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Ay, what a year!

illustrationBrewer-Obama3In Arizona, 2012 was auspicious, not because our state was being destroyed along with the rest of the world (as erroneously predicted by some based on a Mayan inscription indicating that something big was to happen on 12/21/12), but because of the emergence of Latinos center stage, here and nationally. 

In December, 2012, the latest U.S. Census estimated that Latinos will become the majority population in the U.S. by 2023, a mere generation away. That national trend is reflected in Arizona. Latinos here will become the majority about the same time. As Joseph Garcia, director of the ASU Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center, noted in the September 2012 issue of Latino Perspectives: “If Arizona were to take an honest look in the mirror, she might be surprised by the permanent tan looking back.” Arizona is getting browner and younger, with 46 percent more Latinos living here than a decade ago, and, as Garcia points out, Latino issues are now, and for the future, Arizona’s issues.

Looking further back, Arizona has been no stranger to controversy this past decade, with a Republican-dominated state legislature creating the harsh anti-immigrant, anti-abortion, anti-voter fraud laws that other, like-minded lawmakers in other states used as models for laws passed in their own backyards. Certainly, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has angered some in the Latino community because of his anti-immigrant law enforcement and imprisonment policies. 

The year 2012 marked not only the Centennial of Arizona’s statehood, but also the start of a transition in power from the status quo. This review of 2012 shows patterns both positive and negative for Latinos and, by extension, for our state. For example, more Latinos voted, but Latinos also dropped out of school at a higher rate. Arizona voters sent more Democrats to Congress, although Republicans still hold almost all statewide elective offices. More Latinos were elected to the state legislature, but more Latino elected officials were forced to resign because of criminal or corruption charges. 

 In this edition, Latino Perspectives presents an array of the highlights and “lowlights” of 2012. As the Mayans indicated, something big did happen in 2012: The world is changing and Latinos are on the transition team. 

JANUARY

Brewer wags finger in Obama’s face

Arizona governor, Jan Brewer, aroused her critics and supporters by waving her index finger in President Barack Obama’s face after greeting him at Phoenix-Gateway Airport in Mesa on January 25. The state official and the U.S. leader debated fiercely and briefly on the tarmac, an image that local and national media distributed widely. Brewer claimed that the President chided her for describing him in her book, Scorpions for Breakfast, as lacking in cordiality when she met him at the White House. Brewer’s body language during their little chat had tongues wagging in Arizona, Washington, D.C., the nation and the world; arguments for and against Brewer’s reaction set social media on fire. The Republican governor’s angry gesture in early 2012 foreshadowed the sometimes rancorous presidential election debates between the two major parties’ candidates. 

Congresswoman Giffords resigns

giffords_resignsJanuary 25 was a sad day for Arizonans; U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford of Tucson resigned. Just after the one-year anniversary of her being shot in the head in front of a Tucson supermarket, she announced on Facebook that she was resigning her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. “My district deserves to elect a representative that can give 100 percent of their time,” she wrote in a prepared statement read by a colleague on the House floor because the shooting affected her speech. The shooter, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, killed six people and shot a dozen others who had gathered to greet Giffords on that tragic day. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole this year. After the shooting, state politicians eased up on the bitter debate between the political parties – at least for a while.

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This Article appears on the January 2013 issue of LPM under Features

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