’s push to push everything through this lens of race, including Hispanic and black?

Gonzalez: Well, we see it today. I mean, all the polls tell us that Americans, a majority—a substantial majority, not just a plurality, but a substantial majority of Americans—today believe that race relations are the worst they’ve ever been.

We’ve had riots. 2020, we’ve had a spike in the murder rate of 30%—30%. That’s an extra 5,000 people dead in 2020, I believe mostly because of the riots and the instability, which took place mostly because of the instigation of the organization of the Black Lives Matter organizations, obviously, with an assist from Antifa, although Antifa does not have the organizing muscle or the cache or the money that Black Lives Matter has.

So we’ve seen the invasion of critical race theory into all aspects of our lives: how kids are being divided according to race; how white kids have been told that they’re racist and that they are oppressors and they have privilege and black kids are being told what Derrick Bell said, that they will never gain equality with whites, which is false and disgusting to say that to a black child. That’s a form of child abuse.

It’s also child abuse to tell a black child or a kid named Rodriguez that numeracy or literacy or punctuality or linear thinking or the use of reason are not things for them, that sitting in their desk and being quiet and following what the teacher says and paying attention and doing homework are white things.

My goodness. [These are] things that would’ve made the Grand Dragon of the KKK blush 20 years ago, and now is being repeated in our classrooms and we’re paying for it as taxpayers. We’re being trained in our places of work, under penalty of being fired.

This is all wrong and very wrong. And that’s the reason that the American people are rebelling against this.

I’ve been traveling from coast to coast. Yesterday I was in Oregon, tomorrow I’ll be in Nashville, next week I’ll be in Cincinnati and Kentucky. Literally from coast to coast. And everywhere, I meet hundreds, dozens of Americans who have had it with this.

Blair: I think one of the things that struck me the most of what you said is that a lot of the victims of this terrible ideology are the people that they’re purporting to help themselves; minority students who are being told they can’t succeed because success is a characteristic of white people … sitting at your desk is a white person thing, which seems so backward to me. I mean, you mentioned that it would make the Grand Dragon of the KKK blush. I think you’re absolutely correct.

On that note, I’m curious, if we want to talk about issues relating to this specific subsect of people, is there a way that we can refer to these groups without using these sort of racialized terms like Hispanic or Latino? Does it make sense to talk about things, for example, like the Hispanic vote?

Gonzalez: No, that one makes absolutely no sense.

So, the largest group in America, largest nation of origin group, are Mexican Americans. I think they may be 38 million today. And it makes no sense whatsoever to talk about the Mexican American vote, just like it really makes no sense to talk about the German vote—that’s the largest group—or the Irish vote anymore. The Irish vote has been split now, I believe, since the ’60s.

The Mexican American vote in some parts like the Rio Grande Valley is going heavily conservative, heavily Republican; in the cities of Texas, especially among the young, it is going the other way. It’s going not just the Democrats or liberals, but heavily progressive. So I hesitate to talk about the Mexican American vote.

The Hispanic vote makes zero sense because you have Puerto Ricans voting differently in Florida than they do in Hartford or New York or Philadelphia; Cubans voting definitely massively one way in Miami and then that’s not the way they vote in Houston; the Mexican Americans voting in Houston or East LA.

So if you are designing an ad or you are in this business at all, a consultant, you would be foolish to think there’s such a thing as a Hispanic vote. Politically, it just doesn’t exist.

Whether you use the term or not—I’m not the thought police, I let people use it. If people want to use Latinx, I mean, that’s funny, let them use Latinx. As long as they don’t force me to use it with a gun to my temple and [say], “Affirm or desist,” I don’t care what people use. It’s still a free country. I think it makes more sense to talk about Americans, geographic Americans.

I don’t mind talking about the Mexican American vote in the Rio Grande Valley, in Edinburgh or McAllen, or to talk about the Puerto Rican vote in Hartford. That is an animal.

There’s such an animal as the Cuban vote in Miami. That is part of reality. And if you are in that business, then you should talk about it and think of it that way.

I’m told that there’s even such a thing as the Irish vote in Boston. No longer do we have really the Dutch vote in the Hudson River Valley as we did in the days of Jackson, Andy Jackson.

Blair: No. So Mike, I think all of that is really fascinating and I would love to continue talking to you, but unfortunately, we are running a little bit low on time. So I do have one final question for you.

As we’ve discussed through this conversation, I think we can all basically agree that the left’s hyperfocus on race and this idea that everything needs to be underpinned by this Marxist ideology of identity and racialized disharmony is a problem.

So my question for you is, do you think this fight against racial fragmentation and the left’s campaign to do this is a fight that conservatives are winning? And as a secondary follow-up, what are we doing well specifically and where do we need to shore up our defenses?

Gonzalez: I think conservatives have well begun by identifying the problem, talking about it, freezing it. I think the left has been caught by surprise.

By the way, the left doesn’t know what critical race theory is, obviously, or they’re just lying when they say that it is not critical race theory to talk about systemic racism. That is just a lie, that’s just ignorance.

I don’t blame them, but the majority is definitely against them. And they’re playing with fire.

Blair: I’m glad to hear that you think that we have some pretty solid chances against fighting back against this. I’m sure our listeners also appreciate your advice on how we can better push back.

So that was Mike Gonzalez, Heritage Foundation senior fellow for foreign policy and the Angeles T. Arredondo e pluribus unum fellow. He is also the author of the new book “BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution,” about the Marxist underpinnings of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mike, thanks again so much for joining us.

Gonzalez: Thank you, Doug.

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