Sunday, 29 July 2007

Hablas español?

Immigration is a very sensitive issue in various parts of the world and often time it becomes a political tool at election time. In the US it has been a prominent item on the agenda of politicians, the media, non-governmental organisations and the general public for quite a while. Most of the immigrants into the US are from Latin America and Hispanics now make up a larger part of the population than African-Americans. The effect of this is that Spanish is now basically the second language of the US- much to the chagrin of those who see America as an Anglo/European country.

I came across this feature on the BBC where a team is going to go across the southern USA from San Augustin, Florida to Los Angeles, California with the sole aim of speaking only Spanish throughout the journey. The team will have a daily blog, photos of the trip on Flickr and a group on Facebook and I think it will be interesting to follow their experiences.

The topic of immigration is also very popular in Barbados with many Bajans uncomfortable with the influx of Guyanese. I stumbled upon this article in the Guyana Chronicle which makes some important points about the cyclical nature of the movement of people and the large numbers of Barbadians who previously moved to Guyana in search of jobs. The critical point the article fails to mention is related to size, capacity and sustainability. Barbados is a tiny, overpopulated island with scarce limited physical resources including most importantly water and land. Guyana on the other hand is a vast under populated country with immense physical resources and can fit little Barbados on one of its rivers furthermore its land mass.

The debate over immigration inevitably degenerates into emotional diatribe and fear mongering and race become a central part of the arguments. While this must be resisted, practical realities such as scarce resources and abrupt social and cultural changes must be acknowledged and addressed in a sensible manner. A failure to tackle these concerns of the native population can provide convenient fodder for racists and right wingers and can have serious consequences.

2 comments:

Colonise This! said...

The population of Barbados has increased by around 30,000 over the past 15 years. After subtracting native births, I wonder what percentage of the remaining figure represents Guyanese and what percentage represents Americans, Canadians, British and other Europeans.

I wonder what portion of native concerns are generated by being trained to hate and attack anyone that is “darker than a paper bag” and love and welcome anyone that is lighter. I wonder if the Guyanese are being scapegoated as St. Lucians and East Indians have been in the past for many of the ills facing the country?

As for legitimate issues like water and land resources, it is true that Barbados has limited resources, which have been mismanaged horribly. For years this government has (among other things) been pursuing a short-sighted ignorant-as-ass mass tourism free-for-all-to-do-what-the-hell-they-like policy that has exacerbated environmental issues in Barbados more profoundly that a few thousand Guyanese ever could.

If there is political will, there are ways to manage migration honourably and address land and water issues that do not involve undermining native populations or standing silently by and allowing resentment against newcomers to build up unfairly, but that would require a government with integrity which represents the people and not their own or exclusively the interests of big business.

Population movement is indeed a very serious and sensitive issue and will become more so, as among other things. environmental conditions around the world continue to deteriorate. My greatest fear for the land of my birth is that it’s arrogance and abuse of its own i.e. other West Indians, is going to backfire horribly when things fall apart and all the white folks who are allowed to do as they like in Barbados run back to their countries and lock their doors against us.

individuality1977 said...

I agree with most of what you say. However, even with a proper policy on water, land and resources overall, an influx of people has environmental and other implications and a free for all completely open immigration policy cannot work for Barbados. Its all about balance and unfortunately human beings are generally allergic to rational, balanced positions!