Ethnic Solidarity: Myth and Reality

By Thomas Kochman - 06.24.2009

David D. Kirkpatrick’s article on the relationship between José A. Cabranes and Sonya Sotomayor  (Judge’s Mentor: Part Guide, Part Foil The New York Times, June 22, 2009) referred to a time when Cabranes was named ambassador to Colombia, “only to have his nomination languish as Colombian diplomats took offense at the dispatch of a Puerto Rican.” 

 What’s interesting here is the tendency within the U.S. mainstream to group Hispanics together as a single group which runs afoul of the ethnic/country/culture specific way Hispanics are seen throughout Latin America and how, within the U.S., they often see themselves. These differences become important when doing business in the U.S. as well as abroad. Viewing Hispanics as more similar to each other than different works when comparing them to non-Hispanic groups in the U.S. corporate workplace. But change the venue and differences among Hispanics are what stand out as shown in the 1998 article in Business Mexico by Adler and Garaitonandía, “Same Language, Different Meanings”  

This pattern of difference also applies to Asian Americans –especially first generation immigrants. Differences among them tend to diminish within the U.S. corporate workplace. They are also more drawn to each other there because they share cultural patterns that collectively set them apart from those of the dominant U.S. mainstream culture. What matters outside the workplace however, in choosing where they live, or whom they marry (or more telling perhaps, don’t live near or marry) are the differences among them, especially historically rooted ethnic rivalries. Read more »