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Spanish-speaking nations of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, and Honduras. The Philippine Islands of Asia also continue to be a source of largely Spanish-speaking immigrants to the West Coast of the United States. All of these Spanish-speaking groups have established communities of significant size in geographical areas that are widely dispersed across the country. All of these groups are continuing to expand both by natural biological growth and by rious mistake to regard these Spanishspeaking groups as a homogeneous body; they are culturally and racially quite diverse. But they do have one common characteristic: the Spanish language. The importance of ‘being new’ The migration and immigration of Spanish-speaking persons to the United States is essentially a development of the 20th century. Although Spanish explorations and settlements long preceded those of England in the land area that has become the continental United States, it can hardly be stated that those surviving enclaves were the basis of the presentday Spanish-speaking population. Fewer than 75,000 citizens of Mexico lived in the land area that became the American Southwest as a result of the treaty ending the Mexican War in 1848. Almost threequarters of that total were concentrated at the time of the treaty in the northern region of what is today New Mexico. Most of them considered themselves to be of Spanish heritage and not persons of Mexican ancestry \(Mexico had revolted ico’s political boundaries did include this vast region, the cultural boundary and the area of actual governmental influence of Mexico as of 1848 were nowhere near the borders of the ceded territory. The presence of the MexicanAmerican population of today, often referred to as chicanos, stems overwhelmingly from the mass migration that began during the decade of 1910-1920. During that interval, Mexico engaged in a convulsive civil war. It is estimated that in the ensuing violence a million persons lost. their lives, and many more were injured. The war caused a northward exodus of persons seeking to flee the bloodshed. Since that era, millions of Mexican citizens have legally immigrated to the United States, and millions more have come illegally since border restrictions were first imposed in 1924. The influx from the other sources of Spanish-speaking immigrants has also been of relatively recent vintage. Puerto Rico was ceded by Spain to the United States in 1898. After U.S. citizenship was extended to all Puerto Ricans in 1917, migration to the mainland became a feasible option that has been frequently exercised. The Cuban-heritage population, as indicated earlier, began immigrating en masse with the advent of Fidel Castro’s social revolution in 1959. Thus, the key to understanding the current status of the nation’s Spanishspeaking population is the realization that collectively they represent the last major language group to enter the United States in large numbers. A significant proportion of the Spanish-speaking population has arrived, in fact, since World War II. The era of ethnicity This relative “newness” of the Spanish-speaking group is vital to understanding the question of bilingualism. One of the unexpected side-effects of the civil rights movement of the 1960s has been the rapid decline of assimilation as the ultimate aim for the ethnic and racial subgroups of our society. It may seem ironic at first thought that a movement for inclusion in society should spawn a retreat from the historic goals of the previous eras, but the civil rights movement launched an era of defensive narcissism among the nation’s black population. As a first step, the development of selfesteem was essential. Being black had to be perceived as a virtue, since that condition alone had been the cause of blacks’ denial of opportunities by the white population. This development was soon emulated by other subgroups who had also felt the effects of discrimination. As a result, ethnic consciousness has become the standard of the post-civil rights era. Among leaders of the major ethnic groups, cultural assimilation per se has given way to exaltations of ethnicity as the unifying appeal. When other language groups entered the nation, the goal of cultural assimilation led to pressures to abandon one’s language in favor of learning English. But the accelerated growth of the Spanish-speaking population has taken place in a time when subgroups do not feel such pressures. Expressions of racial and ethnic pride not only are tolerated by the broader society, but are hailed by minority group leaders. Obviously, the speaking of Spanish is one of the strongest of all cultural expressions. The practical aspects Many non-Hispanic businessmen are already finding it increasingly necessary to speak Spanish if they are to compete for customers among the Spanishspeaking population. In the Southwest, bilingual abilities are already common for telephone operators, medical workers, and retail salespersons. Information in public buildings, emergency signs in airplanes, and even election ballots are often written in both Spanish and English. Many employers are also finding it increasingly necessary to speak Spanish if they are to communicate effectively with some of their employees. Bilingual capabilities are also becoming important to union organizers in the region. In both New York and California it has already become necessary to use Spanish in courtrooms to assure fair trials. Thus, bilingualism is not only essential for Hispanics, it is also rapidly becoming a functional necessity for non-Hispanics. The trend is obvious not only to businessmen and union organizers, but also to many politicians. Hispanics are running for public offices, and they represent significant voter blocs that can determine which anglo or black politician will win. Many politicians are already bilingual. It is not surprising that Rosalynn Carter has been studying and learning Spanish ever since her husband was elected president. The proximity of Mexico Unlike the languages of most other ethnic groups, Spanish is the predominant language of one of the two neighboring nations to the United States. Mexico, with its 2,000-mile common border with the United States, is a constant source of cultural rejuvenation for the chicano population of the Southwest. The frequency of border crossings and extensive binational trade have accentuated tke importance of Spanish to all racial and ethnic groups in that region. The likelihood that Mexico may become a source of oil and gas supplies to this nation will greatly increase the importance of Spanish fluency in a wide array of businesses and industries. If the United States does buy oil and gas from Mexico, it is likely that many “peso dollars” will be spent to purchase goods and services from the United States. Accordingly, many merchants and workers will find it increasingly necessary to speak Spanish if they are to be successful in international commercial ventures with both Mexico and the many other Spanishspeaking nations of the Western Hemisphere. The necessity of bilingualism For many years schools in the Southwest banned the use of Spanish in the classroom and, in some instances, even on the school grounds. The belief was that it was essential that the children of Spanish families learn English if they were to succeed in life. As the U.S. Civil Rights Commission documented in a series of reports in the early 1970s, the effects of these policies were disastrous in terms of high dropout rates. poor performance, and the development of ill will within local communities. The Bilingual Education Act of 1967 sought to provide funding for school programs that would permit non THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25