I saw some info from the US Census the other day. Interesting fact about Hispanics. Between 1995 and 2025, Hispanics will make up 44% of the growth in the USA.
What does this mean for Hispanics and the USA? Despite what people believe, we both need each other. Granted, while Spanish and Mexican people have been in what is now the USA since the 1500's, the huge influx of Hispanics over the last 30 years has been a challenge for the country. As prior immigrants have gone through biased and sometimes violent reactions by the established majority, a lot of the anti-illegal attitudes have spilled over into anti-immigrant or anti-Hispanic attitudes. Changes of populations with different languages and customs have always had to deal with unpleasant realities from the majority.
The Italians had to deal with being called WOPS. This stood for Without Official Papers. Many didn't have their papers in the 1910's when they arrived on Ellis Island that some were labeled that way. The Irish had to deal with signs outside businesses declaring "Irish need not apply" They were as white as can be, but they had to deal with an anti-Catholic bias in a majority Protestant Christian country. The Chinese had to deal with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Of course, Americans of African descent were brought over as property and put to use as slave labor.
So now, the question is how will Hispanics grow into the country's social fabric? Will we follow the older model of integration, the "Melting Pot" style? This meant giving up all prior foreign languages and learning the new American ways to become American. For example, while 60 million Americans of German descent have entered the country since the 1880's less than 1 million speak German in the home, according to the 2000 Census.
Another theory of assimilation has been called the "Salad Bowl" style. That meant that while new immigrants come in, they still keep their language and not assimilate as complete as before. We keep our language and our customs, never truly integrating.
From what I can see, I think that more and more Hispanics will follow the "Melting Pot" style but with a twist. I see Hispanics in the Armed Forces, in business, in politics, everywhere. Yes, we have a lot of Hispanics that can watch TV in Spanish and listen to the radio in Spanish every day, and frankly, not have to be ingrained into the larger American society. But we don't live in La Republica Mexicana, we don't live in Guatemala. Hispanics have come here for economic opportunity and more political freedom. As time goes on, it is crucial that we learn English, learn the history of the country, learn about American Civics.
But I think that it will take a lot of time to become as integrated as let's say, the Germans before us. The "Melting Pot" twist is that we will integrate, but due to our numbers, we will change the flavor of the stew, so to speak. For example, salsa has passed over ketchup as the most popular condiment, more children today, non-Hispanics included speak Spanish. Many non-Hispanics buy a pinata for the backyard birthday party, sometimes with crazy results! Ha Ha.
I, like many other Hispanics are proud to be an American but equally proud to be bilingual, even if my Spanish might not be as refined as the Mexican Ambassador to the US. We, like taking some fresh slices of Jalapeno pepper and dropping it into the melting pot stew will add our own flavor. It will change the nature of the USA, but non-Hispanic Americans should not be afraid. We did not come here to start La Reconquista. Despite what some few paranoids Anglos would say, we do not want to turn the American Southwest into the Mexican Northwest. We love this country. We are part of the armed forces, economy, workforce and becoming a larger part of society. To be fair, however, as stated before, it is crucial that we learn the English language, and learn the economic and political history of our country.
It's no weird twist of fate as how the USA became the most sucessful economic and political country in the world. Those crucial items should never change.
So, as we go so the country goes. It is crucial not only for ourselves but for our country to be as involved, educated, successful and ingrained into the society as possible. I say we should never forget our Hispanic past, but look forward towards our American future.