I found this recent Op-Ed from the Rio Grande Guardian very informative, The Myth of the ‘One Size-fits-All’ Hispanic. Here’s a long excerpt:
There is no doubt that the scope of Spanish-descent citizens in the U.S. is impressive. They live throughout the country and their numbers are huge. Based on the 2010 census, about 50 million citizens in the U.S. are Spanish-surnamed (16 percent of the population). However, sharing Spanish last names doesn’t mean their needs are identical. There are key internal differences within. For example, maintaining trade sanctions against Cuba may be a hot button voting issue in Florida, but it is not in Texas or the Southwest. Additional differences follow on the four main factions:
The first faction (Spanish Mexican-descent) is by far the largest under the big umbrella. It is with this biggest group that the Hispanic and Latino terms prove to be the most inadequate. In the first place, both words reflect only European lineage. Neither word recognizes equally strong Native American (Mexican, Mestizo) bloodlines. With 30 million in number, this group is the main stem (backbone) of the umbrella. They comprise 60 percent of the U.S. “Hispanic” population. Here again, there’s distinct differences within this faction. Specifically, there are two separate arms. One is non-immigrant, and the other is immigrant.
The non-immigrant arm includes descendants of Southwest Spanish Mexican pioneers who were already living in Nuevo México, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and California in 1848, when the U.S. conquered and took the territory from Mexico. Also, their Native American ancestors have lived in the Southwest for at least 10,000 years. Long held as a colonial-style Class Apart, these non-immigrant people of the Southwest are perhaps the most misunderstood by mainstream society. The reason is that most U.S. citizens wrongly believe that all Spanish-speaking U.S. citizens are recent immigrants.
Because they value their pre-1848 pioneer roots, those in this group use distinctive regional appellatives, such as, Nuevo Mexicanos, Californios, Coloradenses, and Tejanos. It’s important to note also that this large ethnic group uses the word “Mexican” only as a culture identifier, not nationality or allegiance to Mexico. Their concerns include jobs, fair pay, preservation of their bicultural heritage, civil rights, education, bilingual education in the lower grades, Head Start, economic development, affordable health care and safe, secure neighborhoods.
The other arm of this faction involves immigrants from Mexico who came here after 1848 seeking work to feed their families. (Several times during our nation’s history, these workers have more than once answered the urgent call from the U.S. to meet acute manpower shortages, such as times when our country was at war or desperately needed in good economic boons. Conversely, they are not welcomed during times of economic distress, which is what is happening today.) For example, it is this group that (1) is being incarcerated in prisons built by and enriching far-right extremist contractors and investors; (2) is being threatened by aggressive state officials whose answer to the dilemma is to put their U.S.-born children up for adoption; and (3) is most concerned about the Dream Act and a sensible immigration reform program.
The second major faction is composed of citizens with Puerto Rican roots. Similar to their Spanish Mexican sister group in the Southwest, Puerto Ricans are not immigrants to the U.S., since they are born U.S. citizens. Their number in the U.S. is 4.6 million (9 percent of Hispanics). There are over four million citizens in Puerto Rico itself. (Regrettably, most of the general public is unaware of their U.S. citizenship status, as shown by the recent racial taunting of a Kansas State player of Puerto Rico-descent at an NCAA basketball game in Mississippi.)
The third faction is made up of Cuban-descent citizens (1.7 million (3.5 percent of U.S. Hispanics). Significantly, Cubans arriving in the U.S. enjoy a special privilege that other immigrants do not. They receive instant political refugee status as a result of anti-Communist legislation passed during the U.S.-Soviet Union Cold War. Although the Cold War ended in 1991, arriving Cuban immigrants are not considered illegal today, because immigration agents still treat them as anti-Communists. Therefore, they are not jailed as are illegal immigrants from other countries, such as Mexico. Cuban arrivals are eligible for immediate admittance and are welcomed into this country, free to live anywhere in the U.S. as officially authorized residents.
The fourth and final faction under the Spanish-surnamed umbrella is composed of people who come from countries in Central and South America for exactly the same reasons that European immigrants came here. That is, to answer Emma Lazarus’ call on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your tired masses yearning to breathe free…”
In summary, seeking a Spanish-surnamed person as bait to catch Spanish-surnamed voters is absurd. Your name doesn’t have to be Spanish to help the Spanish-surnamed poor move up the ladder of success. In fact, two of the greatest men of action in advocating and legislating for the Spanish Mexican-descent poor are non-Spanish-surnamed President LBJ and Senator Ralph Yarborough who regularly spoke to Spanish Mexican-descent citizens in person. It is for their daring to help the poor that they are today maligned by far-right extremist conservatives.