(BLANK)-American? – Miami

Posted on May 31, 2011

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Diversity is one of the words that dominate here in the city of Miami or South Florida in general. One can see the word taking a life of its own when you walk down the street to your nearest supermarket, go to the malls in the area, visit Florida International University and take a look at the student body, faculty and staff. You can also see diversity when you take a look at the variety of choices you have when making up your mind about what kind of food you want to eat, and which restaurant do you want to go to. You will find thousands of people from more than 20 different countries, especially here in Miami. Hundreds of businesses that are internationally based have their headquarters here in the populous city. Many people would call it a melting pot with so many different people living together in one community, but is this beautiful city of Miami really a melting pot?

Historically, when Americans first spoke of the idea of a “melting pot” they referred to “the promise that all immigrants can be transformed into Americans, a new alloy forged in a crucible of democracy, freedom and civic responsibility.” (Booth) This idea came from a play called “The Melting Pot” by a Jew from England named Israel Zangwill; play with the above definition as its unforgettable central theme. The phrase “melting pot” was first used to describe the first big wave of immigrants from Europe between the 1890s and the 1920s. Since 1998 the second big wave of immigrants is coming from Asia and Latin America. So what is different? What has changed? Does the phrase “melting pot” still hold some truth?

Some may argue that during the first big wave, there was a greater importance placed on assimilation. The white majority emphasized what it meant to be an American and the drive to have a common language and culture. Now with this second wave of immigrants there is a greater desire on preserving one’s ethnic identity, and defending one’s cultural roots. An example of this can be seen in present day Miami, where the great Latin American community holds a strong ground on their native language Spanish. Also, the fact that so many different people from different countries in Latin America speak the language makes a great difference when one compares the two big immigration waves in United States’ history. The reason why is because during the first big wave, people came from different countries in Europe where their languages varied amongst each other and once they came to the states the only way to communicate amongst themselves was if they all learned English. Here in South Florida, with a great majority that speaks Spanish, sometimes the language barrier holds no limits even though we are in U.S. ground. Of course, this is referring to most of the first generation immigrants, since their kids will have to learn English in school. With so many people that share the same foreign language one could argue that it makes it harder to assimilate when the people do not find a need to learn English.

Truth is that there is a great shift in ethnic population going on right under our noses, and it is so rapid that it is said that during my generation’s lifetime “no one ethnic group will compromise a majority of the nation’s population.” (Booth) According to the U.S Census Bureau, the United States is expected to experience significant increases in racial and ethnic diversity over the next four decades. The Hispanic population alone is projected to more than double between 2000 and 2050. This shift will test the idea of a melting pot more than ever; an idea that is so central to the national identity.

The notion that this country can transform people of every color and background into one nation is part of the American Dream. The reason why so many people want to come to America is because it is said to be a land of immigrants and a land of opportunities. The catch is that you have to make an effort to learn the common language (English) and assimilate to a certain extent. Many factors are defined by ethnicity, though, for example; churches and schools people attend, neighborhoods, friends and spouses’ people have, politicians and propositions they vote for, culture people immerse themselves in and the way people view themselves amongst others. It seems like for the majority of people’s lives things remain intimately correlated to ethnicity. Would it ever be possible for someone who is a first generation immigrant to say “I am plainly ‘American,’” or will it always remain as (blank)-American?

By Vanessa C. Rodriguez

Booth, William. “The Myth of the Melting Pot. America’s Racial and Ethnic Divides. One Nation, Indivisible: Is it History?.” Washington Post (1998): n. pag. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/meltingpot/melt0222.htm&gt;.

Ortman, Jennifer, and Christine Guarneri. United States Census Bureau. United States Population Projections: 2000 to 2050. , 2009. Web. 31 May 2011. <http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/analytical-document09.pdf&gt;.

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