According to the U.S. Census, the United States will become a majority-minority by the year 2043, with Latinos representing the largest portion of the population.
While this shift in demographics represents a major sea-change for the country, in a way it is also nothing more than a continuation of a long story: the 500 year history of Latino Americans.
"It's deep in people to be suspicious of change, and sometimes be made a little uncomfortable by it," said PBS journalist Ray Suarez about the upcoming population shift. "But I think the more you understand it, the less there is to fear about it. All this is just the latest chapter in a very old American story. And if you think of it that way, it's a little less scary."
To help Americans gain perspective on how the Latino population may impact the next chapter of American history, Suarez wrote Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped A Nation.
Instead of thinking about American history as starting on the Eastern seaboard and expanding westward, it makes more sense to think about it starting on three fronts, under the influence of three different European empires, said Suarez.
"The Spaniards come north from Mexico, the French explore the headwaters of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and extend their empire and the Catholic religion along those waterways, and the British start expanding their footprint on the Eastern seaboard and heading west," said Suarez.
Latinos stand out from other immigrant populations, said Suarez, both because they were already here before the country existed, and because Latinos have continued to arrive generation after generation, instead of peaking at a certain point in history. Latinos, like any other immigrant group, follows a pattern of assimilation, but it is less noticeable because new groups of Latinos continue to arrive.
And even as the demographics change, Suarez believes the heart of what makes America America will remain.
"Is the sky going to fall? No, it is not, because America is still going to look like America, act like America and think like America," said Suarez.
In addition to discussing his book, Suarez will host the Nine Network of Public Media's town hall meeting as part of the PBS American Graduate: Let's Make It Happen initiative.
PBS Presents a Three-Part Series "Latino Americans"
Tuesdays, September 17 and 24 and October 1, 2013
Repeated Thursdays at 1:00 a.m. and Mondays at 2:30 a.m.
Nine Network of Public Media
Nine Network of Public Media Presents American Graduate Community Town Hall
Monday,September 16, 2013
Broadcast live on Nine PBS
Repeated on Nine World on September 18 at 8:000 p.m., September 21 at 7:00 p.m. and September 22 at 10:00 p.m.
Nine Network of Public Media, 3655 Olive
Nine Network Website
American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen
A long term public media commitment, supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to help communities implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis.
American Graduate Website