Recruiting workers from Puerto Rico seems like a common-sense answer to a couple of problems [“ In the Ozarks, a town offers ‘Hispanics 101’ course,” front page, March 8]. Puerto Rico is still recovering from hurricane damage, and the U.S. tourism industry claims to have a hard time filling jobs.
Hotels, motels and restaurants complain every spring that they can’t recruit enough foreign workers. They seem to be willing to spend several thousand dollars to bring a worker to the United States , and to house them and more. They also say that they need foreign workers because students aren’t available in the spring and fall. Workers from Puerto Rico might be available to work during the spring and fall seasons. And employers wouldn’t have to deal with visa issues. To use a worn-out phrase, it seems like a win-win to me.
John Frecker, Baileyville, Maine
It was a jaw-dropping experience to read the article about Branson, Mo., offering a course called “Hispanics 101” for white business owners to learn more about Puerto Rican people and culture. Apparently, learning how to do the merengue, making sure to inquire about Puerto Ricans’ mothers and stocking grocery shelves with Goya products will ease the transition of bilingual black and brown people who have been brought in to work in an almost entirely white and monolingual cultural space.
If we have learned anything over the years, it is that these approaches are antithetical to true human understanding. If white people in Missouri want to engage better with “other” groups, first don’t import them like produce or machine parts, then treat their cultures as if they were similar to such imported products: standardized and immutable. This is called “essentializing.” Not all Puerto Ricans dance merengue, live for their mothers and eat Goya.
Dominant cultural groups need to inspect and reckon with their own implicit biases (for example, that Puerto Ricans are lazy and deserve their hurricane-induced fate). Questioning that, along with the broader systems of economic exploitation that pillage the island of valuable human resources to sell tickets at Dolly Parton’s horse show, is the kind of teaching and learning that so many of us white folks need in these troubling times.
Patrick Proctor, Newton, Mass.