Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success

By Lawrence E. Harrison | Go to book overview

6
The Mexicans

Hispanic People are evolving to a bilingual, bicultural culture. . . . We could come back in 100 years and the Latinos will not have assimilated in the classic sense.

-- David Hayes-Bautista, Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, 1991

The problem in which the current immigration is suffused is, at heart, one of numbers; for when the numbers begin to favor not only the maintenance and replenishment of the immigrants source culture, but also its overall growth, and in particular growth so large that the numbers not only impede assimilation but go beyond to pose a challenge to the tradition culture of the American nation, then there is a great deal about which to be concerned.

-- Dallas Morning NewscolumnistRichard Estrada, letter to the author, 1991

Mexicans constitute the single largest immigrant group of recent decades, accounting for more than half the burgeoning Hispanic- American community. Wages are several times higher in the United States than in Mexico, and educational opportunity, social welfare programs, and judicial/police fairness are far greater. Thus a powerful magnet pulls on the U.S. side of a two-thousand-mile-long border, while a combination of rapid population growth, slow job creation, and social injustice on the Mexican side gives a powerful push.

I believe that Mexico's failure to build solid democratic institutions, its slow economic development (relative to, for example, Canada and the United States), and its extreme social inequalities all reflect the Hispanic value system that has been the principal obstacle to human progress throughout Hispanic America, and indeed in Spain itself until recent decades. I would not be concerned by the massive flow of Mexican immigrants, legal and illegal, if there were evidence that the melting pot was indeed melting, that mainstream American culture was substantially displacing Hispanic culture. But the evidence is not reassuring, and it underscores the costs of an

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