Latin Americans in the USA
by María L. Trigos-Gilbert
Since the USA became an independent nation from the British Empire, many Latin Americans have seen the USA like a living alternative (from those days to the present time). Those living alternatives cover the political, social, and financial arenas. Many of the Latin Americans, who live in the USA, have considered their native nations’ obsolete and repressive systems toward the human right of living in dignity.
The Latin Americans sense of dignity starts with the right to live, to get educated, to have a reasonable home (house), and medical service. All these rights are necessities that should be given to anybody from any country without a second thought. This isn’t to say that the government should provide everything, whether the Latin American or North American politicians. Yet some Latin American countries lack political, social, and financial stability; therefore, this is why the USA has become an alternative to have a better quality of life. The USA has offered more of a balance and stable democracy to native and nonnative Americans. The previous sentence isn’t according to observations, but according to what many Latin Americans feel toward the USA that certainly is a good feeling coming from people from different Latin countries. This is why many Latin Americans have the USA their home or place of residence.
Medical Service for Latin Americans, like Water in a Desert
Many Latin Americans have thought that the USA has it all. Nothing seems missing in the USA; everything appears mighty right. Of course, when they get sick and find out that they can’t afford medical insurance, they understand how the USA’s capitalist society functions. Once again they find themselves powerless for their lack of money, though this time this situation doesn’t happen in their native lands, but in a foreign country.
Latin Americans in the USA can’t complain, though being politically correct in what democratic terms pertain, they could speak up if they want, even more if they legal citizens of the USA. Otherwise, they have to remain silent because of their insufficient foundations to complain about their aches in this country. Even more Latin Americans aren’t the only ones suffering lack of proper medical services, many native Americans, including African-Americans, Caucasians, and all types of people born in the USA, are as much affected by this lack of money and insurance as the Latin Americans are affected. Yet for Latin Americans this is a greater ordeal because they have been feeling that way since they were born that’s why they decided in the first place to come to a more organized society.
The Myth of the American Dream
Most of the Latin Americans in the USA dream with their human freedom as well as with a financial and social freedom. They have made of this country their Little House on the Prairie, a place where most of the people seem religious or with a high moral consideration toward the humankind of their nation. Latin Americans dream of having a virtuous education, financial stability, a well furnished home, a reasonable medical service, and an adequate occupation (work).
The paradox of these dreams is that Latin Americans sooner or later find out that the capitalist system of the USA has its tiny and big faults as much as their native systems have, at least putting things into perspective. They have learned about the North American great culture through the use of television and the Internet. The thing is that both, television and the Internet, tend to make everything fantastic, almost like magical events where nobody suffers and when they ache, solutions are promptly established. For instance, in the North American movies people and events maintain some sort of order and a community engagement which are totally different from the Latin American nations.
This is why Latin American people become fans of the American life. The Internet also has a shorter distance and time, and many things from one culture to another get involve in the process and result of this time of communication. Nevertheless, in the American life Latin people or Hispanics, a matter of terminology, find some kind of peace that makes their life more agreeable than in their native countries. At least people feel that here they can make and get a life.
Latin Americans’ Most Frequent Questions
When Latin Americans come to the USA just to visit or to reside in this country for an indefinite period of time, they start to ask themselves the following kinds of questions: How come the USA’s political, financial, and educational systems work and ours don’t? In what and how have we done wrong? Why do we always get to be Third World Nations? Many of you may have numerous answers that could possibly help Latin Americans in their questionnaire.
My possibilities are meant to be educated without getting obnoxious. Therefore, here in the USA, the political, financial, and educational systems work better than they do work in the Latin Americans nations and that’s a fact. Yet we, those of us who live in the USA, know those systems lack many things. If we get to compare them with the Latin American countries, we just feel privileged to live in a more organized nation. This type of comparison is tricky, and perhaps the everlasting curse that has attempted toward some of the changes that the USA has needed for a long time. Of course, life in the USA, in spite of some problems, seems more appealing and reasonable than living in a underdeveloped nation. On the other hand, we must understand that what seems underdeveloped for USA citizens and residents, may be perfectly fine somewhere else.
I won’t say Latin Americans have done something wrong in order to deserve rotten patterns or systems time after time. What has caused this global problem among Latin Americans, resides in their politicians because most of the time, or at least eight out of ten politicians, look and worry for their own well being, rather than attending their people’s needs and aches. Latin Americans’ mistake is to believe in those who promise sand castles, though it’s difficult to make a voting selection when the presidential candidates seem so fussy, presenting almost parallel platforms.
Their blab, blab makes the listeners dizzy. Usually most politicians tend to randomize quite a bit every time a real question comes up, whether from the media or from a layman. I know that the ones living in North America may feel a lot of sympathy toward the Latin Americans because here in the USA we do get a lot of blab, blab as much as the Latin people get. The only difference is that in the USA the opposition (Democrats, Republicans, or Independents) really plays a good role.
For instance, Mr. William Jefferson Clinton got impeached thanks to the Republicans’ and some North Americans’ requests. In Latin America presidents don’t get impeached, period. When they get impeached, they also get out of their embarrassing situation like roadrunners, pretty quick. We may say that the same thing happened in the USA with Mr. W. J. Clinton. Yet at least it was done right at the moment of its occurrence. In Venezuela, my first home, I remember just one ALMOST impeachment of the ex-president and ex-curse of Venezuela from the political party AD, Democratic Action, Mr. Carlos Andrés Perez.
People got sick and tired of him; people thought that he was going to do right, but like usual he did not! So he got booted by many events that took place around the nation. Of course, I’m not recording all the details of this Venezuelan politician since I’m more interesting in the final results and facts. Now, ask me if Carlos Andrés is having a good life at this very moment. YES, HE IS. Sadly, I don’t know where, what, or who his new victim is, though I’m not a bit interested in knowing. This political tragedy isn’t so isolated; this happens in many Latin American nations. Feel free to fill in the blanks in what the USA’s political system pertains.
Who Are the Majority?
If we infer that the majority of Latin Americans in the USA come from Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, we wouldn’t be surprised. Yes, the Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans are majority among the Latin American minority of the USA. The presence of these Latin people in the USA is linked to the past of these nations and the USA’s influence over these three Latin nations. Cuba at first belonged to the Empire of Spain as well as Mexico and Puerto Rico did. In 1898 Spain and the USA went to war, so Spain lost its last colonies in America: Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.
Cuba was occupied by the USA from 1898 until 1902. Puerto Rico from those days until the present has belonged to the USA. In 1900 the USA Congress established an administration in the island (Puerto Rico). In 1917 Puerto Ricans had access to the North American citizenship. In 1952 Puerto Rico became an Associate Free State of the USA. Most Puerto Ricans have agreed with those terms and regulations then and now. Mexico’s path has been different. The Mexican governments of the past had some sort of discord with the USA government of those times.
For example, we could mention the Alamo Battle and the San Jacinto Battle in 1836. Then a bit more legally the USA occupied the State of Texas. Yet it wasn’t until 1848 that the State of Texas got annexed to the USA. In the same year another conflict emerged between Mexico and the USA. By then a new agreement resulted; this was the Guadalupe Agreement. Mexico lost New Mexico, Arizona, and the high lands of California (Alta California).
We could state that the USA has been active in one way or another in these three nations, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Cuba’s and Mexico’s interventions have been less active than the the USA’s participation in Puerto Rico. Cuba has almost been out of the picture, except when one wants to curse or to bless the 41 years of Cuban dictator, Dr. Fidel Castro. While other dictators where Cuba’s presidents, the USA kept many businesses on the Cuban island. Until the dictator Dr. Fidel Castro decided in 1959 to make a coup against Mr. Fulgencio Batista, a crocked politician from the well known island. Dr. Fidel Castro counted with his brother, Raúl Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara’s help (who died in the hands of Bolivia’s guerrillas and apparently the CIA had something to do with his death, I’m not so sure about it since I may be killed for saying what I just wrote). Who knows!
Dr. Fidel Castro declared Cuba a Socialist nation, and needless to say, in 1961 the USA broke diplomatic relations with the Cuban government. The same year in Playa Girón or Bay of Pigs some Cubans from Miami, Florida who were against the dictator Fidel Castro, tried to subdue the political regimen, but it was fruitless. In 1962 the Soviet’s missiles in Cuba caused another crisis between Cuba, the Soviet Union, and the USA to the point that many North Americans feared war among these three nations. So the whole Cuban political process of isolation have had two causes:
1. The dictator Dr. Fidel Castro declared as a Socialist nation from those days until now.
2. Dr. Fidel Castro eliminated all private properties through an extensive program of nationalization of all the natural resources of the island as well as all what used to be private companies. The USA had many business in Cuba, but Dr. Fidel Castro never paid any kind of reimbursement for his country’s nationalization of all kind of resources and companies. This more than anything else touched the North American government’s nerves. This doesn’t count the long term political and financial aid that the Soviet Union gave the island until 1990. This also did it for the USA.
Since 1961 until the present day, Cuba and USA have limited their diplomatic relations to the maximum. Since then all the presidents the USA has had, have been preoccupied with this issue in a country that’s not far from the USA, actually 90 kilometers from the island to Florida. For instance, the embargo case has caused many North Americans and Cubans in the island to ask themselves and to the North American government this question: Who are the ones affected by this embargo?
Most people agree that this affects directly and indirectly the Cuban people; it doesn’t affect Dr. Fidel Castro whatsoever. In the end, he feels okay if the USA government doesn’t understand their need for socialism. Furthermore, this embargo doesn’t deprive his sleep unless he gets worried about his people. I do think that Dr. Fidel Castro has shown that he’s a leader with followers in Cuba. Otherwise, a long time ago the Cuban people, those in Cuba, would have fought to get rid off him as they have done in the past with Spain and Fulgencio Batista. Of course, there are many other things to consider. Those that I really don’t know or understand well. For the most part, I do assume that some Cubans, almost or at least the majority, have to favor Dr. Fidel Castro and his political party.
The Case of Elian Gonzales in Miami, Florida
This has been the most recent event that we can recall without any kind of memory lost since it has taken place in Miami, Florida (“Little Havana” as it is called by the Media). This case has made most of the North American people and Latin American people sick to the fullest extent. On April 22 at 5:00 A.M. Mss. Janet Reno finally ended the everlasting TV show which the relatives of Elian Gonzalez permitted month after month since the child was rescued by a fisherman in Miami, Florida. Numerous people have asked, “María, What do you think of this case?” I have always told them that the child belongs in Cuba with his father. I haven’t changed my opinion a tiny bit.
Of course, I do understand the Miami relatives and the Cuban people in Miami. I feel and sympathize for their ache, their aversion toward the Cuban political system. Nevertheless, I haven’t forgotten that a father is an important figure even more when the mother is dead. Elian’s father is the most secure link for this child to grow up with a healthy mind and spirit. When he becomes independent from the care of his father, it will be his decision if he seeks new lands. It could be the USA, but this time it won’t be, hopefully, because someone in charge of him decided that for him. Even more some of the Cuban community in New York City feel and think this case got out of hand. I do agree 100% with the procedure that Ms. Janet Reno took. It wasn’t an easy call, and made even more difficult since she is from Florida.
Latin American Influence in the USA
We could conclude that the Latin Americans in the USA have had a tremendous influence over the North American culture. Latin Americans have influenced USA’ art (like paintings, sculptures, and some others), music, literature, cuisine, and politics. There are some negatives sides which I would like to overlook. Yet they stand out because they affect the North American society. Some Latin Americans have become a burden to the government in many ways.
The good thing about it is that many Latin Americans are aware of this negative situation. Furthermore, if you look around or do a research, you will find out that the well settled—legal, educated, and good-moral—Latin Americans are worrying and doing something to help those who seem to be part of the USA society’s problems. I do believe that there are more positive effects than negatives aspects in this Latin American transition in the USA. It’s a matter of positivism mixed with a dosage of reality. So people won’t say that we live in “Alice in Wonder Land.”
I have tried with all my heart to give you the fact without taking into consideration that I’m a Latin-Spaniard. It would be foolish to deny one’s roots, even more when they have shaped us in what we are, though no necessarily in what we could or want to become. Let’s keep that in mind. I celebrate USA’s Melting Pot. So we must try to get alone. Language, skin color, or culture shouldn’t be a barrier to understand and appreciate one another. On the contrary, difference brings variety, and variety gives us more alternatives. This is a time to become open minded. Nobody should persist in being narrow minded. Those days belong to the past.
We have many powerful tools like the TV and the Internet to stop human disinterest. Nowadays, we don’t have to sit and wait. Today we can take some action in the development of the USA as well as in the development of foreign nations, without imposing our political system or way of living. This is a time for genuine reconciliation. We must leave behind those who present their miserable obstacles for us to gain further knowledge of the Earth and the entire Universe if so we desire. I’m sure most of the Latin Americans in the USA want to contribute to this nation!
They want to do here what they couldn’t do in their nations, to have a life with much dignity. Let’s give people of all kinds a chance. Let’s not chase false pretensions. It’s also true that the majority of the American people want to comprehend the Latin world from a better perspective. All those facts from both sides, the Latin and the American (North American) are super fascinating. This gives us a sense of rebirth, new meanings, languages, activities, but above all people.