Hispanics -- America's 'awakening giant'

The sudden influx of Cuban refugees into southern Florida is a reminder that, in addition to all the other problems it faces at home and abroad in the 1980s, the United States is challenged by the need to adjust to its fast-growing Hispanic population.

Today's Monitor begins a five-part series by staff correspondent Geoffrey Godsell on Hispanics in the US. The first article sets the scene. Following articles on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will deal with each of the three main Hispanic groups: Mexicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans. Finally, a summary article on Friday will analyze what lies ahead.

The questions posed include these: Can legal and illegal Hispanic immigration -- or more particularly Mexican immigration, now running at an estimated rate of 1 million a year -- be halted or slowed? Can the plight of the Puerto Ricans be turned in the right direction? What will be the eventual political status of the Puerto Rican homeland? What will be the long-term impact on the fabric of the US of such a massively and specifically Hispanic Roman Catholic inflow? How will US party politics be affected? How will relations develop between Hispanics and blacks? And, most portentous of all, will the growth of the Hispanic component of the population lead to an unprecedented demand for constitutional recognition for the first time of two languages and two cultures within a single US?

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