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July 16, 2008

Remember Hispanics’ history

Plaudits to Monica Bustamante for her gutsy report in Lewis Diuguid’s column “Area Hispanics often live in a divided world” (6/25, Opinion) regarding the remnants of racial prejudice.

Mexican-Americans banished society’s past infractions to secluded recesses of the mind. Unwittingly, the memories surface.

Ms. Bustamante’s recounting of hurtful events reminds me of a 1960s confrontation. At a Catholic school in Argentine, a priest came thundering in to unseat my three young girls from the all-white catechism class and steered us to the door. At that time clergy required respect. I withheld an outburst of expletives. Our community was a reflection of society’s thoughtless supremacy.

Native-born, second-generation Mexican-Americans earned our first-class citizenship with blood, sweat and tears, in war and in peace. Our present generation, empowered with equal employment and educational opportunities, hastily scale to the mountaintop and unlimited success as envisioned by Martin Luther King, heroic leader in the struggle for civil rights and human dignity. Race riots awoke the conscience of a nation. Precious freedoms were unleashed for African-Americans, Mexican-Americans and all minority citizens.

Sadly enough, Hispanic history is rarely documented. Our contributions and storied legacy of strife and survival will fade away like a dust storm in the wind.

Esperanza Amayo
Kansas City, Kan.



"Our present generation, empowered with equal employment and educational opportunities, hastily scale to the mountaintop and unlimited success."

No, actually, Esperanza, they don't. A smaller percentage of Latino boys and girls go to college than any other racial or ethnic group. If the explanation were simply discrimination, African Americans would be at the bottom. They're not. The numbers have been improving, but they're still dismal. The problem is particularly severe in California, with a huge Hispanic population, familes that have been in California for four centuries, and an educational system expressly designed from the beginning to be inclusive.

Worse, Mexico has begun the sharp drop in birth rates of a true post-agricultural society, the "demographic transition." Mexican-origin Hispanics have not. Something's desperately wrong here, and it's not for outsiders to fix the problem.

Pride in heritage is essential, but the change in cultural values that will bring the Mexican-American community respect is going to have to come from within itself.

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