Why is the Boy Scouts of America concerned about serving Hispanic communities throughout the United States? In a nutshell, it's the right thing to do. Consider these compelling statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau: Presently, there are 50 million Hispanic Americans, which is more than one-sixth of the United States population. Hispanic Americans are becoming the largest minority group in the country. By 2050, Hispanic Americans are projected to compose 29 percent of the U.S. population. The Hispanic population has great economic influence as well. Hispanic Americans represent $477 billion in purchasing power. In addition, there are nearly 2.5 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States. These businesses generate more than $400 billion in annual gross receipts. According the U.S. Census Bureau, the word "Hispanic" applies to U.S. citizens and residents who identify themselves as descendants of people from Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Central and South America.

Brief History

Serving Hispanic American young people isn't new to Scouting. In 1990, when the Boy Scouts of America recognized that the population growth among Hispanic Americans had been increasing at a fast rate, the BSA implemented the Hispanic Emphasis program. A director was hired to oversee this pioneering program, which was funded in large part by the Kellogg Foundation. In 1991, six Hispanic regional/local directors were brought on board to assist local councils located primarily in the Southwest to help market Scouting in a way that was culturally relevant to Hispanic Americans. These professional Scouters conducted workshops on Hispanic culture, assisted councils in identifying and recruiting Hispanic volunteers at all council levels, and helped unit-serving executives organize new units in largely Hispanic neighborhoods. Also, for the first time in Scouting's history, a large number of Spanish-language resources (training videos and manuals, booklets, pamphlets, brochures, posters, fliers, public service announcements) were produced. The goal was to help Hispanic American parents understand the Scouting program. The rationale: If parents understood the Scouting program in their native language, the likelihood of their volunteering to be a Scout leader would increase. The Membership Recruitment mission is to provide relevant insights and tactical expertise to local councils, with the goal of increasing their capacity to grow and sustain their membership in ethnically and geographically diverse communities.

Know the Proper Terminology

While "Hispanic" is a politically correct term, unit serving executives should be aware of their own Hispanic community's preference. For example, "Latino" is preferred over Hispanic in most Southern California cities like Los Angeles because of the diversity of the Spanish-speaking people who live there. However, Latino may be viewed negatively in other parts of the country. Sensitivity is the rule when determining your local Hispanic community's preference.

Five Common Cultural Traits

Most Hispanic Americans share five common cultural traits: strong cultural identity, the Spanish language, emphasis on family, religious fervor, and respect for elders.

Strong Cultural Identity

Unlike the immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1900s, the vast majority of Hispanic Americans strongly identify with their ethnic background. They cling tightly to their rich Hispanic culture. Their commitment to their families, religion, and heritage is unparalleled. Hispanics faithfully observe the religious and ethnic holidays deemed important in their country of origin. For example, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of a decisive battle against the French army by Mexican soldiers on May 5, 1862, and is widely celebrated by Mexican Americans. Likewise, Cuban Americans commemorate Liberation Day, which occurred on January 1, 1899. This day marks the end of Spanish rule in Cuba. Commonwealth Day, which is celebrated by Puerto Ricans, commemorates proclamation of Puerto Rico's constitution on July 25, 1952.

Unit-serving executives should note that September is Hispanic American Heritage month. It celebrates the contributions of Hispanic Americans like Cesar Chavez—this country's most influential Hispanic labor leader—and their profound effect on American life today.

Spanish Language

How important is Spanish to Hispanic Americans? Language does play a big role, but do not rely on language alone. It is a mistake to assume that because a person can speak the language he or she understand the culture. The Latino market is consumers who demand and necessitate a professional Scouter or volunteer who can understand and relate to this specific culture. "Hispanic" is actually a term that leads to disagreements. There are those who do and do not prefer it as their cultural umbrella. Some prefer the term "Latino." Hispanic is derived from the term Hispana, which is the Spanish language term for the country's cultural diaspora. Many Latinos denounce the term Hispanic and refuse to use it because it symbolizes colonization. As a result of mixing natives, Europeans and Africans, many Latinos view themselves today as a combination of all three.

Emphasis on Family

Traditionally, Hispanic American families tend to be patriarchal; that is, the father is clearly the head of the household. The family unit tends to be large and often includes other relatives. Hispanics view their families as great treasures that must be protected and never abandoned. The family is responsible for instilling and maintaining one's cultural traditions and identity, and is a central force in the lives of Hispanic Americans.

Religious Fervor

Most Hispanic Americans view their religious faith as a life-sustaining force. Major life decisions are prayerfully approached with God's favor and blessings. While approximately 85 percent of Hispanic Americans consider themselves Roman Catholic, there is a growing number joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Judeo-Christian religions.

Respect for Elders

Hispanic Americans have great admiration and respect for their elders. Younger family members constantly seek the advice of elder relatives because of their wisdom and understanding of life's many challenges. Hispanic elders also pass on the language and culture to the next generation and often share in the responsibilities of rearing younger family members. Most elders feel they have a vested interest in helping youth develop into good, productive citizens. Some even take an active role in volunteering their time to organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.

Consistency of the Scout Oath and Scout Law with Hispanic Culture

The Boy Scouts of America is fortunate to have a mission statement, Scout Oath, and Scout Law consistent with the values and principles cherished by most Hispanic Americans. The concept of "helping others at all times" reinforces the Hispanic cultural belief of caring and showing respect toward others, especially those who are less fortunate. "Duty to God and country" is another Scouting ideal consistent with the qualities that Hispanic Americans expect of their young people: God-fearing, patriotic, drug-free and gang-free, responsible young citizens. While all 12 points of the Scout Law reinforce ideals cherished by Hispanic people, trustworthiness, obedience, and reverence are worthy of attention. Hispanic American youth are taught early in life that being trustworthy, dependable, and responsible are virtues of a good family provider. Also, being obedient toward one's elders is synonymous with showing respect for them. This trait is common to most Hispanic Americans. The 12th point, "A Scout is reverent," may have the most impact in the Hispanic community. Early on, Hispanic Americans learn that everyone is a child of God, and that one's religion is a means of communicating directly with Him. When speaking about a program that enhances a Hispanic child's religious education, this grabs the most undivided attention of a Hispanic audience.


Scouting in the Hispanic/Latino Community (523-012)

Prepared for Life - Spanish

Spanish and latino Resources websites

Hispanic/ Latino Organizational Endorsement

Hispanic association on corporate responsibility

United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Hispanic Business Inc.

Hispanic police association

League of United Latin American Citizens
Letter of Support

National Association of Hispanic Publications

National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals

National Council of La Raza

National Hispanic Medical Association
Letter of Support

Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Letter of Support

Pastores en Accion

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Inc.
Letter of Support

Letter of Support

Federacion de Clubes Zacatecanos de Fort Worth
Letter of Support

Univision Communications Inc.
Letter of Support