This weekend I drove through some very rural parts of western South Carolina to check out some small-town festivals (Subscribe Star subscribers will get the full story this Saturday, and read my ode to candy apples, which this same trip also inspired). My route took me north from Aiken through Ridge Spring, South Carolina, then up through Chappells and Saluda to Clinton, located on the cusp of the Upstate. Then it was a 90-minute drive back south through Saluda, Chappells, and Johnston on the way back to Aiken.
Most of this section of South Carolina is farmland, dotted with small towns or unincorporated communities. Some of these towns were once thriving little railroad junctions, or the communities of prosperous farmers or textile mills.
Now, they often feature quaint but dilapidated downtowns (often full of barber shops and wig stores, but plenty of boarded-up windows), a few stately old homes, and a great deal of poverty.
What I noticed on this most recent trip, however, was the clear uptick in Hispanic residents and businesses.
Growing up in the South in the 1990s and early 2000s, every larger city or town had at least one Mexican restaurant and maybe a taqueria (I’ve also noticed that every town—even my little town of Lamar, with less than 1000 people—has one Chinese restaurant, owned and operated by one authentically Han Chinese family; how they end up in these rural towns, I have no idea). These restaurants are hugely popular with residents of all backgrounds (a visit to a Mexican restaurant in little Clearwater, South Carolina is one bit of anecdotal evidence). They are the bit of extra spice in the soup—a pleasant extra flavor that complements, but does not overpower, the main broth.
But the perceived increase in these establishments and their ethnic patrons in tiny, postage stamp rural communities troubled me. Yes, it’s incredibly politically incorrect to say so, but I got the sense that these little towns are transitioning away from their Southern roots and becoming heavily hispanicized.
We know this process has occurred extensively in the American Southwest and California, as well as in major cities like Miami, which has been majority Hispanic since the 1970s. And not all Hispanics are created equal—the very term “Hispanic” was created in the 1970s to carve out for various Mexican, Central, and South American ethnicities a “catch-all” demographic from which to push for their collective government-provided privileges and protections, just as black Americans were enjoying greater rights and privileges following the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Even given the diversity within “Hispanic” cultures, though—Mexican, El Salvadoran, Colombian, etc.—their interests align as a group in the United States because they’re not from here. And for the purposes of those of us living here—those of us whose ancestors built this nation and the South—they are essentially indistinguishable.
That gets to my ultimate point: the spice in the broth seems increasingly overpowering. The spice in some parts of the United States has become the main dish, as noted above. When that happens, the broth is the extra bit of seasoning, and the dish itself has fundamentally changed.
While driving through rural western South Carolina this weekend, that’s what I saw. So many of these rural towns have seen children and grandchildren leave. Left behind are the elderly—the people who shoulder more of the load for the civic virtue and boosterism that make such places enjoyable and livable—a few of their children and grandchildren, and a great deal of the idle poor. Those engaged in farming—a multi-million dollar industry—might keep it in the family, but they increasingly employ peasant-like laborers from Hispanic cultures.
A generous welfare system, coupled with lax border control laws, has allowed this situation to exacerbate: native-born Americans would rather collect a check than work in the fields. Immigrants are lured by the promise of earning that check, and of collecting sweet government bennies of their own.
But at least our idle poor are our idle poor—they’re Americans. I want to help them out. Kick out the government cheese and the methadone, and let those Americans work. Putting a lid on illegal and legal immigration would go far to that end.
We’re not supposed to say it—and my heart goes out to Latin Americans looking for a better life—but Americans should be allowed to keep our country (yes, yes, “but what about the Native Americans,” you’ll say—we beat ’em, and it’s not wrong to want to avoid that fate ourselves). I love the seasoning in the broth, but the broth is what sustains the country. If all of El Salvador moved to Kansas, Kansas would become El Salvador (see also: Minnesota and the Somalis).
I don’t like seeing my people—the people of South Carolina—being displaced in their communities by foreign invaders who speak a different language, who don’t care about our Constitution, and who don’t want to adopt our hard-won culture of liberty. It took from 1215 to 1776 to get from the Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence; do we really want to throw away 561 years of Anglo-Saxon common law and careful cultural-political development in the name of multiculturalism?
To be clear: I am not advocating for some kind of white ethnostate. But I don’t think it’s wrong for Americans to want to preserve what we have inherited, and to pass it down to our children. Southerners—black and white—understand this better than most Americans. We have roots that run deep. That puts us at odds with the modern world, but so what? The modern world is terrible.
I don’t know how we get back the America and the South we loved (other than mass deportations and a ten-year moratorium on immigration), but we should be allowed to be upset about it. What I do know is that I want to be able to drive through the land of my childhood and be able to speak with the residents.
10 thoughts on “The Hispanization of Rural America”
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