Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.

~ Jacques Prevert ~

Here’s To Latinas Who Just Want A Fair Go

July 27th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 57 secs

Mothers everywhere want a fair go for their family.

I’m going to propose a toast, “Here’s to Latinas who just want a fair go.” In fact, I’ll go another step further. “Here’s to all women everywhere who crave a decent chance in life.”

Being far away from everything sometimes has its advantages. From a distance, things look different. Here in Tasmania, at the bottom edge of the world, you can see with less detail. From here, cultural and economic issues get put into perspective. Which is why – from where I see – hardworking Latinas, who just want a fair go, deserve deference.

For people unfamiliar with the term, “Latinas” is an expression used in the US to loosely describe women of Spanish or Portuguese speaking heritage in the Americas (while men are termed “Latino”). As is always the case, when people have different cultural traditions, it’s easy to divide folk along separate lines. “We” are one kind of people and “they” are another.  This happens pretty much everywhere. But there are lots of good reasons why racial and cultural separations don’t help anyone.

Thanks to economic hardship, there has long been a steady flow of people moving from Mexico, Central, and South America to the United States to seek out better job and business opportunities. And, as is always the case, migrant workers begin from the bottom in poorly paid positions. Having to work hard from the ground up to get the same opportunities, it’s a familiar if difficult climb. My mother had a similar experience as an immigrant to Australia in the 1960s. With no recognized skills, she was obliged to do factory work and whatever she could to make ends meet.  Back then, foreigners who were welcomed into the country were nonetheless viewed with some suspicion by the prevailing culture. Some even felt these new Australians were given too many privileges.  That seems eerily similar to the situation in America today. Latinas who just want a fair go have to adapt to a fresh culture and challenging circumstances in a society that’s unsure what to make of the related changes.

Yet, if history has a message, it’s that change is normal and every culture tries to preserve the best it believes in. Taking in a massive influx of immigrants after WW2, Australia had to adapt. More recently, we Aussies “suddenly discovered” that we’re closer to Asia than we thought. So Australia is now taking on an Asian flavor. Some will lament change of any kind. But I am optimistic about the benefits of hardworking people with a will to contribute and make the most of their life. After all, aren’t these the very things that every good nation is built upon?  So if Latinas who just want a fair go for themselves and their family are doing their best, then I believe they deserve genuine respect.

Scratch beneath the differences of all of our cultures and you’ll notice a remarkable amount in common. We all care for our families, we all appreciate meaningful work to do, somewhere nice to live, a car perhaps, good food, and, if we could, a vacation now and then. Latinas who just want a fair go aren’t looking for handouts anymore than the migrants who still come to Australia. They just want to share in the good things we tend to take for granted.  If we also lived with the same degree of poverty or hazard, then we’d certainly choose to do the same. But I guess, that’s not really the issue. What rankles people boils down to our insecurities about difference. Yet, beneath our cultures, our mutual needs for dignity are completely equal.

When the economy takes a hit, we commonly look for scapegoats. “Who is taking our jobs?/Turning that neighborhood into a mini version of their previous home?/or speaking in another tongue?” No doubt the ancient Greeks felt that way about the Phoenician’s, thousands of years ago. Yet, despite the friction, every Western nation who has accepted new people and allowed them to gradually integrate, has seen an economic and cultural benefits. From a distance, it seems clear. Latinas who just want a fair go with jobs, accommodation, and personal equality deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. Legitimate residents of every nation, surely deserve nothing less.


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