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Commentary | LETTERS TO THE TIMES

No American Culture Clash

March 06, 2004

Re "Mexican Americans Are Building No Walls," by Gregory Rodriguez, Opinion, Feb. 29: Harvard political scientist Samuel P. Huntington fears a clash of civilizations -- the Anglo and Hispanic cultures. He wrongfully accuses Mexican Americans of building walls between the cultures. Huntington fails to recognize that he is looking through a glass wall created by Anglo America. With the glass wall in place, Mexican Americans have not been able to step into the upper ranks of business, media, education and entertainment.

The day I can tell my children that they can follow the footsteps of any in a long list of Mexican American notables will be the day we see more Mexicans assimilating and setting higher goals for themselves. Maybe if Huntington stepped out of his classroom and into the Mexican American community he would see that it is not the Mexican Americans' refusal to assimilate but the glass wall that has created generations of disenfranchised citizens.

Many Mexican Americans have completely acculturated and have nothing in common with recent Mexican immigrants. Yet we still must prove on a daily basis who we are, and only then get a chance to temporarily step through the glass.

David Sigala

South Pasadena

There is more to Huntington's oversight (or slight) of Mexican Americans than Rodriguez has pointed out. The majority of Mexican Americans, newly immigrated Mexicans and Central Americans are Roman Catholic. But Irish, Italian, German and other European Roman Catholic immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries faced the same scrutiny as the Hispanic immigrants of today. It was said, for example, that they didn't look like us, they didn't speak the same language, etc. And, of course, that they would not assimilate.

Huntington should take a series of freshman courses in geography, anthropology and history. This would give him an understanding of why people migrate from one cultural region to another and how that migration enriches and makes the dominant culture stronger.

Walt Brennan Jr.

Burbank

Huntington's view that Mexican Americans will somehow form an independent bloc that separates America into two distinct cultures is flawed. It assumes that new immigration is the most important factor in Mexican Americans' supposed reluctance to assimilate. If Huntington really knew about Mexicans and Mexican Americans, he would have known that immigrants, especially immigrant children, have long recognized that their success depends on their immersion into and adaptation to American culture and language. As a result, they thirst for the classic, long-held American aspirations of homeownership and education. When these aspirations are attained, they quickly move up the socioeconomic ladder and, more often than not, to the suburbs, away from areas with high concentrations of immigrants and whatever alleged influence they may bring. They have no desire to wall themselves off from the rest of America. In fact, they want to and do become quintessentially part of American life, as demonstrated by their high levels of participation in the ultimate act of patriotism, military service.

Mexicans and Mexican Americans are not becoming and have no desire to become economically independent from the rest of America. This would be self-defeating. Mexicans and Mexican Americans have few, if any, financial institutions from which to obtain capital. To wall themselves off economically from America would mean economic stagnation. Huntington appears to be looking for a way to unite Americans by pointing to a supposed internal threat. As Rodriguez aptly points out, diversity is our strength. The real threat is divisive rhetoric.

Ray Jurado

Los Angeles

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