Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Post: Thelma Reyna

Latinos to Be the Majority of U.S. Population by 2050:
Implications for Latina/o Authors

by: Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D.

The face of America is changing rapidly, according to the latest U.S. Census data. If prognostications bear out, Hispanics (the term used in the Census) will be the dominant ethnic group in our nation by 2050. This would be a sea change for our country and one with many implications that we must seriously consider.

One of the ramifications is the increased opportunities this new majority group could and should present to Latina/o authors nationwide. Modern Hispanic-American literature, as I've previously written on my blog, , has grown significantly since the early 1960s. With a future nation whose majority is Hispanics, the demand for inclusion of our writings in America's English classes in kindergarten through the university level, in literary anthologies and textbooks, should be more pronounced. This, in turn, could and should have a ripple effect on the entire publishing industry, with its concomitant marketing programs, speaking engagements, and all the trappings that come with big publishing house releases.

But we Hispanic/Latino authors must lay the groundwork for this new era of higher literary visibility and prominence. Not only must we continue to hone our craft and increase our productivity, but we must be sure to groom the new generations of writers. This will entail investing our time and attention more heavily in our children's education. Not only as parents, but as participants in a democratic society, we need to insure that our educational system receives all the resources necessary to boost it, to make it a strong vehicle of growth and enlightenment for all our nation's children, and particularly for our Hispanic/Latino children, who often lag behind others.

We need to keep abreast of educational issues and concerns more strongly than has been the case in the past. We need to monitor that educational programs are not the first tier of budget slashing as an automatic political response when economic times are hard. This has been the case this year and last, and most other times of crisis that I can recall. Cutting education is often a knee-jerk response by politicians; and, unfortunately, the citizens oftentimes just go along with it quietly. This must change.

Education in the United States is hurting a lot right now. Critics abound on the left and right of the political spectrum, and Congress often makes decisions that run counter to what educators know is the right path to take. Besides cutting education budgets, Congress, and many states as well, jump to charter schools, or vouchers, or other "silver bullets" that they mistakenly believe will result in better educational outcomes for our students. But--as a lifetime educator and school administrator--I can tell you that a good educational system is one that literally "takes a village": well-trained educators, devoted parents, and an engaged community. Let us work toward establishing this in each of our communities, and collectively, we can build an educational system that will prepare our children for the changes that we will all face in America.

As individual authors, we must engage with our reading public more than we now do. Can we mentor young writers? Can we visit schools and community writing groups to share our knowledge and inspire others? How can we individually and collectively pass our knowledge to aspiring writers and help a new wave of authors come to the fore? Yes, these are things we already do. But how can we expand these strategies? Again, we need to lay the groundwork for a broader pool of Latina/o authors to step up to the plate in the coming decades, to contribute greatly to the fabric of American Literature, and to expand the body of literature created specifically by Hispanics for the betterment of all.

Thelma T. Reyna