The Dillingham Commission Is Bull-Pinche-Shit

DEAR READERS: Wish I could say I was back on the rancho, but you know how that drug war of ours (both Mexican and American) is going, so the Mexican decided to stay home for the holidays for the first time in decades. Besides, there’s too much work at mano. The failure by the Senate to pass the DREAM Act—which would’ve made citizens out of young adults who came to this country as children and either go to college or join the military—shows that there are still too many people in this country who truly, honestly believe Mexis will always wear the metaphorical sombrero, sleep under the proverbial cactus and drink the figurative tequila. If only! If only there truly were a Reconquista! If only Mexicans were as sinister as the hype paints us! But our reputation precedes us. Fact is—as this column shows week in, week out—Mexicans become Americans in this country, a reality even the most Aztlanista among us must face. In that spirit, I give the Senate a belated Christmas present, one ustedes should regalar to the Know Nothing in your family: my favorite assimilation preguntas.


DEAR MEXICAN: Why is it that Mexicans can be put into two working classes: Those who work their asses off while everyone else takes a siesta, and those who take a siesta while everyone else works their asses off?

Person Understandably Ticked Off

DEAR PUTO: You have to realize it’s the parents who never take the siesta—their children slag off and become the stereotypical lazy Mexicans gabachos so relish. In a 1993 sociological study, famed ethnographers Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou found that the more assimilated a Mexican-American youngster was, the worse his lot in life would be. “Seeing their parents and grandparents confined to humble menial jobs and increasingly aware of discrimination against them by the white mainstream,” Portes and Zhou wrote, “U.S.-born children of earlier Mexican immigrants readily join a reactive subculture as a means of protecting their sense of self-worth.” Translation: Mexican kids see their parents sweat and toil to move out of a dangerous apartment and into a dingy condo, and then resign from life. While the parents continue to work 18-hour days to make the rent, the kids leave for college, wear a Che shirt for a couple of years and travel through Central America to “find themselves.” They return as shiftless, lazy flojos who become vegetarians and talk of revolution while bouncing from collection job to collection job. In other words, they become Americans.



DEAR MEXICAN: Why don’t Mexicans have enough gratitude for America to learn to speak English? Are they too stupid? Too lazy? What—they can’t learn two or three words a day? Is this asking too much?

Took Four Years of Spanish in High School

DEAR GABACHO: The United States government shares your concerns, Took Four Years. Its Dillingham Commission released a 42-volume study on the waves of immigrants that concluded, “The new immigration as a class is far less intelligent than the old. . . . Generally speaking, they are actuated in coming by different ideals, for the old immigration came to be a part of the country, while the new, in a large measure, comes with the intention of profiting, in a pecuniary way, by the superior advantages of the new world, and then returning to the old country.” The Dillingham report went on to fault the new immigrants for their lack of assimilation and English skills, constantly contrasting them with earlier generations of immigrants, and urged clampdowns on immigration. Sound familiar? That’s because the Dillingham report appeared in 1911, and the unassimilable masses at the time were eastern and northern Europeans. The Dillingham Commission proves that the time-honored conservative anecdote that earlier generations of immigrants walked off the boats, chopped down their multisyllabic surnames and learned English immediately is bull-pinche-shit. American racism is a carousel—and here we are again.


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This column appeared in print as “Special Year-End, Mexicans-Do-Assimilate Edition.”

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