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The Atlanta Journal - Constitution

Family Ties Foster Growth In Hispanic Population


March 8, 2004
Copyright ©2004 The Atlanta Journal - Constitution. All rights reserved.

Why don't these people learn English? Where did all these taxicabs come from with names like Mexico Lindo Taxi, Guadalajara Taxi and San Salvador Taxi? Should we embrace these people or resent them?

This is more than an Atlanta story. The Hispanic population growth in Georgia over the past 10 years has been well over 3,000 percent. In North Carolina, the nation's leading Hispanic growth center, it has been over 6,000 percent over the past 10 years.

As we know, both major political parties actively court this important voting bloc.

Be prepared for more explosive growth in the future. Many people mistakenly believe this growth is from immigration. The fact is only 39 percent of all Hispanics in the United States were born outside the United States. Sixty-one percent were born here.

Recent census data conclusively prove that there are now more Hispanics in the United States than African-Americans. This numbers gulf will only widen, based on all current projections.

My father arrived from the hills of Puerto Rico in the 1950s possessing a fifth-grade education. Mom was an American from Kentucky. I am a Puerto Rican hillbilly.

Mi papi had 27 brothers and sisters. When papi came to this country, he found employment in the very rough South Side of Chicago. You know, the same side as Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. This same man was financially secure and, for all practical purposes, retired by the age of 45.

How did he do it? The same way many of our Latino friends do. Hard work, determination and the relentless pursuit of . . . You thought I was going to say "The American Dream." What I really want to say is the relentless pursuit of family support and stability.

Our people work hard and do so out of love for family. Many of us send up to half our income back home to family in another country. To reach us, you must show interest in the well-being of our family, especially our mothers and our children. This is basic material in Hispanic Study 101.

Should Hispanics learn English? Of course. Should you and your children learn Spanish? You should if you and your family want to have a viable social and business relationship with the largest minority group in the United States. Hispanics are now the dominant labor force in most service sectors in this country.

Beyond this, you and your children will compete with them for professional jobs, as most major corporations are actively hiring professional bilingual associates. Many Hispanics now own successful businesses.

Years ago, I was impressed by some words of wisdom uttered by German philosopher Immanuel Kant. He said, "What is, is." In Spanish, Lo que es, es.

We are here, we are here to stay and we want to be amigos. We can learn from you and you can learn from us. This is the true spirit of America. After all, America is composed of North, Central and South America. We are all Americans.

Ricardo Gonzalez of Atlanta is founder and executive director of Bilingual America, which provides Spanish, English and cultural training for individuals and corporations.

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