According to a report (PDF) by the Community Service Society of NY (full disclosure, I once worked for CSS), the future of NYC is Latino. Hispanics are the second-largest racial/ethnic group in New York City. With 2,290,007 individuals, they make up 27.6 percent of the entire city population, second behind whites, who are the largest racial group at 35.6 percent. Most of the young Latinos in the Big Apple speak English well or very well. however for some of those Latinos, the future looks bleak.
* A greater percentage of Latino youth live in poor and near-poor households than any other racial group. Fifty-six percent of Latino young people live in households with incomes less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).
Interestingly enough, according to the report, it is not the immigrant Latinos that are struggling the most. It is Puerto Rican young people.
Roughly 17 percent of young Puerto Rican men were not in school, employed or looking for work, compared with 9 percent of Dominicans and 8 percent of Mexicans. Of those Latinos born in the United States, only 55 percent of Puerto Rican youth were enrolled in school, compared with 68 percent of Dominicans and 67 percent of Mexicans. Regardless of birthplace, about 33 percent of Puerto Rican families lived below the poverty line, compared with 29 percent of Dominicans and 27 percent of Mexicans
Many will be shocked by these numbers considering some of the relative privileges that Puerto Ricans have over other Latino groups including citizenship and time in the United States. In fact some Puerto Ricans have come down against the report disputing the statement that Puerto Ricans in NYC are worse off than other Latinos. For those of us who are Puerto Ricans in NY we see the disengagement in our communities and in our own families even.
A huge part of the problem is poverty and lack of real investment in Puerto Rican communities. When I say investment I am not talking about the creation of so-called “empowerment zones” which I have seen do nothing but bring big box brand stores to the hood without offering people real career options. I am talking about education, housing, and health. The basics.
Also I would dare say that the in-between colonial status of Puerto Ricans does nothing for our self worth as a people. How can we expect young people to feel affirmed if their very nationality isn’t? How can we expect young people to want to participate in the electoral process, for example, if abuelita back on the island cannot vote because of the second-class nature of colonial citizenship?
I would also argue that as violence against Latinos rises, with a special focus on immigrants, especially Mexicans and those perceived as Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and violence against Puerto Ricans becomes more marginalized.
In NYC, some organizations held a press conference in response to the report, especially the troubling picture it paints of Puerto Rican young people.
On October 31 on the steps of NYC’s City Hall Iris Morales, longtime Puerto Rican activist and educator said:
“We stand with our Puerto Rican young people. It is disheartening to me that the children of New York City’s oldest Latino community have been forgotten. Because of Puerto Ricans’ unique status as both U.S. citizens and immigrants at the same time, Puerto Rican youth experience a unique set of concerns related to self-identity, migration, access to services, and other issues.”
And I think Iris’s quote really resonates and contains part of the answer. While many hate to admit it, clinging to colonial citizenship, the Puerto Rican experience, that of my parents, for example, is an immigrant experience, and that should draw all Latinos to work more closely together understanding that we are all being targeted by the state and that the only way we will grow in power as we grow in numbers is together.
Via / WNYC