Hispanic 1980’s – 2030

Cincinnati has benefited from the talents of Hispanic professionals over the years because of the presence of strong global-minded corporations. The most recent large group of Hispanics began arriving in Cincinnati and Ohio in the 1980s when the U. S. economy was growing at extremely high rates due in part to the expansion of high tech business and the internet. Hispanic and Latino workers were generally welcome because labor was needed for hard, physically demanding jobs such as landscaping and construction and in low-paying positions at hotels and restaurants. Most Hispanics came for a better life or sought refuge from political persecution in Central America. They adapted easily even though they spoke Spanish. They were Christian, devoted to their families, and had a strong work ethic. Their love of music and dance at Latino festivals have enriched Cincinnati’s diversity and rich cultural heritage.

In the mid 1990s, as the U. S. economy weakened, businesses closed and jobs were lost. Hostility and discrimination against the newest immigrant group intensified. Frustration and anxiety caused some Americans to look for “scapegoats.” Hispanics were often harassed and insulted because they were assumed to be “illegal aliens.” In local schools – public and private – Hispanics students are sometimes bullied. As in some previous immigration waves, newspapers and radio talk shows can use their power to fuel hatred and resentment, These media attacks caused apprehension among Hispanic families who moved to Cincinnati to find a better place to live.


Hispanic Peoples have lived in and developed their civilization in North America, including areas that later became part of the United States, since before the landing [in 1620] of the Mayflower. And before Columbus’s ships and the Mayflower landed, competition between two of the greatest European empires predisposed competition and conflict in the Western Hemisphere between the Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking and the mixed-race Spanish-speaking peoples. (Kanellos)

Anglo-American relations with Hispanics . . . have been characterized by the creation of doctrines that make possible the subjugation of Hispanics by Anglos. Among the most important sets of these doctrines are those known as the Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. (Kanellos)

[Manifest Destiny is] a wide-spread belief that Anglo-Saxon Americans were a separate, uniquely superior people destined to bring good government and Christianity to vast regions of the world, to govern over racially inferior inhabitants, or to drive them into extinction in order to develop the natural resources God had willed to the Anglo-Saxon race. The Monroe Doctrine [was created] in 1822 . . [U. S. President James] Monroe later declared in 1823 that the Western Hemisphere was off limits to further European expansion. (Kanellos)

[In recent years] . . . people’s fear of terrorism—and the more generalized fear of “the other” that terrorism inspires—the notion of securing the northern and southern borders as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts has taken on an ever more fanciful and surreal quality. . . When politicians attempt to reassure their constituents with higher and longer fences, and suggestions that the exclusion of Mexicans from the United States will enhance national security and well-being, they are counting on the triumph of irrational wishes over common sense. (Hellman)

Local authorities across the country complain that they bear the financial burden of illegal immigration, yet they lack the power to enforce immigration law. In Butler County, Ohio, … In the parking area outside the county jail, two new signs proclaim “Illegal Aliens Here,” with an arrow pointing inside (Fig. 4). “It’s a big, bright yellow sign, and it’s to let people know in our community that there are illegals here, and it is a problem, and we want some help,” [the sheriff] says. (Ludden)

It’s hard to fathom in 21st century America that a multi-million dollar corporation would base an advertising campaign on racial and ethnic stereotypes and not expect a backlash. . . [Last spring] . . . dozens of billboards that featured an image of the Mexican flag and Spanish words that translated as “Radio for Great Americans”. Then the other shoe dropped. The original billboards were replaced with ones that pictured a stereotypical depiction of an Hispanic man with an exaggerated black moustache who was wearing a sombrero, multi-colored poncho, and a bandolier across his chest, with a donkey off to the side for good measure. The billboard proclaimed “the big Juan”, a takeoff on another . . . nickname [for the radio station], The Big One (Fig. 6). (Osborne)

Literature Sources

1) Kanellos, Nicolás. Thirty Million Strong: Reclaiming the Hispanic Image in American Culture. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing, 1998.

2) Hellman, Judit Adler. (The World of Mexican Migrants). New York, London; The New Press, 2008.

3) Ludden, Jennifer. “Latinos Rattled by Ohio Sheriff’s Mission.” NPR, June 19, 2006.

4) Osborne, Kevin. “2007 Person of the Year: Making a Big Difference: Jason Riveiro speaks for the little guys in the war of words over immigration.” City Beat, Jan. 30, 2008.


Fig. 1, Fig. 2, Fig. 3 Grupo Xela, Hispanic Marketing archives

Fig. 4, Fig. 5 City Beat, Cincinnati’s weekly newspaper

Fig. 6 Hispanic Chamber Cincinnati USA archives