Repressive Public Policy
As a native of a Spanish-speaking country, I’m often asked by natural-born Americans whether Spanish-speaking people living in the USA today are getting too comfortable with having translation readily accessible to them.
“Has the urgency on the part of the Hispanic community to learn English been reduced by such bilingualism? To what extent has this decline in urgency resulted in failure by Hispanics to progress farther and faster through American society?”
I strongly believe that Spanish-speaking immigrants are digging a deep hole for themselves, collectively, by clinging so steadfastly to Spanish in every way. The USA as a whole is helping with the digging, too, and especially those who define and guard political correctness.
This sad mess resembles the dysfunctional relation between addicts and the people who enable them. What the enablers and the addicts won't admit in this case is that the only way to gain equality in the United States is to be fluent in English. This is how every other immigrant group has climbed its way up. That doesn't just apply to the past; it is still happening, with immigrants from places other than Latin America.
Right now, at many American colleges and universities, a high percent of our undergraduate students are Asian, and most of them are first or second generation. Asian immigrants generally don't insist on being addressed in their languages the way Spanish-speakers do, and they always ensure that their children have full command of English.
Imagine if Asians insisted on bilingual everything: "For Cantonese, press one; for Vietnamese, press two; for Korean, press three, for Standard Hindi, press four."
Imagine if Swedes, Poles, and Italians had done the same a century ago. "For Norwegian, press four."
How many of our undergraduate students at prestigious colleges are "Hispanics?" Only between one and three percent, and many of them are third or fourth generation. The language issue alone is not responsible for this disparity, but it contributes to it significantly.
I am angered by bilingual signs in Spanish (many of which are grammatically incorrect, anyway, and/or show atrocious spelling), by phone lines in Spanish, and especially by schools that stress bilingual education. All of these accommodations are wrong, and extremely prejudicial to Spanish-speaking immigrants, in the long run.
Spanish-speaking immigrants will continue to be second or third-class citizens, and to be perceived by the rest of the population (including immigrants from other places) as deserving of nothing other than the lowest place at the bottom of the heap.
These trendy practices perpetuate the notion of "Hispanics" as hapless victims, or as helpless, inferior people who are so incapable of taking care of themselves that they can't even be expected to play by the same rules as everyone else.
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Many of my friends and acquaintances have asked me if I “have been back to Cuba since I left? And would I ever consider living there again?”
I re-visit my old house and my neighborhood in Marianao any time I wish, using Google maps; very detailed. I recognize the old buildings and streets, since not much that is new and innovative has taken place on that stagnant island in the past 50 years.
I have never returned to Cuba. I will not. The place is such a monstrous living hell, so repressive, so much a negation of all of the principles proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that I would be unable to keep my mouth shut. Speaking one’s mind in Cuba is illegal, a crime punishable by years of imprisonment, or by death. I know my big mouth and I would be headed straight into prison; that is where I would have ended up if I had I stayed.
I know that for certain, and so did my parents, which is why they saw the urgency to leave our native land in late 1960, and bring me along with them. (I was lucky, as many Cuban children, 14,000 of them, arrived on these shores unaccompanied via Operation Pedro Pan).
I will not return for another reason: I think it is immoral to travel to places such as Cuba, which have no regard for human rights. To travel to despotic locations, no matter how exotic, is, to me, one of the worst offenses imaginable.
One's presence legitimizes the oppressive regime, making it seem somehow "normal," or on the same level as other countries. Tourists, especially those who go to enjoy themselves or sample the local color, are guilty of the worst offense of all, for they not only lend a sheen of respectability to the oppressors but fill their coffers and keep them in power.
In essence, tourists who travel to a place like Cuba are accessories to oppression and exploitation. Since the government controls absolutely everything in Cuba, every penny spent there goes directly into the pockets of the oppressors, and only a relatively insignificant fraction goes to the Cuban workers. It's exactly the same setup as slavery, where the masters reaped the profits of captive labor.
Moreover, a very strict apartheid is observed in Cuba, in which foreigners have access of all sorts of rights, facilities, and commodities which are denied to Cubans.
In the 1980s the oppressive apartheid of South Africa was brought to an end largely because of the boycott enforced on that nation by the rest of the world. Cuba's oppression and apartheid should – and could – be brought down in a similar way. But it won’t. Political correctness won’t allow it.
Yet, in recent years, over two million tourists visited Cuba annually, to sun themselves on beaches that are off-limits to Cubans, to rent scuba gear and jet skis, and to eat ropa vieja and drink frozen daiquiris to their hearts' content in secluded air-conditioned hotels, while 11 million Cubans sustain themselves slightly above starvation on a government-controlled diet, deprived of all of those things that the tourists take for granted as rightfully theirs to enjoy.
I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I see that many of the very same people who called for a boycott of Arizona last year, because of one law that does not violate any human rights, also call for a lifting of all travel restrictions to Cuba, a country which has been violating every human right for over 52 years and with reckless abandon.
I don't see myself living in Cuba ever again. Cuba has changed way too much, irreversibly, and so have I. Home is here, in mid-Atlantic USA. This is where, alongside my bride of 42 years, I have built up my home. This is where my children and grandchildren live, and where my fellow educators, my fellow motorcyclists, my friends, live and thrive.
As for visiting, I will not set foot on the island again until the country is free of its current dictators, elections are held, and both free enterprise and the free exchange of ideas are re-instituted. I would, however, love to visit a free, prosperous, tolerant, and intellectually vibrant Cuba some day, and maybe contribute to its rebirth.
I’m not holding my breath, though…