An interdisciplinary journal about regions, places, and cultures of the US South and their global connections

"Puerto Ricans Live Free": Race, Language, and Orlando's Contested Soundscape

Simone Delerme, University of Mississippi

Published: 
24 March 2014
Overview: 

This article examines social interactions and conversations to reveal how language ideologies—ideas, perceptions, and beliefs about the nature and usage of language—affect racial categorizations and responses to Hispanic migration. Since the early 1980s, metropolitan Orlando, Florida, has experienced an influx of Hispanics, primarily Puerto Ricans, who are transforming its physical landscape, politics, as well as social and cultural life. This article describes the formation of a Puerto Rican enclave in what was once a rural place in Central Florida. Demographic changes and Latinization altered the soundscape as Spanish became increasingly present. Studying the discourses that circulate about language, Hispanic migrants, and Hispanic-concentrated spaces, this article reveals the tensions that arise in new migration destinations.

Introduction

Buenaventura Lakes, Florida. Data from the 2010 Census, Hispanic population according to county. Map courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Buenaventura Lakes, Florida. Data from the 2010 Census, Hispanic population according to county. Map courtesy of Southern Spaces.

One of the largest Puerto Rican enclaves in Greater Orlando, Buenaventura Lakes (BVL), population 26,079, is located in Osceola County, Florida.1 According to the 2010 census, Puerto Ricans comprised 44.5 percent (11,618) of the total population, Mexicans were 2.2 percent (585), Cubans 3.1 percent (799), and other Hispanics or Latinos 19.8 percent (5,158). On June 17, 2008 an Internet user by the name of Poodlestix posted an entry on City-Data.com, a website that includes statistical data and conversational forums about US cities, to inquire about the reputation and place-identity of Buenaventura Lakes:

I was looking at homes with the realtor and found a house at the corner of Lakeside and Anhinga that I really liked. I heard some loud music playing a couple of doors down that evening, and it kind of got me concerned about the neighborhood. I also noticed a broken window on the side that faces Lakeside which looked like it could possibly have been made by a bullet. Is that possible? I'm not familiar with whether this is a good neighborhood, but I loved the house.2

In response, Wilshire81182 warned Poodelstix about the social class position and character of BVL's residents:

Buena Ventura Lakes is a lower income neighborhood in general. I would not recommend the area, but I know it is not the worst area to move to overall. I am sure it has some safety concerns and people may not take the best care of their property or yours given the nature of the area. The area is synonymous with the posts about Kissimmee and the reasons why people advise to avoid it.

The moderator of the forum, Cmj_fla, mentioned overcrowding, community spirit, and safety concerns before directing the potential buyer to a gated community in the vicinity:

I think that if you have a bad feeling about it then you should really trust it. Lakeside is a newer neighborhood for BVL but still has some of the problems associated with the area: Overcrowding and lack of community spirit. If you are interested in the area then you could probably get the same deal on a home in Remington and have a better sense of security and safety.

It was not until NowInGreenville responded that the conversation turned to the ethnic and racial make-up of BVL, "lack of diversity" (meaning a majority of Hispanics instead of non-Hispanic whites), and the presence of the Spanish language:

You're coming from Texas so maybe you speak Spanish. If not than you may want to take lessons. If I'm not mistaken, BVL is about 80-85% Hispanic. That doesn't mean it is a bad area, it just means that area of central florida is not as diverse as others. In most other area of CF, the racial make up is much more evenly distributed.

These responses were enough to persuade Poodlestix to live elsewhere:

Nah, I'm just a white girl with a limited Spanish repertoire. The house was lovely, but I was leery about the neighborhood for sure. Too bad you can't pick up your ideal house and set it down on a lot in a better neighborhood! We're going to go with the other house we had our eye on in what seems to be a better part of Kissimmee. Thanks for the input!

Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photograph by Simone Delerme.
Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photograph by Simone Delerme.

In this article I delve into discourses that circulate about the Spanish language and examine ways that language ideologies—ideas, perceptions, and beliefs about the nature and usage of languages—affect racial meanings, categorizations, and responses to Hispanic migration into Greater Orlando. I specifically engage the following questions: How can we understand the self-proclaimed and perceived racial identities of Hispanic migrants in Greater Orlando? Have linguistic differences become a proxy for articulating perceived racial distinctions? Are we witnessing the social construction of a distinct "Hispanic race," internalized by residents and articulated in everyday speech? Conversations with residents and Internet transcripts reveal that this ethnic group of diverse ancestry and national origins is being perceived as neither white nor black, but rather as a distinct non-white racial group due to linguistic practices, national origin, or other "cultural" identifiers. Through this process, the Spanish language is racialized, along with people, spaces, and places. A growing point of contention, the hyper-presence of Spanish is altering the soundscape in parts of metro Orlando. These transformations and the accompanying Latinization made some of my non-Hispanic white interviewees increasingly aware of their own white racial identity and led to the development of a stronger white racial consciousness as they became part of the demographic minority. However, many Hispanics claim a white racial identity as well, while others claim to be part of "some other race," further complicating racial categorizations and identities. These migrants, who hold an ambiguous racial position, are complexifying the US South's deep-rooted racial binary.

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Researching Race Talk

In 2010 I began fieldwork in Greater Orlando, an area of Central Florida that has experienced rapid demographic changes due to the large influx of Puerto Ricans, US citizens by birth, and other Hispanics. For two years I lived with a number of residents, documented and undocumented, in four suburban locations (including Buenaventura Lakes). These were the homes of Venezuelan, Colombian, Guatemalan, and Puerto Rican families who rented out spare rooms, and sometimes even couches and spaces on the floor, to family, friends, co-workers, and to unthreatening strangers—like myself—to supplement their income and cover the monthly mortgage payment in an informal housing market similar to the encargado system among El Salvadorians in the suburbs of Long Island, New York.3 I also attended local cultural, political, and business-related events, and collected information at churches, schools, and businesses. My research combines traditional anthropological methods with textual analysis to interweave data gathered through participant observation, informal and semi-structured interviews, archival research, census results, and new media (internet blogs and forums). These sources allowed me to document the voices and experiences of close to two hundred Central Florida residents.

Virtual spaces and new media are helpful sources for learning how racial subjects and meanings are created and circulate. Users voice ideas and feelings about Hispanic migration and areas with a concentrated Hispanic population without revealing their identity and being labeled racist or politically incorrect. Online conversations reveal thoughts and feelings surrounding everyday encounters with "the other" that are usually more subtle and masked in person. "Race talk," linguistic anthropologist Jane Hill points out, "has largely retreated to occasions where speakers are among trusted intimates . . . or to contexts like radio chat rooms where they can remain anonymous."4

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Language Ideologies and Racialization

Linguistic anthropologists define language ideologies as "the cultural system of ideas about social and linguistic relationships, together with their loading of moral and political interests."5 Ideas about language become naturalized, shared, commonsense understandings, and these ideologies connect language to identities, values, status, citizenship, character, and personhood.6 In Greater Orlando, for example, language ideologies prejudiced the response to Latinization and the transforming soundscape. Closely connected to the acquisition and maintenance of political, economic, or individualized interests, these ideologies point to power struggles and contestations resulting from demographic shifts, cultural influence, and increasing Hispanic economic and political power. Language ideologies also affected racial categorizations and the process of racialization.

In their classic definition, Michael Omi and Howard Winant describe racialization as the extension of racial meanings to a previously unclassified relationship, social practice, or group.7 The racialization of the Hispanic population "refers to their definition as a 'racial' group and the denigration of their alleged physical and cultural characteristics such as phenotype, language, or number of children."8 The process of racialization "entails their incorporation into a white-created and white-imposed racial hierarchy and continuum, now centuries old, with white Americans at the very top and black Americans at the very bottom."9 Standards mandated by the US Office of Management and Budget define Hispanics as an ethnic group that can be of any race.10 Race and ethnicity are considered separate and distinct concepts. In everyday life situations, however, monolingual and bilingual Spanish speakers are consistently racialized as non-white or as a distinct "Hispanic race" that is neither black nor white.

"Holding His End Up," Philadelphia Inquirer, ca. 1899. Political cartoon depicting Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippine and Mariana Islands as spoils of the Spanish–American War.
"Holding His End Up," Philadelphia Inquirer, ca. 1899. Political cartoon depicting Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippine and Mariana Islands as spoils of the Spanish–American War.

My research engages with the manifestations of linguistic ideologies in everyday interactions, the moments when language becomes an index for race, and the effects of the changing soundscape on social relationships. However, discourses about the Spanish language represent deeply embedded ideas about the relationship between race, language, and citizenship traceable to colonial encounters and US policy decisions. For example, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) ended the Mexican–American War, and ceded a large portion of Mexican territory to the United States (present day California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming). The perceived "social inferiority" of the Mexican population—based on the theories of social Darwinism, Manifest Destiny, and Anglo-Saxon superiority—negatively affected the inclusion of Mexicans into the US political structure and led to educational policies directed at the Spanish-speakers in the newly acquired territories—policies initiated to repress Spanish and enforce linguistic assimilation.

Similarly, racial assumptions determined how the Constitution was applied to the newly acquired territory of Puerto Rico, and legitimated the subordination of its population.11 When the United States took control of Puerto Rico during the Spanish–American War, it instituted a policy of "Americanization." The 1902 Official Languages Act made both English (the imported language) and Spanish the island's official languages.12 A number of policies followed to determine the role of English and Spanish in educational instruction, court proceedings, and legal interpretations. The language ideology that linked US citizenship with English reveals how the language regulation, planning, and policies were used for "extralinguistic purposes" such as political control and national integration.13 In 1937, for instance, President Franklin Roosevelt wrote:

It is an indispensable part of American policy that the coming generation of American citizens in Puerto Rico grow up with a complete facility in the English tongue. It is the language of our Nation. Only through the acquisition of this language will Puerto Rican Americans secure a better understanding of American ideals and principles.14

As Ofelia Garcia points out, Spanish was originally the language of the conquered and colonized. Over time, however, Spanish was characterized as the language of immigrants and foreigners, of a racialized non-white minority, and was associated with poverty and educational failure.15

The racialization of Latin American and Caribbean migrants is not a new phenomenon. Puerto Rican racialization is well documented in the traditional migratory destinations of New York City and Chicago.16 Ana Ramos-Zayas examines how Puerto Rican enclaves in Chicago became racialized in a way that devalues the population's US citizenship and presents a stigmatized image associated with criminality, poverty, and welfare dependency.17 Similarly, in New York City, Puerto Ricans were systematically racialized and subjected to discriminatory practices regardless of their phenotype or citizenship status. Eileen Findlay's interviews with New York-born Puerto Ricans reveal the "homogenizing, oppressive racialization" inflicted upon migrants, the conflicts between different racial and ethnic groups, and the rigid binary racial system that imposed black or white identities on Puerto Ricans during the 1950s and 1960s.18 Many Puerto Ricans negotiated this binary by resisting identification as African American, despite maintaining social relationships with African Americans, and carved out "an uneasy non-white identity."19

At times, a strategic embracing of panethnic labels has resisted the black-white binary. Between 1848 and 1870, Chileans and Mexicans in California developed a collective identity and sense of belonging to what they termed "the Hispanic American race" in response to discrimination and Anglo-American racialization as non-white.20 Similarly, Hispanic entrepreneurs in Houston, Texas, employed a strategy of "national self-identification and panethnic other-identification" to negotiate and resist the white/black classification system.21

"Hispanic" and "Latino" panethnic labels have been critiqued for homogenizing a variety of racial and ethnic groups, social classes, cultural traditions, languages, dialects, colonial legacies, and immigrant histories. The "Hispanic" identifier emerged from political conversations and federal legislation that required accurate statistical documentation at a historical moment when Latin American and Caribbean migration was increasing, civil rights activism was on the rise, and there was growing concern about minority groups' disadvantages.22 In 1976 the US Congress passed Public Law 94-311, the only law in the country's history that mandated the collection, analysis, and publication of data about a specific ethnic group—"Americans of Spanish origin or descent"—and defined the population to be enumerated.23 Grace Flores-Hughes, who served in the administration of three presidents and helped coin the "Hispanic" label for the government, describes her participation in a Hispanic Task Force that met for almost six months in the 1970s to discuss which term should be adopted to uniformly collect data about the population.24 The participants entertained the terms "Spanish-speaking," "Spanish-surnamed," "Latin American," "Hispanic," and "Latino." But, it was not until the late 1990s that the term "Latino," derived from the Spanish word for Latin America (latinoamerica), was officially adopted by the US Census Bureau to be used alongside "Hispanic" in the 2000 Census. "Latino" is a grassroots alternative to "Hispanic" that was included as a result of criticism from community activists, academics, and other individuals that rejected the government-imposed label. "Latino" describes a geographically derived national origin group, and is "an attempt to embrace all Latin American nationalities, including those which neither have ties to Spain nor are necessarily Spanish-dominant groups."25

I use the panethnic label "Hispanic" to remain consistent when transitioning from a discussion of the aggregated statistical data to ethnographic vignettes that describe interactions between "non-Hispanic whites" and a diverse population of Hispanics with ties to different parts of Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. The subjects of my study preferred to self-identify based on national origin or place-specific ethnic identifiers—Chicano, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Nuyorican, Colombian—instead of the panethnic labels "Hispanic" or "Latino." However, when they did use panethnic labels they used "Hispanic" more frequently than "Latino." A nationwide Pew Hispanic Center survey revealed similar results. 51 percent of respondents preferred to use their family's country of origin to describe their identity in comparison to 24 percent that used "Hispanic" or "Latino" most often. Half the respondents claimed to have no preference for either "Latino" or "Hispanic," but of those that did express a preference, 33 percent preferred "Hispanic" and 14 percent "Latino."26

While some academics and activists critique the term "Hispanic" for its denial of African and indigenous ancestry, the prevalence, preference, and internalization of the term was evident in many of the professional and social spaces I studied.27 According to Flores-Hughes, many Hispanic activists were "holding this anger that some nasty Anglo named them. Well, no, it wasn't. It was this little Hispanic bureaucrat."28 Complexity surrounds both racial and ethnic labels and categorizations because they are simultaneously self-determined, imposed, place-specific, and situational. I, for example, use a variety of terms to describe myself—Puerto Rican and Haitian, Hispanic, and/or black—depending on who is asking and the type of information being elicited. However, during my research I began to alter my response to be more specific about my place of birth and family ancestry. Because I'm from East Harlem, a US citizen, and was perceived as having assimilated to mainstream American culture, my closest Hispanic informants often referred to me as a Nuyorican (a combination of the words New York and Puerto Rican),29 and I received looks of confusion when I claimed that I was black.

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New Destinations, Great Expectations

In the 1990s, Orange and Osceola, two of the four counties that comprise the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area, became the leading destinations for Puerto Rican migrants, as Florida displaced New Jersey to become the state with the second largest concentration of Puerto Ricans. The largest concentration is found in the New York Metropolitan Area. County officials describe Osceola County, a 1,506 square mile area, as the "gateway to Walt Disney World and other Central Florida attractions."30 The northwest quadrant includes most of the residential population and encompasses Poinciana, Buenaventura Lakes, and Celebration (the master-planned development created by Disney). Ranch lands, undeveloped prairies, woods, and marshes dominate the southern and eastern quadrants of the county, with the exception of small, rural towns such as Kenansville and Yeehaw Junction. Hispanic residents in Osceola County, the center of my fieldwork, rose from 2 percent of the total population in 1980, to 12 percent in 1990, 29 percent in 2000, and 45.5 percent in 2010 (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Hispanic Population, Puerto Rican Population, and Total Population. 2010 US Census.
Hispanic Population and % of the Total Population Puerto Rican Population and % of the Total Population Total Population
Seminole County 72,457 (17.1%) 34,378 (8.1%) 422,718
Lake County 36,009 (12.1%) 12,960 (4.4%) 297, 052
Orange County 308, 244 (26.9%) 149,457 (13%) 1,145,956
Osceola County 122,146 (45.5%) 72,986 (27.2%) 268,685
Buenaventura Lakes 18,160 (69%) 11,618 (44.5%) 26,079

In comparison to past migrations, the recent Puerto Rican migration to Greater Orlando is distinctive in several ways. As anthropologist Jorge Duany notes, there is the presence of "a large number of well-educated professionals and managers, most of whom define themselves as white in the census."31 Puerto Ricans in Greater Orlando are also more likely to be homeowners and live in the suburbs.32 Finally, the Puerto Rican population is not as isolated residentially from non-Hispanic whites. Service sector workers, as well as upwardly mobile professionals and wealthy entrepreneurs, were attracted to Greater Orlando because of its bifurcated economy and the dominance of the tourism industry. Although I do not go into detail here, one of the important distinctive features of the migration of Puerto Ricans to Florida is the class diversity of the population. However, there is a very conscious attempt to portray the Puerto Rican population as well educated, wealthy, and professional to disprove existing stereotypes, and differentiate the Florida migrants from earlier waves of Puerto Ricans that arrived in northern cities. These efforts become evident in the representations that circulated on the Internet and in the press. For instance, in a November 1993 Orlando Sentinel article journalist Sean Holton claims,

Unlike the waves of destitute farmers who left for New York and Chicago in the 1950s, most of these Puerto Ricans have money and education. The Puerto Rican migrants of the 1980s and 1990s are looking for a place to buy homes, find jobs, raise families and enjoy weather and an overall pace that makes them feel closer to home.33

The US occupation of Puerto Rico in 1898 led to social, political, and economic transformations that triggered the out-migration of Puerto Ricans that continues to the present day.34 The Jones Act of 1917 granted Puerto Ricans US citizenship, and by 1920 forty-five states reported the presence of island-born Puerto Ricans.35 While an identifiable Puerto Rican community did develop in New York City during the early decades of the twentieth century, the Puerto Rican exodus intensified in the 1950s and 1960s.

This migratory phase, referred to as the "Great Migration," led to the growth of the already established New York communities. Additionally, new Puerto Rican settlements appeared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, and other parts of the country like Lorain, Ohio or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.36 This migration coincided with Operation Bootstrap, a Puerto Rican development strategy lasting from 1947 to the early 1960s. Operation Bootstrap was a set of government policies and incentives intended to industrialize the island by attracting companies from off the island, primarily from the United States, through tax exemptions, industrial services, the provision of factory buildings, loans, lower labor costs, waiving import duties, and offering special assistance.37 In search of factory work, thousands of Puerto Ricans left the rural areas of the island for the cities, and many later migrated to the United States when the development programs failed to reduce unemployment.38 To reduce the number of surplus laborers, government agencies helped employers recruit Puerto Ricans for low-paid jobs in New York City.

The last period of migration, from 1965 to the present, has been marked by dispersion to other areas of the United States and greater fluctuations of net migration. Known as "the revolving-door migration," during this period Puerto Ricans migrated to the mainland, but returned to the island as well.39 In more recent years, states with the largest numbers of Puerto Ricans—New York, New Jersey, and Illinois—began to see a decline in the rates of growth, and by 2008 the Puerto Rican population was concentrated in Florida and the New York Metropolitan Area.

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Mexican Millionaires and the Formation of a Puerto Rican Suburb

Many of Osceola County's long-time residents remember a time when orange groves dominated the landscape and cows outnumbered people, prior to the development of the sprawling suburbs, the area's globalization, and its Latinization. Central Florida underwent rapid transformations following Disney's arrival in 1971 and many expansions, and in the mid-1990s the massive influx of Puerto Ricans once again transformed the landscape as a county-sized ethnic enclave began forming. A 2006 Orlando Sentinel article recounts the story of German Colon, a maintenance worker at New York City's East River public-housing projects.40 One of its pioneers, Colon discovered the Buenaventura Lakes (BVL) suburb in 1985. He was in a break room with the maintenance crew browsing through the New York Times when he saw an advertisement for beautiful model homes in a new community called Poinciana. The advertisement highlighted the close proximity to Disney World, where Colon was planning a vacation. His co-workers, tired of New York's fast pace of life and high cost of living, commissioned Colon to check out the property for them; but he was disappointed to find vacant swampland when he arrived at the site. Then, on his way back to the hotel he discovered a secluded area where new houses were being constructed: Buenaventura Lakes. Landstar Homes promised "a country lifestyle in a palm-tree paradise," a sales pitch that persuaded Colon to secure a $52,000 home with a $500 deposit.41 He later convinced some of his colleagues at the East River housing projects to do the same. The following year he and his wife retired in BVL and in 2006, at the age of seventy-six, he remained in that same house.

Like Colon, Osvaldo Berberena, a religious man, was on vacation in Orlando when he discovered Landstar Homes. Berberena told an Orlando Sentinel reporter that he prayed for a sign that would help him decide if he and his wife should stay.42 That sign came, quite literally, as he passed a billboard on Interstate 4 advertising affordable homes. "'We weren't desperate in Puerto Rico. We had jobs, but we felt we were not going anywhere,'" said fifty-year-old Berberena.43 In the mid-1980s Berberena founded the Centro Cristiano Genesis church from his home, which has since grown to a 20,000-square-foot hall with hundreds of members.

"The Landstar Lifestyle," Landstar Homes advertisement, Home Finder, 1979.
"The Landstar Lifestyle," Landstar Homes advertisement, Home Finder, 1979.

Colon and Berberena, like many other Puerto Ricans, were lured to Central Florida by a real estate advertisement and the chance for a better quality of life. In 1984 Sandra Lopez left the South Bronx and moved with her husband and children to BVL. In 1991, she told an Orlando Sentinel reporter, "'I lived in the South Bronx . . . I needed to get them out of there. Then you see ads about the sunshine, the attractions, the beach—all the wonderful things you want to hear about when you're in the inner city.'"44

When I spoke with Sandra twenty years after the publication of the Orlando Sentinel article she explained that she purchased her home in BVL because of a 1982 New York Post advertisement promising to pay potential buyers' hotel expenses and meals. Landstar Homes and TIRI Real Estate, located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, would offer $500 towards a plane ticket, a three-night hotel stay, and sometimes even Disney tickets. A bus or van would pick up the prospective buyers at the airport and shuttle them to the site. "Ask any of the old-timers why they picked BVL," Sandra said, "and they will say it's because of that New York Post advertisement. They advertised in Puerto Rico as well."

For those arriving in the early 1980s, the promise of a "Landstar lifestyle"—affordable luxury and country club living—was enough to leave New York or Puerto Rico for an undeveloped, secluded "paradise" in Central Florida. When Sandra first relocated, she was the only Hispanic on her street and there were very few Hispanics elsewhere in the development. By the 1990s many more had followed. As I drove through the streets of BVL passing Oaxaca Lane, Guadalajara Drive, and Vera Cruz Avenue, I wondered how this Puerto Rican enclave ended up with street names derived from places in Mexico.

From John Smith, a former Landstar executive, I learned about the Mexican millionaires responsible for BVL. According to a 1974 newspaper article from his personal archive, "An international consortium of real estate interests, headed by the leading development firms of Mexico has begun work on a new community . . . The principals are Gaspar Rivera Torres, Mexico's largest land developer; Bernardo Eckstein and Manolo Stern, partners in the second largest land development firm in that country, and Juan Aja Gomez."45 The article went on to describe Rivera Torres as one of the wealthiest men in Mexico with a net worth exceeding $100 million and over seventy-eight projects underway in Mexico." With help from Stanley Lane, a Miami resident and retired New York manufacturer who had invested with Mexican enterprises for over twenty years, the four principal investors—fearing that Mexico would "nationalize"—planned to move some of their investments to the United States.46 BVL's 2,350 acre design included sixty-five acres of lakes and streams, one hundred acres of commercial development, six thousand single family residences, six thousand multi-family dwellings, park sites, church and school sites, a country club, swimming pool, tennis courts, an executive golf course, and a championship golf course.

"Mickey Mouse Gets Neighbors," Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, November 23, 1974.
"Mickey Mouse Gets Neighbors," Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, November 23, 1974.

According to Lee Kingerly, who handled publicity for Landstar Homes and worked for a Chicago-based marketing firm, initially many of those who moved into the development were local.47 However, in December of 1978, Landstar began a major marketing push in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and New York. Brokerage offices were later established in London and West Germany; meanwhile, similar marketing efforts were underway in Venezuela, Mexico, Colombia, France, and Kuwait. Until the 1990s John Smith lived on Bit Court, a street in BVL. Between 1978 and 1986 he recalls having a neighbor to his left from Holland, a neighbor to the right from Venezuela, while a Cuban and a British family occupied the other two houses on the cul-de-sac. In May of 1991, the Orlando Sentinel described another street in BVL that housed "New Yoricans, Italians, Cubans, Filipinos, Indians, Jamaicans, Colombians, Brits, Anglos, and Puerto Ricans."48 Through its marketing initiatives, Landstar helped transform rural Osceola County into a global metropolitan space. Sales eventually slowed in the international market, however, and by 1994 Landstar's only full sales office outside the state of Florida was in San Juan.

By the time I moved to Buenaventura Lakes, the suburb had the alias "Boricuas Viven Libres" (Puerto Ricans Live Free), the two golf courses had been shut down, the country club had been demolished, and the talk circulating about BVL mirrored the Internet posts I mentioned at the beginning of this essay.49 Nevertheless, over the years additional factors fueled and sustained the migration to metro Orlando: Puerto Rico's economic instability and its social consequences—growing incidents of crime and the fear of violence. Orlando's appeal was connected to labor recruitment, powerful social networks, or chain migration, and the perception of a "better quality of life" based on Florida's tropicality, frontier nature, and the powerful imagery resulting from Disney's dominating presence.

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"This is America, Speak English"

Buenaventura Lakes, Florida. Data from the 2010 Census, Hispanic population according to census tract. Map courtesy of Southern Spaces.
Buenaventura Lakes, Florida. Data from the 2010 Census, Hispanic population according to census tract. Map courtesy of Southern Spaces.

In the early 1990s, when the influx of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics dramatically increased, the use of Spanish in education, politics, business transactions, and everyday social life became common, transforming the Greater Orlando soundscape. Over the years, the media has highlighted these linguistic transformations with headlines: "Orlando Develops Hispanic Accent," "Latinos at the Helm of Orlando's Public Broadcasting," "Seminole to Offer Ballots in Spanish," "A New Home—One of Every Three Puerto Ricans in the State Calls Central Florida Home, Giving the Region A Bilingual Flair," and "Ever Wonder Why ATMs in Central Florida Speak Spanish?"50 Journalists warned the public about the "Hispanic boom" and the changing face of Osceola County as early as 1991. One article mentions the conversion of the honky-tonk Frontier Lounge to Images Club Latino, a Walgreens that transferred half of its employees from a company drugstore in Puerto Rico, the presence of translators at parent-teacher meetings, and the BVL Blockbuster video store that began offering Hollywood movies subtitled in Spanish.51 In 1993, Orlando Sentinel journalist Michael McLeod visited a local high school and claimed that "the Latin influence at the school is obvious from homeroom to homecoming."52 "When Miss Vasquez'[s] English literature class decided to perform scenes from Shakespeare," McLeod writes, "Lady Macbeth had a Spanish accent."53

When I arrived bilingualism was already an asset in business. Spanish could be heard as frequently, if not more frequently, than English throughout BVL, and was increasingly present and accommodated in public and private life. A seventy-five-year-old retiree, a resident of BVL for twenty-four years, pointed out the neighboring houses once occupied by "white, English-speaking people." A law enforcement agent and Osceola County native explained, "We went from a rural county to mouse house [a reference to Disney World], Sea World, and the large influx of Hispanics. Businesses had to adapt. This office, for example, had to change. They needed Spanish speakers, Spanish receptionists, and employees that not only could communicate with the people verbally, but that also understood their culture."54 The changing soundscape—the increasing presence of Spanish and bilingual speakers, and the corresponding ethnic and linguistic diversity—was not always perceived as a welcomed change.

Forgetful of Florida's Spanish past and articulated through language ideologies, some non-Hispanic white, English-speaking residents engaged in nativism, "white privilege," and a defense of "white public space." They argued that they, not Spanish-speakers, were the "real" Americans; that the United States was becoming more foreign; and that Hispanics were newcomers to Central Florida.55 While there were many instances of collaboration between ethnic and racial groups, there were also power struggles, moments of contestation, and negative perceptions of Hispanic people and places with a large Hispanic population.

For example, on November 4, 2009, an Internet user posted an entry on City-Data.com to ask about the "pro's and con's" of relocating to the area from Kansas to open a daycare business. Nberry 7 wrote, "I Found some very nice houses on the internet for cheap, but is there a catch of why they are so cheap? Please tell me more?"56 The Internet user received a number of responses over a three-month period:

I wouldn't put my kids into Osceola schools. If you don't speak Spanish you'll have a hard time opening a day care in Kissimmee. Houses are cheap for a reason. The majority of Kissimmee and Poinciana are NOT a desirable place to live.57

Forget Kissimmee, I have been living here 25 years and if you don't speak Spanish, forget it . . . Kissimmee is a "no go" on my list, its going down hill.58

Have to agree with the "don't move to Kissimmee" crowd . . . the area has run its course from good to bad. No area that is largely populated with migrants and illegals will see property values or the quality of schools increase. Areas that were once just average affordable "old Florida" neighborhoods in Kissimmee now have the appearance of "barrios."59

Kissimmee is a city in transition . . . Wikipedia says the Latino pop in Kissimmee is only 40%, I beg to differ. I work in the ER and I am always startled when I see a White person or a Black person, because its almost a rarity . . . Spanish is spoken as frequently, if not more frequently, than English . . . I love that Kissimmee is diverse, but its loosing that now too, as it becomes completely Caribbean Hispanic. Its mainly people form the Northeast and PR.60

Well First thing is first there are TONS of Spanish, Mexican's, Latin Americans Puerto Ricans u name it barely any white people not being racist but that's all you will see or Hillbilly's/Rednecks but that is more saint cloud area that's one thing u might not be to happy about and all of them speak Spanish mostly. They "Can" speak English but per-fer Spanish . . . Like I said before there are a lot of Spanish and people that kind of race that live there so ur kids will feel kinda awkward being the small amount of white kids that live and go to school here. Not being racist I have many Mexican and Spanish friends I'm just basing it on what I see EVERYDAY. I'm just basing this on if ur kids are white.61

In these comments, posters highlight linguistic differences and connect the use of Spanish and Hispanic people to the undesirability of a place. They perceive Spanish-speakers as neither white nor black, but as a distinct race. Language, places, and people are being racialized. In the process these residents are constructing Kissimmee and Osceola County as non-white spaces: uncomfortable, foreign, and unsuitable for whites. But, to whom are these individuals referring when they talk about "white" people? The majority of Hispanics in BVL and Osceola County consider themselves white as well, consistent with research documenting the Hispanic "flight toward Whiteness."62 According to the 2010 US Census, in BVL 46 percent of Hispanics identified themselves as white alone, while 3.6 percent identified as black or African American, 15.9 percent identified as some other race alone, and 3.5 percent identified as two or more races.63 Despite Hispanics' claims to a white racial identity, however, in my research non-Hispanic whites often identified as "the authentic whites."

Why do Hispanics claim a white racial identity? Rubén Rumbaut highlights the significance of place in the formation of a white racial identity, pointing out that Hispanics were far more likely to identify as white in Florida than in New York and New Jersey: in Florida 75 percent of Hispanics reported that they were white compared to only 42.1 percent in New York and New Jersey; 66.9 percent of Puerto Ricans in Florida self-reported as white compared to 45.4 percent in New York and New Jersey; Cubans were 92 percent versus 73 percent; Dominicans 46 percent versus 20 percent; Colombians 78 percent versus 46 percent; and Peruvians and Ecuadorians 74 percent versus 43 percent. Rumbaut attributes this spatial influence on racial formations to the "more rigid racial boundaries and 'racial frame' developed in the former Confederate states of Texas and Florida," which can lead to "defensive assertions of whiteness when racial status is ambiguous."64 Helen Marrow claims the collective social distance from blackness "is at least partially based on the way race is organized in Latin America, where distancing from blackness is frequently encouraged." While the one-drop rule in the United States "blackened" individuals with a combination of black and white ancestry, "legacies of white superiority encourage many Latin Americans to identify as 'whiter.'"65

Graffiti, Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photograph by Simone Delerme. Spanish signage, Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photograph by Simone Delerme. For Sale sign, Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photograph by Simone Delerme.
Graffiti, Spanish signage, and For Sale sign, Buenaventura Lakes, Florida, 2010. Photographs by Simone Delerme.

Non-Hispanic white, English-speaking Central Floridians' opposition to the Spanish language and Hispanics' racial ambiguity expand historical discourses about Mexican and Puerto Rican inclusion in the US political structure. Conquest, incorporation, the quality of citizenship, and political participation was impacted by the perceived racial identity of the population in the case of both Puerto Rico and the acquired territories of Mexico. Congress was reluctant to grant full, participatory citizenship to Mexicans and Puerto Ricans who were considered culturally different, racially mixed, non-white persons.66 So, how are these deeply imbedded ideas about citizenship and inclusion that date back to conquest articulated in present everyday situations?

In Greater Orlando, the hyper-presence of Spanish created tensions and polarization between ethnic and racial groups not only in residential spaces, but in the political sphere. On December 21, 2009, for instance, the Orlando Sentinel posted a story on their Hispanosphere Blog about Orlando congressman Alan Grayson.67 The congressman had secured $13 million in federal funds for his district. He decided to allocate $700,000 for Spanish language materials for the public libraries and to expand the programs offered by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Commenters posted the following:

Why does any one race require their own projects paid for by American Taxpayers.68

This is ridiculous. If they want to live the "American Dream", they need to be American. Americans speak English. If we keep catering to these people they will have no reason to learn English. If they don't want to learn English they need to go back to Puerto Rico or the Spanish speaking country of their choice.69

Why are they spending American money on books in Spanish?70

Where is the funding for Caucasian projects? Grayson is a racist nut job!71

Here, respondents are displaying the color-blind ideology that correlates an ethnic-conscious solution with reverse discrimination, and a language ideology that connects being American with speaking English. This commentary also reveals the nativist critique that rejects Hispanic migrants' right to resources, deems this ethnic group inassimilable and un-American, and racializes the population as non-white or as some other race. This positions Puerto Ricans, US citizens by birth, as non-American and a subclass of citizens on the basis of language usage. However, as linguistic anthropologist Bonnie Urciuoli argues, "what seems at first glance a simple classification of language turns out to be fundamentally a classification of people."72 These language ideologies and the resulting polarization are evident in the spaces of the Internet, and in everyday life encounters.

During an interview, BVL resident Chris Williams claimed the Spanish language had polarized residents: "there are basically two separate communities, the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking. This results in mistrust, it's difficult with the language barrier." This polarization presented itself in BVL when Commissioner John Quiñones introduced a proposal to create a memorial and rename county property located in BVL as the 65th Infantry Veterans Park. The 65th Infantry was an all-volunteer US Army regiment of Puerto Ricans that fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Following construction of the memorial, thirty BVL residents began weekly meetings in an effort to "recall" or remove the commissioner from office, opposed the renaming of the park in the local press, and challenged the patriotism of the 65th Infantry. In response, local Hispanic leaders held a press conference in BVL to denounce the recall group's racist efforts and read email correspondence from one of the group leaders that said, "An Anglo needs to win this [county] seat and not a Hispanic." Another member of the recall group responded in the press claiming, "I am not a bigot . . . Quiñones has played this [race] card before, and he's doing it again. My son-in-law is Puerto Rican. This is ridiculous."73 The controversy continued on the Hispanosphere blog with the articulation of language ideologies, race-talk, and the rights of Hispanic US citizens being challenged. For example, one commentator wrote:

They fought—they were soldiers, let the park be named in their honor. My only gripe is that for the current Puerto Ricans who live in the United States—learn and speak ENGLISH! If I moved to Puerto Rico, I would learn the language. And don't try to turn Florida into Puerto Rico West. If you miss Puerto Rico so much, stay there. Don't fly your flag here—fly the American flag.74

In November of 2010, I participated in a voluntary teach-in sponsored by the Osceola County school district. I visited two classrooms in a local high school to discuss Hispanic migration, and the racial/ethnic tensions that I observed during my fieldwork. Did these tensions and frustrations exist among the younger generation as well? In the first class, Sean, who claimed to have Cuban ancestry (although the teacher later described him as a "self-identifying redneck") was in constant debate with the Hispanic students sitting on the other side of the room. The Hispanic students made up a clear majority, and the teacher pointed out that the African American and Haitian students were once again the smallest minority. When she first began teaching in the school district her students were predominately non-Hispanic white.

Once the conversation began, Sean insisted that there are appropriate places for English and declared "You are in America, speak English!" If he went to the Bravo, a Dominican-owned supermarket chain, he expected to hear Spanish, but he did not want to hear it in the Wal-Mart. Several Hispanic students responded. Jose raised his hand and mentioned "freedom of speech," "Martin Luther King," and the "I Have A Dream Speech," while Christina angrily declared, "They just don't like us!" The Spanish-speaking students did not apologize for speaking Spanish in public spaces. In fact, Miguel asked, "Why don't they just learn Spanish, after all it's the second most spoken language?" Juan agreed, pointing out that in the Dominican Republic students have to learn Creole, Spanish, and English.

Language ideologies shape ideas about Hispanic people and are applied to policies that have led to the regulation of languages. Consider the English-only rule of Workforce Central Florida (WCF), a non-profit 501(c)3 that helps the unemployed find work. In an April 2009 memo, management reminded Spanish-speaking employees that using a language other than English is not allowed, even during breaks or lunch hour, unless a customer is unable to speak English:

Hey Team!

We have had some recent complaints about staff speaking in Spanish out [in] the offices in lieu of speaking in English. All staff are being advised that while in WCF offices, all staff must speak English. This includes break time, lunch time and/or if you are on the phone at the WCF office. Spanish speaking will only be allowed in the office if a customer is unable to speak English. Please adhere to this policy as this is important that we do not offend and/or exclude non-Spanish speaking customers and/or staff no exception to this policy. Thanks.75

Workforce Central Florida claimed the English-only policy was in place for two to six weeks, and that no employee was ever reprimanded while the policy was in effect; yet, former employees claimed that some workers did in fact receive warnings that were placed in their personnel file. An agency spokeswoman said the policy was put in place after WCF received complaints from job seekers and non-bilingual employees who felt uncomfortable with staff members speaking Spanish to one another.76 Although WCF claims to have retracted their policy, during my interviews I learned of other establishments that unofficially prohibited or discouraged the use of Spanish unless employees were servicing Spanish-speaking customers. Language ideologies that deem the Spanish language acceptable in some circumstances, but prohibit usage in other instances, reveal that discrimination on linguistic grounds is more publicly acceptable and often goes unchallenged while the corresponding racial or ethnic discrimination brings more emphatic and predictable denunciation.

Language ideologies racialize speech along with other practices, physical characteristics, and signifiers of identity, what Elizabeth Aranda and Guillermo Rebollo-Gil refer to as "ethnoracism."77 In the social spaces where language ideologies are articulated, racial meanings and ideas about difference and belonging in the United States are generated, shared, and refined. The large influx of Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics to Greater Orlando has led to the Latinization of the area and a transforming soundscape. By examining the conversations where language ideologies circulate, we can learn how language becomes an index for racial identities, citizenship, status, character, and belonging. By grappling with the complexity of race relations and racial meanings through drawing attention to the ways that the Spanish language gets contested, this research complicates the black/white racial binary and reveals how Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics get marked as a distinct race of perpetual foreigners during interactions in everyday life. Towards the end of my visit with the Osceola County high school students, a male student who had remained quiet through the discussion timidly raised his hand: "It is not that we are afraid of Spanish, we are afraid of change." With southern states experiencing the greatest increase of the US Hispanic population during the last decade and the Census Bureau projecting further growth (29 percent of the total US population by 2050)—and with the entire nation projected to become majority-minority by 2043—change to spaces, places, and soundscapes appears inevitable.78

About the Author

Simone Delerme is the McMullan Assistant Professor of Southern Studies and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Mississippi.

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Recommended Resources

Text

Brodkin, Karen. How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Mantero, Jose Maria. Latinos and the U.S. South. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2008.

Massey, Douglas. New Faces in New Places: The Changing Geography of American Immigration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2008.

Roth, Wendy. Race Migrations: Latinos and the Cultural Transformation of Race. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.

Urciuoli, Bonnie. Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996.

Web

Allen, Greg. "One-Way Tickets to Florida: Puerto Ricans Escape Island Woes." NPR, February 5, 2013.
http://www.npr.org/2013/02/05/171061350/off-to-the-mainland-puerto-ricans-leaving-the-island-in-record-numbers.

Related Southern Spaces Publications

Holloway, Karla, et al. "The US South in Global Contexts." Southern Spaces, April 16, 2004. http://southernspaces.org/2004/us-south-global-contexts.

LeBlanc, Cameron B. "Preserving the Memory of Ybor City, Florida." Southern Spaces, December 22, 2009. http://southernspaces.org/2009/preserving-memory-ybor-city-florida.

Sanchez, George. "Latinos, the American South, and the Future of US Race Relations." Southern Spaces, April 26, 2007. http://southernspaces.org/2007/latinos-american-south-and-future-us-race-relations.

Winders, Jamie and Ellen Smith. "New Pasts: Historicizing Immigration, Race, and Place in the South." Southern Spaces, November 4, 2010. https://southernspaces.org/2010/new-pasts-historicizing-immigration-race-and-place-south.

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  • 1. Buenaventura Lakes is a Census Designated Place (CDP), identified by the US Census Bureau. CDP's lack separate municipal governments. Osceola County is one of four counties located in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford Metropolitan Statistical Area or "Greater Orlando."
  • 2. Poodlestix, original post on "Lakeside subdivision in Buena Ventura Lakes? (Kissimmee: house, neighborhood, income)," City-Data.com, June 17, 2008, http://www.city-data.com/forum/orlando/356547-lakeside-subdivision-buena-ventura-lakes.html. I have not corrected the grammar nor altered the language in any of the following Internet transcripts.
  • 3. In Long Island one immigrant or family rents a residential space, and then rents spaces within the home to several people. This system of renting rooms is a way of making money in a low-wage economy, a strategy for paying the mortgage or rent, and a form of entrepreneurship. See Sarah J. Mahler, American Dreaming: Immigrant Life on the Margins (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995).
  • 4. Jane Hill, "Language, Race, and White Public Space," American Anthropologist 100, no. 3 (1999): 790.
  • 5. Judith T. Irvine, "When Talk Isn't Cheap: Language and Political Economy," American Ethnologist 16, no. 2 (1989): 255.
  • 6. Alan Rumsey, "Wording, Meaning, and Linguistic Ideology," American Anthropologist 92, no. 2 (1990): 346–361; Kathryn A. Woolard and Bambi B. Schieffelin, "Language Ideology," Annual Review of Anthropology 23 (1994): 55–82.
  • 7. Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s (New York: Routledge, 1986).
  • 8. Jose Cobas, Jorge Duany, and Joe Feagin, "Introduction," in How the United States Racializes Latinos: White Hegemony and Its Consequences, John Cobas, Jorge Duany, and Joe Feagin, eds. (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2009), 1.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. Sharon Ennis, Merarys Rios-Vargas, and Norma Albert, "The Hispanic Population: 2010, US Census Reports," accessed April 9, 2013, http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf.
  • 11. Christina Burnett and Burke Marshall, eds. Foreign in a Domestic Sense: Puerto Rico, American Expansion, and the Constitution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001).
  • 12. Helen M. Strauch, "The Compelling Influence of Nonlinguistic Aims in Language Status Policy Planning in Puerto Rico," Working Papers in Educational Linguistics 8, no. 2 (Fall 1992): 107–131, http://www.gse.upenn.edu/wpel/sites/gse.upenn.edu.wpel/files/archives/v8/v8n2_strauch.pdf.
  • 13. Robert L. Cooper, Language Planning and Social Change (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 35.
  • 14. Edith Algren de Gutiérrez, The Movement Against Teaching English in the Schools of Puerto Rico, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987), 105.
  • 15. Ofelia Garcia, "Racializing the Language Practices of U.S. Latinos: Impact on Their Education," in How the United States Racializes Latinos, 101–115.
  • 16. For a discussion of the racialization of Puerto Ricans see Lorrin Thomas, Puerto Rican Citizen: History and Political Identity in Twentieth Century New York City (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010); Juan Flores, From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000); and Arlene Dávila and Augistín Laó-Montes, eds., Mambo Montage: The Latinization of New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).
  • 17. Ana Ramos-Zayas, National Performances: The Politics of Class, Race, and Space in Puerto Rico Chicago (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003).
  • 18. Eileen Findlay, "Slipping and Sliding: The Many Meanings of Race in Life Histories of New York Puerto Rican Return Migrants in San Juan," Centro Journal 24, no. 1 (2012): 38.
  • 19. Ibid., 27.
  • 20. Fernando Purcell, "Becoming Dark: The Chilean Experience in California, 18481870," in How the United States Racializes Latinos, 5467.
  • 21. Zulema Valdez, "Agency and Structure in Panethnic Identity Formation: The Case of Latino/a Entrepreneurs," in How the United States Racializes Latinos, 200–213.
  • 22. Rubén Rumbaut, "Pigments of Our Imagination: On the Racialization and Racial Identities of 'Hispanics' and 'Latinos,'" in How the United States Racializes Latinos, 23.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. Grace Flores-Hughes, A Tale of Survival: Memoir of an Hispanic Woman (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011).
  • 25. Suzanne Obler, Ethnic Labels, Latino Lives: Identity and the Politics of (Re)Presentation in the United States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995).
  • 26. Paul Taylor, Mark Hugo Lopez, Jessica Martínez, and Gabriel Velasco, "When Labels Don't Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity," Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project, April 4, 2012, accessed November 9, 2013, http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/04/when-labels-dont-fit-hispanics-and-their-views-of-identity/.
  • 27. These include the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando, Hispanic Bar Association of Central Florida, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund (HBIF), Hispanic Young Professionals & Entrepreneurs (HYPE), and Hispanosphere blog (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/elsentinel/blogs/hispanosphere/).
  • 28. "Grace Flores-Hughes Interview—She Made 'Hispanic' Official," The Washington Post, July 26, 2009, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/24/AR2009072402091.html.
  • 29. The term Nuyorican is used to refer to members of the Puerto Rican diaspora and differentiates those born on the island of Puerto Rico; however, the term often carries a negative connotation and implies a lack of cultural capital, ignorance of island life, and a lower social class status.
  • 30. Osceola County Public Information Office, "Citizen's Handbook: Honoring the Past, Shaping the Future," Osceola County Government, 1, http://www.osceola.org/Files/Websites/press_room/00000000_Imported/2008CitizenHanbdookHiRes.pdf.
  • 31. Jorge Duany, "The Orlando Ricans: Overlapping Identity Discourses Among Middle-Class Puerto Rican Immigrants," Centro Journal 22, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 3.
  • 32. In 1980, Puerto Rican households had the lowest national homeownership rate (21 percent) compared to Cuban (44 percent), Mexican (50 percent), and other Hispanic households (46 percent). The national Puerto Rican homeownership rate increased to 25 percent in 1990 and 34.9 percent in 2000. The homeownership rate amongst Puerto Ricans in Florida (56 percent) is significantly higher than national averages. See Alvaro Cortes, Christopher E. Herbert, Erin Wilson, and Elizabeth Clay, Improving Homeownership Opportunities for Hispanic Families: A Review of the Literature, (Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates Inc., 2006), http://www.huduser.org/Publications/PDF/hisp_homeown1.pdf.
  • 33. Sean Holton, "Many Seek A New Life In Orlando," Orlando Sentinel, November 14, 1993.
  • 34. Between the early sixteenth century and late nineteenth century Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony. The island was annexed to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish–American War. Puerto Rico is neither a state nor an independent country, but a commonwealth associated with the United States. The island has an elected governor and legislature, but no voting representatives in Congress. Additionally, residents of Puerto Rico may not vote in national elections and are exempt from federal taxes.
  • 35. Virginia Sanchez Korrol, From Colonia to Community: The History of Puerto Ricans in New York City, 1917–1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994).
  • 36. Teresa Whalen and Victor Vazquez-Hernandez, eds., The Puerto Rican Diaspora: Historical Perspectives (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2005).
  • 37. Francisco Rivera-Batiz and Carlos Santiago, Island Paradox: Puerto Rico in the 1990s (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1996), 12. Harvey S. Perloff, Puerto Rico's Economic Future: A Study of Planned Development, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1950).
  • 38. Julio Morales, Puerto Rican Poverty and Migration: We Just Had to Try Elsewhere (New York: Praeger, 1986), 35.
  • 39. Korrol, From Colonia to Community: the History of Puerto Ricans in New York City.
  • 40. Victor Manuel Ramos, "1986: Couple escape New York for Central Florida retirement," Orlando Sentinel, February 5, 2006.
  • 41. Ibid.


  • 42. Victor Manuel Ramos, "Between 2 Worlds: Puerto Ricans remember roots as they sink new ones," Orlando Sentinel, February 5, 2006.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Phil Fernandez, "Family Born In America, Still Faithful To Puerto Rican Roots," Orlando Sentinel, May 12, 1991.
  • 45. "Mexican Millionaires Build City: Mickey Mouse Gets Neighbors," Fort Lauderdale News and Sun-Sentinel, November 23, 1974.
  • 46. During the 1970s economic activity in Mexico fluctuated with spurts of rapid growth followed by depressions in 1976 and 1982. President Luis Echeverría Álvarez's (1970–1976) leftist rhetoric and actions—for instance his support of illegal land seizures by peasants—diminished the confidence of investors and alienated private sector developers. The economic crisis—falling oil prices, higher world interest rates, rising inflation, the overvaluation of the peso, and the deterioration of the balance of payment accounts (BOP)—continued into the 1980s, and resulted in massive capital flight. In August of 1982 President José López Portillo y Pacheco (1976–1982) declared an involuntary moratorium on debt payments, and announced the nationalization of the private banking system a month later.
  • 47. Harry Straight, "Landstar lures northern buyers," This Week, February 11, 1979.
  • 48. Phil Fernandez and John Conway, "Osceola Hispanics Blend of Cultures, Traditions, Food," Orlando Sentinel, May 14, 1991.
  • 49. "Boricua" is a term used to describe Puerto Ricans, and is derived from the indigenous Taíno population's name for the island: Borikén.
  • 50. Luis Martinez-Fernandez, "Orlando Develops Hispanic Accent," Orlando Sentinel, July 26, 2005; Victor Manuel Ramos, "Latinos at the Helm of Orlando's Public Broadcasting," Orlando Sentinel, December 11, 2008; Luis Martinez-Fernandez, "Ever Wonder Why ATMs in Central Florida Speak Spanish?" Orlando Sentinel, January 1, 2007; Victor Manuel Ramos, "Seminole to Offer Ballots in Spanish," Orlando Sentinel, February 10, 2009; Kelly Brewington, "A New Home: One of Every Three Puerto Ricans in the State Calls Central Florida Home, Giving the Region A Bilingual Flair," Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, July 21, 2002.
  • 51. Phil Fernandez, "Hispanic Boom Changes The Face Of Osceola: Family takes plunge into new culture, life," Orlando Sentinel, May 12, 1991.
  • 52. Michael McLeod, "Diversity 101: Variety and Just a Pinch of Trouble is the Spice of Life at Gateway High School, A Cosmopolitan Enclave in the Middle of Once-rural Osceola County," Orlando Sentinel, March 13, 1994.
  • 53. Ibid.
  • 54. Fieldnotes, July 15, 2010.
  • 55. The written history of Florida begins in 1513 with Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer from Spain. During the sixteenth century Florida was a Spanish colony, and was under colonial rule by both Spain and Great Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was not until 1822 that Florida became a US territory, and in 1845 Florida became the twenty-seventh US state. Thus, there has been a Spanish presence since the "discovery" of Florida by Europeans. In these discourses, however, Florida is constructed as a space that has always been American and English-speaking.
  • 56. nberry7, "moving to Kissimmee from KS?" City-Data.com Forum, November 4, 2009
, http://www.city-data.com/forum/orlando/807347-moving-kissimmee-ks.html.
  • 57. annerk, comment on "moving to Kissimmee from KS? (Orlando, Poinciana: foreclosures, day care, squatters)," City-Data.com, November 4, 2009, http://www.city-data.com/forum/orlando/807347-moving-kissimmee-ks.html
  • 58. Don macauley, comment on ibid., November 20, 2009.
  • 59. lifelongMOgal, comment on "moving to Kissimmee from KS? (Orlando, Sanford: real estate market, foreclosure, rentals)," City-Data.com, November 28, 2009, http://www.city-data.com/forum/orlando/807347-moving-kissimmee-ks-orlando-sanford-real-2.html.
  • 60. Duttgal86, comment on ibid., January 2, 2010.
  • 61. Hxrguitar, comment on ibid., January 2, 2010.
  • 62. William Darity, Jason Dietrich, and Darrick Hamilton, "Bleach in the Rainbow: Latin Ethnicity and Preference for Whiteness," Transforming Anthropology 13, no. 2 (2005): 103–109.
  • 63. In Osceola County 30.6 percent of Hispanics identified as white, 2.2 percent as black, 9.8 percent as some other race alone, and 2.4 percent identified as two or more races. Nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Survey, when asked to state their race 36 percent of Hispanics called themselves white, 26 percent said they are "some other race," and another 25 percent claimed they are Hispanic or Latino, even though the government does not consider these labels to connote a racial group, but rather an ethnic group.
  • 64. Rumbaut, "Pigments of Our Imagination," 29.
  • 65. Helen Marrow, "New Immigrant Destinations and the American Colour Line," Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32, no. 6 (2009): 1044.
  • 66. See Ramos-Zayas, National Performances, and Christina Burnett and Burke Marshall, eds., Foreign in a Domestic Sense.
  • 67. Victor Manuel Ramos, "Congressman Grayson Gets Funding for Latino Projects," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, December 21, 2009, accessed May 24, 2010, http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_hispanicaffairs/2009/12/orlando-congressman-alan-grayson-gets-funding-for-latino-projects.html.
  • 68. Publius, comment on, "Congressman Grayson Gets Funding for Latino Projects," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, December 21, 2009, accessed May 24, 2010, http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_hispanicaffairs/2009/12/orlando-congressman-alan-grayson-gets-funding-for-latino-projects.html.
  • 69. Tom Thornburg, comment on "Congressman Grayson Gets Funding for Latino Projects," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, December 22, 2009, accessed May 24, 2010, http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_hispanicaffairs/2009/12/orlando-congressman-alan-grayson-gets-funding-for-latino-projects.html.
  • 70. tim, comment on "Congressman Grayson Gets Funding for Latino Projects," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, December 22, 2009, accessed May 24, 2010, http://blogsorlandosentinel.com/news_hispanicaffairs/2009/12/orlando-congressman-alan-grayson-gets-funding-for-latino-projects.html.
  • 71. poor taxpayer, comment on "Congressman Grayson Gets Funding for Latino Projects," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, December 22, 2009, accessed May 24, 2010, http://blogsorlandosentinel.com/news_hispanicaffairs/2009/12/orlando-congressman-alan-grayson-gets-funding-for-latino-projects.html.
  • 72. Bonnie Urciuoli, Exposing Prejudice: Puerto Rican Experiences of Language, Race, and Class (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 2.
  • 73. Jeannette Rivera-Lyles, "Hispanics Gather in Park to Defend 65th Infantry," Orlando Sentinel, May 3, 2011.
  • 74. Curiouser, comment on "Don't Trash Historic Puerto Rican Regiment," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, April 25, 2011, accessed April 27, 2011, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/osceola/os-ed-darryl-owens-65th-infantry-042320110423,0,7289179.column.
  • 75. Victor Manuel Ramos, "Workforce Central Florida had an English-only policy," Orlando Sentinel Hispanosphere, October 5, 2011.
  • 76. Ibid.
  • 77. Elizabeth Aranda and Guillermo Rebollo-Gil, "Ethnoracism and the "Sandwiched Minorities," American Behavioral Scientist 47, no. 7 (2004): 910–927.
  • 78. Ennis, Ríos-Vargas, and Albert, "The Hispanic Population: 2010," United States Census Bureau, May 2011, http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf. "An Older and More Diverse Nation by Midcentury," United States Census Bureau, August 14, 2008, accessed May 3, 2013, http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/population/cb08-123.html.