INK_BLAST | LATINOS ARE AMONG THE FIRST “WIRED IMMIGRANTS”
By Juleyka Lantigua
The 41 million Latinos living in the U.S. are among this country’s first ever “wired immigrants.” This group of new citizens and their offspring enjoy widespread access to modern communication tools that were unavailable to previous generations.
This access enables us to maintain strong links to our homelands while immersing ourselves in our adopted country’s own culture. Technologies such as email, websites, instant messaging, texting and digital telephony allow us to more fully live out our identities as bilingual and bicultural persons in a way that was impossible for immigrants of earlier generations.
A hundred years ago, news from back home in Italy or Germany or England traveled by ship and took months to reach U.S. shores. A generation ago, phone calls overseas were often prohibitively expensive. Today, emails can reach Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico in seconds—and for peanuts.
Already, 58 percent of Latino consumers own a desktop computer, and there are more than 16 million Latinos online, according to AOL Latino’s latest “Hispanic Cyberstudy.” The AOL study indicates that Latinos are wired in many ways: 68 percent of us use instant messaging; 63 percent share photos online; 52 percent read or post blogs; 43 percent visit social networking sites; and 40 percent talk on a phone using the Internet.
But we also email digital photos from birthdays, graduations and weddings across timelines. We use the Web to send remittances, which totaled $45 billion in 2006 and reached 15 million homes in Latin America, according to the Multilateral Investment Fund.
Some people may think that using these technologies will make it harder for some of us to assimilate. But we’re not turning our backs on our culture or on the U.S. culture. We’re confidently thriving in both.
Because of the new technologies, we can live our lives in the United States, making contributions to this society and enjoying the advantages of living in a first-rate country, while keeping up with what’s happening in the countries from which we emigrated. We now have immediate access to worldwide news, and we take great interest in the breaking stories about natural disasters and major political events throughout Latin America.
To learn about the rescue efforts after a big hurricane in the Caribbean or a devastating earthquake in Central America, we can simply go online to the websites of any of the national newspapers and read local news in Spanish. This immediacy allows us to mobilize and organize in a way that would not have been possible ten or fifteen years ago.
This is globalization in the best sense. The new technologies allow us to become more responsible family members and better world citizens, even as we proudly become U.S. citizens.
* Adapted from an op-ed syndicated by the Progressive Media Project
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."