Steven W Bender. Comprende? The Significance of Spanish in English-Only Times. ISBN: 978-1-888205-08-4. $24.95.

Today, the contentious issue of Latino immigration has spurred backlash efforts to anoint English as the official language in federal and state government to the exclusion of Spanish and other languages, than English. Even cities have weighed in to restrict the legitimacy of Spanish in local government affairs. Last century, European immigrant groups stood accused of failing to assimilate in the American melting pot. But while European immigration has slowed, Latino immigration has surged. This steady immigration, combined with the geographical proximity that brought Latinos into the Southwest long before Anglo immigrants, assures a different cultural dynamic for Latinos than for other groups.

The centuries of continued Latino occupation and then immigration have forged a unique, shared destiny between the United States and Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries. U.S. history has hosted more than a casual sharing of Mexican recipes in the kitchen; rather, a passionate and lively mating of cultures-Latino and "American." Foremost among these cultural exchanges is the influence of the Spanish language in the United States. With a foothold of several centuries, and the recent propulsion of mass media and pop culture, Spanish has significantly entered the American mainstream through the open and receptive borders of the English language. Taking a lighter view of the current anti-immigrant frenzy, this book offers considerable and colorful examples of the historical and current cross-pollination of the English and Spanish languages in settings ranging from geography to culture and cuisine. Ultimately, it urges recognition of our increasingly shared languages-not by rejecting Spanish and legislating an official status for English, but by embracing our shared culture as a uniquely American blend of culture and language. In contrast to the anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, and anti-Spanish forces trying to tear us apart, acknowledging the contributions of Spanish language to our past, present, and future will help to unite Americans and the Americas. Valuing the Spanish language and tapping the resource of our Spanish-speaking youth can be a catalyst of the surprising unity that recognition and respect for difference can bring. The alchemy of Spanish is that it holds the potential for propelling the U.S. into a new realm of multicultural connection and influence with its neighbors that is sorely needed in this time of increased isolation and nativism. ¿Comprende? Steven W. Bender(1)

"We don't want Spanish gibberish here, and we mean it."(2) Remarks of Union Gap, Washington tavern owner

"The child will only hear English."(3) Order of Amarillo, Texas judge in child-custody hearing.

"In the U.S.A. It's English or Adios Amigo"(4) Sign in Union Gap, Washington tavern.

"No English, Shirts, Shoes, [No] Service"(5) Sign in Monroe, Washington tavern.

"Speak English. It's the law now."(6) Remarks of passerby to couple speaking Spanish on Miami sidewalk.

Professor Bender joined the faculty from the University of Oregon, where he taught for twenty years, serving as James and Ilene Hershner Professor of Law, Director of Portland Programs, and Director of the Green Business Initiative. He is the coauthor of more than a dozen law review articles, a casebook on real estate transactions, a national two-volume treatise on real estate financing, a book on Latino stereotypes titled Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination (NYU Press 2003), a book on politics titled One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity (Paradigm Publishers 2008, winner of the 2008 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction), a book on language policy titled Comprende? The Significance of Spanish in English-Only Times (Floricanto Press 2008), a book on housing policy titled Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing (NYU Press 2010), and the co-author of Everyday Law for Latinos (Paradigm Publishers 2008). NYU Press will publish his latest book on border policy, Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings, in 2011. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers. During 2009-2011, Bender served as co-president of the 700-member national association SALT (Society of American Law Teachers).

 

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