I had lunch today at Sue's Fish and Chips in the heart of South Tucson and picked up La Estrella de Tucson to read while I was waiting for my food. The publication was all abuzz for the upcoming celebration of Diez y Seis de Septiembre (September 16th) - Mexico's Day of Independence. I couldn't help but smile.
You see, for the Mexican-American community here in the United States, we have two sets of history that tie into our ancestry. Despite the efforts of Nativists to try to eradicate all of our ties to our homeland down south, the Mexican cultura thrives here because it is an undeniable part of many Americans' identity. Mine obviously included.
Across the southwest U.S. and more than likely other places where a high concentration of our people are located, there will be Fiestas Patrias celebrated this weekend. La musica, la comida, y la amistad de la gente Mexicana will blaze brightly like the sun. It is something that can't be killed by legislation or pressure from the prevailing winds of the American media.
Awhile ago I wrote a story about Isidora, whom I admired as a young child as she warmed tortillas for the burrito booth at my hometown's fiestas. This coming Saturday and Sunday I will find myself looking upon the same stove that she hunched over as she worked diligently con una sonrisa (with a smile) for many hours to feed the best food to the warmest people. I can't wait.
This year has seen alot of waves in the ocean of tolerance in the United States. We saw the power of the people in the streets during the immigration marches of March and April and now we're seeing many instances of backlash from "staunch conservatives" as they try to rescue their country from supposed invasion and loss of "American" culture. I'll never understand how so much isolation mentally and emotionally can lead to such idiocy like this.
Proposition 103They are trying to stamp out all historical ties that Arizona has to Mexico. It is the ultimate exercise in projection - they think that if the spanish language and all that is tied up in our identity is allowed to flourish that we'll demand that it supplant "American" culture.
English must be designated the official language of the state of Arizona. President Theodore Roosevelt made the simple observation that "we have one language here and that is the English language." English has always been the primary means of assimilating millions of immigrants into American society. A common language promotes unity and understanding and is as vital to the health of a nation as having a common currency. Had our government catered to each new group of immigrants by using their language instead of English, there would never have been any incentive to truly become Americans. Arizonans must recognize these facts and require that all official government actions be conducted in English. By making English the official language, we also eliminate the wasteful spending used to translate millions of state documents into hundreds of languages, although other languages can still be used in a wide variety of key government functions such as trade and tourism. By making English the official state language we provide an even greater incentive for all immigrants to learn English, become empowered and productive citizens, and participate in society as full Americans.
Mexican-Americans have the ability to live bi-culturally, and allow me to be presumptive, but it certainly makes for a richer life. Who else can celebrate more than one Independence Day per year? :)
The biggest problem that we as a bi-cultural people face, however, is resisting the pressure put upon us by the dominant forces of East Coast-based policy making.
A few generations after families move to the U.S. from Latin American countries, fluency in Spanish dies out and English becomes the dominant language, according to a new paper published by sociology professors from New Jersey and California.That final figure makes me very sad because I'm one of those statistics (and sadly not one of the five in 100). My spanish is very limited and has come about more due to classroom instruction and random phrases used by family members than a constant exposure to the language of my ancestors. I've been working all summer to beef up on my ability to speak fluently, but it's because I feel an obligation to tie myself fully to roots. I fear that I am the exception rather than the norm, especially as I observe my circle of friends and family members of my generation.The paper counters popular arguments that the size of Latino immigration to the U.S. could create a bilingual society and a fundamental change in American culture.
The study suggests that Mexican immigrants arriving in Southern California today can expect only five out of every 100 of their great-grandchildren to speak fluent Spanish.
It's all bittersweet as the fall elections get closer and the anti-immigrant forces' rhetoric grows stronger. While people like Randy Graf or J.D. Hayworth feel a sense of obligation to "preserve" the United States against an invading force, people like me will just shrug our shoulders and spend the coming weekend listening to las rancheras del mariachi and participate in numerous Gritos del Pueblo to declare our undying orgullo for the roots that bring us a rich life.
They'll never be able to kill the spirit of the people that have deep roots in this land. Its power will never be touched. Confiéme - Trust me.
Part of the Una Identidad Sin Fronteras series, crossposted at Human Beams