Latino Studies Congressional Hispanic Caucus
by
Miriam Jiménez
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 February 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0136

Introduction

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is a Congressional Member Organization, namely a coalition of members of Congress that includes representatives and senators who have Hispanic descent. Originally nonpartisan and today composed of only members of the Democratic Party, this group aims to give voice to and advance the interests of the Hispanic population of the United States in the context of the national legislature. The creation of the caucus as a legislative service organization in 1976, reflected the increasing relevance, enfranchisement, and incorporation of Hispanics into the political life of the United States; it was then celebrated by analysts and activists as an important event in the process of the representation of a demographic group that had been politically marginalized for most of the 20th century. In subsequent years, however, the caucus faced difficulties in striving to take coordinated and noteworthy legislative action and failed to attract much scholarly attention. Analysts who compared the Congressional Hispanic Caucus with the previously created Congressional Black Caucus, for example, often underlined the heterogeneity of the CHC membership, its lower level of cohesion, and its low legislative success record. Nevertheless, this has been changing recently: a new generation of scholars is introducing different perspectives to study the activities of minority congresspersons. The new wave of studies has revealed more complex ways to assess the importance of the work that the caucus and its members do. Beyond the record of modest legislative achievements, it is clear that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been able to lobby presidents to appoint Hispanics to executive positions and has exerted influence in some immigration debates and bills. Furthermore, it has advanced the institutionalization of initiatives to educate Hispanic leaders (through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, CHCI) and provided coalitional support to newly elected Hispanic congresspersons. Overall, the caucus has contributed to the fundamental task of advancing legislative agendas that reflect the interests of Hispanics in the Congress.

Overviews

The literature on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus seems modest, but appearances may be misleading. The difficulty of a literature review on the Congressional Hispanic Caucus lies predominantly on compilation, because research on the caucus was scarce during the two decades that followed its creation and now is a little more robust, but has become dispersed. Book-length analyses of this congressional coalition have been rare, and articles that appeared in publications of limited circulation during the 1970s are not easily accessible today. Moreover, more recent developments have taken place outside traditional lines of research, as explained in more detail in the section Perspectives: Old and New. With these considerations in mind, this selected bibliography of scholarly sources is organized along themes, and relies on relevance and accessibility as key criteria. It includes the best sources available that altogether provide a solid understanding of the CHC. For very brief introductory information, several encyclopedias of Hispanic or multicultural topics have included articles about the caucus and short reference lists that can be useful—two of them, Garcia 2005 and Morini 2013, are included in this section. A more detailed overview, however, is provided by a set of two studies that have documented the history of the caucus at different moments of time. Vigil 1990 appeared a decade and a half after the formation of the CHC and was the first to study the group’s early developments. More comprehensive from a historical perspective is the publication produced by research areas of the US House of Representatives, released in 2013 (along with its web companion Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC)). A well-researched publication, it defines the profile of the CHC and references important changes in its organization, leadership, and initiatives. Finally, it must be noted that relying on academic sources only means neglecting some behind-the-scenes actions, decisions, relevant disagreements among the caucus members, and current issues, which are treated largely in periodical publications specializing on the political and legislative events of Washington, DC (see Partisanship and Other Controversies).

  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC).

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    The CHC webpage includes information only on current task forces and news. This is not a permanent address, but one linked to that of the current caucus chairperson—congressional caucuses do not have separate webpages or office space since 1995. The CHC is present in social media online.

  • Garcia, John A. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States. Vol. 1. Edited by Suzanne Oboler, and Deena J. González, 396. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Concise article that includes very useful information about the organization of the CHC. The complete version of this article is available online by subscription.

  • Moreno, Michael P., and Kristin C. Brunnemer. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (Established 1976).” In Term Paper Resource Guide to Latino History. By Michael P. Moreno and Kristin C. Brunnemer, 225–228. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2010.

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    Brief introduction to the topic, with suggested term paper questions for students and a short list of primary and secondary sources.

  • Morini, Marco. “Congressional Hispanic Caucus.” In Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. Edited by Carlos E. Cortés, 566–569. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2013.

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    Concise article about the CHC, with a good summary of the areas of legislative action. It is available in both printed and online versions. Available online by subscription.

  • US House of Representatives. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Conference. Hispanic Americans in Congress: Historical Essays.

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    This “online exhibition” features, in a friendly and easily accessible webpage format, the same material contained in Wasniewski, et al. 2013.

  • Vigil, Maurilio E. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus: Illusions and Realities of Power.” Journal of Hispanic Policy 4 (1990): 19–30.

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    This pioneering article, published in various formats, provides, in Part 2, a good profile of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ideological and political preferences of its members. Vigil claimed that the CHC was not an influential constituency organization at the time of publication, but he acknowledged concrete concerted actions and achievements, while suggesting areas of improvement.

  • Vigil, Maurilio E. “The CHC and Hispanic Public Policy.” In Handbook of Hispanic Cultures in the United States. Edited by Félix Padilla, 93–95. Houston, TX: Arte Público, 1994.

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    Vigil’s update of a previous piece, giving particular attention to the role played by the CHC in drafting immigration bills and politics that were relevant in the early 1990s.

  • Wasniewski, Matthew A., Albin Kowalewski, Laura Turner O’Hara, and Terrance Rucker. “The Congressional Hispanic Caucus.” In Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822–2012. Edited by Matthew A. Wasniewski, Albin Kowalewski, Laura Turner O’Hara, and Terrance Rucker, 482–486. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2013.

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    Excellent empirical overview of the CHC. It is part of a meticulously documented study of the historical election of Hispanics to Congress available in a pdf format. Particularly relevant is the summary of political initiatives of the caucus; more information is included in the biographies of individual congresspersons and in the section on current legislative interests.

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