Response #2

Alexandra Troiano

Professor Alvarez

English 255

25 February 2012

America’s Duplicity : Acculturation and Globalization in Bernardo Vega’s “Puerto Rican Migration to the United States” and Ilan Stavans’ “Acculturation 1899-1945”

            In the 1930s, mass amounts of Puerto Ricans migrated to the United States, mostly to New York City.  This “Great Migration” peaked in the 1950s and 1960s.  Puerto Ricans needed to escape the diminishing economy of Puerto Rico that resulted from the island’s transition to industrialization. This led them straight into the arms of low-wage jobs in the United States. Despite this push, Puerto Ricans faced discrimination and negative attitudes from Americans. Bernardo Vega addresses the misconceptions people hold about the migration of Puerto Rican workers into the United States in the 1940s and comments on the negative effects of early stages of globalization:

 …It must be understood that this emigration of Puerto Ricans to the North is not voluntary. It is forced by the economic and social conditions that exist in Puerto Rico due to colonialism. American commercial and industrial monopolies have ruined the island’s economy, forcing the cultivation of only those goods that benefit them, thereby dictating their price and obliging the natives to export them on American transports, since as the dominating nation it has a complete monopoly of the shipping fleets. (Vega 429)

According to Vega, this “forced” emigration and the presence of Puerto Rican laborers in the United States “is not voluntary.” Vega attributes the Puerto Rican presence in America to Puerto Rico’s “economic and social conditions.” This implies the notion that the United States forced Puerto Ricans to migrate; yet upon arrival in America, they faced discrimination and scorn.  Ironically, these bad conditions resulted from American “colonialism.” Clearly, Vega blames America for both the conditions of Puerto Rico and, consequentially, the negative attitudes towards Puerto Ricans workers in the United States. The American monopolies “ruined” Puerto Rico’s economy and “forced” Puerto Rican production into benefitting only their needs.  Vega uses the words “forcing,” “ dictating,’’ and “dominating” to describe the effects of American industrialization and globalization on Puerto Rico’s economy.  He also states that this system “eradicates” production of “minor products,” or products that do not benefit America. Vega recognizes America’s “complete monopoly” as the downfall of Puerto Rico’s economy. This control represents the early stages of globalization. This control’s effect on Puerto Rico’s economy demonstrates the negatives consequences of globalization.

In the 1940s, in the ghettos of California and Texas, a Chicano culture emerged. This “pachucos” culture highlighted the ambivalence of those with mixed cultural identities. The group did divulge into neither Mexican culture nor American culture, but rode the line in between. Stavans. In “Acculturation 1899-1945” addresses the identity created by the “pachucos” in the 1940′s:

During the 1940′s…a tangible Spanish-speaking underclass emerged that set the stage for pachucos, mestizo adolescents who dressed flashily and spoke using their own jargon. Thus pachucos delineated the parameters of their minority culture by stressing their ambivalence – neither Mexican nor American, they belonged to an imagined community that straddled two culture and linguistic worlds. (Stavans 366)

The pachucos “dressed flashily and spoke using their own jargon.” Immediately, the type of dress and speech used by the pachucos defines their identity. The use of the word “jargon” directly implies an unintelligible form of speech. This word choice reinforces the notion that these groups of “pachucos” were “underclass.” This group of “adolescents” created their own identity, or, Stavans states, ” an imagined community that straddled two culture and linguistic worlds.” Not only did this group of mestizos literally belong to multiple cultures, but also their ethnicity reflected this combination of two cultural worlds. According to Stavans, this group of people, in turn, created an “ambivalent culture”; he states, “Pachucos delineated the parameters of their minority culture by stressing their ambivalence.” Once again, this highlights the notion that a new culture, or ethnicity, emerged out of an “imaginary,” ambivalent” identity taken on by mestizos. Stavans also emphasizes this group’s place in society, “underclass.”

Works Cited

Stavans, Ilan. “Acculturation: 1899-1945.” The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 366. Print.

Vega, Bernardo. “Puerto Rican Migration to the United States.” 1946. Trans. Edna Acosta-Belén and Susan Liberis-Hill. The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature. Eds. Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belen, Harold Augenbraum, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Rolando Hinojosa, and Gustavo Perez Firmat. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 429. Print.

 

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