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Garrison, As someone who works

January 11, 2006 |

As someone who works in an East Los Angeles barrio, I have found that the stories and experiences of the Mexican and Salvadoran people with whom I work have moved me to discover more about my own Irish, Scottish and New England roots. Lake Wobegon has also played a large role in awakening me to the richness of our immigrant heritage. I firmly believe that harsh attitudes to present-day immigrants are really a failure of many Americans of European descent to be in touch with their own family histories which more than likely include stories of struggle, hardship, and difficult adjustments to the new world. How can the stories of Lake Wobegon not put us in solidarity with the immigrants of today? How can these stories not be of comfort and interest to 21st century immigrants?

Jane Argento
Pasadena, CA.

I want to agree with you, Jane, though I have the luxury of living in St. Paul, Minnesota, which isn't so susceptible to big waves of immigration as L.A. is, with the inevitable problems it causes. Winter reduces our attractiveness as a destination. We have a large Hmong and Vietnamese population, a considerable Mexican and Salvadoran community, and now a growing African (Somalian and Ethiopian) one, but you don't hear people worrying about it as you do in L.A. The schools seem to be handling this enormous challenge with courage and ingenuity. It can be desperately hard to leave your country for another, and the price may be enormous in human terms. But you're right: when we look at these hard-working, devout, loyal families in our midst, we are looking at our ancestors.

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