Why do Latin Americans look like Indians

How Latinos are changing the US

In Los Angeles today, Latinos form the largest population group. Even if their mother tongue is English, they still use a lot of Spanish expressions. In church they praise Dios, and their daughters name them mija - For mi hija, "my daughter". In elections, Latinos voted for MPs who support immigration. California has long been one of the most progressive of all 50 US states. The mayor of Los Angeles and the chairmen of the California House of Representatives and Senate are of Latin American descent.

Will that be the development in Idaho too? Wilder's city council meets in a former bank that now serves as the town hall. Its members say that cultural identity is almost never an issue. “I am often asked what, as a Hispanic woman, I am doing for Hispanic American residents,” says Mayor Alicia Almazan. “But that's not how we think here.” Your job is to help everyone in Wilder.

Like other regions of the United States, western Idaho is a cultural melting pot. In the second half of the 20th century, people with Spanish names came to Wilder from Mexico and southern Texas, usually as harvest workers. Most of them left the place as soon as the first snow fell. When some decided to stay, the Latino community in Wilder was born.

Among the great ethnic identities in America - white, black, Asian, Native American - "Latino" is the spongiest. Latinos can be African American, Central and South American, Asian, and White. Also conservative evangelicals, Catholics or Jews. As a Latino you are above all part of a story that connects you with other people who have roots in the south. And you feel connected to all the other migrants who have come a long way in search of work and a better life.

In Los Angeles, this invisible bond that connects Latinos through their immigration, hardship and resilience is particularly strong. The suburb of Whittier has become a draw for the Latino middle class - a change few locals could have imagined a generation ago. Whittier used to be a town where only whites lived.

Today very wealthy Latino families live there. Richard and Rebecca Zapanta live in a 1000 square meter Italian-style villa. Her luxurious home is home to paintings and artworks by renowned Mexican artists such as Rafael Coronel and Frida Kahlo. Richard lived as a child in the 1950s and 1960s barrios from East Los Angeles. He has no real bond with Mexico. “I'm the fourth generation of Mexican American,” he says. Later, as a successful surgeon, he traveled frequently to the land of his ancestors and improved his Spanish.

Photos of Latino politicians among their circle of friends hang in the Zapantas' house. Many are national celebrities. Antonio Villaraigosa was the mayor of Los Angeles. Former Congressman Hilda Solis was appointed Secretary of Labor by President Barack Obama in his second term. Rebecca describes the rise of her own family as follows: she used to go out to dinner with her husband for ten dollars, and towards the end of Obama's presidency she was invited to a state banquet in the White House by Minister Solis.

This article has been shortened and edited. The full report is in the 8/2018 issue of National Geographic magazine. Now a magazine subscription to lock!