Blogs > Cliopatria > Spanish spoken here

Mar 25, 2006 6:30 am


Spanish spoken here



Attempting to frame immigration issues, CNN's Lou Dobbs pulled out a quote from Theodore Roosevelt on the unity of American identity and culture and the obligation of immigrants to assimilate.
In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the man's becoming in very fact an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile...We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language...and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.

The backdrop for thus quote was the tens of thousands who protested new immigration legislation in the streets of Phoenix.

This Dobbs moment was too cute: a quote from a beloved president on an issue of urgency. I wish that Dobbs had first reflected on the fallacy of what Roosevelt said before using it. This is the worst of 'bad history': choosing a quote that itself warped the reality of its time. Addressing immigrants, Roosevelt lumped together all those who came from a non-European, non-English speaking culture into the same category. Yet many Californios, Nuevo Mexicanos, and Tejanos were not immigrants. They had been in their territories for a long time, becoming Americans by annexation and purchase. Until late in the nineteenth century, these territories were better reached from northern Mexican states than eastern and mid-western American states. The experiences of Mexicans in America up to Roosevelt's presidency were exclusionary, not integrative. New Mexico, the most developed part of the Mexican Borderlands, languished as statehood was withheld--despite the eagerness of the Hispanos to prove their loyalty. Moreover, there is something ironic that Roosevelt, hero of the Spanish-American War, would take this attitude since his actions in war brought about the annexation of so much Spanish-speaking territory; the people whom he conquered would be denied membership in the nation.

Anti-immigrant discourse focuses on the introduction of foreign elements that will corrode American culture. Language is but one of these elements that, in their opinion, is in danger. Not that Americans own English ... even Britains no longer own a language that has been appropriated by many as a medium of globalized intercourse; the purity of English is elusive. But proponents of harsh immigration laws should realize the truth. Spanish has always been spoken here. It is not foreign; it was not imported covertly for subversive purposes. (Indeed, it was a language used to dominate Native Americans as much as English.) Moreover, the ability to speak Spanish was preserved in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (along with all cultural traits.) Calling people who speak Spanish immigrants won't make America a country that speaks only English.

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Andrew D. Todd - 3/28/2006

Of course, in actuality, education, and thus, language, was a function of the church, not the government. What actually happened was that Santa Fe was detached from the Mexican Diocese of Durango, and the Catholic church sent along a new bishop, a Frenchman named Jean Baptiste Lamy. There is room for dispute about what happened next (the Lamy-Martinez feud), but it seems agreed that Lamy methodically filled the diocese up with Frenchmen and/or Jesuits. The first five archbishops were French, up to 1918, and it was not until 1974 that New Mexico had a Hispanic archbishop.

http://www.archdiocesesantafe.org/AboutASF/AboutASF.html

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11001a.htm

http://www.archdiocesesantafe.org/ABSheehan/ArchiveABSMessages/98.1.1.400YearNM.html

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0819565326/104-0655516-4167152?v=glance&;n=283155

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/mexican_voices/voices_display.cfm?id=88

http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1994/1/1994_1_92.shtml


John H. Lederer - 3/28/2006

would you be referring to in the Treaty when you state:

"Moreover, the ability to speak Spanish was preserved in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (along with all cultural traits.) "



http://historicaltextarchive.com/sections.php?op=viewarticle&;artid=141


Ralph E. Luker - 3/28/2006

You choose to ignore 200 years of history in favor of current hype.


William Hopwood - 3/28/2006

"To date, 22 States – including my home State of Louisiana – have already
declared English their official language." ( Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.--c.a.1997). The number now stands at 27 States.


William Hopwood - 3/28/2006

"The fact that Louisiana's non-Anglo source of law was tolerated and thrived for 200 years runs counter to your whole argument that insists on Anglo-conformism."

Nonsense. Due to the adverse linguistic affect resulting from the current wave of Hispanic immigration Louisiana codified English as an official language of the State.


Ralph E. Luker - 3/28/2006

The fact that Louisiana's non-Anglo source of law was tolerated and thrived for 200 years runs counter to your whole argument that insists on Anglo-conformism.


William Hopwood - 3/28/2006

Correction to incomplete URL above, sorry: http://www.la-legal.com/history_louisiana_law.htm


William Hopwood - 3/28/2006

"You do understand, of course, that Louisiana law is based on the Code Napoleon, not on British common law."

Yes, but:
"Is there really that much practical difference? Not really. The differences are eroding every day. Much of Louisiana's codes are being replaced by uniform law to be more in step with other states." From: [www.la-legal.com/history_louisiana]


Nathanael D. Robinson - 3/27/2006

Interesting. You couldn't die at Verdun with only English ... or could you?


Ralph E. Luker - 3/27/2006

You do understand, of course, that Louisiana law is based on the Code Napoleon, not on British common law.


William Hopwood - 3/27/2006

"How would Mr. Hopwood have French-speaking citizens of Louisiana treated in schools and government services?..."

In the English language, or course.
The Congressional Act in 1811 by which Louisiana was enabled to draft a Constitution and apply for admission as a State specified that "the laws which such State may pass shall be promulgated, and its records of every description shall be preserved, in the language in which the laws and the judicial and legislative written proceedings of the United States are now published." ["The Historical Background of Bilingualism and Biculturalism in the United States," Stephen T. Wagner-"The New Bilingualism--An American Dilemma"]


William Hopwood - 3/27/2006

"You still don't seem to be getting it: there are "Americans" ...who are Spanish-speakers. Are you seriously suggesting that we treat native-born Spanish speakers with multi-lingual courtesy but force Spanish-speaking immigrants to linguistically assimilate (and if they live in Spanish-speaking areas of this country, what does that mean?)?"

Of course not. You haven't been paying attention. I couldn't care less what language people care to speak either in private or in public but I do care about which language the government uses to speak to them. English, the language in which our Constitution was written and in which our legal system is conducted, is the de facto language of our country. It should not be up to government at any level to accommodate to the needs or desires of "Spanish-only" speakers, be they citizen or immigrant, in their own language except as needed for law enforcement and emergency services. By catering to foreign language speakers in their own tongues, the government discourages assimilation and contributes to ghettoization, tribalism, cultural fragmentation, and ethic segregation. Hardly a formula for national unity. Indeed, it is the opposite.


Ben W. Brumfield - 3/27/2006

How would Mr. Hopwood have French-speaking citizens of Louisiana treated in schools and government services? Perhaps the next time he drives through Jennings he should explain that that patrolmen speaking English to him is "pandering to immigrants," and see how well he fares in French?


Ben W. Brumfield - 3/27/2006

My Old Icelandic prof used to point to central Texas cemeteries as his rebuttal to the English-Only movement. In these cemeteries, you can find plenty of 1918 tombstones with the inscription "Gestorben im Frankreich."


Jonathan Dresner - 3/27/2006

You still don't seem to be getting it: there are "Americans" -- full bore, native-borne citizens of this country with as many generations "in country" as you or I -- who are Spanish-speakers. Are you seriously suggesting that we treat native-born Spanish speakers with multi-lingual courtesy but force Spanish-speaking immigrants to linguistically assimilate (and if they live in Spanish-speaking areas of this country, what does that mean?)?


Ralph E. Luker - 3/27/2006

Commander Hopwood, We try to be tolerant of you here, but if you continue to repeat the same comment four times, as you've done here, you will have quickly worn out your welcome.


William Hopwood - 3/27/2006

"The language of Spanish-speaking Americans, who come from America, is Spanish ..." and if they want it, English. Allowing them to speak as they would...is not an immigration issue. Spanish can be accommodated without “adapt[ing] to immigrant linguistic or cultural preferences,” because, once again, they are not immigrants. Accept that, Commander.

Nope, I can't accept the unacceptable. We seem to disagree on semantics. When I refer to persons as "American" in the context of this discussion I use the word as it is commonly used to identify U.S. citizens. Accordingly language is an immigration issue. And I certainly hope we can agree that Hispanics pouring across our southern borders in droves from Mexico and elsewhere in the hemisphere are NOT U.S. citizens. And so, what else can they be but "immigrants?"

Perhaps this will help clarify things in your mind. From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English language: "IMMIGRATE- To enter and settle in a country or region to which one is not a native."


Nathanael D. Robinson - 3/26/2006

The language of Spanish-speaking Americans, who come from America, is Spanish ... and if they want it, English. Allowing them to speak as they would, even to educate them in Spanish with government funds, is not “pander[ing] to immigrants in the languages of the countries from which they came rather than in English.” It is not an immigration issue. Spanish can be accommodated without “adapt[ing] to immigrant linguistic or cultural preferences,” because, once again, they are not immigrants. Accept that, Commander.

My post dealt with problems in the historical example that was not an adequate reflection of the reality of its day or our day. Spanish would have a place in America regardless of immigration. This is not something you have addressed. Instead, you argued (via Saint Arthur) that linguistic diversity weakens cohesion. Your original comment made more substantive mention of immigrants than my post, wherein they were peripheral. You and I (and even Jonathan) could argue about linguistic diversity for the rest of our lives. However, you cannot remove the presence of Spanish-speaking Americans from the equation of American society (Schlesinger won’t get his way.) Here’s the question: how do you make a cohesive society that must tolerate some linguistic diversity? If you think that immigration poses a linguistic problem, you must address it without trampling on the rights of those who citizenship required no test. You must also figure out where they fit into “the common American identity.”


William Hopwood - 3/26/2006

"I noticed that you could not support your diatribe without turning all Spanish-speaking Americans into immigrants...Not all Spanish-speakersare immigrants, and they have the right to use Spanish in public life...To insist on the highest standards of acculturation for a conquered people is simply oppression."

My, but you do wander far afield. Let us return to reality--to the 21st Century and the issue in current national contention.

Absent a tendency to dyslexia, I believe a proper reading of my post above will reveal that I do not claim that ALL Spanish speakers are immigrants (although I believe it fair to say at this point that most of the some 12 million Hispanics here now probably are.) Nor do I mention how many are here illegally. Nor do I contend that such people do not have a constitutional right to speak their ancestral language in public or private life, nor contend that they do not have the right to abstain from learning English at all.

I do contend, however, that it is certainly not up to the rest of us or to our government to adapt to immigrant linguistic or cultural preferences. And to suggest that today's Hispanic immigrants are "conquered people" under "oppression" is a wildly fanciful, even by current academic standards.

Again, Schlesinger sums it up well: ["The Disuniting of America --Reflections on a Multicultural Society"]: "The bonds of cohesion in our society are sufficiently fragile...that it makes no sense to strain them by encouraging and exalting cultural and linguistic apartheid."


Nathanael D. Robinson - 3/26/2006

I noticed that you could not support your diatribe without turning all Spanish-speaking Americans into immigrants. It says something about the weakness of your argument. Not all Spanish-speakers are immigrants, and they have the right to use Spanish in public life. To insist on the highest standards of acculturation for a conquered people is simply oppression.

Articles 8 and 9 of the treaty deal with issues related to Mexicans who remained. It gives them full access to their liberties, which meant that they could retain their distinctiveness, including language (the issue of “liberties” being used to describe the ability of religious, ethnic, linguistic minorities throughout 19th century Europe to remain as they were rather than adopt the religion, language and ethnic customs of state that conquered them.) Did the treaty require the government to provide services in Spanish? No, nor would such a treaty of the time be interpreted in that way. I’m sure that Trist would have been more than happy if the Mexican population remained outside the loop. Subsequent decisions based on the treaty said that issue of distinctiveness and assimilation were irrelevant to citizenship: the Mexican-Americans were citizens.

I agree with Jonathan. Beneath the wreckage of failed states is a history of nationalists who were fanatical about uniformity. Pan-Germanism didn’t make the Habsburg Empire more united; nor did the Kulturkampf; nor did the French obsession with “unity and indivisibility”; nor will Iraqi attempts to assimilate or eliminate Kurds be a force for unity. Many movements of ethnic and regional liberation were born in response to extreme policies of assimilation. Instead of producing the strength in sameness that they so believed in, they created suspicions and hostilities that worked against unity (if not undermined it.) I think Ortega y Gasset described it best: the reappearance of Catalan and Basque nationalists could not occurred without the dismantling of Spain’s empire and obsession that developed for a singular, national mono-culture. The type of unity you desire is elusive. Americans cannot even control English, a language that is not even controled by the people who made it.


Jonathan Dresner - 3/26/2006

You are making the same mistake Dobbs does: you're assuming that linguistic assimilation and acculturation are the same thing, that multi-lingualism is a barrier to acculturation and that linguistic uniformity is in itself a virtue.


William Hopwood - 3/26/2006

It would seem that neither Lou Dobbs nor the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt deserve the rap they get here.

"Moreover, the ability to speak Spanish was preserved in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (along with all cultural traits.)"

Unless I missed it, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo does not mention language, let alone anyone's "ability" to speak either English or Spanish.
Under the treaty, Mexican residents of the newly acquired U.S. territories had the "right" as did U.S. citizens to speak as they wished. However, the treaty did not obligate the U.S. government to use the Spanish language in its relationship with them.

Unlike in the days of Theodore Roosevelt, the trend for the past several decades (under what Arthur Schlensinger,Jr. has described as the "attack on the common American identity..the culmination of the cult of ethnicity..") has been to pander to immigrants in the languages of the countries from which they came rather than in English, the de facto national language of our own country. Such programs as bilingual education, multi-lingual government services, multilingual ballots, undermine the assimilation process.

As Schlesinger points out: "...a common language is a necessary bond of national cohesion in so heterogenous a nation as America...The future of immigration policy depends on the assimilation process...to lead newcomers to the acceptance of the language, the institutions, and the political ideals that hold the nation together...History is littered with the wreck of states that tried to combine diverse ethnic or linguistic or religious groups within a single sovereignty."

Amen.






Nathanael D. Robinson - 3/25/2006

Absolutely! I think that this can be refined even more: integration is not assimilation (at least not in terms of monoculture.)


Manan Ahmed - 3/25/2006

Great Post!


Jonathan Dresner - 3/25/2006

...is the idea that linguistic assimilation is actually linked with cultural assimiliation, or that cultural assimilation is in any way linked with "loyalty" (and that's a term which has changed over time).


Anthony Paul Smith - 3/25/2006

Thanks for this. I had no idea, though I should have.

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