Latinos in the United States: between assimilation and appropriation
The comments of the well-known journalist Tom Brokaw on the need for "greater assimilation" by the Hispanic community in the United States have underlined the validity of the myth about miscegenation, and the residual colonialism in the country.
The ultimate paradox of the 21st century is the persistence of political currents and ideologies that insist on "nationalisms" or "purisms”; social movements that push the distinction between "them" and "us".
Moreover, in American society, this contradiction should be discarded, and the ordinary citizen should understand it as what it is: a myth.
But in the Trump era, the multiplicity of realities that coalesce in the media have allowed the legend of the "pure American" to become popular again, from the deepest strata of the center-south of the country to the top pseudo-intellectuals.
That is why Tom Brokaw’s comments left many astounded.
“Hispanics should work harder at assimilation,” said the journalist on the Sunday program Meet the Press. “That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. They ought not to be just codified in their communities, but make sure that all of their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities, and that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”
Avoiding falling into the same cycle of protagonism and individual positions - which has been the national trend since November 2016 - it will be necessary to see beyond the personal origin of Brokaw's comments, and to understand him as the symptom of a much deeper problem.
Cultural assimilation understood as the process of absorption of individuals from different ethnic heritages by a "dominant culture" within a society, is not entirely applicable to the case of the United States.
The question is obvious: What would the dominant culture be? How can we identify it on the street?
The territory known today as the United States is the product of a cultural and linguistic shock that was amalgamated by the preponderance of the economic system, and overlooked ecclesiastical, military or academic structures.
That is, the United States was a place where, regardless of origin or creed, one could prosper and experience the promise of the American Dream.
On this intercultural tapestry, to draw a direct line with the "original American" is an increasingly self-indulgent affair.
Irish, Italians, English, French, Germans, Mexicans, Africans, Caribbeans ... all collided in one way or another in an accidental territory and established the foundations of a culture that is far from being hegemonic.
However, and today more than ever, there are those who insist on making the distinction between those who go first and those who must "assimilate" better.
Brokaw's positions are shared by a significant number of people, many of whom have seen the presidential demagogy as tacit permission to stop feeling ashamed to believe that, in fact, there is a way to be “more American.”
It’s that individual who believes that salsa was born in Cuba, and not in New York; that to put a Hamburg-style steak between two slices of bread makes a national dish, and that eating a taco is American, as long as you do it speaking English.