Guest Author - Rebecca M. Cuevas De Caissie
Many of those outside the Hispanic Culture look upon Immigration in a very abstract way. They look down upon those immigrating to their country, mainly the United States and Canada, wishing that they would not come at all. There are many jokes made about Hispanic immigrants in the inner circles of the other races that reside in these countries. I was one of those who thought I could understand what it was like to immigrate and felt compassion for those who came to our shores.
And then one day, this American born Hispanic decided to migrate further North. I set my eyes upon Canada and true appreciation for the Hispanic immigrant has begun to germinate within me, and yet I know now that I will never truly understand the Hispanic immigrant's plight in coming to this country. I have made many friends of those who have come and I would like to take today to share their stories with you. In the end I would like to employ my imagination and take you into a world where no Hispanics immigrated to the United States and then through the United States if the Hispanic Population would take up the offer to leave.
I met this gentleman who told me his story of how he came to the United States. He came through the normal channels as far as illegal crossings are concerned. He came across the river and entered into the wild plain-lands. He was not lucky enough to have been able to afford to get passage so he had to walk 5 days from the border to the city where his cousins lived. After he had been walking for five days without water or food. He had no money for hotels so was left to sleep where ever he could find a place. He explained to me how he had come from a place that was safe and poor but safe none the less. The traveling through a land that was foreign to him was so stressful that he hardly slept at night but preferred to remain walking if at all physically possible. After his five day journey he came to the city where his cousins were living. Once he entered the city he began looking for a phone booth to call his relatives and wound up getting intercepted by the immigration patrol. They returned him to the border and he had to repeat the entire ordeal all over again. I asked him why he would attempt such a feat and why not come by the process of applying from Mexico and then coming once he had his papers. He explained to me that he had a house in Mexico. He owned a small parcel of land there and had a wife and two children. One of his daughters was reaching the age where she would either enter school or begin working. She was six. He wanted to have his daughter go to school and to be able to provide for his wife and younger child too. In Mexico he was unable to do that even though he owned a house and a small bit of land. This was his only way of providing for them. He explained to me that he understood that there were jobs in the states that most Americans were not willing to do. That meant that his family had come here and prospered very well because work was abundant. He was sending money back home for his family and living with a few cousins to keep his costs down. He figured that if he budgeted his money well he could return home and start a business from his earnings. This would enable him to be with his family and provide for them at the same time.
I wondered at the statement he made about so many jobs that no one wanted to perform as Americans. At the time I was working as a business manager and began to interview people a little bit differently. I began explaining to them the details of cleaning and stocking that would be involved in working with my company. I explained the harder aspects of the job and to my surprise many people ended the interview because they had no desire to perform those tasks believing they could find a better position elsewhere. These same applicants were unable to pass a simple math exam. One of the questions was: What is 10% of 100. Most answered... 90.
I knew a family who came from Guatemala. There arose a revolution that threatened to steal the children away into death over issues that were really of no concern to the family. When they approached the United States seeking political asylum they were denied. The family took all it's assets, which were no small amount as they were successful plantation owners, and sent their children to the United States. There they were educated and became well established into the society as professionals. They were never allowed to return to their war torn country and in turn embraced the new life and country they found themselves in. Some of them even fought in wars and suffered along side those who were born in their new homeland. Many years later their descendants who were born into the United States had their grandfathers and fathers for their fortunate life. What they did loose though was any ties to their homeland. They lost their Guatemalan identity as there were few immigrant from Guatemala. But then there are many from other countries with the similar stories that also share that mixed blessing.
On the lighter side of this issue, there is a joke I was told by a Mexican Immigrant. A certain man was crossing the border. After running across the border he began walking down the street and passed by a 100 dollar bill laying on the street. He thought he was so tired, he would pick up the next one he passed along the way. He never saw another 100 dollar bill again.
Now what would be the impact if those who are Hispanic American were to have never migrated into the States. First of all I think it would be safe to say that we would not be as big of a country as it is now. We would not own most of the west as at one time that was Spanish holdings. No Texas oil. No California gold and lumber. No Florida fruits and winter agriculture as well as a substantial sugar industry. Parts of Louisiana as we know it today as well as Mississippi, Kansas, New Mexico and up into the middle region of the continent. The way was made easier by the settling of the land by Spanish settlers. Ellen Ochoa invented optical analysis system that is used to detect patterns. This enables automated manufacturing. She was also the first Hispanic female astronaut. Clatonia Joaquin invented and improved the photographic print and negative wash machine. She also invented and improved an machine for embossing photographs which imparts a 3D look. Her other patents include an applicator for applying liquid dye to shoes and heels, and a hose stop leek. David Farragut was a famous civil war admiral. He was famous for several reasons. He joined at the tender and young age of ten years old making him the youngest person to ever enlist. He is also famous for his quote during the battle of Mobile Bay. When the ship in front of his hit a mine and sank he shouted to his crew by way of encouragement," Damn the torpedoes! Go ahead, Four Bells (meaning full speed). His was the ships that captured the confederate ships and won the battle. He was also the first in the navy to earn the rank of Admiral. Carlos Juan Finlay, a physician, solved the mystery of what caused Yellow Fever. Severo Ochoa won the noble prize for his remarkable work in the discovery of the process that would enable humans to create RNA in a test tube. Maria Irene Fornes has won six Obie awards for her work in literature for the more than 35 works of literature in play write that she has contributed to our society. Fernando Bujones in 1973 became the first male American to win the Gold Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria and was well known around the world.
There are so many more contributions that Hispanic Americans have made in the everyday life as well. If the Hispanic population were to decide to take up the offer to leave and go back to their countries, what would the cost be to America? With latest census reporting there to be 35.3 million Hispanics living in the US, that being a greater population than that of all of Canada, what would the impact be? If we assume that they live in the middle class arena, given that some live above that and some below, but for the sake of argument we assume they average out to be middle class America as we know it, and that median income level would be at an estimate 41,000 per person as per the US census. If you take that and do the math that would equal into a loss of 1,447,300 in potential yearly taxable income. Also to be considered that along with that loss of revenue would go many professionals services, small business that have been the very fabric of many communities as well as the impact of the loss of a society that strives to educate themselves and better not only themselves but the area in which they live. The loss to the farming industry would be staggering as the bulk of the farm working population is in fact Hispanic. The loss of crops not planted as well as those not harvested and the entire economy built around the farming community would be crippling to the economy of the United States. If those same 35.3 million families also withdrew any and all savings from the banks in the United States and returned home with those earnings, skills and personal holdings including the cashing in of the stocks bonds and other holdings in public and private economy, the injury I assure would not be slight. From the fabrication to importing and exporting to the very sales floor in your locale would be affected.
So what does it all mean to those who are Hispanics and those who are not? It means to those who are Hispanic the realization of what you have to contribute to your society as well as your family. Realizing how valuable you are to the economy of you new Homeland and exercise your right to excellence and equality. To those who are not Hispanic, look at your neighbors a little kinder tomorrow. Know that we as Hispanic Americans in one fashion or another were here before you were and wish to coexist in a society that has room for each of us to grow and prosper together. We can be peaceful allies in the search for a strong and healthy society. After all, were our forefathers and the newly immigrating Hispanics any different really than your forefathers? It is what made this land great and will continue to do so.