EDITORIAL Lost in translation Perdido en la traducci

Ah, Mr. Huntington, you have much to learn.

Samuel P. Huntington, professor at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and chairman of the Harvard Academy of International and Area Studies, has caused controversy recently with the excerpts from his upcoming book Who We Are that were published in Foreign Policy magazine’s March/April issue.

According to Huntington, “the single and most immediate challenge” Americans face: Latin American immigration and “the fertility rates of these immigrants.” In his opinion, this threat might forever change American society into two cultures, Anglo and Hispanic, speaking two languages, English and Spanish.

Well, Mr. Huntington, wake up.

Things must look simple to you from your cozy Harvard office in well-to-do Cambridge, where you don’t meet that many Hispanic immigrants (or their children or grandchildren) every day, and where culture and social customs aren’t spiced up by Hispanic immigration – at least, not to the extent we see it in Miami.

From our standpoint in this Hispanic “enclave,” as you call it, there is no threat of a split in American society between Anglo-Protestants and Hispanics. For the most part, Hispanics and non-Hispanics live in harmony, taking the best aspects from both their cultures to create a diverse society with a distinctive flavor to it.

Huntington blames Hispanics for not “assimilating” into American language and culture. But today one can’t possibly expect the melting pot of immigration to exist as it did in the past, when immigrants were far away and isolated from their home countries, and so it was necessary for survival in their new country to learn English and American traditions as quickly as possible. Today, an immigrant has access to 24-hour news from his home country; he can stay in touch with his relatives, and he can even download the most popular music from back home. It makes sense for immigrants to stay more connected to their roots and “acculturate” rather than “assimilate,” as Business Week says in its March 15 article titled “Hispanic Nation.”

Yes, in many places, Hispanics have a lower income level, less education and higher fertility rates. Yet, anyone in Miami can see that they don’t “lack initiative and accept poverty” or have a “low work ethic,” as Huntington says. For example, according to Business Week, the number of Hispanic small business owners and entrepreneurs is rising, and Hispanics are becoming an influential force in politics.

Granted, the excerpt from Huntington’s book is only one of 12 chapters, and it concentrates more on Mexican immigration than that of other Hispanics (like Cubans in Miami), but several of his arguments apply to the entire Latino community.

Hispanic immigrants, like most immigrants who come to the United States, come because they’re attracted to its opportunities. Many do so for economic reasons, and, as Huntington says, Hispanic immigrants are different from other immigrants because their home countries tend to be much closer to the United States, thus making it easier for them to juggle two cultures rather than change to fit an American mold. When a Hispanic immigrant chooses to stay in the United States, to raise a family here, to pay taxes and, eventually, to become an American citizen, as many Hispanics have done in Miami, he is doing so because he is willing to give up his previous nationality to be a part of this country. In that sense, he is more of an American than anyone else, since he has chosen to be one.

After all, Mr. Huntington, you were simply lucky enough to be born here.

Immigration, in a way, is the sincerest form of flattery.

At UM, we are immensely lucky. We have an extremely diverse student body that allows us to meet people from all over the world, among them many Hispanics and Cuban Americans. Like the city that we’re in, we take the best from our different cultures and turn them into our own unique, eclectic mix. Where else would you find a university where Caribbean day is one of the best parties of the year, Salsa Craze is an extremely successful club (among Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike) and there is at least one international student in every class?

At the end of the excerpt, Huntington states, “There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.”

This sentence is harsh and unyielding, but some of us know better than to believe it. You see, some of us who are bi- and trilingual, Mr. Huntington, do something better than dream in English.

We dream in subtitles.

April 6, 2004


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

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