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Mountain News: Bilingualism an issue in U.S. resorts

PARK CITY, Utah — There seems to be an inverse relationship between the wealth of resort valleys of the West and immigration of Spanish-speaking workers, most of them from Mexico

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PARK CITY, Utah — There seems to be an inverse relationship between the wealth of resort valleys of the West and immigration of Spanish-speaking workers, most of them from Mexico.

The richest of the rich, Aspen and Vail, with their hyper real estate economies, seemed to be first in attracting large numbers of immigrants. In parts of their outlying communities, immigrant children now are the majority of schools.

Immigration was slower to other resorts, and in some places, such as Colorado’s Winter Park, has yet to really begin. The time of most rapid change for Park City was about 1999, as the town geared up for the Olympics. Hispanics, many of them immigrants, now comprise 11 per cent of children in local schools, and about as much of the local population, although immigrants may be undercounted.

The Park Record notes that the first surge of immigrants provoked some community fears and resentments, including protests about Hispanics congregating at a community park. However, the community is now gearing up to meet immigrants at more than just the paycheque.

One crucial question in Park City, as well as across the United States, is how much government agencies, particularly police departments, should deliberately staff up with Latinos. In Park City and broader Summit County, there are relatively few bilingual police and even fewer bilingual Latinos.

The county sheriff, Dave Edmunds, does not oppose hiring more Latinos, and in fact welcomes diversity while seeking more bilingual employees. But he also dismisses deliberate attempts to recruit Latinos as wrong-headed political correctness coming from university campuses.

"If you treat people fairly and equitably, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Mexican-American officer, white officer, or Oriental officer," he told the Record.

The city’s police chief more openly indicated preference for bilingual speakers, all other qualifications being equal, as well as more women and greater racial diversity.

However, if police just wait for Latinos to put in applications, it will be a long time before police forces across the United States become more diversified with Latinos. Experts tell the newspaper there are fewer Latino applicants than available positions, although they do not say why.

Mandatory English opposed

ASPEN, Colo. — A new policy at Aspen Valley Hospital requires all employees at the shoptail to be able to read, write, and communicate in English. But why, asks one dishwasher contacted by The Aspen Times.

"If I could speak perfect English I wouldn't have this position," Juan Rios said through an interpreter. "I'm not dealing with patients. I'm in the kitchen. My whole department speaks Spanish. I'm worried tension will grow because of this policy." He said the policy was discriminatory.

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