Latinos Assimilate on Their Own Terms

Enlace, News Report, Hiram Soto, Translated by Peter Micek Posted: Jul 27, 2007

Traducción al español

The Senate’s phone system crashed last month during immigration reform debates, when thousands of people and anti-immigrant activists called their senators to protest the legalization of millions of undocumented immigrants.

The massive, unprecedented telephone campaign was sparked by a range of complex motives based on social and economic issues. Among them was a theme that promises to reappear if the issue is revisited: the perception that Latinos are too different to assimilate, do not learn English, and are unraveling the fabric of the identity of a nation that was, ironically, created by immigrants.

“It is one of the ideas that anti-immigrant forces take advantage of: the notion that immigrants today do not assimilate and that other generations did. But it is not true,” says Cecilia Muñoz of the National Council of La Raza.

In fact, both sides are right.

Latinos are assimilating, but in their own way, keeping much of their identity. Tamales at Christmas. Turkey and menudo at Thanksgiving. English at work and Spanish at home. Dual loyalties to the San Diego Chargers and Guadalajara Chivas. The Fourth of July. Cinco de Mayo.

“Latinos are ending the concept of the proverbial racial salad,” wrote renowned journalist and writer Jorge Ramos in his book, “The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Are Transforming Politics in America.”

The big difference between European and Latino immigrants, according to Ramos and some sociologists, is that Hispanics live next to their countries of origin, allowing them to maintain ties with their family, culture and language.

In addition, there exists today an extensive network of Spanish-language media.

“Culturally, Latinos are never going to totally assimilate. Latinos are creating their own space in this country. And the characteristics of Hispanic culture are changing forever the face of the nation,” Ramos wrote.

This phenomenon plays out each day in the home of Cristóbal Castro, a naturalized U.S. citizen and son of a “bracero” who migrated to the United States in the middle of the last century to work.

“It is going to be very difficult to assimilate, at least for the first generation. What there is is a negotiation,” he said. “There will be things that we accept, like the manner of dress or the education here, and things that we don’t, like kicking your children out of the house when they turn 18, like ‘gringos’ do.”

Latinos’ tendency to cling onto their culture has led them to gradually redefine the American identity.

Assimilation, according to Tomás Jiménez, a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego, “no longer means you have to disown your culture and adopt a new lifestyle identified with Anglo-Protestant culture.”

In an essay published in the Los Angeles Times, Jiménez said that due to Latinos, “multiculturalism and the appreciation of diversity are much more accepted than before.”

Defining assimilation is as complex as reforming immigration laws.

Can you speak Spanish and be assimilated? Do you have to like hamburgers more than grilled steak tacos? When can you say you have achieved assimilation?

“It is not easy to define,” confessed Ira Mehlman of the anti-immigrant organization FAIR (Federation for American Immigration Reform). Many Americans resent the fact that Hispanics insist on speaking Spanish and maintaining ties with their countries of origin, he said.

“But I would say that (assimilation) is when someone feels American,” he said. “And to me, people that march, yelling, ‘Nosotros somos América’ (We are America), waving the flags of other countries, are not assimilated.”

Richard Rodríguez, a writer who has published various books about the adaptation of Latinos to U.S. culture, said that assimilating is absorbing the individuality of the United States, and that this is precisely what Hispanics are doing.

“The reality is that the country is becoming more Mexican, and that everything is changing, our food, customs, music and religion,” Rodríguez said. “As Latinos continue incorporating themselves into society, Americans feel they have to learn fragments of Spanish. And there will be weddings, hatred, friendship, solidarity, curiosity and competition.”

What’s certain is that many Latinos live with one foot in each culture, and that they flow like water from one side to the other, something you can see each time the Mexican national soccer team faces the United States in the fiercest sporting rivalry in North America.

Ricardo Castro, brother of Cristóbal and also a naturalized U.S. citizen, said he considers himself 100 percent Mexican. But he could sit and watch the soccer game calmly, he said, because he had no fear of losing.

“I knew that my country was going to win,” he said. “And effectively it won, because for me it was either of the two.”

Related Articles:

The Idiomatic 'Ghetto'

Why I Want to be a Puerto Rican

Immigration < NAM Category

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User Comments

Nora Velasquez on Jul 31, 2007 at 14:11:48 said:

The LAW and JUSTICE are not the same. The laws of the USA must change and will change with time.

Nora Velasquez
The New Immigrant

Scott on Jul 30, 2007 at 14:43:37 said:

It is said that there is this RACE problem. Everybody says this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

The Netherlands and Belgium are as crowded as Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.

Everybody says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to "assimilate," i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

How long would it take anyone to realize I'm not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn't object to this?

But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

Daves on Jul 30, 2007 at 11:00:38 said:

It is still a felony to aid and abet an illegal alien. If some honest men and women, in law enforcement, would go after the lowlifes in the government, business and the general population that have been aiding and abetting them, by the time they had enough of a handle on it to raise their heads from the job and look around I don't think many illegal aliens would still be left. We don't need any new laws to do this either. Just some honest men and women that take their oaths of office seriously! Finding them is the first step! Federal Immigration and Nationality Act Section 8 USC 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv)(b)(iii) "Any person who . . . encourages or induces an alien to . . . reside . . . knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such . . . residence is . . . in violation of law, shall be punished as provided . . . for each alien in respect to whom such a violation occurs . . . fined under title 18 . . . imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both." Section 274 felonies under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, INA 274A(a)(1)(A): A person (including a group of persons, business, organization, or local government) commits a federal felony when she or he: * assists an alien s/he should reasonably know is illegally in the U.S. or who lacks employment authorization, by transporting, sheltering, or assisting him or her to obtain employment, or * encourages that alien to remain in the U.S. by referring him or her to an employer or by acting as employer or agent for an employer in any way, or * knowingly assists illegal aliens due to personal convictions.

Hire U.S. citizen taxpayer workers and pay a reasonable, living wage with benefits and then your business will run smoothly. Employers need to start to look over their shoulder from now on, because THE PEOPLE are watching.

As a citizen of this country and a patriot, use your eyes and ears to detect suspicious circumstances in your work-place or elsewhere. It really is your duty as an American to report illegal aliens who are working on a stolen or otherwise fraudulent I.D, especially in large corporations, factories or other work-sites. You can help to save the jobs of U.S. citizens. Our internal Immigration enforcement like (ICE) should be contacted. Be a whistleblower and save America from the silent invasion. This phenomena is not going away, unless we do our part?

Anonymous on Jul 28, 2007 at 14:30:05 said:

Don't the fools who run this site know that "gringo" is a racist insult? Will they publish articles that refer to Mexicans as "beaners?" I bet not. It's all in one direction with illegals who plan to turn our nation into Mexico-lite getting their say and way.

legalatina on Jul 28, 2007 at 10:13:58 said:

What the national Council of La RAZA fails to acknowledge is that millions of Americans of Latino heritage are NOT of Mexican ancestry and DO NOT want AMERICA to become more \"Mexican\". I\'ve never had a tamale in my life, nor does anyone in my family celebrate Cinco De MAYO. The NCLR again shows its arrogance and its true agenda: pushing for special rights, etc. of MEXICAN nationals and Mexican AMericans. OTher Latinos are fully assimilated and at a much higher rate. We aren\'t trying to make the U.S. cater to us....we are much better than that.

NoVA mom on Jul 28, 2007 at 06:35:21 said:

So - "expanding the news lens through ethnic media" - means to show your complete bias to law breakers? FAIR - is not an "anti-immigrant" group as printed in the article. Let's try anti-ILLEGAL immigrant... It is all about the law here people. You can not be 100% Mexican (or any other country) AND be American. If you are American - you love America period. To become a citizen you are supposed to renounce all ties to your former country. What is going on now - is destroying America. Wake up people!

chuck curtis on Jul 27, 2007 at 12:54:49 said:

In some ways, all countries engaged in illegal immigration lose. America inherits the violence of Central America via MS-13. Hispanics get bottom of the barrel jobs without benefits. Mexico loses her best and brightest to immigration. Drugs flow into the U.S. and American drug payments support corrupt narco-governments in Mexico.

William Russell on Jul 27, 2007 at 10:16:43 said:

I am 72 and live in Pennsylvania. However, I was born and raised in California, where we were always proud of the state's hispanic heritage. New communities, streets and neighborhoods were given spanish names. We considered that part of our culture. During the 1950s and 60s more people were moving in from eastern and midwestern states thus changing the culture to more anglo. During the 1980s and 1990s, when I would visit California, I noticed a change to the California I had known as a child and probably to a cultural setting of the 1920s.




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