By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, October 14, 2013

History Mocks Our Immigration Myths

In some European countries--think of Britain as an example, people complain about foreign immigration, as they have done for decades now. It seemed odd to me that an island that went out of its way to conquer India and large parts of Africa would be surprised at the presence of these peoples in British neighborhoods. Gee, you went pretty far away to take over their lives.

In our own country, the complaints are even more ironic. At least, no part of Britain was originally part of an Asian or African nation. But, in the U.S., large parts of our country--mostly the West--were explored and owned by Spain and later by Mexico as Spain's successor. In addition, Florida was part of Spain until purchased by the U.S. in 1819. We still have Puerto Rico which was conquered from Spain in 1898. So, is it really a surprise that large parts of the West are today very Mexican or that southern Florida (so close to Cuba) is so Hispanic or that there are so many Puerto Ricans in New York?

If you want homogeneity, then don't conquer or buy up territories that were settled by another culture or remain very closely located to the sources of that original culture. But it is a silly form of sour grapes to complain that the neighborhood you took away from another does not look like your old neighborhood. Either don't take over another neighborhood or just give it back. Or, even better, learn to accept and enjoy the diversity of the human family of which we are all a part.

This quote reminded me of the situation I describe above:

"Americans today automatically associate Hispanics with immigration. That reflex omits one fact: part of the reason Hispanic culture remains so influential in the United States is that America absorbed large sections of the former Spanish colonial empire and, by so doing, effectively entered the Spanish-speaking world, not the other way around."

Source: Nadeau & Barlow, The Story of Spanish (St. Martin's Press, 2013), p. 237.

The further irony about discomfort over Hispanic immigration is that large numbers of Hispanics are of significant and visible Native American ancestry--a group that had it all a long time ago and was marginalized and isolated in most of the U.S.

(Image of San Diego de Alcala Mission, San Diego, California, founded in 1769, under GNU License)