With all of the arguments over immigration I am sometimes afraid to tell people that I work in the Mission Park area in Escondido, home to one of the largest concentrations of immigrants in San Diego County. Yes, I work with both legal and illegal immigrants, yes it sometimes bothers me when I see laws being broken and resources being wasted, but there is a certain charm and uniqueness that comes to neighborhood that is not "Americanized".
Driving home last week I was amazed to see families outside of their apartments and houses, almost lining the streets. "Is there a parade or something?" I asked a child riding his bike on the street. "No, we just like to hang out talking and playing at night."
I was a little dumbfounded -- women were outside sharing stories and news from home, kids were playing tag and riding skateboards with each other, men were sharing work information and discussing other events -- an actual neighborhood in the sense that people were interacting with each other and enjoying it. The ice-cream truck drove by with a line of kids chasing it, new puppies on leashes were running around with their owners, it was a scene out of Pleasantville, only in shades of brown instead of black and white, and in Spanish with no English subtitles.
I got back to my apartment in a "good" neighborhood, with no one to be seen. I waved hello at a neighbor that arrived home shortly after I did, but I merely received a smile and half wave -- no conversation there. I sat out on my porch for about an hour, waiting to see if a neighbor would step outside with me, or if a resident passing by to get their mail would stop to discuss the weather, but I was lucky to make eye contact. I suddenly felt lonely.
There's something to be said about the benefits a person brings when moving into a different place, and instead of abandoning their homeland, they bring it with them. The sense of community and belonging are very apparent in the Mission Park community, and it should be glorified instead of vilified. Neighborhood watches are beginning to flourish in that community, and the kids I work with are beginning to trust again.
Of course I am not saying I support illegal immigration, but immigration itself is good and aids in progress in many ways if a community opens itself up to it. If you want to find out for yourself, come by the Mission Park area at about 4 p.m. on a weekday and seek out the "Corn Man" who sells corn with cheese, chili and a bit of mayonnaise and tell me that this man is not a benefit to this community!
Written by: Escondido