September 3, 2012

Who Are the Real Immigrants? ~ Richard Phares

Caucasians: The Real Newcomers

Blaming all the economy and social crisis to those coming from overseas to enhance their lives through their work is something that opportunistic politicians have got us all used to, no matter where in the world we are. Nonetheless, in the United States, the attack on the immigrant looks more ironic since American politicians might have forgotten that either they or their immediate ancestors also came from overseas, escaping the misery of the Old World to seek prosperity and welfare.

In the history of this continent, the Caucasian race—also called “white”—is a newcomer. Anthropological data reveals that Viking and Celtic expeditions would have sailed across the Atlantic, arriving to the shores of North America long before Christopher Columbus.

However, it is believed nearly 50,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, several nomadic groups coming from Asia entered this land by passing over the Bering Strait. At that time, Alaska and Siberia were connected through a land and ice bridge. These Asian tribes moved first from Alaska to the east, and then to the south of America, away from the cold.

Later, their descendants would establish the first settlements throughout the continent.

As the ice layer on the Bering Sea receded, the bond between Asia and America disappeared under the water. This caused the isolation of those pioneers from their homeland. After thousands of years of being separated from their relatives in Siberia, the language of the Native American diversified.

As nomadic tribes expanded throughout the continent, their lifestyle changed. Gradually, different cultures were developed. Some 5,000 years ago, several cultural groups could be identified in the Americas. Some of these became complex civilizations, including the Aztec and Maya, located in Mexico and Central America, and the Inca in Peru.

In the United States several Native American cultures also developed, including the Pueblo in the southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, and also in Colorado) and the Algonquin in the Atlantic coast.

Since Algonquin villages—unlike the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas—were made of wood and other perishable materials we find only a few archaeological remains of this culture.

The first Europeans coming to the New World are supposed to have arrived from northern Europe. Although evidence is not clear, some experts speculate that Viking expeditions from Norway, and previously Celtic tribes, established settlements in northern Canada and the United States (Nova Scotia, New England). Some facial features in the Algonquian individual suggest a mixture of the first groups coming from Siberia with Celtic and Viking tribes from Europe.

At the end of the 15th century, the arrival of the Spaniards marked the beginning—100 years later—of the continent of the entire colonization by several European countries. England, Holland, France and even Sweden established settlements in the Northeast of US and east of Canada. As an example, the region of New York City was founded New Holland by the Dutch in 1624. In turn, France colonized what today is the Canadian region of Quebec and some southeast stated of US.

Although some European countries had the advantage of the “discovery” of the New World (originally named Western Indies by the Spaniards), it was England which grabbed the larger piece of the cake. Portugal, neighbor of Spain in the Iberian Peninsula, made its move also. Thanks to a treaty with the Spanish Kingdom, it gained control of Brazil, today’s largest country in South America.

Photo: laverru

Search for a Better Future

At the beginning of this century, economic turmoil all over Europe, along with a growing demand of labor by the flourishing American industry, caused the onset of an overwhelming flow of immigrants coming to the US. They were searching for a better future, not only for them but also for their families.

Irish, Italians, Germans and Polish mainly, used to arrive to the New York harbor, leaving their past behind to start over. Most of these people were farmers and factory workers. Cultural and ethnic clashes soon arouse and caused the creation of whole segregated neighborhoods occupied by different communities and serving as a souvenir of their distinct origin.

The Irish and German rapidly got politics and law enforcement related positions (most Chicago police officers and aldermen have Irish or German roots).

In turn, Polish and Italians were employed basically as construction workers. They became an important tool for the urban development of the greater cities in the United States. As economy grew, so did the flow of immigrants coming from Europe and all over the world increasing day after day.

The poverty in Mexico and other Latin American countries, along with the need for cheap labor—mainly in factories and farms prompted Latinos to work as “braceros” for the “gringos.” Most of these immigrants were Mexican.

The policy that the U.S. Government used to adopt for years, advocating for the human rights and granting political asylum to anyone who asked for it, triggered the boom of mass immigration and the fast growing U.S. population.

Although the origin of most of the current population in the United States is British, we should not forget that most of today’s American territories once belonged to Mexico, its south neighbor. These lands were taken either by force or though purchase. Since the first 13 colonies were established in the Atlantic coast at the beginning of the 17th century, the United States expanded to the Pacific becoming 50 contiguous states in less than 200 years.

In the race for expansion, both the U.S. Government and the pioneers found opposition by different Indian tribes. These groups—located throughout North America—along with their relatives in the south, had been the prime settlers of the continents.

The “Indian problem” was solved in the most practical yet inhumane way: genocide.

When arriving to territories that used to be Spanish and then part of Mexico, the United States did not hesitate in adding them to the Union. The annexation took place primarily by offering money to the Mexican Government and finally by force in a two year ruthless war started in 1846.

All these historic and anthropological facts reveal that almost no country in the whole world has an original and “pure” population, free from mixtures or interactions with other ethnic groups.

That is the case of today’s U.S. inhabitants, who also lack an particular origin. The paradox is that Mexican, Guatemalan and the rest of the Latinos, direct descendants from the first settlers in these lands, are the target of all attacks and rage promoted by racist and ignorant politicians—most of them, children or grandchildren of Irish and German immigrants.

Also Proposition 187 and most recently the famous Arizona law, as well as other racist legislation lack any sense, resulting in both a joke and an insult to all Latinos, particularly to the Mexican people. Trying to suppress the civil rights of all immigrants, regardless their legal status is like acting against oneself. No English or European descendant can deny they are the only immigrants in this continent.

The old pompous Europe, along with the ignorance of those from around the world coming to escape war and famine, have managed to cloak history and foster the belief that English settlers have been here right from the start.

In the evolution of humanity and its races the expeditions from one place to another to seek food or to escape harsh weather have been the survival trend.

That constant is still happening today, although with a different name: political asylum and lack of work.

Mankind established artificial borders and only mankind can knock them down. Selfishness and greed appear to be on the crest of the wave, opposed to everybody’s dream of a utopic world with no countries, nations or frontiers, that dream is vanishing in thin air.

The Earth has no owner but the Earth itself.


Richard Phares is a zoologist, graphic designer and writer. Worked for several publications in Chicago and local newspapers. Active member of the United States Humane Society and other charitable associations advocating for animal and human rights. Apolitical, agnostic and all other possible A’s. Likes animals, nature and technology (in good hands). Dislikes stupidity, ignorance, all kinds of powers, any religion, all privileges and social prejudice.



Editor: Edith Lazenby


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