This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Evolution of the Hispanic in America: A Geo Cultural Perspective
Waldorf 2 Aaron Waldorf Melanie House Theatre 367 19 May 2006
Evolution of the Hispanic in America: A Geo Cultural Perspective America is a country whose history is rooted deeply in the plight of the immigrant. Created by exiles from Western Europe, America was a nation for and by the immigrants, its doors open to all who would wish to relocate for a better life. Well, almost everyone. Beginning with the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to our very own anti – immigration legislation today, who can and cannot cross the border has been hotly debated1. Immigration politics have and always will be at the forefront of domestic issues. In this paper I will provide statistical information on the current presence, population, and status of these migrants. I will also review the history of immigration in America and discuss what lessons can be learned from it. In doing so, I hope that you the reader will be able to make opinions of your own on which direction the United States should take. I will provide commentary throughout the essay, however but remain neutral in all areas until the final discussion. This paper is divided into three main sections: Density, growth, and geography; impact on communities and countries of origin; and illegal immigration past & present. Using the information that I have presented, I hope we can answer the question, “What is the outcome of immigration on America?”
Waldorf 3 Density, Growth, and Geography In order to understand the current immigrant situation I must first establish a sense of continuity in thinking about numbers. The difference between one and one thousand is like a puddle versus a pond. Immigrants have historically been concentrated in large cities, often termed “transitional points” or “gateways”2. Several reasons for living in these cities exist. One advantage is that gateway cities tend to always have work available for immigrants when they come over. Foreigners, even those not speaking the native tongue, can find occupancy hauling goods, driving trucks, and working in factories at wages lower than any national would except. Large cities also tend to have immigrant communities. Inside these communities native languages are spoken and traditions followed. Immigrants who typically live in this kind of communities are unlikely to want to move, and thus a community grows3. A framework of support is furnished by members of the community to support incoming immigrants and begin the assimilation process. With increasing population however, occurs increasing density. Property in the city can be very expensive, and immigrants send most of whatever money they have back to their country of origin. Thus, many will pack themselves tightly into single rooms, often sharing spaces with other families, in order to cut down cost4. When this type of crowding occurs, it is able to influence families to seek out new locations, even ones away from the comfortable arms of the community5. The most crowded of all communities is that of the Hispanic immigrant community. The Hispanic minority is currently the largest minority in America, numbering 41.3 million at last count, and it is estimated that they will take the majority by the year 20306. It doesn’t help that most of this population has arrived within the last
Waldorf 4 sixty years. Combine this with the fact that the Latino community is more likely to retain their native language and values than any other minority, and what results is a big communication problem7. The consequence of this is that a large portion of the native Latino population, legal and otherwise, is hesitant to integrate into American Society. Latinos tend not to participate in politics, and have far less voter turnout than members of other ethnic groups. Their inability to read or write in English, as well as low average household wage may be the cause of this lack of interest8. These factors have led to the forming of the nickname, “sleeping giant”, in describing the Hispanic electorate. Location also plays a factor in the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. Most immigrants come from relatively nearby locations than other, non – Hispanic immigrants, such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba9. These countries are merely a train hop or a boat ride away, allowing immigration to be relatively short and inexpensive. These conditions may influence some families to cross over that might not have done so if it were an ocean that needed to be crossed. The countries of origin for Hispanics are neighboring America, but this does not explain why the members of these countries immigrate in the first place. What tends to be the case is that migrants are not making enough money in their current situation and are lured by promises of better work to be found in America10. These promises come from a variety of interesting sources as I will talk about later in this paper. Over crowding, intolerance, and family reunion are other common reasons11. Often, the target for these immigrants is wherever work is available. In the past, areas concentrated with factories and farms were a major attraction for migrants looking for work. These areas were located in the west and southwest of America. Due to the abundance of work and
Waldorf 5 proximity to the border, cities in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico became the new “Latin American Destination”. A shift in these populations began as the meat packing industry introduced the practice of hiring migrant workers. In the last several years, foreign born Hispanic populations in the south have grown 300%, included an astounding 2000%+ growth in Tennessee12! Evidence shows that as Latinos are more exposed to American culture, they tend to venture farther and farther into what was once European dominated areas.
Impact on Communities and Countries of Origin Emigration to a new country can be a taxing ordeal. There is the matter of leaving the country in the first place, then finding passage to the new country. After what can be months of voyaging, the new immigrants will arrive on the shores of a country which does not speak their language or share their customs. This voyage can be easier if done with a supportive family; however due to the cost of emigration it is common for only one member to make the trip and send money back to support the rest at home. This new immigrant, with little language proficiency and no knowledge of the surrounding area, has come to depend on the local immigrant community13. Communities crop up in all major gateway cities as essential tools for incoming foreigners of a variety of backgrounds. Some are famous, like China Town and Little Italy, others are hardly heard of, such as the Somalian community in Columbus. Members of the community act as the family support system for those who left their relatives in the old country. Immigrants who live in these communities are less likely to assimilate into the culture of the state, rather choosing to retain their language and
Waldorf 6 traditions. This retention occurs more often in Hispanic communities than any other immigrant communities in America14 Due to this culture and language retention, a barrier has been formed that separates foreign born Hispanics from the main population of America. This separation has served to create the aforementioned “sleeping giant”15. This barrier has been falling recently however, as more Hispanics are integrating and participating in society. Recently, a major rally was conducted by Hispanics and Hispanic Americans protesting the recently proposed immigration bill. A New York Times Columnist wrote that the rally more resembled a parade than a march, with Latin music and signs displaying “I am America.”16 Traditionally, immigrants have been attracted to American through lucrative job prospects17. Lucrative in this sense is of course a relative word. Many of the countries from which immigrants come have poor labor markets or wages, or are in a season of turmoil and cannot feed all their inhabitants. Thus immigrants will take the worst of jobs with below normal wages. This trend is not a new one. America was built on immigrant labor, from its railroads to construction buildings18. The foreign born worker has played a crucial role throughout history in performing laborious tasks. Some businesses will even recruit potential immigrants in their very own countries. The meat packing industry has done extensive recruitment in Latin countries to house its many plants peppered across the southern United States. Industries like meat packing prefer Hispanic immigrants because they are reported to have good work ethic and little political voice19. With such a dependence on incoming foreigners, America tends to mix its foreign policy with domestic policy20. Mexico and America have always been on shaky terms. From the Alamo and the Spanish American War to alleged ties to Nazi Germany in World
Waldorf 7 War II, these border countries have had and interesting past. Recently however efforts are being made to bridge the gap between the two nations. In Mexico, the Program for Mexican Communities Living in Foreign Countries (PMCLFC) has been established to care for its citizens as they journey back and forth across the border. Talks between the presidents of the two countries have increased, and foreign immigration policy has began to include negotiation between both sides. Each nation has something to gain from immigration. America needs immigrants for labor, and Mexico needs them to emigrate for incoming cash flow. Hispanic immigrants send approximately thirty billion dollars a year back to their home countries21. This partnership has brought PMCFLC and immigration policy to the domestic front.
A History of Immigration America began on July 4th, 1776. It was a nation founded by immigrants. All members of the government and those who called themselves Americans had immigrated, and for various reasons22. Most included religious persecution, lack of work, or famine. These new Americans quickly became arrogant however, and began to declare the land as their own and not welcome to others who wished to follow. Within twenty years of its inception, America had become a sort of club for the elite and wealthy. In 1798 the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed giving the president, who at the time was Thomas Jefferson, the power to expel “dangerous” foreigners. This effectively made Jefferson into a political “Ripley”, expelling aliens as he saw fit. Things didn’t change much in the 1800s. The invention of the locomotive created a need for thousands of workers to lay track that would eventually span the nation. These
Waldorf 8 workers were imported from Ireland, Poland, and in the West, China. So many Chinese were imported to work on the railroads that law makers eventually passed a law to stem the flow. This law was called the Chinese Exclusion Act, and was created in 188223 As America continued to grow, and immigration was increasing with parallel force, more laws were enacted to further scrutinize who could and could not cross the border. The motto “give us your sick, tired, and hungry” was meeting increased stipulations, including the ban of lunatics and communists! It would take until much later, 1965 in fact, for these bans to be lifted24. Immigrants also began to be labeled either “good” or “bad”25. In the 1800s, German immigrants were seen as good and the Irish as bad. At the turn of the century, Polish immigrants were bad and the Jews were good. Even today, Asian immigrants are seen as good and the Hispanic immigrants as bad. Groups formed in the 1890s, including the Immigration Restriction League, which called for a closing of the gates. They called themselves “restrictionists”, and claimed that immigration was bad for America. This occurred despite corporate efforts to recruit increasingly more immigrants for work in livestock and machinery companies. Hispanic immigration has its origins in 1942 with the Bracero Program, a secret government project designed to quell the labor shortage caused by World War II26. Mexican immigrants were recruited and brought over to work in the empty factories to support the war effort and Americans at home. When the war was finished and the work completed, many immigrants continued to stay in the United States, feeding money to their families back home. The population was virtually ignored until 1965 when the families of US citizens were allowed to immigrate the states, causing a rapid upsurge in the number of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. Soon, Spanish and Asian families were
Waldorf 9 pouring into all the major US cities, creating communities and districts entirely of their own. This was probably the largest family reunion in history! Acts continued to pass, including the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which issued fines to employers of illegal immigrants and granted amnesty to all those currently in the country27. This amnesty is what allowed Hispanic families to leave the gateway cities and venture out into the Midwest, no longer afraid of deportation. Twenty years later, migration rates are higher than ever and talks of fences and border security abound. As Bernard Weisberger says about immigration complaints in his American Heritage article, “It is well to remember that every single one of them has been heard before28.”
Conclusion Controversy over immigration has always centered on the question “is immigration good or bad?” Conservative journalist Pete Wilson writes that illegal immigration does damage to the United States by importing uneducated, unskilled workers29. He claims that illegals keep wages low and negatively affect other, legal workers. California politicians, he says, have won or lost campaigns depending on their stance on illegal immigration. Other conservatives, such as the Hispanic Evangelicals, while opposed to illegal immigration in principle, do not believe that such harsh actions as patrols and fences should be taken, and that instead compassionate action is required for illegals currently in country30 This stance on immigration separates Hispanic Evangelicals from their fellow churches, and is just one of many instances where the Hispanic community has began to use its voice.
Waldorf 10 Theatre has historically been used as an outlet for political speech. Luis Valdez used his play “Zoot Suit” to outline the struggles of World War II Hispanics in western America31. The main character in “Zoot Suit” is attempting to make something of himself in a world where his lifestyle, the zoot suiters lifestyle, has been criminalized. The play itself was a joint creation between Valdez and Cesar Chavez in an attempt to organize Hispanic farm workers in California. Several years later, in 1991, actor John Leguizamo brought his one man show “Mambo Mouth” to the American stage32. With “Mambo Mouth”, Leguizamo satirizes all the stereotypes associated with Hispanics, including being gang members or sex happy lunatics. He pokes fun at the American impression that Asian immigrants were the “good” ones and that Hispanics should be more like them. While funny, the point of “Mambo Mouth” is driven home, and Latin stereotypes begin to fall apart. It is due to the work of these men as well as many others that the Latin voice is being heard. History, such as discussed earlier in this paper, is prone to being repeated. Throughout the existence of America, a similar debate has been waged about immigration. It is only the ethnicity of the minorities that change. Without the efforts of millions of immigrants, America would not be in the state of growth that it is today. All of our cities, railroads, services, and unique culture would be lacking in their absence. Other nations have dealt with mass immigration as well, such as Brazil, Canada, and Argentina33. This is not a new topic, and it will probably never get old.
Waldorf 11 Discussion: An Ecological Perspective Let’s step back a minute and view this debate from a different angle. The world contains approximately 6 billion human beings at last count. Birth rates increase as the population increases, accelerating human growth on an exponential scale. With no solid plan for population control, the world is set on a path for human over population. Symptoms of this can already be seen in areas of Africa and Asia where birth control use is low, prostitution high, and sex education unheard of. Disease and starvation is common in this parts, as well as poverty and violence. This occurs because as the population grows, the earth beneath us does not, and we are forced to share our land and resources with each new generation. Now in order to prevent overpopulation a country can close its borders to the outside, but this is only temporary. I compare it to the story of the Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dike. Eventually, that whole dam is going to split and the country will be flooded with immigrants. I see the immigration issue as part of the wider problem of over population. The United States can build the highest fences and staff the border with the baddest patrol officers, but it still will not be enough to stop illegal immigration. New holes will spring everywhere, like a leaky basement, and before she knows it Lady Liberty will become bilingual. It is inevitable, and America would do well to prepare. In closing, I say to the powers that be, if they wish to plan for the long term, they should concentrate their efforts on population, not border, control; for if we are to do anything with all this recorded history, it is to learn from our mistakes.
Weisberger, Bernard A. “A Nation of Immigrants.” American Heritage 45.1 (1994) 75 - 85 Winders, Jamie. “Changing Politics of Race and Region: Latino Migration to the US South.” Progress in Human Geography 29.6 (2005): 683 - 99 3 South, Scott. “Geographic Mobility and Spatial Assimilation Among U.S. Latino Immigrants.” International Migration Review 39.3 (2005): 577 - 607 4 see #3 5 see #2 6 “Inside America’s Largest Minority.” Time 22 Oct 2005: 56 7 Romo, Jaime. “Border Pedagogy From the Inside Out: An Autoethnographic Study.” Journal of Latinos and Education 4.3 (2005): 193-210 8 Schmidt, Ronald J. “Latino Politics in the 1990’s, a View from California.” Pursuing Power. Ed. Chris F. Garcia. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1997. 457-62 9 see #2 10 Archibold, Randal C. “For Latinos in the Midwest, a Time to be Heard.” NY Times 25 Apr 2006: A1, A22 11 de la Garza, Rodolfo O. “Foreign Policy Comes Home – Domestic Consequences of the Program for Mexican Communities Living in Foreign Countries.” Bridging the Border. Ed. Rodolfo O. de la Garza and Jesus Velasco. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997. 69-88 12 see #2 13 Gjerde, Jon. “New Growth on Old Vines: The Social History of Immigration to and Ethnicity in the United States.” Journal of American Ethnic History 18.4 (1999): 40-66 14 see #7 15 see #8 16 Swarns, Rachel L. “Growing Effort to Influence US Policy.” NY Times 11 Apr 2006: A1 and A17 17 see #13 18 see #1 19 see #2 20 see #11 21 see #6 22 see #1 23 Gerlach, David. “Patrolling the Border.” Newsweek 10 Apr 2006: 36 24 see #23 25 see #1 26 see #23 27 see #2 28 see #1 29 Wilson, Pete. “A Reckless Bill and Political Mythology.” National Review 58.7 (2006): 14-15 30 Religious News Service. “Hispanic Evangelical Leaders Part Ways with Traditional Stance on Immigration.” Christian Century 123.5 (2006): 15 31 Valdez, Luis. Zoot Suit and Other Plays. Houston, TX: Arte Pulico Press, 1992. 32 Leguizamo, John. “Mambo Mouth”. Melanie House Comp. The Ohio State University WebCT. March 2006. http://class.osu.edu/SCRIPT/theatre367_01sp2006farrelly/scripts/serve_home. 33 See #13
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.