This is my 12th year in a row celebrating the arrival of the New Year by hosting Univision's coverage from Times Square in New York City. There are so many things that change over the years and so many differences you notice from year to year, both about your own situation and those around you.
While I live with my family in South Florida, I enjoy visiting New York and always appreciate seeing so many Univision fans. But over the years, I've noticed real changes in the makeup of the NYC's Hispanic community, a difference I've also seen in other American cities.
During my earlier visits, the Hispanic community in New York was dominated by Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, while these days you can see the significant increase in Mexican immigrants, along with new arrivals from places like Ecuador, Colombia and other Central and South American countries.
As I meet many of these new immigrants working hard, finding their way, I think back to my own arrival in this country at the impressionable age of 16. I had come to Miami, looking for the American Dream. The first thing I noticed was that Miami wasn't much different than Madrid, where I had previously lived, or Havana, where I was born. Here everyone spoke Spanish. I had wanted to learn English as quickly as possible but I soon realized that Miami was, and is, very different from any other city in America.
When I began to travel around the country I would notice in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and even Texas that Latinos didn't want to speak Spanish. You would ask a question, only to be answered in English. Not only that, many of them were intensely proud that their children only spoke English! How things have changed...
In those same cities nowadays you are sometimes hard-pushed to find someone who will actually speak English. I remember the bumper stickers in Miami in the 80's that read, "Will the last American to leave Dade County bring the flag and turn off the lights?" How would they read now in Chicago, Charlotte and even Atlanta where over half a million Hispanics live?
A Hispanic presence now permeates all levels of America. There's nothing more American than baseball and apple pie but these days, the people most likely to be speaking English at a baseball game are the umpires and the team owners. Even the guy who dated Madonna and Kate Hudson is Hispanic. As for the apple pie, last time I checked, a woman from Puerto Rico was in the kitchen making it. Even the pastrami guy at the Carnegie Deli in New York City isn't from Brooklyn, or even Tel Aviv, he's from Mexico. I have seen it with my own eyes. Colombian racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, in the classically old boy sport of NASCAR, recently came within an inch of winning the season's title, while over in the field of late night television, George Lopez is staking his claim amongst Letterman, Leno and Conan O'Brien.
The 2010 census will show that over 50 million Hispanics now live in the United States, making it one of the biggest Hispanic countries in the world. I would never have believed 20 years ago that a Hispanic would one day be sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States. The only Puerto Rican most people knew was the super of their building, or Rita Moreno. Now Sonia Sotomayor is a household name. All we need now is for Sotomayor to host Saturday Night Live. Then we'll have truly arrived.
Had you asked Rush Limbaugh a few years ago if an African American with a name like Barack Hussein Obama could make it into the White House, he would have bet his prescription drugs against it. You don't need me to tell you who won that bet.
So as we advance into 2010, Lou Dobbs, take a moment to reflect. Remember that one of the Latinos you so systematically bash could well be your President one day. You can bet your Senate run on it.
By the way Lou, sit down any weekday between 6 and 10 pm and watch a telenovela (soap opera) and maybe you would become more passionate about Hispanics in a positive way.
That's all for now and Feliz año Nuevo (happy new year) to all of you in the greatest country in the world.
Raúl de Molina will host Univision's New Year's Eve special Thursday night for the 12th straight year.
Follow Raúl de Molina on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rauldemolina