Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spanish: The “Loving Tongue”? (Fortnight: Day 07)

In many parts of the country, the Latino population is growing. No big secret there. Even in Cincinnati, service labor once performed mostly by those of African descent is now done increasingly by people of Hispanic origin.

They're not all the same, of course. In fact, some have suggested that there is a sort of pecking order. The South Americans look down on the Central Americans, and the Central Americans look down on the Salvadorans, probably due to association with gang activity. Among all the above, there are fair-skinned, non-black-haired, Caucasian-looking Latinos whose ancestry is more Spanish than indigenous. Bottom line, they're not all one people, but many.

Needless to say, there are many of them in the DC area, including northern Virginia. In fact, it is possible for one of them, depending on their circumstances, to rent an apartment or house, go to their job, go to a restaurant or bar, go to a movie, and go to church on Sunday, and never, NEVER, have to learn one word of English. And if they ever do need help with it, there's always the children, who have to learn English in school from day one.

Personally, and for all that is said about them, I never met a Latino or Latina with whom I had a problem. Rarely at most. Most of the people who work the grounds in my development are Latino. Some of them do repair work on the side, or know someone who does. I usually let Sal take care of those things for me. She has a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish, is herself ethnically half-Spanish (not uncommon in the Philippines, especially among celebrities and the upper classes), and has great negotiating skills.

All you "gringos" out there may have them to thank for the survival of this country, and not just for doing the work we won't do. They say it takes 2.1 children per family to reproduce the human race. Most of Europe is at about 1.4 or lower. America would be as well, but the influx of Hispanics to "El Norte" keeps us at -- you guessed it, 2.1.

Many of them are Catholic, if they haven't already been taken over by evangelicals. And contrary to the propaganda churned out by "experts" in Hispanic devotional practices, not all of them were raised on listening to Mariachi music at Mass. That genre would be confined to Mexico, and in fact, their religious practices are anything but iconoclastic, let alone enslaved to popular culture as we are led to believe.

Will died-in-the-wool Midwesterners like yours truly have to learn Spanish just to fit in? Actually, I think it's more up to them to learn English, which serves more or less as an international language of business and popular culture at this point in history anyway. The advantage to all speaking a common language is that one is more likely to have an understanding, and less likely to NOT have an understanding. However you slice it, they need us, and we need them, don't you think?

Or don't you?

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