Page 116 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JUDITH LAIKIN ELKIN
Recent Scholarship on
Latin American Jews
W
h e n
i t
c o m e s
to th e Latin Am e r ican d ia spo ra , m ost o f us
have been co n d ition ed by th e W es te rn H em isp h e re Idea : th a t
is to say, th a t the peop les o f this h em isp h e re exh ib it s tro n g
sim ilarities to one a n o th e r ; an d th a t a special re la t io n sh ip p r e ­
vails am o n g us, se tting us a p a r t f rom eve ryone else on th e globe.
I t is an a ttrac tive idea , one su ited to th e op tim istic , naively ex ­
pansion is t days o f th e G ood N e ig h b o r Policy. On ly now , as the
dazzling ligh t o f e th n o cen tr ism d ims, a re we becom ing aw are
o f the d iffe ren c es which actually cha rac te r ize th e two Americas,
Anglo an d Ibe r ian . We h ad been look ing in th e m i r ro r all a long ,
adm ir in g o u r own reflec tion .
Since th e Latin d ia sp o ra has been so little re se a rch ed an d
w ritten abou t, th e easiest e n t re e to it is by way o f ana logy with
the U n ited States expe r ience . T h is is th e a p p ro a ch utilized in
the final ch a p te r o f my
Jews o f the Latin American Republics
(C h ap ­
el Hill: Un iversity o f N o r th C a ro lina Press, 1980). T h e analogy
is usefu l because bo th con tin en ts w ere p eo p led by imm ig ran ts ,
inc lud ing Jew s. Bu t th e com p a r ison is c o u n te rp ro d u c t iv e if we
beg in to perceive Latin Am e rican Jew s as no m o re th a n S p an ish ­
speak ing versions o f o u r own b e t te r-know n N o r th Am e r ican
model. O nce we becom e aw are o f the d if fe ren ce s be tw een
Am erica N o r th an d Am erica Sou th , it becom es a p p a r e n t th a t
Jew ish life m u s t d i f fe r on th e two con tinen ts , fo r Jew ish h isto ry
takes place w ithin th e h isto ry o f th e peop les am o n g whom Jew s
live.
T h e sim ilarities betw een Jew s o f th e two con tin en ts a re ro o ted
in th e ir o rig ins. Jew s a r r iv ed in the U n ited States, C an ad a , an d
Latin Am erica a t app rox im a te ly th e same time , from th e same
places, a n d fo r th e same reasons. T h e Latin m ig ra tion was a
b ran ch o f th a t g re a t s tream o f m ig ran ts th a t h e ad ed west across
th e A tlan tic in the closing decades o f th e n in e te e n th c en tu ry
an d th e o p e n in g years o f th e tw en tie th , c re s ting in th e years
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