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Native Californians all have heritage tied to Mexico
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I am proud of my Mexican heritage.

By that I am not referring to blood-line although that may be the case somewhere down the line. I do have dozens of relatives that are Hispanic by marriage.

What I’m referring to is my California heritage. I’m a fifth generation Californian who can trace the roots of my mother’s side of the family in California back to 1845 when they arrived here from New England.

That was back when the territory that encompasses the Golden State today was part of Alta California and was governed from Mexico City. Alta California refers to holdings that were north of the Baja California peninsula. Both were among possessions of Spain before Mexico broke free of the tyranny of their own European crown headquarted in Madrid which isn’t too far from London.

What brings this all up was yet another off-hand remark overheard in a restaurant.

Two of the restaurant workers were talking to each other in Spanish prompting a reference from one diner to another about “those people” should be forced to speak English and that if they are in this country they should “act like Americans.”


Act like Americans?

How do we know they aren’t American citizens or here legally?

Yes, there is a legitimate concern about immigration - illegal and otherwise - but it isn’t exclusive to those who may have hailed from south of the border.

Even that is an assumption. Growing up I had a number of friends whose parents were legally here. They still spoke their native tongue. Some of my friends’ parents arrived in California from Mexico, some came from Mexico, and others came from Portugal. Surprisingly, many of my friends had “accents” that reflect their parents’ native tongues. Imagine that. They could also speak Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish just like their parents.

It would be nice to conduct the debate about immigration and other serious issues without broad brushing groups of people many who might just happen to be our neighbors, are legitimately here as immigrants or are American citizens and hardworking taxpayers.

Yes, there are horror stories out there about legal and illegal immigrants abusing the system. That doesn’t justify some blanket comments including another line I overheard in the restaurant about how “they” don’t contribute anything to the state.

Excuse me? Forget about that fact there are tens of thousands of Californians with Hispanic roots that go directly to Mexico who are professionals, skilled workers or earning an honest day’s living on farms or in factories. Instead, ask yourself a couple of questions.

Let’s start with the state’s name. California isn’t exactly an English word.

Nor is San Joaquin, Placer, Sonora, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Vallejo, Sacramento, San Diego, Modesto, Manteca, San Francisco, San Jose, Monterey, Diablo and Sierra to name a few.

Yes, they were named by Spanish explorers but the European-style government that was formed ultimately became the independent nation of Mexico that ultimately governed California, set up land grants, and established early commerce.

English is the primary - and should be - the official language. It is the language of commerce. It doesn’t do any of us any good regardless of our ethnic background to balkanize communication between various tongues within our own borders.   There should be a primary language and a melting pot of others. It is common place on the world stage for competitive economies to actively push bilingual education.

While English is the language of business worldwide those who don’t know Spanish or an Asian-based language or even the tongue of the Indian subcontinent are at a disadvantage on a global scale.

Let’s try and frame the debate about immigration as one that makes us stronger as a nation while melting us together instead of pulling us apart.

Yes, that should require the main tongue to be English but at the same time we need to embrace other cultures and tongues. That is the essence of America. We are, like it or not, a mongrel nation. The French have France, the Germans have Germany the English have England, the Russians have Russia, and the Chinese have China. There is no ethnic race that defines the United States of America.

It is was - and is - what makes America great.