Willamette World News

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May you walk in beauty


I was born in El Sauce, Michoacán, México. This is a small ranch five kilometers north of Cotija. The readers of this short piece may be aware that the country of Mexico is composed of 31 states and one federal entity, known as El Distrito Federal (Federal District) also known as la Ciudad de México. The Mexican state from whence more immigrants have come to the USA is Chihuahua; number two on that list is Michoacán. A poor economy is the primary reason for immigration from one country to another practically anywhere on planet earth. Mexico is a very mountainous, arid, land. Only 7% of the country is considered fertile. The state of Nebraska alone produces more corn than the country of Mexico. Illinois and Iowa in that order produce more corn than the Cornhusker state. Granted, not all the crop is utilized or grown for human consumption (cattle feed and gasoline additives). Wealth and power in México is controlled by the elite, roughly 2% of the population. We are speaking about a country of 110 million individuals. The disparity between wealthy and poor is simply astounding.

In March of 1974 when my family and I crossed the U.S.-Mexican border and came to live in Parkdale, Oregon. I was a little over two years old at this time. I grew up in Hood River and Wasco Counties of Oregon. Some may say I am an anomaly, as I maintained my mother tongue as I acculturated to life in the U.S. Historically, most immigrants become English dominant or monolingual during the second or third generation. The pressure of society for newcomers to learn and speak only English has lessened in most urban areas in the last ten years, in my estimation. In fact, I have witnessed a tidal wave of young people engage in the active and eager participation of learning a second (or more) language. In rural areas, the immigrant communities, especially the children, are strongly “encouraged” to speak English and to not speak their first language. Children are not fools. They will do what it takes to be accepted by those around them. It takes a persistent soul to maintain two or more languages in the face of adversity. It is fairly rare for individuals to maintain their first language given that the k-12 educational system has focused its instruction in English. Simply speaking one language does not signify that a person has a high degree of mastery. Study is what it takes to improve one’s language skills. This is a process of life-long work if the participant cares to undertake the challenge.

I look forward to meeting more students, faculty and staff at Willamette University. I am thrilled to be a part of the World Languages Studio as a new Spanish Language Assistant.

May you walk in beauty (Navajo saying),

Fernando Rojas-Galván


Willamette University

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