Old Well: UNC Chapel Hill Campus

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Amigo stores no mas!


In a trend that should help ease anxiety that the good ole USA is becoming an extension of Mexico, Baldwin City, CA, even with its Hispanic majority, has turned down developer proposals to launch a shopping center with a “Latino feel.”  As Baldwin mayor Manuel Lozano put it, “We want what Middle America has as well.  We want to go to nice places like Claim Jumpers, Chilli’s and Applebees. We don’t want the fly-by-night business, the ‘amigo store,’ which they use to attract Latinos like myself” (“Latino Yes, but with New Tastes,” Latino News).  It’s a sentiment multiplied many times over in Latin communities across the country.  Following historical precedents of other immigrant groups, they want in.

Me, I’ve been pursuing the Spanish language over the years.  I like the people, their culture and language.  When you know another language, you gain access to a whole people.  And Spanish is everywhere these days in America. Still, I Iaugh at big business with their penchant to promote commerce via bilingual signs.  Do they really think  Hispanic immigrants will avoid shopping at Lowe’s if they don’t see entrada and salada on their sliding doors?  Asian and African immigrants don’t seem to have a problem.

I marvel too at the craze to teach Hispanic school children in their native language, which research indicates can actually hamper their acquiring a good grasp of the vernacular language, English, which they’ll need to achieve the American dream. 

For all immigrant groups, the truth is that their children do acquire the host language and prefer it in most scenarios.  By the third generation, the language of heritage is rarely spoken.  This is what happened in my own family.  Except for my Irish grandmother, my grandparents were French-speaking.  My own parents, however, didn’t speak a lick.  And here I am, trying to master Spanish rather than my heritage language.  That’s the way America works.

And I like it.  We assimilate.  New census data indicates we’re marrying each other in record numbers, too (“Interracial Marriages on the Rise,”  www.urbandigital.me).

I used to wonder when I subscribed to the Spanish version of Reader’s Digest, Selecciones (no longer in existence), why I’d see ads in English; same thing when tuning into Telemundo or Univision. Then I happened on a Hispanic news article explaining it’s done because so many of the younger generation actually use English as their primary language in school, at work, or when socializing.

I can believe this readily, being a baseball nut.  Increasingly, many of our big league ball players sport authentic sounding Hispanic names, take Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, for some examples.  Then, when you see them in an interview--hey, they talk just like you and me.  Their heritage may be Hispanic, but their daily life is American. 

Some of the older Hispanic population are troubled.  In Santa Ana, another California community with a largely Hispanic population, Ray Rangel, who runs a Mexican western wear store, laments the City Council:  “I’ll tell you one thing about the City Council. Before, when the council was more mixed, we could get along with them. Now that they’re all Latinos, we have more trouble getting things. They want the upscale, something more Anglo”  (“Latino Yes, but with New Tastes,” Latino News).

Council woman Marlen Garcia responds:  “We’re not against our culture, nothing like that. But we want something that speaks to every culture”  (“Latino Yes, but with New Tastes,” Latino News).

I like to think of this as an aspect of the American dream, or as in our country’s motto, e pluribus unam, “one out of many.” 

Amigo stores?  No algo mas!