October 7, 2005

IVY WALLS, NOT CITY HALLS:

In Lawrence, political clout growing among Latinos (Yvonne Abraham, October 7, 2005, Boston Globe)

Elsewhere in the state -- and nationally -- community leaders lament the fact that the political participation of Latinos falls alarmingly short of their rapidly growing numbers. Not in Lawrence.

Here, about 60 percent of the city's population is Latino. And Latinos make up 50.1 percent of registered voters. Four of the nine city councilors are Latino, as are two of the six school committee members. Massachusetts will see its first Latino mayor in Lawrence, many people say, and soon.

For Latino political activists, the ballot in Lawrence's recent municipal primary was the stuff of dreams: three Latino candidates for mayor, three for councilor at large, five for district council seats.

''About six years ago, we saw the reality that we had tremendous political power if we wanted it," said Guilmo Barrio, a longtime local political organizer. ''We were good in the numbers, but we were invisible. Then we said, 'Enough is enough.' "

Since then, community leaders have organized efforts to urge Latinos to become US citizens and register to vote; recruited Latino residents to collect signatures and donate at fund-raisers; and sought out candidates from the Latino community to run for the City Council and the school committee.

Latinos have come into their own politically the way immigrant Irish and Italians did before them in first half of the 20th century -- by the sheer force of numbers, by buying houses and enrolling their children in schools, by starting their own newspapers and radio shows, by taking up citizenship and forming political machines.


Thomas Sowell has written well about how problematic a strategy this is for immigrant groups. Those like the Irish and Italians who focussed on building their political power via urban machine politics seem to have retarded their general, especially economic, progress within American society. Jews and Asians who instead pursued economic and educational opportunities--and were obviously forced to because of prejudice greater than that which others faced--ended up with significantly higher living standards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 7, 2005 8:26 AM
Comments

To promote assimilation we need to pass an updated version of the Johnson-Reed Act.

Posted by: carter at October 7, 2005 2:52 PM
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