Looking out my window as I drive down the street I can't help feeling like I am in a different nation. I no longer find myself in the city that I grew up in. Physically I am in the same location but culturally something has changed dramatically. Strip malls are peppered with words like "Mercado" and "llanteras ". I see billboards written in a language I can't speak. Cars with stickers displaying a red, white and green flag boldly claiming patronage to a distant land can be seen regularly. Loud and jovial music in an unknown tongue, sounding almost carnival like, blares happily from the truck next to me invading my ear drums like a foreign army attacking a castle wall. Where am I? What happened to "my" city?
I walk into my bank and see a line of people waiting to be served. This is a typical scene at my bank or any other but again, something is different. The people in line, the tellers, and even the monitors displaying ads are somehow foreign to me. I hear chatter and occasional laughter but none of it makes any sense to me. Signs and ads decorate the walls but those too are foreign to me. I can't read what the signs say. They are in a foreign language. I listen closely and hear words like "gracias" and "si" being dispensed as regularly as "yes" and "thank you" used to be. What happened to "my" bank?
I go to my son's middle school orientation and like everything else; something is different. The room is full of dark haired families and nowhere can be found a blonde red haired family. I hear the same foreign unintelligible chatter and murmur that I heard at my bank. Papers are handed out and I can't read what they say. Only after flipping the page over do I find my native language written equivocally but separately on the opposite side. I finally feel a connection to what is going on around me. I can read- I feel overjoyed that I have found my language. The announcer begins the orientation saying she will do so in Spanish first and then English will be last. What happened to "my" school district?
The Spanish speaking population in Las Vegas has risen sharply in the last 15 years and this has deeply impacted the city's culture. Many families have migrated to Las Vegas from other states and from other nations. This migration was due to the huge economic boom that Las Vegas enjoyed for the past 20 years. Spanish speaking citizens happen to be the largest demographic of those involved in the migration to Las Vegas. The mass arrival of Spanish speaking persons has caused cultural concerns and even leaves some feeling threatened.
All too often people who are not Spanish speaking feel "their" country, city, neighborhood, or bank have been infiltrated by a foreign mass of people. People often complain saying "they should learn the language" or "there's too many of them here" showing that a deep concern or discomfort exists do the changes that have occurred. People have even referred to certain parts of Las Vegas as little Mexico. It is clear that there is a discomfort between some long time citizens and the newer Spanish speaking citizens.
The discomfort that exists can be attributed to several issues. The first issue and most obvious issue is the reality of the numbers or Spanish speaking citizens that now live in Las Vegas and how quickly they arrived. There is hard proof that their numbers have risen sharply and quickly. Also mixed into the equation is the issue of immigration status. There are a large number of illegal immigrants in Las Vegas and many feel they should not have any representation because of their status. The reality is there are more legal than illegal Spanish speaking citizens and they are entitled to representation.
It makes sense that since there is a large number of legal Spanish speaking citizens that parts of daily life or society shoul change to accommodate them. This change or accommodation is another factor that is causing the discomfort between the two groups; longtime residents and newer Spanish speaking residents. It is hard for many who were once considered the majority to now be a minority. Also, it makes it even more difficult for some to accept when the new majority speaks a different language. This new majority, Spanish speaking people, wants to speak in their native tongue and their numbers will allow for this to happen. America has always tried to govern itself by popular vote or opinion. The numbers in Las Vegas are now tilted in favor of Spanish speaking people and it only makes sense their wants or interests are being represented.
The final issue for discomfort is change. People typically face change with fear or apprehension. Generally, quicker changes result in stronger emotions in regards to the change itself. This is likened to the example of the frog in a pot of boiling water. The frog doesn't jump out if the water temperature is raised slowly. In this case, regarding the social impact of the Latin community's rise in numbers, the change occurred quickly. People just didn't have enough time to adjust to their quickly changing environment. This created a shock or disbelief and left some with the difficult task of accepting their new community members and the changes brought with them. There is now a new variable in the old racial tension equation.
Racial tensions have always existed but they were typically between white and black people. The white versus black race issue was fueled by bigotry and true racism (one race claiming it is superior over another race). The new racial/ethnic conflict that exists between the Spanish speaking and the non-Spanish speaking is much different. This new variable in the racial equation, Latin people, not only bring race to the table but they bring a different language and nationality with them. With time, people will begin to accept and adapt to the changes that have occurred. People will finally realize it is not "my" city, "my" bank, "my" school district but rather, "our" city, bank and school district.