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One Label Does Not Fit All

How much solidarity do we have across class lines, across differences in immigration status, citizenship, home country? Are we Democrats or Republicans? Are we even voters in the first place?

Rivera suggested that even one's position on immigration reform is a matter of identity and ethnic solidarity: "Any Hispanic, any Latino, any Spanish person who votes for a Republican or a Democrat who is against sensible compassionate immigration reform is an Uncle Tom. They have a kind of self-loathing that is unforgivable."

That drew big applause from the few hundred at lunch. Did anyone disagree? How about those vanquished Latinos in Miami who backed Mitt Romney?

Comedian Willie Barcena didn't disagree, exactly, during his act at the Warner. He just sounded a note of impatience with any insinuation that Latinos, or anybody else, are victims in this country:

"I hate when I hear some Latinos and some blacks talk about 'the white man's keeping me down.' . . . I have yet to see that white guy in front of any of my buddies' houses: 'Hello, Ramon, my name's Todd, I'm the white guy here to keep you down.' "

Applause, laughs.

"By the same token, I hate when I hear some white people going on about 'those illegal aliens taking my job.' . . . Let me tell you something: If a guy gets here from another country, can't read, can't write, can't speak the language, has no technological skills and takes your job? You're a [expletive]."

Barcena adds:

"If you're not successful in this country it's because you're not trying, man, that's all it is."

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Isn't language a proxy for identity?

For all the hand-wringing among English-firsters over the supposed menace of Spanish to American cohesiveness, a young all-English cable network called SíTV looks for its Latino audience on the premise that most under-30 Latinos and nearly all U.S.-born Latinos are bilingual or favor English.


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