Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The 'México lindo y querido Syndrome', exposed

The Washington Post published today the results of a study sponsored by the Manhattan Institute that revealed that while "immigrants of the past quarter-century have been assimilating in the United States at a notably faster rate than did previous generations (...) The gap between today's foreign-born and native populations remains far wider than it was in the early 1900s and is particularly large in the case of Mexican immigrants".
Jacob L. Vigdor, a professor at Duke University and the author of the study, is quoted in the story explaining that a possible explanation for this accelerated assimilation process was "that the economic expansion of the 1990s created more job opportunities at all levels, speeding the economic integration of immigrants. It could also be that because today's immigrants begin at such a low starting point, 'it's easier to make progress to the next level up' of integration than it would be if the immigrant had to improve on an already high level of integration."

The last three paragraphs of the story are devoted to explain why Mexican immigrants hold one of the lowest levels of assimilation, according to the study's results. Please read:

"The overall assimilation index also masks big differences between immigrants from certain countries. Mexicans, for example have an index of 13, while Vietnamese were at 41. And although immigrants who arrived as children tend to be nearly identical to their U.S.-born counterparts, apart from their lower rates of citizenship, those who come from Mexico are less assimilated and have higher incidences of teenage pregnancy and incarceration.

"A major reason for these disparities in assimilation levels may be the high percentage of Mexican immigrants who are in the country illegally, Vigdor said. When only cultural factors are considered, Mexicans score almost as high as Vietnamese and higher than immigrants from countries such as India and China, which tend to have a high rate of immigration to the United States.

" 'If you're in the country illegally, a lot of the avenues of assimilation are cut off to you,' he said. 'There are lot of jobs you can't get, and you can't become a citizen.'

Among the ten largest immigrant groups featured in the story, Mexicans rank number 10 on 'Civic Assimilation' while they are just on the middle of the list when it comes to 'Cultural Assimilation'. They're below other Latin American contingents, such as Cubans, Dominicans or Salvadoreans, but they're above--more culturally assimilated, that is--than Indians and Chinese.

I've always backed the theory that explains the existence of a Mexican malaise called the 'México lindo y querido Syndrome'. This largely common maldición depicts the Mexican unabashed resistance to assimilation, not only in the U.S., but everywhere we end up moving to.

We're addicted to our mother country, we think assimilating to a different country is traición a la patria, is betraying our nation. Why adjusting to this new place, we think, if eventually we'll go back home, where everything goes?

Vigdor makes a point at underscoring how hard it is to adjust when you're illegally in this country, how difficult doing anything is when you're always afraid of la chota, the authorities. But I know a bunch of Mexican legal immigrants who would sell their mother for two hundred pesos before fully assimilating to the U.S.

Why is it so hard to leave all that behind? Is it, maybe, because it is all, Mexico, so close to el gabacho, that we think we're still there, that we hope that, one morning we'll wake up and here will become there?

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