Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

We Are All Immigrants Now

Recognizing our shared history and how other countries have adapted to immigration is the first step in confronting the challenges in the U.S.

We are a hemisphere of immigrants. For thousands of years—before Europeans first set foot in what was called the “New World”—this hemisphere has attracted people from around the globe. Over the last five centuries, European, Asian and African immigrants have influenced the culture, politics and economies of North and South America. A visit to Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New York, or Toronto makes clear that, more than any other region of the world, this hemisphere has become a global melting pot.

Our hemisphere stands out on the modern map of immigration at a time when, according to the Global Commission on International Migration, some 3 percent of the world’s population—about 200 million people—are on the move. The U.S. had 38.4 million immigrants during 2005, according to the Commission, making it the prime destination in the Western Hemisphere. Canada was second, with 6.1 million, followed by Argentina (1.5 million), Venezuela (1 million), Mexico (644,000), and Brazil (641,000).1

The result has been the creation of vibrant, diverse communities that do not fit within stereotyp­ical notions of ethnicity and national sovereignty.

Consider the astonishing growth of the Asian community in our hemisphere. More than 4.5 mil­lion Latin Americans (almost one percent of the total population of Latin America) are of Asian descent. Accord­ing to demographers, the lack of adequate statis­tics in many countries suggests that the number could be millions higher, especially when those who have partial Asian ances­try are included. The overwhelming majority are ethnic Chinese, Japanese and Korean. But there is a Vietnamese community in Cuba, a significant Taiwan­ese population in El Salvador, a Hmong community in Argentina, and other South Asian populations scat­tered in Panama and Venezuela. With more than 1.5 million citizens of Japanese or mixed descent, Brazil boasts the largest ethnic Japanese population outside Japan. The influx began close to 1904, increased from 1914 to 1923 and rose again from 1955 to 1959.

Meanwhile, in Canadian cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, Chinese is an unofficial third language (after Canada’s two official languages, English and French), and formerly small enclaves of “Chinatowns” in U.S. cities like New York and San Francisco have spread and prospered into thriving business centers…

Endnotes


Tags: La Opinion, migrants, New World, Sergio Munoz Bata, South-south immigration, We Are All Immigrants Now
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