We’re Number Juan

Even here in America, much has been made of the fact that Muhammad ranks second only to Jack as the most popular name for British newborn boys. According to many commentators on both sides of the Atlantic, Muslim immigrants are taking over England and will soon replace the Union Jack with a crescent symbol.

The U.S. version of this paranoid fantasy is that two of our largest states, California and Texas, have a high percentage of infants with Hispanic first names. The thinking is that these states are becoming excessively Latinoized – meaning that Hispanics are (say it with me…) taking over the place.

What do the actual numbers say about this apparent cultural sea change? Well, in California, the most recent stats (for 2007) show that among the top ten names for newborn boys, three are definitely Hispanic in origin. These are Angel (number three), Jose (number nine), and Diego (number ten).

Texas also has three Latino names cracking the top ten, including the number-one name (Jose). The other popular monikers are Angel (number five) and Juan (number nine).

In any case, none of these Hispanic names ranks in the top twenty for the United States as a whole, indicating that California and Texas are indeed a bit loaded with babies saddled with vowel-heavy first names.

“Ah-ha!” says the jingoist. “I told you these states were being overrun!”

Let’s assume that the data backs up this contention. We’ll even go farther and say that California and Texas will eventually be so loaded with Hispanics that mariachi bands spontaneously flower on every street corner.

The question then becomes… so what?

Some will say that the fear of Hispanics becoming a majority is an understandable reaction to illegal immigration. The problem with this argument is that if little Jose is born in California, he is a U.S. citizen. One presumes he will grow up to be a proud American. That is, unless one assumes a proud American cannot also be a Latino (now there’s an interesting topic for discussion…). These newborns are Americans – not illegals, even if their parents are – so that issue becomes irrelevant.

Is it because as California and Texas become more Hispanic, the residents will clamor to become part of Mexico or independent countries? I have already pointed out the reasons this is just not going to happen, so this far-fetched scenario can be dismissed at once.

So this isn’t concern about the influx of immigrants straining our social services, which is at least a debatable point, or anger that San Diego will become the capital of North Mexico.

Rather, this is the sweaty-palmed, lip-biting, eyebrow-furrowed fear of many whites that they may not be dominant cultural force anymore. And you know what? That may be true within just a few decades.

If that bothers people, they may need to examine why it’s so hair-raising. I’d be interested in hearing a rational reason.

Ultimately, we may need to reconsider exactly what an “American name” is. Most of our traditional names are originally Jewish. Apparently, biblical names are acceptable American monikers. So Jews can rest easy. They can be counted as real Americans. I’ll look forward to the day when Hispanics get the same luxury.


2 Responses to “We’re Number Juan”

  1. July 28, 2008 at 6:45 am

    In CA, Chicano researcher David Hayes-Bautista and his team have already shown that the majority of births are now Latino . It’s hard to peel the layers of racial fear apart in this state, but certainly part of that is the growing acceptance of these numbers. I always find it interesting that the segments of white America who fear our numerical ascent see their “white” and/or “American” culture as so fixed and unchanging. Thanks for the thoughtful piece.

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