11/21/2011 07:44 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2012

Hispanics Have Only Three Options to Establish their Voice and Identity in America

As the Presidential campaign builds momentum, Hispanics must consider the 2012 election as enabling new possibilities. Hispanics must become an integral part of the policy-making discussions and agenda for a new America. But beyond the influence Hispanics may have in the upcoming campaign, the Hispanic community at large must finally decide how to establish its voice in America, a voice that must educate mainstream audiences about the real opportunities we can create.

There are three ways Hispanics can establish our voice and identity in America. Let's briefly examine the options:

1) Allow non-Hispanics to define our future.

This isn't a favorable option. They are the ones that misrepresent our Hispanic "brand" because they don't understand our diverse community. Non-Hispanics are also not mindful of how their misperceptions have negatively shaped the mindset that has forced many Hispanics to assimilate and lose our language just to be accepted.

A one-sided relationship does not support but rather hinders the advancement of America. Mainstream America must begin to appreciate the ideas we Hispanics can bring to the reinvention of America. This can only truly begin when Hispanics and non-Hispanics can work as one.

2) Allow government to define what is in our best interest.

This is not a favorable choice for two reasons:

a. Hispanics have historically not trusted government because of their experiences of false promises in their mother countries. Additionally, Hispanics have never felt that their vote mattered, so why should we bother listening to politicians that just give us lip service.

b. I have come to learn that government leaders don't trust our community and our ability to lead ourselves. Because of this cold, hard fact, government is quick to encourage our community to trust them and seek their leadership. Government leaders try to manipulate our fragmented community, and to sell us the "American dream" rather than allowing our unique immigrant perspective to discover it ourselves.

3) We must enable ourselves.

This is the most sustainable option. Taking the easy way out is always comfortable because it eliminates confrontation and hard work. Enabling ourselves requires a significant amount of time, focus and energy to educate others about what we can bring to the table.
Today, we view non-Hispanics and government leaders as the providers of our well-being. Unfortunately, in today's uncertain economic landscape there is not much they can provide that can actually advance our community. Hispanics need to stop waiting for false promises and start enabling ourselves by recognizing that our cultural roots are sources of strength. We are naturally wired to survive and thrive during times of uncertainty and change. This immigrant mentality gives our community a distinct competitive advantage that can cultivate new types of growth and opportunity for our economy.

Enabling ourselves is a challenge. It requires patience, practice and diligence. It's about having the courage to trust ourselves and allow our unique perspective to take flight. It means creating an environment that embraces our unique immigrant perspective to cultivate opportunities previously unseen.