The recognition of ethnic minorities is, above all, the recognition of their identity. There is a large Latin American presence in the UK dating back to the late 18th and early 19th Century, when London was the place of refuge for writers, diplomats and freedom fighters for Latin American independence.
Claudio Chipana *
Among others, Francisco Miranda, Andrés Bello, Simon Bolívar, and Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzmán made London their home and place of refuge.
After independence many Latin Americans settled in the UK, particularly in London, and they played an important role in the commercial, political, and cultural relationship between the United Kingdom and Latin America. (Pam Decho and Clare Diamond)
In the early 1970s there was a change in the law that allowed Latin Americans to come to the UK with work visas, and many others fled, persecuted by dictatorships in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and other countries of the Southern Cone.
In the 1980s and 90s there was a new wave of Latin American immigration driven by the economic crisis and unemployment due to the free market economic policies in most of the region.
In recent years an ever increasing number of Latin Americans have come to the UK because of the economic crisis in other Eurozone countries. It is thought that there are about 200,000 Latin Americans, with 60% of those live in London.
They are a community with a significant presence in British society which contributes both economically and culturally. In addition, only 20% use social welfare benefits.
Meanwhile, they bring their own multiculturalism to an already multicultural society, enriching it even further. According to the 2011 census London is a city largely populated by people from ethnic minorities.
The recognition of ethnic minorities is, above all, the recognition of their identity and is essential for their integration into society and to overcome their invisibility.
Recognition gives a voice to the “other”, allowing them to speak in their own way, to establish a direct communication with them.
Without recognising the identities of minority groups, it is impossible to build an inclusive society with equal opportunity for all.
The UK’s multicultural society is essentially due to the presence of numerous religious beliefs, ethnicities and languages, and the inclusion of minority groups allows the construction of a democratic system and equal citizenship for all.
As Paddy McQueen indicates, the presence or absence of recognition affects the identity of the individual. “Non-recognition or misrecognition can inflict harm, can be a form of oppression, Imprisoning someone in a false, distorted, and reduced mode of being.”
The UK has been inhabited by people from all over the world: first by the Romans, Vikings, Normans, Saxons, and then from the 16th Century came the Huguenots, and in the 19th and 20th Century by Irish, Jewish, European, Muslim, Hindu, African, Caribbean, Chinese and Latin Americans.
This is a country made up of migrants and scattered peoples that have inhabited and enriched this country with their unique identities.
All of them have contributed to building a diverse and multi-national identity. Many public services such as public health, transport and others would not be sustainable without the contribution of migrants.
The Latin American community is a dynamic and hardworking community that contributes to the economy and culture of the UK, but still faces severe limitations and adversities; discrimination is an example. According to the organisation of Latin Americans No Longer Invisible, 70% feel discriminated against in the workplace. There are also high levels of exploitation because many Latin American immigrants receive wages below the legal minimum. Latin Americans No Longer Invisible also report that 19% of Latin Americans are in an “irregular” working situation.
Latin Americans seek to be recognised by their own ethnic category as “Latin American” because they are an ethnic minority, who despite their own diversity, are a community linked by historical ties, and despite the ethnic and traditional diversity, they share a common origin.
The recognition by Southwark Council (2012) and Lambeth (2013) has opened a new page in the history of Latin Americans in the United Kingdom. The authorities of these boroughs have for the first time officially recognised the Latin American community in London and it is expected that this recognition will also occur in other British cities. Also, pending official recognition by the Mayor of London, there may be an inclusion of a Latin American category in the next national census.
*This is an excerpt from the conclusion of a paper presented at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester (15/04/14)
* Member of LARC (Latin American Recognition Campaign) – Fotos: Pixabay
(Translated by Grace Essex – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)