Louie Arrollo and I had a brief visit last week. The former mayor of Ceres was in for a copy of the Courier. He looked great despite his informing me that he has been experiencing issues with his heart. In fact, he doesn't look like he's aged much since I've known him and that's been close to 30 years.
At one point in the conversation we were observing how the Valley's population makeup has changed. He's been around longer than me and remembers when there were few Latinos in the Valley. He should know. He lived it.
I'm 54. When I tell anyone 20-30 years younger than me that the California I grew up in was populated by mostly whites, they look at me with disbelief. Well, I have my composite classroom pictures to prove it. In the late 1960s and early 1970s in Modesto and Oakdale, my classmates were predominantly white. Walk onto Cesar Chavez or Blaker Kinser junior high campuses and you'll see mostly students of Mexican descent. As of 2013, Ceres is 57.9 percent Hispanic and 31 percent white, according to the city of Ceres.
Louie confirmed his experience growing up as a Mexican in a predominantly white culture. He told me some stories about the differences in the way Turlock treated him versus the way Ceres treated him. Louie grew up in Turlock and attended Wakefield Elementary School and Turlock High School. He explained how he was not well received as the school's only Latino in a town comprised mostly of Swedes. When he tried out for a part in the school play, he was relegated to the inconsequential role of a doorman and felt rejected.
Ceres, he said, was much more receptive to Latinos.
I then told him of a story told to me by Mary Ellen Martinez Pitts, who came to Ceres in 1935 after her mother felt things uncomfortable in Turlock. Maryellen was attending the Baptist Church in Ceres and the youth of the Vacation Bible School were taken to the plunge in Riverbank for a swim. All the kids were allowed to pass through until Mary Ellen produced a ticket at the gate. She was stopped at the gate, told she couldn't go in. When she asked why, she was told: "No Mexicans are allowed in the pool." The stunned Sunday School teacher called for all of the Ceres kids to get out of the pool, announcing: "If Mary Ellen can't swim here, none of us will."
I felt tears welling up in my eyes telling Louie this story. There is something about good people standing up to injustice and such blatant discrimination that brings out the emotion in me.
My family moved to Golden Gate Drive in Modesto from the Bay Area in 1966. Modesto had only about 50,000 residents. Ours was a mostly a white neighborhood to the point that friends of other ethnicities stood out. A good friend was from a Japanese family, the Itos, who lived at the corner of Churchill and Heather. Another friend was from an Indian family who lived two doors down. Although I had two cousins who were half Mexican, my first cultural flavor was visiting his home that smelled of garlic and curry and where the older folks were sitting around clothed in Indian garments and older men wearing turbans.
Modesto was home to 83.1 percent non-Hispanic whites in 1980. In 2010, that percentage had fallen to 49.4 percent.
In the 1970s California was 12 percent Latino. By 1990 it was 25 percent. Now it's half.
Supposedly 14.99 million Latinos outnumber the 14.92 million whites in California. The state is the first large state and third overall without a white plurality.
The nation's Latino population is now 55.4 million and growing. It's worthy of noting that the Hispanic population tends to be younger than whites, and also has more babies than do whites. The Pew Research Center notes that the average woman in the U.S. has two babies in her life. The average Latino has 2.4. Contrast with whites and Asians at 1.8.
Why is ethnic makeup important? Shifts in population greatly affect our country and its politics. Since Hispanics vote 70 percent Democratic, it is increasingly becoming harder for conservatives to be elected to office. This comes at a time when Republicans in California state office are as rare as gnats in a windstorm.
With a growing Latino electorate, we are seeing more Latino lawmakers in our Legislature and Congress. Those lawmakers, in my opinion, have shown disregard for American tradition in favor of class favoritism. Thus, instead of rallying against illegal immigrations and respecting U.S. law, they favor amnesty for border jumping, and for extending rights only Americans have enjoyed. Driver's licenses and Medi-Cal coverage are given to those who have no legal right to be here. Sanctuary cities like San Francisco harbor fugitives like Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez who killed 32-year-old Kathryn "Kate" Steinle in the back on July 1, 2015 as she was walking with her dad along the Embarcadero.
The Pew Research Center indicates that Latinos are more prone to support gun control, are less concerned about protecting rights of American to own guns, and more favor increasing the minimum wage. That translates to more support for those policies, which in my opinion, are unconstitutional.
Hispanic children are twice as likely as non-Hispanic children to live in households with annual incomes of less than $24,000, the lowest income bracket. In Ceres, the household income is $47,306, which is 22.5 percent lower than California's average household income of $61,094. If you don't think that drives Latinos to embrace those who beating the drum for income equality, think again.
With the costs of social programs ever increasingly, expect our national debt to continue to soar out of sight. When Barack Obama - who is effectively a socialist by practice but Democrat in brand - took office on Jan. 20, 2009, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. Today it's slightly more than $18 trillion and expected to reach $20 trillion when he leaves office. In 2008 Obama had no problems of shaming Bush for his out-of-control federal spending. The future Hypocrite-in-Chief said this: "The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents. Number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion in debt that we are going to have to pay back - $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible... It's unpatriotic!"
By his own definition, Obama has behaved irresponsibly and unpatriotically. And as Obama himself points out, it'll take a helluva lot of taxes to get us out of debt. That means we are burdening ALL Americans present and future.
I think, rather unfortunately, immigrants coming to the U.S. have been more about changing American culture rather than becoming part of the great melting pot. The divide of language continues to be a problem for immigrants. Nineteen percent of the Hispanic American origin population speak only Spanish. Only 9 percent speak nothing but English and 55 percent have limited English proficiency. Compared to the English-proficient population, the Limited English Proficient population was less educated and more likely to live in poverty. That, in turns, breeds more of a demand for government solutions which enslaves them to government control and beholdens them allegiance to Democrats.
Language is a problem in other aspects. While 50 percent of those on Medi-Cal in California are Hispanic, only four percent of the doctors in the system speak Spanish. In spite of the rapidly increasing Latino population, there has been no corresponding influx of Latinos working in the U.S. health care system. In the context of a hospital or medical clinic, where medical terminology can be complicated and communication often takes place quickly and amidst elevated emotions, this language barrier can be especially problematic.
California has changed indeed. I may not recognize the country I grew up in by the end of my lifetime. There is a danger in government being the end all. But to quote Ronald Reagan, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at email@example.com