Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hispanics and Katrina

This is the kind of thing that makes me love Linda Chavez:

What happened to the nearly 200,000 Hispanics living in and around New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit last month? I asked the question of one reporter who had called me to comment on the role race played in the evacuation fiasco, but she didn't know. In fact, at the height of the crisis, few in the media seemed the slightest bit curious about this population, despite hundreds of stories about poverty, race, and the failure of government to rescue the most vulnerable.

I wondered in part because I saw so few Hispanic faces among those stranded at the Superdome and Convention Center. Yet I knew that many Hispanics lived in New Orleans, occupying the same service jobs they do elsewhere, often on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. Most are immigrants -- often illegal -- from Honduras and Mexico. Then, just when I thought they were nowhere to be found, I spotted a few Hispanic men in the television footage this week of crews cleaning up the debris that has overwhelmed so much of the Gulf Coast. Wherever they went to escape the storm, they're back -- because there is work to be done, and they are eager to do dirty jobs that many others shun. I wonder if these images will sink in with the anti-immigrant crowd that imagines that Mexicans come to the United States looking for a handout.

My suspicion is that few of New Orleans' Hispanic immigrants -- especially the illegal ones -- stuck around for the hurricane to hit. Immigrants in general tend to have strong initiative and good coping skills. Someone who can figure out how to get into the U.S. (especially illegally) can certainly figure out how to get out of New Orleans.


Anonymous LatinoPundit said...

Are you kidding me? That is the exception and not the rule. I posted the same story but with a different take:

Here's an excerpt:
"Ahh, do you smell the rose pedals? The fragrence of hard work and preseverence especially the hint of self-sufficience in the wakd of a total natural disaster just makes you want to go out and feel good about the human spirti of endurance. What I can't believe is that her whole premise is based on a few fleeting shots of Hispanics on the news!"

9/22/2005 1:24 PM  

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