The mass imigration s
Influence on the American culture of today
Culture is a wide term. It includes things like language, traditions and arts. One might say that culture is the soul of a nation. The United States of America is a rather new nation, with, in many people s opinion, a great lack of culture. Others will claim that the multiplicity of different ethnic groups with different cultures will not allow the people of USA to have one common culture.
The first view may represent Israel Zangwill s Melting Pot . The different ethnic groups has melted together and left their original culture. The other view, however, may be compared to a salad-bowl. Many different ingredients mixed together in one bowl, but still not interfering with one another.
In many ways we may say that the salad-bowl theory is most likely to be true. Even though the Americanisation project was to give the new Americans a common identity, there were, and is, a freedom of religion. This allowed the people to keep many of the traditions from their native country. Also the strong family ties that exist in many cultures kept the immigrants from certain countries together. Between 1880 and 1900 over 10% of all the immigrants were Italians, and they settled almost exclusively on five different streets in New York. Still there is a part of New York that is called little Italy and many people with Italian heritage, still know their native language.
This is also the case with the Chinese, and other Asian immigrants. There is a China town in almost all the big cities in the US, and a Chinese take-away restaurant on every other street-corner. Many of the people working here do not even speak English.
When it comes to the Scandinavians however, the cultural heritage is not that well preserved. You will probably never see a Swedish restaurant, or hear an American speak to you in Norwegian, though lately, people of Scandinavian descent have become more aware of their cultural heritage. The constitution day of Norway, syttende mai , is celebrated in four states, and the national anthem has been translated to English.
Apart from those who have managed to keep their cultural heritage and those who have tried to find it, there are also those who have created a new culture; The African-Americans. Slave-music , Blues paved the way for rock-music, which today is one of America s largest exports. Then, the Afro-Americans gave us their street-music , rap and Hip-Hop, with a style of clothes to match. In 1990 almost everyone in the western world, at least knew someone who zagged their pants down to their knees. What few people know is that this fashion started in the black neighbourhoods in New York and LA, among gang-members who used large, saggy pants to hide their weapons.
In the sixties and seventies, also the African-Americans went back to their roots to find their heritage. They wore African clothes and changed their names, and the heavy-weight championship final in bo were held in Zaire, on both the fighters, Muhammed Ali s and George Foreman s request.
In the eighties, however, this black awareness somewhat faded out. The African-American culture of today is based on the same as in the seventies, but adjusted to the American way of life.
This also goes for the Mexicans and the Puerto-Ricans, who share the street-culture with the Afro-Americans, but still keeps parts of their original Latino culture. What is most significant is the food. Mexican food has made it big in USA. There are fast-food restaurants, the same type as McDonalds, which serve tacos and burritos.
Actually food seem to be one of the things that all the Americans have in common. Pizza is considered an Italian dish, even though the Italians did not start to make them before they came to America. The all American burrito is nothing like the Mexican one, and it is harder to find a Chinese take-away place in China than it is in the US. The traditional dishes from many different nations has been Americanised. Is it not time to talk about a melting-pot now?
Well, maybe not. Many of the immigrants that has come to the US the last 150 years have managed to keep their culture and even contributed to a common American culture, beside fast-food and fast cars. The American society is beginning to look more like a pizza. There are ingredients that do not interfere with others, but still contributes to the taste. And on the top, the cheese, the American identity, has melted and joined them to one nation under God.