This letter is intended as a response to the article “Understand your Hispanic Workforce” by Megan Pierce, published in the January 2011 issue of Dairy Herd Management. While more articles on the topic of cultural awareness are much needed and should benefit all in the dairy industry, I am very concerned about the tone of this piece and question its value.
As a livestock veterinarian, Extension Dairy Specialist and faculty member at Colorado State University, I have been working closely with Hispanic dairy workers for the last ten years. Although many of these workers come from various Mexican states, I have had the pleasure of also working with people from many other Latin American countries.
I am also from a Hispanic and Latin American country. The term Hispanic refers to any individual whose primary language is Spanish. One must be careful not to generalize, as the author of this article has done. Although Hispanics have many things in common, cultural traits vary between and within Hispanic countries. Furthermore, Latin is not a synonym of Hispanic. Latin countries are those in which a Latin-derived language is spoken. Spanish is only one of several Latin derived-languages, and while all Hispanic countries are Latin, not all Latin countries are Hispanic.
Some of the content in this article is simply inaccurate. For example, the article states that Hispanics come from countries that tend to be more socialist than the U.S. What source was utilized to make such a statement? No Hispanic American country can be described as socialist, least of all Mexico (which is from where most Hispanic dairy workers currently come from). Did you mean that Hispanics tend to have a high sense of collectivism? Collectivism is very different from socialism and I would urge the author to research the true meaning of words before using them to describe a group of people.
According to the article, Hispanics are socialist and because of this they are “generally satisfied where they are”. If this were remotely close to the truth, why are so many Hispanics immigrating into the United States, trying to improve their well-being and that of their families? How many Hispanics from North, Central and South America are risking everything in order to find better opportunities, higher paying jobs?
The tone of this article is condescending and the language used is insulting, not only to Hispanics and Latin Americans, but to any other individual with cultural awareness and respect for diversity. “Efficiency is a foreign concept”, “corruption and mistrust are commonplace”, “education isn’t a high priority” are just a few examples of the language used in this article that will only serve to perpetuate stereotypes so detrimental to our collective well-being and our evolution as a society.
I am concerned that these ideas are being promoted and published today. After reading this article, I shared it with some faculty members and they have all been offended by it. “This is disgusting! You could easily substitute ‘Hispanic worker’ for ‘slave’ and potentially have a plagiarized article from before the civil war” was the response of one faculty member after reading the article. I am sure that the intention of Dairy Herd Management was to improve understanding of the cultural differences among those contributing to our dairy industry. But lack of research and little consideration to the usage of language in the discussion of this sensitive subject will only perpetuate racist attitudes and widen the gap between Hispanics and U.S. born individuals in our industry and communities.
I believe that an apology is in order and I urge you to consider collaborating with others who are competent in the area of multicultural communication and human resource management and who can provide different suggestions to improve the interactions of the cultural groups working together to sustain our dairy industry.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments that you may have. I welcome more discussion and am willing to collaborate in future articles and other educational opportunities.
I. Noa Roman-Muniz, DVM, MS
Assistant Professor and Extension Dairy Specialist
Department of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo.