Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Divide and conquer," said the young civil servant who preferred not to see his (Spanish) name in print. "Divide and conquer is what the Anglos know, and they learned it from a man who spoke Latin, Julius Caesar."
His private rhetoric, at a cocktail reception in the Washington Hilton, was hardly more inflammatory than some of the public rhetoric at the first annual dinner of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Wednesday night. Many of those who write or speak on Hispanic-American problems, said caucus chairman Rep. Edward R. Rovbal (D-Calif.) seem to feel "that the only way to stop the avalanche of Latinos coming to this country is to machine-gun them, round them up, send them back where they came from. This they cry as though Latinos were foreign to this land founded originally by our Hispanic forefathers."
If it does what its sponsors hope it will do, the dinner will mark the beginning of a new development among Americans of Hispanic heritage, a new level of unity between those whose roots are in Mexico and those whose ancestors lived in Puerto Rico, Cuba or South America. In an interview before the dinner, Roybal said that there are more than 16 million Hispanic Americans in this country, and the time has come for them to concentrate on what unites rather than what divides them, for Puerto Ricans in New York tenements to emphasize their common interests with migrant farm workers in California.
"We have too often been excluded from the abundance of this nation and the opportunities it makes available to other Americans," he told the guests at the dinner. "Part of the problem has been that our communities need to be more united."
One Anglo at the dinner who may have wanted to conquer but showed no interest in dividing was keynote speaker Rosalynn Carter, who found it "especially wonderful to see the Latin community so united here in one place together. Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Central and South Americans all here united in a common effort to bring about a better way of life for all Hispanics."
In a more personal vein, la primera dama de nuestra nacion spoke of her many Hispanic-American friends and her "long years of studying and trying to speak Spanish." She tried a bit of it herself, "en la union esta la fuersa," with no perceptible trace of Georgia in her accent, and the audience applauded loudly.
The feeling of unity extended even to the menu: No Mexican tacos or Puerto Rican cuchifritos, but pure Anglo-American chicken, which inspired no partison feeling at all.