Esta página no está disponible en español.
Highs And Lows Of 2001
By Diana A Terry-Azios
December 1, 2001
With fear of the new Millennium, threat of Armageddon and the infamous Y2K bug behind us, 2001 was supposed to be a simple year. Once it was determined who the new president would be, it seemed like time to sit back, switch to cruise control and let history unfold before us.
But the unexpected stepped in to amaze the country once again with an unforgettable year. From extreme highs-more Latinos in office, a promised cessation of Vieques bombing-to unfathomable lows-the terrorist attacks, the turbulent economy-the events of 2001 have forever changed our world view. Take a few minutes to reminisce and reflect on some of the most memorable occurrences.
The Terrorism Tragedy
On Sept. 11, the country awoke to learn that four passenger airplanes had departed to the West Coast, but none would reach its destination. Some of those passengers would become dying heroes.
The first indication of unrest came when a plane crashed into one of New York City's Twin Towers. Time nearly stopped as businesses halted, school children huddled in front of dim television screens and every radio station reported the story. Within hours, the nation discovered that terrorists had hijacked the four aircraft, and plunged the planes into the Pentagon, a field in Pennsylvania and the Twin Towers, bringing them to ruins. Images of smoke, destruction and bravery dominated the news for weeks as the country tried to comprehend the horror.
Latinos Make Strides In Government
Though Latino political representation remains disparate compared to the total Hispanic population in the U.S., 2001 turned out to be a strong year for Latino officials.
Despite mixed feelings toward President Bush from Latino voters, he appointed more Latinos to top positions than any other administration-- including Mel Martinez as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Al Gonzales as Chief White House counsel; Josefina Carbonell as a leader at the Department of Health and Human Services; Cari Dominguez as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; Rosario Marin as U.S. Treasurer; and Hector Barreto as head of the Small Business
There also were setbacks, such as Antonio Villaraigosa's unsuccessful campaign to be mayor of Los Angeles, Had he won, he would have been the first Latino L.A. mayor since 1880.
Other mayoral races, however, landed Latinos on top. Approximately 215 Latinos ran this year, and among the winners were Ed Garza in San Antonio, Ray Caballero in El Paso, Eddie Pdrez in Hartford, Gustavo Garcia in Austin, and Manny Diaz in Miami.
Census Turns Spotlight on Hispanic Population
Figures from the 2000 census released early this year announced that the U.S. Latino population increased 58 percent during the last decade, growing from 22.4 million to 35.3 million. Just a few years ago, predictions said the number of Latinos would surpass the number of blacks in 2008, but, depending on how the 2000 census figures are interpreted and the margin of error, the two populations are almost even already.
Though the news probably wasn't a surprise to many attuned to national news and trends-such as multicultural advertising and crossover actors and singers-headlines focused on the growth.
Confirmation of the growing community was welcomed by Latino officials and others who rely on public opinion and awareness. "This growth leads to the potential of a stronger Latino community and, more importantly, to more Latino elected officials," said Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas). As a result of the census figures released this year, Latinos can expect to see greater outreach from sectors that previously ignored the community.
End of Vieques Bombing in Sight
After several years of protesting and conflict, U.S. officials announced in June that bombing on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques would end in two years. The Navy has been using the island as an 899-acre firing range for live ammunition for decades.
Latinos from various nationalities together publicly supported Puerto Ricans , who said they are endangered by the pollution from the bombings. Vieques brought ordinary citizens, army officials and politicians to the negotiating table. In fact, Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Illinois was arrested this year at protests in Puerto Rico . Other figures who came together this year to garner support included the 18 members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus and actor Edward James Olmos.
Though protestors and newly elected Puerto Rican Governor Sila Maria Calderon sought immediate cessation of the bombings, the Bush Administration agreed to end the firing in two years. Many speculated that this was another attempt to pacify Latinos and secure votes, because the decision incurred disapproval from Republicans and the Pentagon alike.
U.S.-Mexico Relations Improved In 2001
At first glance, President George W. Bush and Mexico President Vicente Fox seemed like an unlikely couple. They are, after all, from opposite sides of a border that has aroused controversy since the first settlers entered the region centuries ago.
But a closer look revealed two similar visionaries, two former governors with a history in sales, two gentlemen ranchers in cowboy boots. Both lean toward the middle of the political spectrum and promised a new kind of government. Each leader courted a previously ignored constituency to win approval-Fox claimed that he made "the cause of the indigenous people" a top priority, while Bush courted Hispanic voters.
Though Fox and Bush had crossed paths several times in their political history, they first met as presidents on Fox's ranch in Mexico in February. Since then, the two have discussed several accords, including terms for an immigration deal that would phase in citizenship for immigrants working in the country for a number of years. Fox also urged Bush to supply more work visas that would aid in safer border crossings after four people were found dead in the Arizona desert in July.
Though presidential pairings are not historically unusual, this year marked the first time attention has returned to this hemisphere and to relations that will boost trade and economic growth-not to mention popularity at the polls-with the country's closest southern neighbor.
A Rocky Turn Toward Recession
A few years ago, headlines touted that unemployment was at a record low, and employees had their pick of jobs with signing bonuses and cushy perk packages. Just a year ago, unemployment was 3.9 percent. By the end of this year, it climbed to a frightening 5 percent, and first-time unemployment claims hit a 10-year high.
Economists who once claimed there was no chance of a recession after the dot-coms sunk quickly blamed the terrorist attacks in September for the impending recession. But long before the travel and service industries suffered in the wake, several institutions had announced cutbacks and layoffs. Chicago-based Wards was the first brick-and-mortar business to bust this year when it announced it would close after decades of service and laid off 37,000 employees last January.
Under the looming threat of unemployment, consumer confidence fell through most of the year, reaching the lowest point since 1996. Between September and October, consumer confidence experienced the largest one-month reduction since 1990. Hopes that consumer spending and the holiday retail fury would boost the economy from the edge of recession quickly dissipated.
Not only did Alex Rodriguez, who joined the Texas Rangers, and Manny Ramirez, of the Boston Red Sox, land two of baseball history's three most lucrative contracts, but baseball fans had more Latino athletes to back than ever. Among the most notable were Pedro Martinez, Luis Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa, Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Delgado. Statistics showed 40 percent of all professional baseball players were of Latin descent.
After the Sept. 11 tragedy, the baseball players and all other pro-sports teams donned the American flag on their uniforms.
Latinos dazzled the entertainment industry this year from television to movies to music. Mexican film Amores Perros was a big newsmaker by debut-director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Controversy limited showings in Mexico, but the Tarantino-style film claimed overwhelming approval from audiences, especially after capturing the foreign film Oscar nomination.
Traffic, another film that featured Latino stars Jacob Vargas, Benjamin Bratt and Benicio Del Toro swept the Oscars. Del Toro won the best supporting actor Oscar.
Spanish network Telemundo staged an important comeback this year with scantily-clad novels stars and new daytime talk shows. At the same time, competing network Univision launched a music recording and publishing division.
In other TV news, cable networks scored by casting Latinos in at least six shows, including the hits The Sopranos, Resurrection Blvd. and children's show, Dora the Explorer. Dark Angel, starring Jessica Alba, garnered attention on the main networks.