America as an immigrant country has grown a unique diversity that represents important elements of almost the entire world. That diversity has at times been celebrated and at times cursed.
Other than Black slaves and perhaps, indentured servants, immigrants generally came to this country from Europe as religious or economic refugees seeking to start over in this vast new land. They brought their cultural artifacts with them and looked to fit their ways into an emerging America.
The streets of the cities, the harsh life of the frontier and a subsequent generation soon took the edge off their uniqueness. Identity as Americans also meant freedom from a past in what had been their home continent.
Many of these new Americans found purpose in moving westward and occupying the lands opened to them by history. The trouble is that the lands were already occupied by Native Americans and the off-springs of the Spanish conquest for at least a century and more.
We perhaps know of slavery as a “peculiar institution.” Another “peculiar institution” were the reservations established for the Native American nations that survived the national western movement as the invaders did not want anything to do with those they found on the way to their own dream.
The Spanish/Mexican/Indian hybrids, the other significant group found on their way west were part of the populated the lands once governed by Spain and Mexico. Those not pushed out were considered part of the natural landscape and ignored.
This ignored population was the source of the Latino beginning in America. Since that time, the heritage concept for them has taking many turns.
From a forgotten people left behind by history, to an awakening in the 20th Century that resulted in a fight for civil rights and a search to rediscover identity, the Latino community worked hard to free itself of its invisible status. This was helped along by a large influx of Latino immigrants that have come across our southern border in the latter part of the 20th Century and are still coming in the 21st.
That event is changing the face of immigration in America as immigrants are no longer coming across oceans as before. Rather, they are coming from our continent and hemisphere.
Their goals and desires however are the same as they seek to come to this country and find a new life and prosperity through hard work and raise their families to follow the traditions that made America great. They have energized particularly the general Latino community and facilitated its engagement in the affairs of the country.
In a sense, the Latino immigrant carries a deeper commitment to this country as America is felt as a genuine extension of who they are. They see the social, political and economic landscape as an opportunity to achieve the freedom that only the American Dream can offer.
There combined realities in the life of the Latino world has elevated the meaning of diversity to that of the completion of a puzzle that speaks to everyone. Latinos know this more than any other community because they carry all of the strands that describe diversity.
The Latino carries the seeds of the four world racial groups. Their diversity ranges from the northern European blonde and blue eyed to the darkest African complexion.
They are bilingual and some cases multi-lingual as part of their heritage. In some ways, they are the face of American diversity as they bring to the table the world view of an immigrant country.