Craig White's Literature Courses

Terms / Themes


New World Immigrants
(Hispanic / Latino/a & Afro-Caribbean)

See also Mexican-Americans as immigrants or minorities?;
race / ethnicity; mestizo

The New World immigrant (Hispanic and Afro-Caribbean) combines immigrant and minority narratives or identities.

New World immigrants immigrate voluntarily (unlike minorities) . . .

but often these immigrants past historical experience of involuntary contact and exploitation (like minorities) by the USA and other First-World nations

(e.g. Spain, England, France, Portugal, which colonized and settled the New World in earlier centuries, sometimes exploiting or enslaving the ancestors of New World Immigrants).

"New World" or inter-American immigration = immigration from or within the Western Hemisphere or "The Americas."

"New World" = Western Hemisphere, the Americas

"Old World" = Eastern Hemisphere, Europe, Asia, plus or minus Africa     ("Model Minority" immigrants arrive from the Old World)

The distinction may appear familiar but, beyond geography, it implies a number of figurative, historical, and cultural associations.

Early paradigms of American immigrant literature or the immigrant narrative typically start from the "Old World" on the other side of an ocean—i.e., Europe or Asia. The European-American model of immigration dominated early ideas about American immigration.

Asian-American immigration and European-American immigration both involve a major journey from "the Old World" of Earth's Eastern Hemisphere to "the New World" of Earth's Western Hemisphere.

Implicit in this description: length of journey and difficulty of returning mean "you can't go back," implicitly encouraging commitment and assimilation to American system and values

In contrast to earlier "Old to New World" models, stories by western-hemisphere immigrants may appear more mixed or ambivalent about embracing the immigrant narrative and leaving behind the home country.

New World Immigrants' history (or geo-history) differs from "Old World immigrants"

New World countries are closer to the USA, so New World Immigrants may go back and forth more easily and frequently, dividing loyalties (though over generations this changes). See also Trans-National Migration.

New World immigrants already have migration in their family or national backgrounds—though migration from Africa was historically involuntary.

Immigration to USA may be a second or third move in family or individual memory, potentially less dramatic or final.

"Becoming an American" may be a transitory or off-and-on identity, or New-World Immigrants may fit profile of Transnational Immigrants.

For better or worse, New World immigrants may have more foreknowledge about the USA as a result of USA's proximity and involvement with other nations of Central & South America & Caribbean.

New World immigrants may also have recent experiences of European and US imperialism. (see also below, "U.S. intervention in Caribbean & Meso-America")

  • Barbadoes became independent of Great Britain in 1940s-50s.

  • Jamaica gained full independence from Great Britain in 1962.

In contrast to earlier "Old to New World" models, stories by western-hemisphere immigrants may appear more mixed or ambivalent about embracing the immigrant narrative.

"The English Lesson" from first regular meeting, p. 25

"And, among the legal aliens, there was only one who did not want to become an American citizen, Diego Torres, a young man from the Dominican Republic, and he gave his reasons.

" . . . and to improve my economic situation." Diego Torres hesitated, looking around the room. "But is one thing I no want, and is to become American citizen . . . . I no give up my country, Santo Domingo, for nothing . . . I come here, pero I cannot help. I got no work at home. There, is political. the United States control most the industry which is sugar and tourismo. . . . Someday we gonna run our own country and be jobs for everybody. My reasons to be here is to make money, man, and go back home buy my house and property. I no be American citizen, no way. I'm Dominican and proud! That's all I got to say." . . . 

Question: Is Diego expressing a minority or immigrant attitude, or some combination? (Identify parts and why.)

Immigrant: "and to improve my economic situation. . . .  My reasons to be here is to make money, man, . . . "

This is "immigrant story" because most immigrants are similarly motivated by economic opportunity or need

Minority

separate identity rather than assimilation: "But is one thing I no want, and is to become American citizen . . . . I no give up my country, Santo Domingo, for nothing . . . I'm Dominican and proud! That's all I got to say." . . . 

history of exploitation rather than opportunity (cf. minority experience): "I got no work at home. There, is political. the United States control most the industry which is sugar and tourismo. . . . Someday we gonna run our own country and be jobs for everybody." . . . 

Immigrant + minority?

"My reasons to be here is to make money, man, and go back home buy my house and property." . . . 

At least two reasons for less commitment to assimilation:

1. Nearness of home country makes break with old world and old identity less complete. As with Mexican American identity, this proximity can prolong the second-generation identity of being bi-cultural, bi-lingual

Second reason for less commitment to assimilation:

History of international exploitation can resemble minority experience. For centuries the United States has been actively involved in setting up and deposing other governments in the Americas, and our corporate presence is widespread. (This intervention can be compared to the U.S. dominant culture intruding on American Indians, or going to Africa to kidnap slaves.)

A few highlights of USA intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean:

1846-48: US-Mexican War--American forces invade Mexico, capture Mexico City, force cession of US Southwest (following US annexation of Texas 1845)

1898: Spanish-American War, U. S. forces invade Puerto Rico, beginning the island's long, complicated status as a "commonwealth" of the United States. (Spanish-American War also brought Guam and Philippines under U. S. control); US also gains sovereignty over Cuba, Philippines

1903: U. S. encourages separation of Panama from Colombia (Canal Zone relinquished by USA in 1977; invaded by USA in 1989.)

1920s: U. S. military occupation of Nicaragua. 1980s: U. S. supports "Contras" to overthrow Nicaraguan revolutionary government.

1950s-60s: Cuba

  • 1950s: U. S. interests control 75% of Cuban sugar production, supports anti-Communist Batista regime.
  • 1959: Communist revolution led by Castro 1959.
  • 1961: U. S. Bay of Pigs invasion. (failed)
  • U.S. embargoes on trade with Cuba continued throughout 20th century, with relations re-established only in 2015; U.S. maintains military base and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

1965: U. S. military intervention in Civil War in Dominican Republic

1973: CIA-backed military coup overthrows democratically elected Marxist government in Chile

1990s-2000s: Repeated U. S. military and diplomatic intervention in Haiti

2000s: After experimenting with global-capital economic reforms, several Central and South American countries elect leftist leaders. (e. g., Hugo Chavez of Venezuela)

2009: Right-wing Americans support deposition of leftist elected president in Honduras

These events have many sides and parties, but as a result many New-World immigrants have vivid ideas of the USA as a "policeman" or a "bully" in addition to being a "land of equality and opportunity."

Diaz 277 tear gas, mother recognized its smell from the year the United States invaded your island

Compare "involuntary contact" of minority groups

Assimilation or resistance? Do you join or fight the people who oppress you?

New-World immigrants can find themselves "in-between" or creating a new immigrant identity that doesn't completely fit the model immigrant or the minority identity.

Besides Hispanic immigrants showing this mix of immigrant and minority attitudes and experiences, Afro-Caribbean immigrants are another group of New World Immigrants who bring a different mix of immigrant and minority attitudes and experiences. See Afro-Caribbean immigration and identity.

North Americans tend to think of races as "pure, permanent, and separate"—mostly defined by white-black division . . .

Central Americans / Latinos / Hispanics think of races as more of a continuum, with white on one end, black on the other, but a big brown middle. (See mestizo and race / ethnicity.)

 

Why the difference? (again the reasons have to do with history of settlement of New World)

North America settled more by families—that is, women came along, which limited intermarriage between Northern European men and Native American women

Central and South America were explored and settled more by groups of men without women > intermarriage, etc. between Southern European men and Indian women.

Why the difference in intermarriage patterns? Maybe traceable to differences in marriage between Protestantism and Catholicism, esp. married vs celibate clergy.

 

Regardless of cause, many color prejudices prevail in Central and South America, but idea of purity isn't as strong and different colors may meet and mate within standard legal and social structures.

Instead of white-black dichotomy of early USA, Hispanics are brown, with many variations. Hispanics intermarry with both whites and blacks. (Does such mixing itself lead to a mix of immigrant and minority attitudes and experiences?)

 

With Afro-Caribbeans, some immigrants fall into or reinforce early USA's white-black color code. (i.e., races are pure and separate; no intermarriage; dominant-minority relations)

Afro-Caribbean immigrants to USA may bring "immigrant attitudes" of individual progress, assimilation, the American Dream, etc.

When Afro-Caribbean immigrants arrive, however, they may be regarded by the USA's dominant culture less as normal immigrants than as African American minorities.

Faced with color discrimination and lack of black-white intermarriage, Afro-Caribbeans may assimilate to African American culture rather than to the dominant culture formed by other immigrants.

Summary:

Like Hispanic New World Immigrants, Afro-Caribbean New World immigrants blend immigrant and minority attitudes, experiences, and narratives.

 

Hispanic blend:

immigrant:

  • enter USA for economic progress or human rights

  • expectations for children to do better (public education, employment opportunities)

minority:

  • previous negative experiences with USA (military interventions, election meddling, coups)

  • some color discrimination (color code)

  • Indian aspect of mestizo identity may retain deep memories of Indian slavery under Spanish conquest or Indian displacement by USA expansion.

  • Is commitment to individual literacy and education as deeply rooted or institutionalized as for Northern European and Asian immigrants?

  • Commitment to extended families binds individuals to traditional gender roles and early child-bearing.

 

Afro-Caribbean blend:

immigrant:

  • enter USA for economic progress or human rights

  • expectations for children to do better

  • Afro-Caribbeans were often the majority in their home countries (e.g., Jamaica), encouraging confidence and expectations of equal treatment > identification with dominant culture

minority:

  • previous negative experiences with USA (military interventions; also long colonization by Great Britain)

  • strong color discrimination throughout USA history and international relations. (Slave rebellions in Haiti created black-led Republic of Haiti in 1804, scaring the Southern USA. Haiti remains the least-favored nation for immigration?)

  •  association with African American minority via color code. (Such associations may be imposed or voluntary.)

  • Faced with color discrimination and lack of black-white intermarriage, Afro-Caribbeans may assimilate to African American minority culture rather than to the dominant culture formed by other immigrants.