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    Rio Grande Guardian > Guest Column > Story
checkGarcía: What you always wanted to ask a Hispanic but were afraid to
Last Updated: 27 April 2014
By Steve Taylor
Dr. Lino García, Jr.
EDINBURG, April 27 – Ever wondered why some Hispanics are sometimes apprehensive toward other cultures?

Answer: If the Hispanic individual is, say, over 50 years old or older, he/she probably had some negative experiences in dealing with other cultures, having not been exposed in the past to the diversity of today’s world. These negative experiences embedded in their psychological framework immediately trigger a defense mechanism.

Needless to say, those days are fast disappearing, and now all enjoy the benefits of instant messaging, a technology that allows us all to communicate our thoughts, and our feelings; thus creating a more open society in which all can mingle together as a community and make positive contributions to society. This is, indeed, good for everybody.

Question 2: Why do some old Hispanics have names like Pancracio, Wenceslavo, Sigifredo, Plutarco, and others have biblical names such as Isaías, Saúl, Josué, David, Eziquiel, Aaron, Israel, Ruth?

Answer: If such individuals were born in the early 20thcentury then their parents were still maneuvering during the last decades of the 19th Century when these names were somewhat popular, many times representing names of fathers, grandfathers, and thus honoring descendants with similar names. As for the biblical names, we must remember that many of the early South Texas settlers who came in with the colonizer Colonel José de Escandón y Helguera in 1749 were themselves part of the Sephardic (Jewish) culture, and many converted to Christianity before arriving on Texas soil. This is also reflected in many of Hispanic traditions, still prevalent in South Texas; such as “pan de semita,” the traditional candles at Christmas, the “quinceañera tradition” that presents a young lady to society; as well as certain customs of courting a young lady, as well as the work ethics, the frugality of Hispanics in this area, and strong family bonds.

Question 3: Why does one sometimes get a sharp look or angry response when Hispanics are called "Mexicans?”

Answer: There are a couple of good reasons for this reaction, and all seem valid. Let's start with the basic one: they are not rejecting the name, or ethnic classification, they are merely rejecting the sometimes harsh tone, an indication of non-acceptance. One must remember the old saying: "call me anything, but smile while doing it.” If the Hispanic is perhaps over 50 years, then she/he has probably being subjected to names like "dirty Mexican" or other such name calling of decades ago. Thanks to all of us we have passed that stage long ago. Also, Hispanics think of themselves as Americans and any indication otherwise places some of them in a defensive mold. In addition, Mexican applies to individuals living in our neighbor country of Mexico, and while nothing is perceived as being wrong with that, Hispanics in the USA have served the USA well for centuries, and like to receive credit for that. They are Americans, first and foremost. One does not anyone address or refer to Non-Hispanics as Irish, Scottish, English, Welsh, and thus, Hispanics sometimes resent being classified as Non-Americans of the USA.

Question 4: What is the ordinary Hispanics position on the immigration concern appealing to all citizens?

Answer: First of all, Hispanics have resided in the present Southwest USA soil for almost 500 years (1528-2014), that is close to five centuries, and this part of our USA soil is merely 166 years old (since 1845). That is to say, the Spanish Southwest existed for more years than the USA has itself. Hispanics did not come into this culture of the USA; other cultures did when a large segment of Non-Hispanics arrived in the Southwest after 1845 seeking fortune, and land.

Remember the old cliché "westward movement or how the West was won?” Well, it was already won by Hispanics in terms of settlements; Christianization of the Native Americans, and establishing many institutions now enjoyed by all. Having said that, it stands to reason that Hispanics look at the immigration issue with a different lens; a concern that America's obsession with the undocumented immigrant sometimes ignores or wishes not to understand. There is no more patriotic individual than the Hispanic soldier or sailor, proven by the 66 Medal of Honor earned, and by the Hispanic participation in all wars involving the USA beginning with the American Revolution of 1776.

One cannot expect that the Hispanic culture will be eradicated from the inner soul of Hispanics by merely living in this country; the language, ethnic pride, religion, traditions, customs, and other elements that make this community is now and has always been part of their essence. In addition, Hispanics are constantly merging with family in nearby Mexico, and other Spanish-Speaking countries, and so the nearness of Hispanic culture is not far away as it is for other Americans, who readily assimilate years ago. Yet we see assimilation all around us, merging constantly with the positive essence of the USA, while at the same time retaining positive elements of Hispanic culture; all of which is good for everyone.

In general the Hispanic individual views this issue in three categories:

a) The legal Issue: one must have respect for the laws of the USA, the undocumented immigrant has not follow the law, and for that he/she must be held accountable, be it with a fine, or community service, or something that addresses this concern.

b) The economic issue: American enterprise is in dire need of workers for the agriculture, construction, and service industries, without which many business would fail. Thus, the undocumented immigrant, whether from México, South America, Asia, or other places is in demand in certain areas of business.

c) The human issue: undocumented immigrants are, after all, humans seeking a better life, willing to work at all levels in order to survive, and feed families. The USA has always been a compassionate nation in this respect.

Possible solutions?

Register all undocumented immigrants via a federal registry, identify all here within this category, and then begin to deal piecemeal by piecemeal with this concern by: providing a work visa available for certain years during which time the individual would learn English, obey the laws of the USA, and then if cleared within a reasonable time allow him/her to apply for permanent residence by standing in back of the line like the rest of the applicants.

Let's keep in mind that we are talking about 11 or so million in this category, with half of them merely overstaying their permit; and so in a country of over three-hundred millions citizens, the undocumented merely represent about 0.03 percent of the total USA population.

Not to worry, Tejanos/Hispanics then living in Mexican administered Texas of the 1824 and before, felt similar anguish to see their state invades by Non-Hispanics, many of them also undocumented, but, you know what? Everyone survived!

Dr. Lino García, Jr., is Professor Emeritus of Spanish Literature at UTPA and a native of Brownsville, Texas. His columns appear regularly in the Guardian. He can be reached at: LGarcia@utpa.edu

Write Steve Taylor



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