Esta página no está disponible en español.

The Americano Dream… Racists Will Love New 'Hispanic Threat' Book…

To Be Latino, And American

The Americano Dream


February 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

Samuel Huntington is one of the most eminent political scientists in the world. His essay "The Clash of Civilizations" set off an international debate, and now Huntington sees another clash of civilizations, this time within the United States.

"In this new era," he writes in his forthcoming book, "Who Are We," "the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially Mexico."

These new immigrants, he argues, are not like earlier immigrants. Many have little interest in assimilating. "As their numbers increase, Mexican-Americans feel increasingly comfortable with their own culture and often contemptuous of American culture," Huntington argues.

Instead of climbing the ladder of success, he says, Mexican and other Latino immigrants are slow to learn English. They remain in overwhelmingly Hispanic neighborhoods and regions and tend not to disperse, as other groups have. Their education levels, even into the fourth generation, are far below that of other groups. They are less likely to start companies or work their way up into managerial and professional jobs.

Most important, Huntington concludes, they tend not to buy into the basic American creed, which is the bedrock of our national identity and our political culture. "There is no Americano dream," Huntington writes, "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."

Obviously, Huntington is not pulling his punches. You can read an excerpt from the book in the new issue of Foreign Policy magazine at You'll find that Huntington marshals a body of evidence to support his claims. But the most persuasive evidence is against him. Mexican-American assimilation is a complicated topic because Mexican-Americans are such a diverse group. The educated assimilate readily; those who come from peasant villages take longer. But they are assimilating.

It's easy to find evidence that suggests this is so. In their book, "Remaking the American Mainstream," Richard Alba of SUNY-Albany and Victor Nee of Cornell point out that though there are some border neighborhoods where immigrants are slow to learn English, Mexicans nationwide know they must learn it to get ahead. By the third generation, 60 percent of Mexican-American children speak only English at home.

Nor is it true that Mexican immigrants are scuttling along the bottom of the economic ladder. An analysis of 2000 census data by the USC urban planner Dowell Myers suggests that Latinos are quite adept at climbing out of poverty. Sixty-eight percent of those who have been in this country 30 years own their own homes.

Mexican immigrants are in fact dispersing around the nation. When they have children, they tend to lose touch with their Mexican villages and sink roots here. If you look at consumer data, you find that while they may spend more money on children's clothes and less on electronics than native-born Americans, there are no significant differences between Mexican-American lifestyles and other American lifestyles. They serve in the military – and die for this nation – at comparable rates.

Frankly, something's a little off in Huntington's use of the term "Anglo-Protestant" to describe American culture. There is no question that we have all been shaped by the legacies of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. But the mentality that binds us is not well described by the words "Anglo" or "Protestant."

We are bound together because we Americans share a common conception of the future. History is not cyclical for us. Progress does not come incrementally, but can be achieved in daring leaps. That mentality burbles out of Hispanic neighborhoods, as any visitor can see.

Huntington is right that Mexican-Americans lag at school. But that's in part because we've failed them. Our integration machinery is broken. But if we close our borders to new immigration, you can kiss goodbye the new energy, new tastes and new strivers who want to lunge into the future.

That's the real threat to the American creed.  

To Be Latino, And American


February 28, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved.

To the Editor:

"The Americano Dream," by David Brooks (column, Feb. 24), is right on the mark.

As a priest, I've worked among Latinos for years and know that they are going through the same process of assimilation as the Italians, Irish, Poles and other ethnic groups since the founding of the Republic.

I've noticed that Latino children may speak Spanish at home but will speak English among themselves on the playground. When Latinos climb the economic ladder, they leave their ghettos and buy better houses elsewhere, mixing in with the rest of the population.

Latinos will be as American as the other citizens of this country. They're enlisting in the defense of this country, and dying for it.

As the son of an Italian family that has given this country doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, priests and statesmen, I am convinced that this country needs the fresh energies of Latinos and immigrants of all ethnic groups to keep America America.

Stone Park, Ill., Feb. 24, 2004

Racists Will Love New 'Hispanic Threat' Book



February 26, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

Racists in America must be having a field day: At long last, they have found a world-renowned intellectual -- Harvard's Academy for International and Area Studies Chairman Samuel Huntington -- to rationalize their resentment against America's rapidly growing Hispanic community.

Huntington, whose 1993 book The Clash of Civilizations was later credited for having foreseen the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, says in his forthcoming book Who We Are (Simon & Schuster) that the United States is threatened with national disintegration because of the soaring rate of Hispanic immigrants.

''The single most immediate and most serious challenge to America's traditional identity comes from the immense and continuing immigration from Latin America, especially from Mexico, and the fertility rates of these immigrants,'' writes Huntington, in excerpts of the book posted on the Foreign Policy magazine website .

''Will the United States remain a country with a single national language and a core Anglo-Protestant culture?'' Huntington asks. ''By ignoring this question, Americans acquiesce to their eventual transformation into two peoples with two cultures (Anglo and Hispanics) and two languages (English and Spanish.)'' The magazine website is

Before I tell you why I think this is pseudo-academic xenophobic rubbish, let's look at Huntington's supporting arguments: He says Mexican immigrants differ from other immigrants in that they are not assimilating into the U.S. mainstream culture, and that they may one day reclaim the territories that Mexico lost during U.S. military invasions in the 19th century.


He is alarmed by the fact that the ratings of Spanish-language television stations have surpassed those of English-language ones in Miami, that ''José'' has surpassed ''Michael'' as the most popular name for newborn boys in California, and that Mexican Americans cheer for Mexico in U.S. vs. Mexico soccer matches.

Huntington sees ''a major potential threat to the country's cultural and political integration.'' Mexico may one day try to ''assert special rights and claims to that territory,'' he writes.

Poor Dr. Huntington. Watching America from his Bostonian observation deck, he is getting real nervous about the erosion of what he defines as America's ``Anglo-Protestant culture.''

But, as seen from Miami, where a majority of adults speak a language other than English at home, his idea that Hispanics pose a threat to America is absurd.

In Miami, many immigrants don't speak English, but their children eventually do.

You saw as many American flags as in any other U.S. city after the Sept. 11 attacks, and the city has become a center of international trade and services precisely because it is bilingual and bicultural.

And where is it written that people are biologically limited to speaking only one language?

Anybody who has traveled through Europe knows that the Swiss, Danes, Swedes and others speak two, three and sometimes four languages.

And Huntington's claim that Mexican Americans pose a bigger threat than Cuban Americans because they are more reluctant to assimilate is simply wrong.

Every time I go to Los Angeles or San Antonio I'm amazed by the number of people with names such as ''Juan Gonzalez'' who don't speak Spanish.


According to a new nationwide study of U.S. Hispanics by the Synovate market research company, the actual trend among Hispanics is toward greater assimilation, despite the new waves of Spanish-speaking newcomers.

Over the past 12 years, the number of unassimilated Hispanics -- those who don't consume English-language media -- has decreased from 40 percent to 26 percent, the study's authors say.

''Most Hispanics, about 63 percent, are bilingual and bicultural,'' says Jim Forrest, the study's director. ``These people are extremely comfortable in both languages. It's a group that has accommodated and has learned how to live in the United States taking the best from their host culture and keeping the best from their home culture.''

If you are wondering whether Huntington's arguments are just misguided, or plainly Hispano-phobic, I suggest doing this little exercise: replace the term ''Hispanic'' in the text with ''African American,'' or ''black,'' then ask yourself what would be the reaction of the black community. I assure you that civil rights groups would call for national protests against Harvard University and Simon & Schuster, as they should do in this case.

Self-Determination Legislation | Puerto Rico Herald Home
Newsstand | Puerto Rico | U.S. Government | Archives
Search | Mailing List | Contact Us | Feedback