By Maria Leon
PHOENIX – Being Hispanic in Arizona has taken on a new meaning with the enactment of state law SB1070, even as pressure against immigrants throughout the United States has served to awaken feelings of Hispanic pride.
While the harshest aspects of SB1070 – which seeks to criminalize undocumented migrants – remain on hold thanks to a federal judge’s injunction, the new laws and anti-immigrant feelings have spurred Latinos to unite and get better organized within the many organizations struggling to defend their rights.
“We Hispanics are going through a difficult time, victims of a divisive campaign that is frankly racist,” Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva told Efe.
Convinced that Latinos will “weather the storm,” Grijalva said that out of this very complicated period will emerge a Hispanic community far more influential and united.
For that reason, the Democrat said it is vital to feel and enjoy the pride of being Hispanic, because the current period is part of a process of change that will have positive implications nationwide.
With the beginning next week of the events of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), Grijalva spoke of the need to use this period for transmitting the virtues of Hispanic culture and as a reminder of how important it is to take part in the elections.
The Census Bureau shows that in Arizona, 30 percent of the population is of Hispanic origin with a clear tendency to grow, as is happening all across the country.
“I believe that now more than ever it is important to feel proud of our roots and our Hispanic culture,” Barbara Escobar, an employee of Pima County in southern Arizona, told Efe.
She said that the enactment of state law SB1070 “opened her eyes” to understanding that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, because all have the right to keep their culture even as they integrate into the country.
“I’m sure I appreciate our beliefs and traditions better now,” Escobar, wife of Tucson police officer Martin Escobar, who filed one of the first lawsuits challenging SB1070, said.
SB1070 has divided Arizona, which has a long tradition of such measures, including legislation denying driver’s licenses to the undocumented and a law allowing the prosecution of immigrants who pay a smuggler – “coyote” – to get them across the border from Mexico.
“The approval of SB1070 has made our community cling even tighter to our culture and defend the rights we have under the Constitution,” Tucson Deputy Mayor Regina Romero told Efe.
“It has helped us acknowledge the deep roots that we Hispanics have in this country,” Romero said.
That makes Hispanic Heritage Month a very special time this year by encouraging Latino families to celebrate both belonging to a double culture and being bilingual.
“My family has always celebrated our Mexican culture, the mixture of traditions and languages and adapting to life in the United States, and now we’ll do it with even greater intensity,” Romero said. EFE