Immigrants Making Choices

From friend Martha E. Galindo of Galindo Publicidad (whose translation services are excellent).

Immigrant communities in the United States have made choices that native communities do not have to make. Making these choices – to leave one’s native country and begin anew in a new land is wrenching and difficult. The immigrant uproots him or herself with difficulty but with hope that the new circumstances will outweigh the losses of the old. He or she knows very well the many benefits the United States, unique in its values and aspirations, offers to the newcomer who, in many ways, appreciates those qualities and opportunities more than the native-born.

At the same time the immigrant clings emotionally to many characteristics of his or her native land – language, foods, scents, landscape, entertainments, and holidays – things that traditionally were sources of satisfaction, community, pride, solace or joy. Melding the old with the new does not discard one for the other but blends both into something entirely new. It is a cumulative process.

The United States from its very beginning has been a nation of immigrants. The most fundamental values cherished by its earliest immigrants are embedded in the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” – all the same before the law. (By the way – immediate translation of the Declaration was seen as a must for the benefit of the German community in Philadelphia.)

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are aspirations of every human being. All of us, some earlier, some later, are immigrants to the United States. We bring character, passions, skills and strengths with us and, too often, ignorant and despicable customs as well. Slavery made all the protestations of universal brotherhood seem nothing more than hypocritical mockery of those self-evident truths so beautifully proclaimed. But, over time, the ideals asserted themselves and the dream prevailed over savage reality.

From September 15 to October 15 we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to remember and honor the valuable and joyous customs and traditions that characterize the Hispanic contribution to the United States. The job of extending and defending life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is one that Hispanic immigrants, old and new, take up with the same valor and enthusiasm of all our fellow immigrants. Democracy is also a job like housework – one that is never finished.