2nd generation Latinos mean wave of change Power as leaders, consumers emerges
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 11, 2005

Yvonne Wingett

Ivan Vasquez is reshaping the profile of the U.S. Latino.

He is better educated than his immigrant parents, fluent in two languages and likes Chinese food more than Mexican.

Before moving to Arizona 17 years ago, his parents made their living selling food on the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico. Vasquez doubles as a host and cashier at El Caminero, his family's 10-table Mexican and seafood restaurant in Sunnyslope. At 15, he already is making plans to take over and expand the storefront business. 

"We don't have to struggle like my parents did," said Vasquez, a student at Central High School. "They didn't get the education we're getting."

Vasquez is part of a monumental shift taking place across the country and in
Arizona: a wave of second-generation Latinos who experts say will give rise through 2020 to sweeping changes among U.S. Latinos, according to Datos 2005, a report being released today on Hispanic trends.

The rise of the second generation is a logical result of the recent decades of heavy immigration into the United States, experts say. And in 15 years, it will become, at 21.7 million, the largest group among Latinos, outnumbering immigrants and third-generation Hispanics, the report says.

They are of all ages but are concentrated in youth. Today's 20- to 30-somethings are the leading edge of the transformation, and their impact is being felt in music, food, classrooms and businesses."Never before has opportunity been greater (for Latinos)," said Loui Olivas, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Arizona State University. He compiled the report for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and will present it today at a breakfast meeting.

"They've been through the school systems, are employed and are leaders on boards and commissions," he said. "This generation knows no boundaries in language, in color or ethnicity. They're not bound by the traditions of the prior generation . . . but have not lost their own customs."

Here are some of the key areas where the ripples of change will be felt.

The economy

Latinos' share of purchasing power in the United States will nearly double over the next decade, to more than 11 percent. In 2009, they will spend $1 trillion.

Alberto "Beto" Rodriguez, 26, knows where he's going, but he'll never forget where he's from: the son of Mexican immigrants, one a mariachi musician, the other a homemaker. He has kept in mind his parents' dreams for him: earn a college diploma, get a good job and buy a home.

Rodriguez, who lives in south Phoenix, graduated from ASU in 2002 with a communications degree. Today, he is a special-events and communications associate for Valley of the Sun United Way.

Although Hispanics have a strong presence in the labor force, lower-level jobs have left them with smaller incomes than some other consumer groups, the Datos study says.

But as Rodriguez and second-generation Latinos enter the professional ranks, they will close the gap between representation in the labor force and purchasing power.

Purchases by second-generation Latinos will largely drive that growth, experts say.

"People are understanding and realizing this is the largest untapped market," said Harry Garewal, president and chief executive officer of the Hispanic chamber. "They are going to be more affluent, and they're going to be more influential with their money."

Like Rodriguez, they will continue to buy homes, putting Hispanic homeownership in 2012 at 53 percent nationally, compared with 47 percent today. At 61 percent, Hispanic homeownership in Arizona is above the national average.

Latinos also will open more businesses, converting storefronts into restaurants, markets and flower shops. Rodriguez dreams of one day opening a nightclub or public relations agency. "Those are my two big dreams. You're able to be your own boss."


About 177,000 Hispanics were enrolled in K-12 in Arizona from 1994 to 2004, representing 60 percent of the growth in schools.

It is in the classroom where Latinos are likely to be acculturated, to move closer to the mainstream than their immigrant parents.

"Much of their future lies there," said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research center in Washington, D.C. "The high school dropout rates are all going in the right direction and are improving.
They have gotten better for the second generation."

Hispanics in Arizona have lagged in education, but small gains in college degrees indicate an upward path.

Maritza Esponda, 28, a second-generation Latina, embodies the trend. She was the first in her family to move away from home, the first to go to college, the first to have a career.

"My parents always stressed the importance of education, especially since my dad had only a third-grade level," said Esponda, a Chandler resident and tax analyst for Salt River Project. "I remember in first, second and third grade, he'd sit down and read with me . . . even though he doesn't speak English."

Popular culture

The Hispanic teen population is set to grow 62 percent by 2020, compared with 10 percent for Anglo youths. Hispanic teens spend $19 billion a year.

Second-gens are creating a hybrid of Latin and American cultures. Those like Vasquez, Rodriguez and Esponda listen to all genres of music, from Blink-182 to Pepe Aguilar. They watch telenovelas on Univision and The Apprentice on NBC. They celebrate Mexico's independence with Fiestas Patrias and el grito.

They carry cellphones with built-in video screens and cameras. They drink the traditional rice milk horchata and eat grilled salmon.

They also have embraced the Internet: Half of the nearly 14 million Latino Internet users have been online less than three years, according to Datos.
Five percent of them are 55 and older.

"There's kind of a cosmopolitan feel among these kids, which could end up being something very distinctive," Suro said. "It's a mishmash of stuff, and it's all just sort of thrown together, which is very much what this generation is like: a mixture of what they take from their families . . .
and purely American kids."

Civic power

The number of Latino-owned firms in the nation will grow by 60 percent from 2004 to 2010, to 3.2 million.

Community and political empowerment follow education and wealth.

And ownership of capital marks the journey.

Experts forecast a higher number of Latinos running for public office and increased voter participation.

"These are the people who don't look back," said Edward Escobar, an associate professor at ASU's department of Chicana and Chicano studies.
"They don't think of Mexico as their home. The U.S. is their home.

"This is where their lives are . . . and they understand their rights. They understand the American Dream. And they expect to achieve that dream."

Angelica Torrez, 30, has voted in every presidential and local election since turning 18 in Miami, Ariz.

"It symbolizes everything my parents worked really hard for us to have,"
said Torrez, of Laveen. "It's an extension of what they wanted for us and the dreams they had for us: of living in a country where we had more choices and more opportunities."

Reach the reporter at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-4712.