Ernesto Portillo: Multicultural newcomers welcome in desert home

2012-02-14T00:00:00Z Ernesto Portillo: Multicultural newcomers welcome in desert homeErnesto Portillo Jr. Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 14, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Tucson, with its deep Mexican roots, will be more multicultural by 2062.

While the Mexican stamp on Tucson will continue to grow in the next 50 years, my birth town will be home to more families from Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other parts of Latin America.

You can see the future already in elementary schools, in parks and other public places. There are more young people from Nepal, Bhutan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq and Syria.

Tucson will enjoy the cultural benefits that the new residents bring with them. Of course, challenges will also come with them as families adjust and learn our desert ways and English language.

But Tucson, since its beginnings, has welcomed newcomers from every corner of the world. The new residents have always adapted as best they could.

Even before statehood in 1912, territorial Tucson underwent growing pains as the little Old Pueblo grew. In 1867, the territorial Legislature created the first public school in Tucson. The two teachers, Augustus Brichta and John Spring, taught in Spanish to help the Mexican male students transition to English.

In 2062, immigrant children will undergo a similar educational experience as they acquire a new language and knowledge about their new home.

I suspect my maternal great-great-grandfather, Argentine-born Onofre Navarro, who lived in Tucson in the 1860s a few years after the Arizona territory was created, wondered what Tucson would look and sound like in the future. He was probably bright enough to realize that Tucson, which was already attracting people from around the globe, would be a magnet.

Two hundred years later, Navarro would not be surprised.

Ernesto Portillo Jr. is a native Tucsonan who left for nearly 15 years before coming home in 2000 to work for the Star.

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