By Nora O. Lozano
La versión en español está disponible aquí.
First, I want to thank those who wrote me with responses to my previous column, “I am an Immigrant.” While some asked me to write more about the political scene here in the United States, especially about the presidential hopefuls, some others suggested for me to continue writing about the topic of immigration.
Before I move to the substance of this column, I want to thank BNG and its editor in chief, Robert Dilday, for their willingness to publish my column in Spanish. I recognize that trying new things brings new challenges. Thus, I am grateful for this gesture of inclusion not only of Latinas/os in the United States, but of Spanish-speaking readers in Latin America and Spain. Of course, I also want to thank these new readers for reading and commenting on my writing.
Continuing with the topic of the Spanish language, recently Donald Trump and one of his followers, Sarah Palin, criticized Jeb Bush for his use of Spanish on the campaign trail. This brought to the floor the conversation about why we have so much Spanish in the United States. Statistics show that there are 52.6 million Spanish-speaking people in this country, and that the only place on earth where more people speak Spanish is Mexico.
An apparent reason to account for the number of Spanish-speaking people in the United States is immigration; however, another important reason is the foreign policy of this country. I do not have space here to include all of the different foreign policies that the United States has followed throughout the years; however I would like to mention three examples that as a consequence increased the Latino/a population in this country:
1) “I did not cross the border, the border crossed me” is a common saying among Mexican-Americans in Texas. Due to complicated political and economic issues that led to a war between the United States and Mexico during the 19th century, the border between the two countries was moved; many common people were deeply affected by this event. One night they went to sleep in their own houses and it was Mexico, the next morning they woke up, and it was the United States. Same house, same bed, different country. The border crossed them! So when someone tells persons of Mexican-American descent whose families have been here for generations “go home,” they confidently reply, “I am home.”
2) In 1898, the United States and Spain were involved in a war. Eventually the United States won the conflict, and took the booty, which included Puerto Rico. In 1917, due to World War I, there was a need for more soldiers, and after years of keeping Puerto Ricans in a very ambiguous political status, the U.S. government decided to grant them citizenship. Since then, Puerto Ricans, as U.S. citizens, have been moving freely between the island and the continental United States.
3) In the 1980s the United States got heavily involved in the internal affairs of Nicaragua and El Salvador. In the Nicaraguan case, the United States supported the guerrillas in order to destabilize the elected socialist government. In the Salvadoran case, the United States supported the government’s efforts to suffocate the cries of the common people who were asking for justice, under the claim that these persons were communists. The result of these U.S. foreign strategies was that thousands of Salvadorans and Nicaraguans migrated to this country seeking political asylum and refuge.
I recognize that historical events may be interpreted in multiple ways, depending on the interpreter and his/her perspectives and values. As we look at history, church historian and theologian Dr. Justo L. González invites us to read regular and biblical history in a “non-innocent way.” What does he mean by this? He means that we need to recognize the glorious parts of history as well as the ones that are hurtful, distressing, embarrassing and perhaps shameful.
Why is this important? González highlights: “Innocent history is a selective forgetfulness of a more realistic memory.” If we read biblical history in an innocent way, we will highlight that King David was a man after God’s heart, but we will never mention anything about his sins of adultery and murder, and thus we will not learn from his mistakes.
On the other hand, González affirms: “Responsible remembrance … leads to responsible action.” He continues by sharing that in the case of immigration, reading history in a non-innocent way will challenge the dominant group in the United States to remember their immigrant roots, as well as the biblical stance toward immigrants: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:33-34).
While we cannot change the past, we have the future — one that opens itself clear and full of hope and possibilities as new horizons are delineated. But for this future to be indeed hopeful, it demands us to read history in a non-innocent way in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. Furthermore, it invites us to recognize and welcome opportunities to do whatever is in our hands to join God’s agenda and project of justice, peace and love for all of God’s children.
How do we do this in practical ways? While we are not fully responsible for this country’s course regarding domestic and foreign policy, it is important to be informed in order to support political and economic agendas that are fair and just for all of God’s children. Regarding the migrant/refugee crises, in my previous column I offered a series of actions to get positively involved in this issue. For further ideas, please visit the local organizations that work on this issue in your community.
This country has been so blessed. However, blessings come with responsibilities. In the Bible, when someone received a blessing, it was to bless someone else (Isaiah 42:6-7). The presence of minorities, migrants and refugees in this country may represent a problem for some; however, if we adopt the perspective of a good leader, we must ask: Is this a problem or a great opportunity to learn, grow, be better and bless others? Is this a problem or an opportunity to truly fulfill Jesus’ commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself”?