In the 1910’s the United States embarked on an effort to welcome millions of immigrants into its ranks. It was the beginning of the “assimilation” scam that runs rampant today. The idea was that to become a U.S. citizen, an immigrant must “assimilate” by adopting U.S. citizen “values, beliefs and customs”. The requirement to learn English was a must.

Today, the idea that a good immigrant is an “assimilated” immigrant remains.

The “assimilation” movement enlisted factories, labor unions, school boards and chambers of commerce to assimilate would be newly minted U.S. citizens. Both the YMCA and YWCA were renowned by the movement for their enthusiastic participation.

It was all ostensibly to bring millions of immigrants into the U.S.-fold by encouraging them to become U.S. citizens. Americanization is cultural assimilation. In other words, other cultures need not exist in the “assimilated” American vision. Even cultures, like the Mexican one, that existed long before the white-Anglo culture were also pushed to assimilate in order to erase the Mexican culture from the country.

The catalyst for the “assimilated immigrant” was the shift from a mostly Northwestern European immigrant (white) towards immigrants that were mostly Catholic and Jewish who started to arrive from Eastern and Southern Europe in the early 1900’s.

Americanization Day was first observed on July 4, 1915.

The assimilated immigrant scheme first targeted the Irish, the Jews and the Italians as their ranks swelled as they arrived as immigrants. Native born U.S. citizens of Mexican descent were soon targeted for cultural assimilation, as well.

National programs were enacted ostensibly as educational opportunities. However, the educational opportunities emphasized English and the erasure of the Mexican cultural identity.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) played an integral part in the attempt to erase the Mexican culture from the U.S. landscape. LULAC’s constitution in the “Aims and Purposes” states;

“We believe that education is the foundation for the cultural growth and development of this nation and that we are obligated to protect and promote the education of our people in accordance with the best American principals and standards.”

Conveniently, discussion about race relations and LULAC’s pragmatism considering rampant discrimination against Mexicans conveniently drops the “with the best American principals and standards” part of the statement today. To join LULAC, prospective members were requited to be U.S. citizens.

The birth of Americanization Day wrapped its “assimilation” rhetoric around the ideal of “many peoples, but one nation”. It was pushed as an invitation for immigrants to feel as part of the nation. As long as the immigrants discarded their cultural identity and learned English.

Americanization Day evolved into something else over time leaving the July 4 day as a celebration of the U.S. War of Independence. But the idea that to be a proper U.S. citizen one must embrace the “American way of life” and discard vestiges of their cultural identities remains today. Oh, and English remains the battle cry for an “assimilated immigrant”.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

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