April 20, 2006

I could see this one coming:

Right after Hurricane Katrina, a reader pointed out to me that New Orleans would no doubt wind up a Latino-dominated city, full of the illegal aliens brought in to rebuild it on the cheap. I replied to him in an email on 9/6/2005:

And then I'm sure we'll read all about how right and fitting it is that New Orleans is a Hispanic city because, uh, Spain ruled it for 20 years in the 18th Century. And who cares about Louis Armstrong and Tennessee Williams and Jelly Roll Morton and John Kennedy Toole, viva la Raza!

Not surprisingly, George Mason U. economist-aesthete Tyler Cowen, now a New York Times columnist, has now argued just that in Slate. In the course of asserting the wisdom of his plan for turning much of New Orleans into a vast, Latin American-style shantytown favela, Cowen writes:

For starters, cheap housing might be one means of inducing migrants—many of them Latino immigrants—who have come to the city for temporary construction jobs to stay. And as low-cost laborers settle in the city, they'll boost economic activity and pay taxes, thereby attracting corporations, service suppliers, and entrepreneurial small businesses. It would be fitting if New Orleans were rebuilt, both physically and culturally, by Latin and Caribbean immigrants. After all, the city has long been influenced by Hispanic and Caribbean settlers.

The next day in "Bienvenido, Nuevo Orleans," he returns to his beloved topic of la reconquista:

"Still, as Latinos put down roots, these cultural outposts will continue to pop up. As they do, Latinos will be restoring a time-honored Hispanic influence to New Orleans. The Spanish ruled the city from 1762 to the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. During this time, Louisiana grew from fewer than 7,500 people to about 50,000. The so-called "French Quarter" of New Orleans draws more on Spanish than French architecture. Creole cuisine derived jambalaya from African sources but also from paella. The use of paprika, meat pies, and red beans—all local staples—comes from Spanish sources as well, often through the mediation of the colonial New World. The early 20th-century New Orleans port made much of its money dealing in Central American coffee and bananas. Might a new influx of Hispanic influence bring comparable benefits in the future?"

Tyler is a very sharp guy, and most of the time he's admirably upfront about laying all his cards on the table. But his Hispanophilia is so pronounced that he ends up deluding even himself about immigration. Consider the mindless emotionality of his objection on his Marginal Revolution blog to building a fence along the Mexican border: "Get the picture? Hispanamerica is coming, like it or not. Let's deal with it constructively." If that's the best he can come up with, I'd hate to hear his solution to the problem of prison rape!

So, can you see the fast one he's pulling here in his New Orleans' essays? The traditional Hispanic influence on New Orleans was both Spanish from Spain and mulatto from the Islands, but not mestizo from the Mainland, like 95% of the illegal aliens moving into New Orleans. This Mexican and Central American influx will not transform the city into anything resembling the New Orleans that contributed so much to world culture. but instead eventually turn much of New Orleans into Van Nuys East.

I know you like Latin American art, Tyler, but you're kidding yourself that massive illegal immigration is making American life more culturally sophisticated. This is a fallacy held by many who live in the D.C. area like you do, with its unusually diverse sources of immigration. If you want to see the real future your cheerleading is helping bring on, come out and visit the vast, dreary monocultural proletarian barrios of northern Orange County and eastern San Fernando Valley.

In terms of creativity, the Mexican contribution to American culture might well be in decline. Mexicans traditionally have had some good visual talents. Remember the gorgeous "lowrider" customized cars that Mexican-Americans invented in the 1950s? Well, I haven't seen anything like a lowrider on the streets of Southern California in years. The car-customization culture of Southern California is today dominated by two non-Hispanic impulses:

- the vulgar pimp-my-ride black-invented style centered around buying expensive but cheezy accessories (much of the work on the pimpmobiles is performed my Latino mechanics, but the aesthetic is African-American and store-bought) or

- the Asian "rice rocket" style of subtly enhancing the performance of inexpensive little Japanese imports, which is at least more tasteful than the black style, but is kind of dull.

The old Mexican-American lowrider look, however, is unfortunately long gone from the streets of LA.

Cowen enumerates the cultural benefits of his plan for making New Orleans into a giant favela:

Shantytowns might well be more creative than a dead city core. Some of the best Brazilian music came from the favelas of Salvador and Rio. The slums of Kingston, Jamaica, bred reggae. New Orleans experienced its greatest cultural blossoming in the early 20th century, when it was full of shanties... Katrina rebuilding gives the city a chance to become an innovator once again.

Question: What is different about the population of, on the one hand, Salvador, Rio, Kingston, and the old New Orleans and, on the other hand, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley and the future New Orleans that Tyler looks forward to?

Right, the four places he lists that have contributed heavily to popular music are all quite African in population. In contrast, the New World Indian contribution to world music is minimal -- the lovely Peruvian flute music featured in Simon and Garfunkle's "El Condor Pasa" is one of the rare exceptions. Mexican pop music, for instance, is basically vulgarized Cuban music. The Mexican folk song "La Bamba" is named after a district in Angola! I write this in sorrow -- 20 years ago my favorite band was Los Lobos from East LA, but where are their successors?

Tyler's carrying out a sleight-of-hand common in Open Borders arguments. The unspoken but obvious underlying message is so often: "Mexicans are better than blacks." So, illegal aliens are praised for being harder working, less crime prone, and more family-oriented than ... well ... cough ... than you-know-who. In other words, Mexicans are more restrained than African-Americans, which tends to be true, relatively-speaking.

Okay, but then the Open Borders crowd turns around and assures us that Mexican illegal immigrants are making our culture more "vibrant" with their wonderful musical creativity yada yada. The assumption here is that all them colored folks -- black, brown, yellow, whatever -- got natural rhythm.

Well, it doesn't work that way. There are tradeoffs in this world. A group's accomplishments tend to be intimately related to its shortcomings. For instance, blacks win the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World a lot and lead the NFL in rushing all the time, and blacks make up a disproportionate fraction of muggers. They are both manifestations of blacks tending to be big, strong, fast, and aggressive, which are physical traits useful both in professional sports and in street crime. All this is probably related to higher average black levels of testosterone and/or testosterone receptors.

In contrast, East Asians have very low crime rates and high economic productivity, but don't produce many charismatic cultural figures. Mestizos tend to fall between blacks and East Asians on a lot of traits. But they tend to be not very productive creatively in the U.S. in proportion to their vast numbers, perhaps because they are drawn overwhelmingly from the less talented people of Mexico and Central America, the failures who couldn't make it at home.

A reader writes:

Los Lobos (or their successors) have been displaced because the new immigrants would rather listen to "Los Tigres del Norte"...

I recall going to see my first Los Lobos show in Chicago in the mid-1980s. The streets around the concert hall were jammed with Mexican immigrants in cowboy hats. But when we got to the show, it turned out all the Mexicans were going to the "Grupo Latino" night at the dance hall next door featuring mariachi bands from Mexico, and the Los Lobos fans were the same upper middle class white kids who would have turned out to see Talking Heads or Lou Reed.

Indeed, the monotonous, culturally deprived California of twenty-forty years ago produced the X, the Go-Gos, the Blasters and on and on. And Los Lobos should be included in these. While obviously influenced by their background, they were a genuinely American, working class band.

Right. X mentored the Blasters, and the Blasters mentored Los Lobos. But that kind of cross-ethnic cultural fertilization has declined in LA due to the overwhelming preponderance of Latinos.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

you are a tool

Anonymous said...

I thought X was the Blasters, in that it was Excene and John Doe's other band with other X members coming and going.