I recently interviewed Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Business Council. He was trapped in his car in a rainstorm in a national park in Texas.
“It is clear to me that the changing face of America is best illustrated by the Latino community. I think we are going to be transformational for this nation. However, it’s up to us to change the narrative that has, for too long, described our community. And to make our interests known. As a community, we have not been able to articulate our needs,” he told me,
After my interview with Palomarez, I dedicated time to breaking down his quote into five questions.
Who is the face of America?
In what way are Latina/os transformational for this country?
What is the current Latina/o narrative?
What are the Latina/o interests?
How does the Latina/o community articulate its needs?
In my first interview in the series with Analia Mendez, she tied Latina/o interests to the concept of Prosperity. Then she tied Prosperity to a concept called Home. So, I began to detail this concept of home with the subjects of my interviews.
In 2022, only 8% of homebuyers in the U.S. were Latino, barely up from 6% in 2003, according to the National Association of Realtors. That means in 20 years there has been little progress.
In 2019, in California the Latino homeownership rate was 44.1%, still 19.2 points below that of white households, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
Latinos certainly have buying power. We are 19% of the population and have more than $2 trillion in buying power, according to Claritas.
I called a journalist that works specifically in this sector and asked him to explain the snapshot above. James Rodriguez is a Mexican American, born in Texas, aged 26 and living in New York City. Here is what he told me:
“The intention of my article, First-time homebuyers are ‘royally screwed’, is to show the challenges facing first-time homebuyers in the housing market today — those who did not benefit from skyrocketing home prices in the last few years. The rising barriers to entry in the housing market have forged a greater divide between existing homeowners and prospective home buyers looking to build equity. Using the data from the National Association of Realtors, we highlight how old the typical first-time buyer is, what their race and ethnicity is, and we show how those changes over time reflect the challenges facing that person in the market,” he said.
Given the horrific nature of the data, I decided to create a video data library and interview Latina/os in my circle with very specific questions about the concept of home and prosperity.
I am interviewing Latino/a people of all backgrounds, some who are homeowners and some who are not.
As I begin this video data library, the answers given by the respondents are leading to aspirations, ambitions and fantasies of prosperity and all of those had some tie back to the stability and security of having a place to call home. This leads me to a scientific concept that sounds, at first, like foreign mysticism. I got it from Dr Paulette Steeves in her book, The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere. She writes:
“I have listened to the pain of people’s disconnection from the land, their identities, and their past. I have spent many hours weaving it through stories that have been left on the land.”
I’m intrigued by this as I learn more about how stories begin in the land and that land is a living entity that has memory. Unfortunately, in colonialist societies like the United States specifically, and the Americas in general, these ambitions and aspirations are tied to settler dominion of the place and ultimately the land.
Here we are in 2023. Latina/os in my circle have complained to me that they are unable to be six figure professionals with corporate benefits and still enter the real estate market in Los Angeles as a first time home buyer. We want stability and safety, and we search for it in the real estate listings of the world wide web, and we find challenges and disconnected logic.
Where did we learn this investment strategy?
This fixation on homeownership is so interesting to me because it ultimately gets tied to real estate not as a function of stability and safety, but rather as an investment vehicle that compounds exponentially and illogically and is then transferred in a trust to the next generation. It becomes what they call, “generational wealth.”