I was paging through a new book I saw at Border’s today. It’s called Translation Nation and although I didn’t read that much of it, it’s generally about the rise of Latin American influence in our culture. The author begins the book describing his childhood, growing up with recent Guatemalan immigrant parents in L.A., over the years watching the city become one of the world’s largest Latin American cities. This is a place where the most common name for newborns last year was Jose. Our country is changing, fast.
I am at a unique vantage point for this cultural shift. My husband is from Mexico, I live in a neighborhood of Milwaukee that has, over the past 20 years, become a settlement for Mexican and other Latin American immigrants, and these days, managing restaurants generally means employing a lot of Hispanics. Several of my husband’s relatives live with us, meaning I am the only white, native English speaker at home.
So, I was thinking today, as I was skimming through this book, how ironic that I live in my hometown, in the United States, in my own culture, with my own language, though on some days I speak more Spanish than English. It wasn’t really an option for my husband and I to settle down in Mexico at this time in our lives, but of course one would expect that living here would be somewhat of a compromise for him; he’s the one sacrificing his homeland, most of his family, his culture, etc. But strangely, I think we are pretty even on this one. He can head east a few blocks for Mexican groceries, restaurants galore, a community within a community, with a shared language and culture. Of course, I can head a few miles out of my neighborhood or almost anywhere west of where I live to be in a world of mostly English-speaking caucasians.
I look forward to more cultural immersion in my own city as the years pass. I see more and more change in the world all around me, and I hope that I will have the chance to chronicle it as it happens.