It may seem odd for a travel blog to wander into the realm of populist right-wing American politics, but in this instance I would like to celebrate the role of Spanish-speakers within our industry.
For years I have travelled and lead tours through the Americas and around the world. At almost every hotel in which I stay in the United States there is at least one Spanish speaker on staff and often several. Rarely are they in management, yet universally they are polite, friendly and thrilled to speak Spanish with me (as I am with them).
Of course Latinos are increasingly in positions of power throughout North America and as with all immigrant groups, they have often had to break through the proverbial glass ceiling in order to find some measure of equality.
Many have roots in Central and South America, but the majority have a family connection with Mexico. None has ever stolen from me or my clients. This is really a self-evident point, but in light of the current political climate I guess it needs saying.
Trump’s racist rant was so entirely despicable, so entirely inexcusable, so obviously geared to divide and foment hatred it may be likened to Nazi-German propaganda of the 1930’s.
In my mind he is guilty of a hate crime.
It should be no surprise to anyone that Hispanic-Americans (both legal and undocumented) engage in many of the lowest paying jobs in the United States. Many businesses would collapse without this ‘affordable’ labour.
Understanding the northward-flow of migrants through the Americas (or Europe) is complicated and tragic and in no-manner does the blame sit entirely with the northern countries. Gradually, stability and honest debate is taking hold throughout our hemisphere and quality of life is improving.
Painfully inequitable wealth distribution, endemic corruption, institutional racism and gross gender bias remain serious challenges that contribute to the legal and illegal flow of migrants… but none of these realities excuse the vitriolic xenophobia of Trump’s brand of populist racism.
It often comes as a surprise, but the United States is the third most populous country on earth (after China and India). Indisputably the USA does a better job of serving the needs of its citizens than other heavily populated countries – even those with some historical parallels (i.e. Brazil).
Migration (both forced and voluntary) in relation with intercultration (mixing with indigenous populations) continues to define the various societies in the post-colonial “New World.”
The majesty and success of the American mosaic reflects this diversity. Remember:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
History is complicated and our mostly immigrant-based societies are gradually demonstrating that unity with diversity is not purely ideological, but is an achievable goal. We are even gradually coming to terms with the treatment of indigenous peoples – but there is yet a long way to go …
Over the last 20 years we have seen massive – almost revolutionary – changes throughout the region:
- Regardless of one’s economic views, the US managed to elect an African-American President – not as some sort of token, but on merit
- In ultra-conservative Chile, a woman is serving her second-term as president
- In Peru there is real talk of teaching Quechua alongside Spanish
- Bolivia has elected an indigenous president
- Quebec has transformed into an open French-speaking society that rejected nationalist xenophobic rhetoric
- Peace has virtually broken out in Colombia and throughout Central America
- Marriage equality is now supported by an outright majority throughout the Americas
These are all big deals. Although many huge challenges remain it is nice to witness the effects of systemic equality (rather than some manipulative BS about guns and individual rights). The environment, energy, debt and economic migration are but a few of the major challenges we collectively face.
Mexico must work towards a more just society where its young do not feel the pull of the north. If the US does not want undocumented workers, stop hiring them, but let us not divert real and necessary debates because of the racist rantings of a megalomaniac.
Please do not give in to such horrific racism. Almost all of my American friends have family histories of poverty-based migration. To suggest that somehow today’s migrants are motivated by anything different than the desire to better their personal conditions is simply stupid.
It is time we actively expose those who use hate for their own political means…
Let us not forget the words of Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.