"Hi Alice -
I really enjoy your blog and love your music. I thought this was an excellent post as well, though I do have one relatively minor point:
you state that people have been speaking Spanish on this continent for much longer than they've been speaking English. Firstly, that's not really true (earliest permanent English settlement is 1619). Secondly and more importantly, however, I don't really think it's a terribly germane, persuasive, or productive point.
Allow me to expand on that a little. I should state right up front that I'm Italian/Irish by descent, born & raised in California. I'm very left-wing, but I have always found the "Aztlan" wing of Chicano activism kind of silly, with its barely suppressed fantasies about "reclaiming" parts of the former Mexico "stolen" under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The point I'm trying to make is that this land, if it truly _belongs_ to anybody, belongs to the native inhabitants, who were initially massacred by the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and then the Americans.
After all, most of what the U.S. took from Mexico had only been "Mexican" for about 80 years at the time anyway (before that, of course, it had been part of the Spanish Empire, and before that, it just belonged to the peopole who lived here, the Native Americans), so it's been "America" for much longer than it was ever "Mexico" by now. I think it's kind of a dead-end argument.
To put it another way, there's plenty of blood on plenty of non-Indian hands and I think that the rights of current Mexican workers in the U.S. are probably best addressed with attention to their extraordinary contributions to America's cultural and economic well-being, not by reference to vaguely retributive notions of historical propriety.
Just my $0.02. Thanks for a passionate and thoughtful (and thought-provoking) post.
Just for the record, the first permanent European colony was established by the Spanish in 1565 at St. Augustine, Florida. The colonists spoke Spanish.
I think it is important to establish that the Spanish language predates English in large parts of the United States because to deny it is to deny a part of American history. To deny it is to deny that some Spanish speakers can trace their family’s history on this land further back than the progeny of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.
It is the people who deny America’s heritage who are divisive. I am not afraid of a little diversity. I don’t think the United States will turn into the Tower of Babel if we are allowed to speak more than one language. On the contrary, I think we will understand each other better if we all make an effort to communicate our mutual respect for one another.
So why shouldn’t we speak Spanish? Why shouldn’t we celebrate our cultures and our languages here in Aztlan?
Aztlan is a metaphorical homeland. It is a time, a place, a state of mind where the distinctions of race, creed, and country cease to divide us. If you went to the huge demonstrations supporting immigrant rights, you were in Aztlan.
I not only believe that we will reclaim Aztlan, I am certain of it. In fact it’s happening already. People are reclaiming it by becoming involved in shaping this country into a place that no longer treats immigrants and minorities as second class citizens.
I do agree with you about two things: immigrants do make huge contributions to the cultural and economic well-being of this nation and that the blood of indigenous people is on the hands of many.
Thanks for writing. I leave you with the artwork of Artemio Rodriguez, which pretty much sums up the American Dream as far as immigration is concerned.
"American Dream" - woodcut by Artemio Rodriguez