Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What we eat, we are

Here is a
fascinating article
about how immigrants transform urban areas, make them relatively prosperous, and then find themselves starved of clientele as the neighborhood gets mixed so that they are forced to move on and start over in a different neighborhood.

Basically, the article is about the permanent impact Latin culture is having on the U.S.

I'll wager that 20 years ago few non-Colombian New Yorkers knew what an "arepa" was. It is fast becoming another one of those imported items that make it into our national food idiom, like bagels, pizza and tacos.

"Immigrant Entrepreneurs Shape a New Economy" by Nina Bernstein of the New York Times made me wonder if the U.S. shouldn't embrace this impact rather than try to officially deny it by building walls along our borders. Imagine if we:

- adopted Spanish as an unofficial second language, had it taught at an early age in schools much as Europeans are practically forced to study English. How smart we'd be.
- formalized educational exchanges between the U.S. and our nearest Latin neighbor, Mexico, so that many more young Americans experienced the culture, and so that they internalized the sense that we are dependent on each other. Less fear!
- institutionalized cultural exchanges -- film, dance, music, painting, cuisine, archaelogy at all school levels. How creative we'd be.

In other words, foreign culture as more than just another food to merchandise in an unhealthy version to the masses.

The symbiosis between us and them will exist for a long time. Their population growth is much higher than ours and their economies, for reasons ranging from endemic corruption to underdevelopment, can't support them. Ours can, apparently.

Today the Yahoo home page featured a top story on the origins of the "American classic", the hamburger. Whichever state can lay claim to it, the meat sandwich has A GERMAN NAME, probably reflecting the German immigrant culture it came from. Things always change, and in a hundred years there will a neighborhood in New York or Miami that will claim to have originated the American arepa.


Blogger Nospheratt said...

Hi! :)

I LOOOOOOVE your post! Ilove it so much, I wrote a post about it:
Immigrant Business Are Important for US

I hope you like it. Thank you for being so nice and intelligent.

Latina Viva

3:43 AM  
Blogger KM said...

Thanks, Eliane,
If you ever visit Portland, let me know!
People, check out her site:


6:03 PM  

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