It has been an interesting time in Elkhart County lately. Since this part of the Midwest was not used to having many foreigners around it has taken a long time for the local people to realize that they are here to stay. Not only that but they are claiming their place in history, not only participating but also demanding that their presence be acknowledged and recognized, not as part of the folklore, but as part of the thriving economy that they participate in.
There are Latino families in Indiana, and particularly in Elkhart County, that have been here for several generations. Others arrived later, probably around the 90’s, when the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce announced job openings for anyone who would come to work here. Those who responded to the call did not arrive alone. Along with them were their families who had to settle down in inhospitable places, not finding anything in the Spanish language, nor the food items they were used to.
Because of many needs and given their entrepreneurial spirit, many businesses are now part of Elkhart County. Those businesses, not only cater to the tastes and wishes of the Latinos, they are also account for a lot of employment and tax payments that benefit the county.
This local journey has not been exempt from troubles and hurdles. Becoming acquainted with a different culture and language is not an easy task. For some time the schools and local authorities kept wondering when were the newcomers going to participate in the local activities. The time has arrived, after several years of increasing number of students graduating from high school and college, there are people ready and qualified to be at the decision- making places.
There are individuals who can contribute to the local efforts, but it cannot be expected that they become Americanized to the extent of forgetting their roots and traditions.
Becoming “white” is not a good sign, since it indicates that you are worthless unless you are someone else.
Learning the culture and language is a way of communicating with others while admiring and respecting their background. It is also a time to remember your own language and roots, the family and people that made it possible for you to be here and have the advantages you now enjoy.
If you know about your own culture and history deeper than the music and food, and try to learn about the real facts that changed the course of history of your place of origin, you will be able to appreciate your origins with all it uniqueness, then you will be able to also appreciate the unique culture of others and what a treasure they are in this enormous garden of God.
It is the variety and diversity of nature what makes it awesome; if everyone were the same it would be awfully boring. Engaging in respectful dialogue is a way of learning and teaching and turning to creative ways of doing things.
Sometimes the encounter is painful for both parties, those who feel they have done no wrong (After all that’s how things have always been done!), and also for those who always feel excluded and discriminated against.
What wonderful opportunities for growth and understanding we are having. We can make history together by changing the rules together!
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