A uniting factor among Latinos is actually, quite simply, race. The mixture of Spanish and Native blood back in colonial days gave birth to a new race of peoples, which is celebrated today as "Dia de La Raza" or Day of the Race. Almost all Latinos have this in common, except for native tribes that remained untouched by colonialism.
Another uniting factor would be the common discrimination they encounter in the United States. They have very little elected political power, and their population (although it is now spreading across the country in a more diverse pattern) lives in some concentrated areas in the southwestern and western United States.
Latinos are divided by history too. Tejanos - Latinos from Texas, have a different culture and are very proud of their unique position in the Latino world, and don't generally like to be lumped in with the whole Latino population. The same is true for Spanish descendants that still live in enclaves in New Mexico and Texas.
Lastly, first, second and third generation immigrants find themselves in a cultural struggle, as each group is at a different stage of assimilation into American English culture. There is tension between Latinos who do and do not speak Spanish. There is tension between urban Latinos and rural, migrant agricultural workers too.
There have been 3 major waves of immigration. The newest has been the Latin wave (or "New World Immigrant", see #3 below), but it must be understood in context of the other two. Much of the unite/divide is a socio-economic push/pull relationship (because the countries are so close) and a case of identity (race, ethnicity, region):
1. The standard immigrant story of escaping the Old World and assimilating to the New World and its dominant culture:
•Eastern and central Europeans and Jews (late 1800s)
•Asian Americans (late 21st century)
Sometimes called “model minorities” for conformity to American economics.
2. The minority narrative:
Not an immigrant story of voluntary participation and assimilation but of involuntary contact and exploitation, resisting assimilation, and creating an identity more less separate from the mainstream.
3. The New World immigrant:
Constitutes the largest wave of contemporary immigration, combines immigrant and minority narratives, voluntarily immigrating from the Caribbean/West Indies but often with experiences of involuntary contact and exploitation by the US in other countries, or identification with minorities through the color code.
So says sociologist professor Craig White:
[Another in-between variation is the shift of the United States from a "White & Black nation” to a "Brown nation" defined by growing Hispanic populations and intermarriage.]
I suppose that the two major factors that serve to divide the Latino community in the US are:
- Their countries of origin. Although all are Spanish-speaking, they come from very different countries and may not feel much kinship. The difference between a Mexican and a Dominican, for example, are often both cultural and racial.
- How long they have been in the US and their immigration status.
The major factors that tend to unite them are language and religion (they are still largely Catholic). To some extent, they share the experience of being a minority group but this experience is often quite different for different groups.