Mexicans in America

Linked with Richard Rodriguez – USA.

Published on CATO unbound, by Richard Rodriguez, Lead Essay, August 14th, 2006.

2 Excerpts: Some years ago, with the publication of my first book, I became notorious in certain American academic quarters for my opposition to bilingual education and my celebration of assimilation—the child’s coming to think of himself as belonging within a society of strangers. I retain my belief in the necessity of a common American culture. But I am lately appalled by voices raised in this country against Mexican migrant workers.

Americans have tended to abrogate to economists the question of the costs and the benefits of illegal immigration. But, surely, beyond how much Betsy Ross is willing to pay for a head of lettuce, there is the question of morality, there is the question of Mexico. How much of Mexico are we willing to take within our borders? I believe the question might better be asked of a theologian, than an economist.

Mexico is a society formed by an incursion into the New World of the Spanish Catholic counter-reformation. America is a society formed by the flight from England of low-church Protestants. Mexicans are a cynical people, you will find—sweet, but cynical. Their cynicism derives from the notion of Original Sin and the sense that humans fail inevitably. Mexicans are patient with this knowledge, charmingly so in some instances (lard, beer), dangerously so in other instances, as when Mexicans tolerate civic corruption. It is no coincidence that Mexican border towns have become the fiefdoms of drug lords …

… I think no other children of poverty hear—on poisonous talk radio, even from the floor of the Congress—what the children of parents illegally in the United States are forced to hear. The contribution of illegal lives is never counted—never—as praise or admiration or courage or virtue of any kind. It is as though America, having benefited from illegal labor, pretends that the transaction was one of middle-class benevolence. Mexicans should be thankful for a month of cheerless eight-hour shifts, standing there waiting for the old lady to get off the commode. The odd thing is that they are thankful!

As I watched the proliferation of mass demonstrations across the country last spring, I noticed nuns and priests; lots of comic sombreros. I saw Mexican flags—a typical, humorous Mexican thing to do, to wrap yourself in the flag of Mexico, in order to insist on your desire to remain in the United States. I noticed families principally, parents and their children.

It was the first time I had seen the children of illegality demanding that the United States show respect for their parents. It was the first time I had seen illegal parents, standing fearlessly in public with their children. I tell you it was a momentous time in the history of the Americas. I hope you saw it. (full text).

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