Set aside for a moment, if you can, issues of Democratic and Republican politics, homeland security, official language and national identity – all the real but ephemeral concerns around which we organize our national debate on immigration reform, and think for a moment about tides.
Humans of every race, religion, skin color, language and political orientation have been migrating, like waves on the sea, across borders, mountains, deserts, oceans and mighty rivers since the beginning of recorded time.
The Roman Empire rearranged the world, Vandals and Goths rearranged the Romans, the Incas subdued much of western South America, the Spanish subdued the Incas, Mexicans kicked out the Spanish and Americans – as Europeans came to be called – tried to kick out the Mexicans.
Meanwhile, ethnic and cultural waves rolled back and forth in the wake of military and political dominions, largely irrespective of formal borders.
Thus we find California, once the domain of indigenous tribes, later controlled by Spain, then by Mexico, then by the United States, a perennially poly-ethnic place where culture and language have always comingled and where names and places richly combine English, Spanish and Native American words.