The Associated Press recently spoke with Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, for a story about a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center, which concluded that a majority of Hispanics prefer to identify themselves according to their families’ countries of origin, rather than by the government’s suggested terms “Hispanic” or “Latino.” Stavans, who explores the complexities of Hispanic identity in his recent book What Is la Hispanidad? cited the confusion over the ethnic identity of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in February. Police and early media reports described Zimmerman as white, but Zimmerman’s mother is Hispanic, which his defenders cited when called to answer allegations of racial profiling.
“It seems to me that the whole identity of George Zimmerman is really an expression how modern individual American identity has all these many facets. If I were to say where he belongs, I’d say he belongs right at the center of where America is today,” Stavans said.