Op-Ed: Latin American Communities Can Redefine American Generosity
Generosity connects human beings. It is a powerful core value that we share across ideologies and identities. It is our relationship with our community, our family and our intrinsic sense of belonging. My wife, Luz, and I taught our children, Lin-Manuel, Luz and Miguel – the spirit of generosity of our Puerto Rican community on the streets of Washington Heights.
Growing up in Puerto Rico, where family is at the heart of identity, I learned from my parents that family, community and giving back are inextricably linked. And when I arrived in New York, I quickly realized that family is at the heart of all Latinos.
In the Latino community, family relationships are broader than blood ties; they are a complex network that connects friends, neighbors, and even people you have never met but with whom you share a geographic or cultural bond. Family relationships create a strong sense of belonging that makes people more likely to give back to this infrastructure. They also promote survival in a place where you can be seen as an outsider, by sending the message: We are in the same boat.
When Lin-Manuel and Lucecita tell stories about their childhood, they always talk about how people – family, neighbors in Puerto Rico, or friends – lived in our home because they needed a place to stay. We did not have additional resources to contribute to a poverty alleviation institution, but we did have a large house which was a resource for taking care of others. So while housing and caring for others has not traditionally been associated with philanthropy, it is a valid and under-quantified method of giving.
For Hispanics, these family relationships are a common thread of generosity. For everyone in the United States, these relationships could help us redefine and reinvent American generosity.
The United States has seen a decline in traditional donation-based philanthropy, particularly an 18% drop between 2000 and 2018, according to a July report from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Generosity Commission, a non-partisan group launched in October, of which I am proud to be a member, was formed to better understand and encourage formal and informal acts of kindness in the history of American generosity. At present, our measures on giving do not reflect the breadth and depth of generous practices in various communities, including Latin philanthropy.
The July survey tracked donations in the United States, defined as the donation of money, assets, property or property to charity directly or through payroll deductions. But that excludes much of the donations people make within their own families and communities.
Latin American families and foreign-born Americans are known for their generosity when it comes to the hard-earned money they send to families in the form of remittances. Globally, the United States is the largest source of remittances, with a total of $ 68 billion in 2020 alone, with these payments forming a mainstay of the economies of several countries in Central and Latin America. . In fact, these remittances have increased as a result of COVID-19. An August report from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that Hispanics prioritize the economic recovery of their communities, participate in community giving events, and give a significant portion of their “donations” directly to members of the Church. their family. These habits show many forms of giving that seem distinct from what we think of as charity – and resonate with my own family’s experience.
And what about informal volunteering that is not reflected in philanthropy surveys – of neighbors helping neighbors fix a roof after a hurricane or helping a recent immigrant family with food? Support networks are emerging across the country in response to economic pain and job losses due to the pandemic. Similar networks have sprung up to protect our Asian American neighbors from hate crimes and to help Central American asylum seekers as they waited just across the border for their hearings.
Although they have less wealth than white Americans, Latinos still donate a larger share of their family’s wealth to charity. Research also shows that many organizations are not well equipped to reach Hispanic families, who too often are not invited to donate to traditional and mainstream philanthropy. But when asked, we give generously, as our response to aid in the aftermath of natural disasters such as hurricanes shows. This behavior has not changed for a long time, mirroring what my fellow community leaders and I discovered when we started the Hispanic Federation 31 years ago.
It’s time to update the traditional definition of philanthropy in the United States to include a wider range of what generosity means, especially as this country becomes more diverse and welcomes people from all walks of life who practice giving. in multiple ways. It is part of what it is to be American. Today our Hispanic population includes 62 million neighbors. By 2050, we will represent almost 25% of the total population of the United States.
Together, we can reinvent and rekindle our culture of giving and push back the idea that Americans today are less generous than we once were.
Luis A. Miranda Jr. is a philanthropist, strategist and advocate, founder of the MirRam group and chairman of the Latino Victory Fund.