Foreign Relations and Native Tongues

An overwhelming percentage of the immigrant population in Mexico was born in the U.S., but that wasn’t always so.  Up until a hundred or so years ago, the Spaniards and Guatemalans outnumbered the gringos. (Gringo, by the way, comes from griego, which means “speaking Greek.” The term has nothing to do with the tune “Green Go the Lilacs” or greenbacks.) And, as everyone knows, Cortes and his merry band got here first. In time, Spanish was no longer a foreign language spoken in Mexico; it became the language de facto of the country, sparing millions from having to learn Nahuatl, Maya and a bunch of other indigenous languages.

Today, the foreign language most frequently uttered in Mexico is English.

But there was a time when Chinese was the most widely spoken foreign language in this country?  And another blip in history when German-speakers were second only to English-speakers?

Writing in Extranjeros in Mexico, John P. Schmal summarizes immigration and language patterns since 1895.



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