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Hispanic Challenge Harvard Prof Gets Flak for Hispanic Theory Who `We' Are; Latino Immigration Follows Familiar Pattern
Hispanic Challenge To U.S.
John C. Bersia
March 1, 2004
As America grapples with the rapidly changing, confusing and contentious world of the 21st century, analysts offering guidance -- Samuel Huntington, the famed Harvard University scholar, among them -- abound.
And now Huntington, no stranger to controversy as a result of his projections a decade ago about the coming clash of civilizations, has weighed in with a particularly provocative set of observations that he terms the "Hispanic challenge."
Huntington writes, in an issue of Foreign Policy that will reach newsstands this week (also available at www.for eignpolicy.com), that "the persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves -- from Los Angeles to Miami -- and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril." The article draws from Huntington's forthcoming book, Who are We.
It is certainly no secret that most of the tens of millions of Hispanics residing in the United States -- a hugely diverse group -- cling to the traditions of their native lands, from language to lifestyles, from religion to music, from clothing to food.
But is that not also the case for dozens of other immigrant groups that have journeyed to this nation during the centuries?
Whether they hail from China or Haiti, Ireland or Italy, to name only a few examples, have immigrants not tended to cluster into communities -- especially in large urban areas -- and carried on with practices that remind them of home, even as they grow accustomed to American traditions?
And have they not made contributions, large and small, that have blended new strength into the national fabric?
Moreover, has U.S. culture not seen itself change in response to immigrant influences, in some respects as significantly as the American way of life has seeped into the newcomers?
At least, those have been my impressions.
Huntington, though, quickly raises a rhetorical hand. While acknowledging the contributions of past immigrant groups that "modified and enriched the Anglo-Protestant culture of the founding settlers," he hastens to add that the nature of Hispanic immigration -- notably from Mexico -- is altogether different.
He argues that Mexicans enjoy unique access to the United States because of that nation's proximity and a relatively porous border; that Mexicans move to America in mind-boggling numbers, accounting for nearly a third of the foreign-born U.S. population; that illegal immigrants expand the ranks of Mexicans here by a hotly debated amount somewhere in the millions; that Mexicans and other Hispanics tend to concentrate in specific locations such as California, Florida and New York, leading to disproportional impact that can only expand because of the ongoing influx and fertility rates exceeding those of natives; that the waves of Mexican immigrants, unlike the trends of other groups over time, show no signs of subsiding; and that Mexicans can and do assert a historical claim to U.S. territory.
Huntington ultimately decides that irreconcilable differences between Mexican immigrants and the American experience will reduce incentives for cultural assimilation and prove divisive over time. He concludes as strongly and provocatively as he begins, indicating that "there is no Americano dream. There is only the dream created by the Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican-Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English."
Harvard Prof Gets Flak for Hispanic Theory
By MARTIN FINUCANE, Associated Press Writer
March 1, 2004
BOSTON - A Harvard professor whose theory on the "clash of civilizations" became prominent after Sept. 11 is drawing fire with a new thesis that Hispanics are not assimilating into the U.S. mainstream, creating the possibility of a nation of "two peoples, two cultures and two languages."
Samuel P. Huntington, chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, said the trend could forecast "the end of the America we have known for more than three centuries."
"Americans should not let that change happen unless they are convinced that this new nation would be a better one," he writes in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine.
Huntington argues that immigration from Mexico is different from other immigration waves for a variety of reasons, including Mexico's proximity to the United States and the sheer scale of legal and illegal immigration from that country.
"Demographically, socially and culturally, the 'reconquista' (re-conquest) of the Southwest United States by Mexican immigrants is well under way," he writes. "This trend could consolidate the Mexican-dominant areas of the United States into an autonomous, culturally and linguistically distinct, and economically self-reliant bloc within the United States."
Critics pounced on the theory.
"This is really sad because this is the kind of thing we expect from xenophobes," said Rodolfo O. de la Garza, a professor at Columbia University, adding Huntington's analysis "has just gone nuts."
Gabriela Lemus, policy director at the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Hispanic immigration to the United States during the 1990s was "really phenomenal," and rejected Huntington's assumption the immigrants had come to "divide and conquer."
"I do believe that, while we may not be assimilating at the same rates as we have in the past, little by little we are assimilating," she said.
Huntington's 1996 book, "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order," received wide attention after the Sept. 11 attacks with a theory that global politics would be dominated by "the clash of civilizations," raising the specter of a Western civilization headed for conflict with other cultures like Islam.
Huntington was out of the country and wouldn't be commenting until his new book, "Who We Are," is published, said his assistant, Beth Baiter.
A spokeswoman for Simon & Schuster Inc. didn't immediately return a message seeking comment. Neither did a spokesman for Harvard.
Who `We' Are; Latino Immigration Follows Familiar Pattern
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
March 9, 2004
Samuel P. Huntington's sociological tome, "Who We Are," has yet to arrive in the bookstores, but already it is generating more than its share of controversy in book columns and on op-ed pages. Given that the "we" the Harvard professor aspires to define is America, one of the most culturally diverse amalgams of humans on Earth, vigorous debate was virtually guaranteed.
At issue is Mr. Huntington's warning that the recent influx of Hispanics may create a culture of two peoples with two languages. At stake, he says, is the "core Anglo-Protestant culture" that underlies the national character.
The two-culture scenario has played out right next door in Canada, so the theory cannot be ruled out absolutely. However, history suggests it is risky to predict that America as we know it is in danger of being culturally submerged by newcomers.
For more than two centuries, immigrants representing hundreds of national, ethnic and racial groups have assimilated but, thankfully, have not disappeared. The melting pot contains not a homogenized "American" puree, but a stew of diverse, distinct and mostly complementary flavors - as the cultural richness of communities such as Worcester attests.
Although the pot threatens to froth over with the addition of each new group, ultimately each has added its own cultural spice to the mix. Pasta, bagels, kielbasa and tacos have become as American as apple pie.
Moreover, it is misleading to speak of "Hispanics" as a cohesive, monolithic group. Language may be a common bond, but there are many substantial differences among, say, migrant workers in the Southwest, Cuban-Americans in Florida, economic refugees from South America and American citizens from Puerto Rico.
Some generalities can be made about the American character, certainly, and periodic debates about national values have a reinvigorating effect. However, attempts to define a single American "we" are apt to be futile.