Recognizing our Latinos a good move |

Recognizing our Latinos a good move

by Claire Fortier

South Lake Tahoe took the first step toward recognizing a community among us few are willing to acknowledge. By creating the Latino Affairs Commission, the city not only gave Latinos a greater voice, it has demonstrated respect for a critical part of our population often taken for granted.

There is nothing new about exclusivity. In the United States, just about every immigrant culture was at one time or another was scorned and mistreated. We now embrace St. Patrick’s Day as a national good-time day and where green and “Kiss me, I’m Irish” buttons are popular adornments. But there was a time not too many years ago when the national image of an Irishman was a fighting gnome with little sense and too many children.

Italians fared little better. Jewish were treated abominably. Even Russians were considered vodka-swilling peasants.

For centuries, blacks were treated like the slaves their ancestors were forced to be. They certainly weren’t considered “Americans,” even if their ancestors lived here generations before many Anglos families. Now through sacrifice and bloodshed, blacks have claimed some small measure of respect. Now even the reference as black is eschewed, replaced by African-American as a sign of respect and acceptance.

The only group rightfully considered native sons – Native Americans – were treated with alarming cruelty. Their land was taken, their homes destroyed. Penned up in reservations, they survived and endured. But their homeland was never theirs again.

The tradition of exclusively goes unabated with Latinos. They speak a different language, celebrate different customs and go largely unnoticed, if not ridiculed, by the rest of us Anglos.

As long as they clean our hotel rooms and wash the dishes in our casinos, they are welcome. But part of the community? Forget it.

Even though Latinos make up almost a third of our population, we act as if they are uninvited guests who have stayed too long and used too many resources.

We fail to see the strengths they bring to Lake Tahoe – their strong family traditions, their hard work, their religious heritage and their solidarity as a community. We don’t appreciate the difficulties they overcome, crossing language and cultural barriers to accomplish what every other immigrant culture did – find a better life for themselves and their children. We forget that each immigrant group has made its own mark to our greatly diverse American culture.

Latinos at Lake Tahoe are as critical to our community well-being as Anglos, Asians and all the other types of human beings that are part of what makes Lake Tahoe thrive. Fortunately, the city of South Lake Tahoe recognizes that.

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