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What we can all learn from our Latino community

Leslie J. Sacks

Latinos in the US are fiercely familial and loyal. Ironically, many Americans (most likely from non-recent immigration) find it strangely meaningful to separate themselves (and their spouses) from their respective families (and often childhood friends) and forge an independent albeit somewhat alienated existence.

As a result many Americans evolve sophisticated business and financial lifestyles yet retain a certain emotional and spiritual immaturity. By contrast, a strong family unit is often visible in new immigrant groups, whether they are Vietnamese, Honduran, Korean or Indian.

The Latino community seems passionate about Latino America. Not necessarily a bad thing (La Raza excluded) as this energy will translate over time into strong support for the US as well. Witness the many members of the US military being respected and honored in strongly immigrant suburbs - being part of the US military is not usually disparaged in the local "barrios" as it is on the Berkeley campus.

In the area of recycling, Spanish speakers are past masters: Nothing much is thrown out; most of the second-hand cars, appliances, TVs and furniture live long and productive lives. In their way, these are very "green" communities. In Malibu and Beverly Hills, cars have a 3 year life expectancy - Nissans and Toyotas regularly reach 200,000 miles in East LA amongst construction workers and pool cleaners.

America's enormous disinterest in recycling, in maintaining existing electronics, distances our country from the rest of the world in a seemingly never-ending banquet of consumerism, with most happy to waste resources and expand garbage dumps with a frivolity absent in the Latino community.

Many see immigrants as outsiders who dilute the American tradition and culture. To the contrary, many immigrants may retain more family values (values that we seem to have lost), and may indeed be closer to the founding principles of this nation.

We have much to learn as a country, not only to teach; we are consumed in protecting our rights and largely ignorant of our responsibilities.

Immigrants tend to prioritize family and community over materialism and influence. Perhaps they are the splash of cold water we need to jolt us out of our complacency and away from a fragmented culture, an alienated, technological, iPad and iPhone existence.