On Wednesday October 29th, I had the privilege of addressing the students at Columbia College Chicago on the Latino experience in America as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. My appearance was arranged by the college’s Director of Latino Cultural Affairs, Daniel Aranda. Columbia prepares students to be professional communicators and as part of that mission exposes its charges to diverse range of voices and perspectives.
My presentation to the students challenged the conventional views of Latinos, particularly as portrayed in contemporary media. The presentation began with a look at the history of immigration in the U.S. going back to 1751 when Benjamin Franklin criticized a group of newcomers who Franklin claimed bred too fast and learned English too slowly … the newly arrived German settlers of Pennsylvania.
The presentation also explored the verbal attacks on today’s undocumented immigrants including the myths that they cause crime, drain our social services, and steal jobs. Many of the students were surprised to learn that hate crimes against Hispanics have increased over the last four years, while attacks against all other groups have declined. Another key area of the presentation included the dangers of the widely-held misconception of Hispanics as a single race. This combination of volatile elements threatens to create a growing gulf between Latinos and mainstream society.
As an example of how a work of fiction can be used to address social issues, I spoke briefly about my novel AMERICA LIBRE, which contemplates the nightmare scenario of a Hispanic insurrection on U.S. soil fueled by similar conditions.
I was honored to appear at Columbia College Chicago and address the professional communicators of tomorrow.
Raul Ramos y Sanchez