Hispanic Culture in the U.S.

Cynthia Gorney, a prof at Berkeley j-school, has a good article in Sunday’s NYT Magazine about the Hispanic advertising market in the U.S. and Hispanic immigration and assimilation more generally. It exposes the varying degrees of assimilation, generational differences, and ends with a provocative quote on a dicey issue: "I think we might become a bilingual nation. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing." (Highly debatable whether that’s not a bad thing.)

I am absolutely convinced that the conversation around immigration and Hispanic culture in America will only grow in intensity in the coming years, and that it will stretch beyond immigration policy debate in D.C. and into deeper cultural issues like what constitutes American identity and culture. On Wednesday, I will post my formal review of Sam Huntington’s book on this topic. Huntington believes American identity as we’ve known it is disintegrating in the face of an onslaught of Hispanic influences and non-assimilating immigrants.

I think a young person who wants to prepare himself for the real world with an eye toward business would be as well served learning Spanish and understanding Latin American culture as he would be learning Chinese and understanding Chinese culture.

Admittedly, I’m biased. I’ve decided to study Spanish in college. I’m going to travel to Latin America this winter. I’m speaking in Chihuahua, Mexico in a few weeks. I’m motivated to become fluent.

16 Responses to Hispanic Culture in the U.S.

  1. Krishna says:

    “Huntington believes American identity *as we’ve known it* is disintegrating in the face of an onslaught of Hispanic influences and non-assimilating immigrants.”

    The qualifying words *as we have known it* – would that mean American identity could mean different things to different people and hence cannot be a firmament? Who owns the IP anyway? Huntington? The name sounds more English and less American.

  2. patti digh says:

    Ben – Given your interest in this topic, you might also find Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Hector Tobar’s book, “Translation Nation,” to be of interest – the subtitle is “defining a new American identity in the Spanish-speaking United States.” One interesting part of this issue for me is the concept of culture itself – does culture evolve or is it static? What was, what is, what will be – which is our definition of culture? What does holding on to cultural “norms” look like? Interesting issues…. good luck with the Spanish language study. I’m determined to be fluent as well…

  3. gregory says:

    this is a wonderful dynamic happening around the world, the uk with the influx of the former colonies, europe with laborers, the middle east, in asia, ditto… whatever the reasons, usually economic, we are entering a great mixing, the world swirled like a stirred soup pot, and something new definitely will arise out of it, no longer defined by place, who are you? my guess… something greater … i always enjoy your blog, thanks for your efforts, gregory

  4. Travis says:

    Ben, where in Latin America are you traveling? My wife and I (we’re both in college) are thinking about spending some time in Costa Rica or another Latin American country after we graduate, to learn Spanish and explore business opportunities.

  5. Ben Casnocha says:

    Will post about my travel plans once they’re firmed up.

  6. Hey Ben,

    I hope you enjoy Mexico. I would like to echo your thoughts about learning Spanish — it’s important, but I worry deeply about being a sort of American Quebec or Belgium. No great power can be multilingual.

  7. Toli G. says:

    It’s awesome that you’re experiencing many different places in Mexico! Let me commend you, if I haven’t already, for choosing Spanish.

    In other news, I think it’s great that as a nation we are defining what it means to be an American at the deepest level. This will be the urgent issue of our times, and I look forward with great interest to the ensuing conversation.

  8. Tom says:

    Take the food, leave the rest.

  9. Shefaly says:

    @ Krishna:

    “.. Huntington? The name sounds more English and less American.”

    It is indeed a name of British origin. There is a town called Huntington in the Scottish Borders/ East Lothian region.

    There is also a HuntingDon in Cambridgeshire in England.

    But about the multi-facetedness of American identity, you may have a point of course.

  10. Krishna says:

    Thanks Shefaly,

    I’d love to take in the English countryside. Sure will seek your guidance as and when I make it across.

  11. Mark says:

    We have the same issue with cultural identity in Canada due to the large influx of immigrants in the last two decades. Too often pseudo intellectuals like to pooh pooh Canadian culture as being non existent because it hasn’t been around as long as most other cultures. The fact is Canadian and American cultures must be doing something right to keep attracting the steady stream of immigrants that come. This is as much a result of our culture as anything else.

    A respect for the rule of law and personal freedom are two major components that are not found in most other “older” cultures.

    On the English-Spanish issue and Huntington, I also recommend a book written by my brother who is a professor at the University of London, The Rise and Fall of Anglo-America.

    Lastly, Ben, for your Spanish I recommend you visit our new language learning site at http://www.LingQ.com. It’s now in Beta and is a little rough around the edges but is definitely your best bet to achieve fluency. I don’t know what your Spanish level is right now and we may not have that much intermediate and advanced content on the site yet. However, we will be adding content all the time and it’s worth it for you to check out.

  12. Mark says:

    Whoops, my brother’s name is Eric Kaufmann and his book is available on Amazon, here, link to amazon.com

  13. Krishna says:

    “The fact is Canadian and American cultures must be doing something right to keep attracting the steady stream of immigrants that come. This is as much a result of our culture as anything else.”

    Mark, you hit it on the head. It will shake up many Americans (other than the native Indians) that delude about their own status.

  14. Ben Casnocha says:

    Thanks for the interesting comments….and Mark, thanks for pointing out your brother’s book. Will read it at some point.

  15. Shefaly says:

    @ Krishna:

    Sure. The Scottish and English countrysides are starkly different. And there is also Wales, of course, with a vast coast line. Much hiking too. Now I sound like the DCMS spokesperson…

    @ Mark:

    “The fact is Canadian and American cultures must be doing something right to keep attracting the steady stream of immigrants that come. This is as much a result of our culture as anything else.”

    The culture of money? Why not? That is the only common factor that has been driving mass immigration – short or long term – for centuries.

    And I hate to say this, but it IS a British cultural footnote so it bears a mention here.

    In the UK, we refer only to tenured Professors as “Professor”. The rest are just called Dr .

    Even now in some of the oldest colleges in Oxbridge, if one does not have an Oxbridge degree, the omnipotent porter – who also coordinates conferences etc held in the college – addresses one as Mr/ Miss . Not just that the name will appear that way in the delegate list, the name badge and the identifier plaques placed in front of them.

    Odd but true. British culture is like that…

  16. Tom Baker says:

    Ace used to refer to The Doctor as Professor on Doctor Who. Was this then incorrect?


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