NEW YORK - The birth rate for Latinos in the United States rose to 14 percent in the past decade, while the rate for the general population fell 2 percent.
Is this news a reason for celebration, or for consternation?
It all depends on how you look at it. In the cold light of day, it is obvious that an increase in our population will give us greater political power and long-term visibility. But what remains in question is whether or not we are prepared to confront the challenges of being the country's largest minority in the coming years.
Many of these children are born into poverty, and in many cases they are cared for by adolescent single mothers who, having thrown their youth out the window, have to struggle with all their might to take care of their children. Many of them try to overcome the obstacles to which their own lack of education has subjected them by offering their children a better quality of life; others simply perpetuate the cycle of poverty.
The news is also reason to celebrate for the corporations and marketing agencies that are licking their chops before the vista of millions of new consumers.
Yesterday, a day after the appearance of the report on the birth rate, the disposable diaper company Pampers announced a new information campaign directed at Latino parents and "focusing on the conviction that every child is a miracle."
Well just think, the truth is that the only baby that has ever been a miracle is Jesus Christ, conceived without sin by the Virgin Mary. Other children are not miracles. They are the natural result, often unintended, of the sex act, flesh and blood proof of human beings' reproductive capacities.
Motherhood is idealized to extremes in our culture, and that makes the sober discussion of this topic very difficult.
Having a child is a responsibility that lasts roughly 20 years. Bringing them into the world means tears and sweat, and as a friend says who has brought up two fabulous daughters, "sleeping with one eye open from the moment they're born." Unfortunately, many mothers have both eyes closed, whether they are awake or asleep.
It has been demonstrated that too many young Latinas have too little information about sex and its consequences. Many of them allow their brains to be eaten up by their boyfriends with the hackneyed plea (amazing that it still works in the 21st century) that they "prove you love me," and with the lie that "if I do this or that this way or that way, you won't get pregnant."
Many girls are not well informed about the various methods of birth control. Not long ago a drug store in Upper Manhattan put out a sign that said, "We are out of day-after pills." It seems that many girls, instead of being on a regular contraceptive pill regimen, run to the pharmacy every time they've had sex, to buy a pill which is actually meant for emergency cases.
But the most surprising aspect of this is that these girls are apparently having sex with men who are not using condoms, and are not even considering the additional risks they are taking besides getting pregnant.
All this is cause for consternation and fairly screams for sex education based on reality and not on myths and miracles.