Emmanuelle Le Texier

Since the early nineteen-eighties, the new political visibility of Latinos has been referred to as the awakening of a “sleeping giant.” Their increased political expression, be it in the form of protest action during civil rights movements or electoral participation, marks a turning point in the integration of Hispanics in the American public sphere. With a growing number of voters, candidates and elected officials, Latinos have emerged on the political scene. The increasingly influential role of pan-ethnic interest groups and new opportunities for political participation created by the development of transnational networks have contributed to the elaboration of this new participative framework. Yet their electoral and political influence remains below the demographic, economic, social and cultural importance of these some 35 million individuals who make up over 12 percent of the U.S. population. Most of the minority groups still encounter major obstacles to political access. These are partly structural, but also internal to the group: not only is it divided over domestic or foreign issues, it is fragmented by national origin, status and generation. The singular nature of immigration from Latin America, the continuity of migratory flows and their diversity, all constantly rekindle divergences over what strategy Latinos should adopt for participating in the public debate. They also highlight the fictional, both functional and dysfunction, nature of ethnic categorization in the United States. The ethnic card may be an instrument of participation, but it can also prove to seriously fetter minorities’ entry into politics.