Sunday, October 22, 2006
Latinos Doing It for Themselves
Interesting article in today's New York Times about Latino immigrants working for other Latinos here in the U.S.
The gist of the piece by Mireya Navarro is that while there are clearly benefits for both parties: shared language, culture, an expected shared immigration experience, there is some friction between recently arrived immigrants and their more established compatriots.
Says the article:
"In the employment market for both legal and illegal immigrants, many nannies and maids are finding their first jobs among the older generations of Latinos, who are now in a position to hire domestic help. But while the two groups of strivers may gravitate toward each other because of cultural and language similarities, their intersection can also be fraught with odd tensions and broken expectations, say researchers, employers and workers."
I can see how this can happen. My own experiences have found me all but apologizing to blue collar Latinos who take my garbage out at the office or clear my table at restaurants. Long story short, it bothers me immensely to give orders to or receive services from other Latino people.
This reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Real Women Have Curves; the movie is about the daughter of first-generation immigrants who wants her family to be as motivated and ambitious as she is. In one scene, she dares her sister to stand up to her Latina boss at Saks Fifth Avenue who commissions the gowns made by the girl's mother and sister at a local factory. When the boss acts like a bitch, looking down on the two girls in her high heels and beautifully tailored suit, the movie's heroine disses the boss in Spanish, only to be sassed right back. It was painful to watch only because many a time I have found myself in a suit and tie having to weather comments like "fag," "blowhard," and "he thinks he's white" by other Latinos who think I have no idea what they're saying, or, worse, they know I know what they're saying and don't care.
I've had many discussions about this sort of class struggle with my black and latino friends and really, it all boils down to our communities not expecting for us to be more than invisible. It's OK to work and toil, but to assume a position of leadership and to actually go head to head with the establishment is still unheard of for old school latinos --- to see some of their own "leave the flock" and embrace American values, values that then breed the same kinds of class struggles that exist in the old countries, is painful.
But as we say in the 'hood: Don't hate, participate and congratulate.