Monday, December 3, 2012

Student Reflection

by Erik Bingham

Spanish in the United States

The history of the United States is largely a history of conquest. Europeans invaded and colonized previously settled lands and sadly, through years of warfare and disease, reduced the native population and presence in North America. However, the present boundaries of the United States could have been dramatically different. There were many plans throughout the early years of the American republic for the annexation of Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and other Caribbean countries. As a student of history I love entertaining these ideas of alternative history- what could’ve been if things happened differently.

While these alternative history scenarios bring up their own historical problems and situations (like the possibility of a stronger Confederacy with Mexico and Cuba that could’ve won the Civil War), that would most likely change almost everything that has happened, they provide some food for thought. Assuming that there was an American Civil War and that the Union won, and that everything else happened the same way for the most part, what would the United States be like had Mexico, Canada, and Cuba been annexed? Specifically and in relation to my work in the community, how would this change the immigration system/problem and the presence of the Spanish language in the United States? If the United States took control over all of Mexico, would Spanish be as prevalent as it is today or would the United States have gone to great lengths to eliminate its use? On the flip side, would Spanish also be an official language of many (potential) states within present-day Mexico and therefore have a larger presence in federal politics? If the United States had control of the above territories, would there be as large of an undocumented alien population? The scenarios are endless but are nonetheless interesting to think about for a moment.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world and also within the United States. I was surprised to see that the state and federal governments provide many resources in Spanish. Many official documents that our clients bring in are not written in English but in Spanish. Before working at ECIRMAC I assumed that everything would be in English. After seeing that our governments make an effort to reach out to these Spanish speakers by providing translations of official documents and program information I was glad that they recognize that an “English only” approach to the United States is not best path for us as a country. I do not agree with the people who say that if Puerto Rico wants to become the 51st state they would have to adopt English as their official language. It is impractical to suggest that a large nation of immigrants should only speak one language.

The Spanish language in the United States should not be persecuted but encouraged. Diversity is something that makes our country stands out from others, as we are composed of a variety of nations, cultures, and also languages. While the vast majority of people here speak English, there is a strong presence of Spanish speakers that will surely only continue to grow in the future. With this in mind I propose that in the future we act much like Canada, which recognizes both English and French as official languages and they provide bilingual government services. America’s demographics are changing as they have been changing since the birth of the nation. My hope is that we embrace and adapt to this change with open minds.

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