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Seneca on Networking and Latinos: How Goes it?

June 2nd, 2011 · 2 Comments

Cross posted at Daily Grito:

A while ago, The Economist, did a cover story on ‘Networking.’ It explained how some groups did better than others by relying on ‘established’ or ‘informal’ networks. The story noted the most powerful ones and how rising or emerging groups use available networks or create new ones. Moreover, the article attempted to describe the ‘transnational’ dimension as well as the ‘domestic or national’ one. It also focused mostly on the Anglophone or the British Isles and its former enclaves or possessions which included the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as the United Kingdom. It briefly discussed the more recent British colony: India.

The authors of the piece examined these countries primarily on old schools ties like prep schools: the UK’s Eaton being the most notable and the American exclusive New England prep schools like Andover, St. Paul’s, Exeter and Groton, among others. These exclusive high schools have traditionally served the WASP elite in the US. In other countries, the equivalent schools serve similar purposes. The alumni groups and the outreach programs from current students to successful alumni are most significant. The elite colleges and universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, were also noted to understand the power and influence of networking. Military schools like West Point and Annapolis as well as Britain’s Sandhurst were deemed to be equally important. These institutions serve to credential those fortunate to attend but also to establish networks for safeguarding communications and links among the student body and the former successful alumni, especially the powerful and influential ones. Academic recognition in becoming a Rhodes scholar or Marshall Fellow also bestows a plethora of networking opportunities on the international level.

Networking usually and traditionally has served the elite or uppers in society. They are born into ambitious, powerful or wealthy classes. Many observers agree that the difference between the rich and the poor is glaring in terms of connections or networking. The poor are virtually ‘isolated’, not necessarily deprived. In simple terms the more affluent have easy access or are well-versed in the value of networking. Hence, in order to remedy the gulf between the haves and the have-nots current efforts include: established institutions’ recruitment of new and diverse members who have been selected and vetted by these elite organizations or schools. Thus, the ‘unconnected or isolated poor’ are targeted for scholarly recognition.

Moreover, networking is not limited to the privileged class connections but also includes membership in religious organizations or churches like the Opus Dei for Catholics or the Episcopal Church, the Mormon Temple or the Jewish synagogue and the related Jewish charitable organizations like B’nai Brith and Zionist movements. The different national Orthodox Churches also offer a wide-range of networking systems to Greeks, Russians, Rumanians, Bulgarians, Armenians and others. Professional and business organizations also provide meaningful networking to its members, like the Davos Economic Forum, the US National Manufacturers Association, the US Chamber of Commerce, banking and financial groups, the Council on Foreign Relations, American Academy of Political Scientists, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the mysterious Bohemian Grove, and the mover and shaker Junior League for women in higher circles. Several charitable boards like the Red Cross, the Metropolitan Museum the Metropolitan Opera, and the symphony societies of major cities offer a veritable entry into both the national and local power structure.

Among African-Americans, the civil rights groups have effectively helped many blacks rely on the old warriors or stalwarts for connections. This includes the NAACP, the Urban League, and the myriad local civil rights groups. The African-American Methodist Episcopal (AME) is widely regarded as the ‘first among equals’ in the Black churches’ hierarchy. More interesting perhaps is the special value of ‘connecting’ in the national network of black college fraternities. African-Americans place significant value in the black fraternities after graduation. The United Negro College Fund also provides ample networking possibilities.

The other groups prominently mentioned in The Economist besides the run of the mill Anglo-Saxon power elites were the Jews, Armenians, Chinese, and Indians (South Asians). These represent a global diaspora of the enormous opportunities of unlimited possibilities. The increasing global growth of expatriated South Asians in the high tech sector and in international trade also provides a new network of ‘who is who’ in the on-going convergence of key technologies like computer technology and telecommunications. This ‘new economy’ has unleashed multiple networking arrangements.

The only Latinos mentioned in The Economist piece were the Cubans. It briefly alluded to their plight from their homeland which caused the diaspora to remain primarily in the US. But, at the same time, many went to Europe (Spain) and South America (Venezuela and Argentina) and a handful to Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore). Cubans came from a small island country where virtually all higher circles members knew ‘who was who’ or had access to each other. They represented a relatively small white elite and business class. Those who initially left were predominantly from these ‘haves’. Whereas the vast majority of the have-nots stayed in Cuba. The Castro upheaval forced these white exiles to flee Cuba over fifty years ago with their connections intact. As they resigned themselves to remain abroad for the foreseeable future, their social, professional, religious, economic and familial ties became key to their survival and success story abroad.

Long before the recent digital social networking phenomena arrived, the Cuban exiled diaspora was eagerly communicating with itself regardless of the distance. Moreover, the Cubans readily grasped that a “Cuban network” was indispensable to ensure a positive outcome in US society. This networking involved notification of jobs and resources available, as well as political developments on US policy towards Cuba. Readily, the Republican Party, anti-communist groups and conservative think tanks became the focus of these exiles. Additionally, securing positions for young Cubans in higher learning, government and business, and other efforts required constant and artful efforts. Possessing a solid educational level, many Cubans quickly determined that they needed special efforts to secure their children attendance to the Ivy League or similarly top schools. They also concluded that highly paid jobs in the public sector required access to those who were already connected, and in the private sector, they sought the necessary lines of credit for business creation and expansion. All these efforts required or suggested that connections or some networking was needed. To coordinate efforts and establish effective networks, the Cubans relied on the old school connections such as alumni from Jesuit or La Salle or Sacred Heart sponsored schools in Cuba. Social links in the Galician or the Asturian or Basque or Catalan cultural societies also proved to be useful while professional groups like the former Medical Society and the Cuban Bar Association were revived.

The collective goal of these political exiles developed into securing a piece of the American pie for themselves and fellow Cubans who continue to trickle in. Upon arrival, the leadership recognized that a well-structured and soundly connected network was required to project the diaspora’s socio-political objectives. This included the revival of many of the former social or economic structures which previously existed in Cuba. Only the Hungarian exiles in the 1950s came to the US with equally developed social and political skills. In sum, the Cubans and the Hungarians were uniquely effective in plugging into US society.

The other Latinos collectively have less know-how in creating ‘networks’ with such ease. Given the educational and socioeconomic levels of the bulk of recently arrived Latinos and many of the older Latino communities with ‘less favorable economic conditions’, networking has been elusive or plainly unattainable. Although the emerging Latino leadership and its aspiring followers have determined that the public policy sphere is ideal for networking or connecting, the question remains: How do we adopt as part of our culture the need and motivation to become connected, to turn into a cohesive population that seeks collective improvement? Increasingly, it appears such a mentality is beginning to bear fruit. Both political parties have felt the need to include and count on well-heeled and well-connected Latinos. The financial sector also shows signs of recruiting and connecting a healthy group of Latinos. The liberal professions like law and medicine also demonstrate an emerging high-tech Latino network. Academia has begun to show encouraging signs of Latinos interfacing in social science. The recently held “Latino Legacy Weekend” at Stanford University is an excellent example of the efforts to bring about a change and understanding that inclusion of our own in upwardly mobile plans will benefit all of us. As the latest census reveals that there are now over 50 million Hispanics in the US, hence, the challenge is for us to get this enormously varied Hispanic community to be aware of its need to become ‘digital’ and connect as active participants of this interactive global network in order to access multiple opportunities to succeed.

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Tags: African-Americans · Cuba · Immigration · Seneca · Technology

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 india blanca // Jun 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Great piece…very informative…we as hispanics should take heed…if we want to be counted, we must learn to manage the tools that will give us the profile needed to become players instead of witnesses to a reality where we linger in the shadows.

  • 2 SrtaMariposa // Jun 3, 2011 at 12:01 am

    This is informative, but I sometimes find that Latinos don’t want to help each other. Maybe we are better mentored or “networked” by tapping into some of these other groups than trying to seek it from our own kind. There is some sort of distrust between Latino groups. This Cuban example is good, but notice that it really only serves other Cubans or Cuban-Americans… a small group relative to the rest of the Latinos in the United States and maybe this Cuban network will not endure as strong in subsequent generations as politics on the island change and with the growth of other Latinos groups in the US.

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