The Glory and Curse of Our Numbers

Feb 19, 2019
1:51 PM
Originally published at

HOUSTON — If you treat our community as simply consumers, you have a lot of shinier competition.

This is vital for businesses, politicians and schools to keep in mind as they try to lure us.

We are in demand, so we can demand. And the greatest outcomes comes from a fair exchange of cultural capital. That’s right. We don’t want just your money. Keep that in mind as you’re coming for ours.

If you want a business or institutions to come to the table to talk about Latino issues, you have to bring up two figures: The population of Latinos and how much money we have spent or might spend.

If you want people to run to the table, tell them you are serving home-made tortillas and guacamole.

If you want to restore order to the stampede at the table, tell them you want to talk about Latino arts. Traffic will slow down.

This sums up the current state of affairs for the Latino community.

But we are about to change that.

But this is no longer sustainable. We have to accelerate a discussion and the cultivation of the Cultural Capital in our Community.

Artists play a vital role in this.

First all of, many of us have grown up translating.

When I was a kid, my first job was the translate the outside world into Spanish for my parents. Take that, Tom Brokaw.

Now, my job is to translate my community to the outside world.

So I am used to having to see through words. I know the weakness of literal translations. I also know how to read between the lines.

As a writer, I know how to coin a phrase and turn phrases into coin.

As a Librotraficante, I also understand clearly that we are more often subject to enforcement and punishment, and not all laws are for justice and some laws are created for just us.

We are also in era of upheaval. The future is not certain. But we are used to this.

We are built for this era.

As a Cultural Accelerator, I recognize that we finally have the Cultural Capital to force some words to stand still and answer for past wrongs, and we have the power to impose policies that cultivate and accelerate the Cultural Capital of our community.

Everything we once did to merely survive will now help us thrive.

Houston, Texas, is the fourth largest city in America. I haven’t checked today, but any day we may surpass Chicago as the third largest city. Thanks to Tejanos, the Windy City can hear those Texas cowboy boots over its shoulder.

You have heard that Houston is over 43% Hispanic. But you may not realize that 1 in 3 Houstonians is Mexican or Mexican American.

During the next Census, even if we are undercounted, Latinos may well be 50% of Houston.

How many Latinx writers are in Houston, how many artists, dancers, musicians? How many books have we written, how many films, how many operas?

These too are the facts that must bring people to the table. This is the importance of quantifying. This number is part of our Cultural Capital.

In the case of society at large, we are “in the game” for our sheer numbers, but we are valuable for more than that.

We have more college graduates, home owners, business owners, artists, elected officials, professionals, directors, etc., than you have imagined.

Unfortunately, businesses imagine only ways to get the $5 in our pocket into their pocket, they are not trying to figure out how to get the novel or opera in our head into their head.

That is about to change.


Tony Diaz is a writer, activist, professor and media personality. More at He tweets from @Librotraficante