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'English-Only Rules Are Un-American'

June 08, 1985

Frank del Olmo is perfectly correct in describing as "laughable" Fillmore's recent attempt to outlaw California's historic language. Spanish had been spoken here for nearly a century before the "gringos" came looking for gold. It was even recognized as an official language in the state's original constitution (Article XI, Section 21). As a fourth-generation American of Mexican descent, whose current place of residence dates back to the time of the early Spanish ranchos, I would like to know who these latecomers think they are.

Del Olmo, however, seems too quick to pass judgment on the motives of the resolution's supporters. One need not be a nativist "on the edge of xenophobia" to foresee serious problems when a large segment of the population cannot speak English. I lived for a year in Quebec where "bilingualism" means that the French and the English are not on speaking terms. California cannot afford a similar cultural polarization.

It is my quixotic wish that every California speak both English and Spanish. Yet, given the reality that English is "the language of power and wealth," it is a practical necessity that everyone learn it. In a free society, however, this must be accomplished by means of the proverbial carrot, not by the proverbial stick.

KEVIN G. (CASTILLO) LONG

Pomona

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