The Polish, Italians, Swedes, Norwegians and Latinos

No doubt it’s only coincidence, but a day after the Pioneer Press wrote a first-rate article on how the Hispanic culture has revitalized Worthington, MN., Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon today announced an initiative to help his hometown — in this case, Hazelton, PA. — better accept Hispanics.

Maddon said he had the idea when he was home for Christmas last year and went to a community supper at a daycare center and saw adults sitting at the kids’ table and the kids running around…


“And I thought to myself, ‘That’s what my family looked like back in the day,'” Maddon said. “That’s what I remember of Sunday back in the ’50s and ’60s, my earliest memories, and it really struck me that we are missing the point. If we don’t utilize this group of Hispanic people who want to be in our community, if we don’t utilize them and their abilities to the fullest, our town is going to eventually die and go away.

“These people want to be there. They’re wonderful people, and they’re just exactly like we were back in the day — down to the point that they don’t speak very good English yet, some of them. Neither did my grandpa and grandma on both sides — Polish and Italian.”

“We are a country of different cultures that have grown into one,” Maddon said. “What is the difference between now and when our forefathers came to this country centuries ago? ”

Change Polish and Italian to Swedes and Norwegians, and Maddon could be talking about Worthington.

“It’s just like when the Swedes and the Norwegians hit the shore here….” Sgt. Kevin Flynn, of the Worthington Police Department, told the Pioneer Press. ‘You have to have some generational growth before people were actually on the same page. And you’re actually seeing that now.”

The article said Hispanics in Worthington — at least the ones the PiPress talked to — feel “welcomed,” but it also quoted a business owner who plans to retire and move out. “In the future here, I know the city of Worthington’s going to have a lot of problems. I don’t want to be here for it. We’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re going to be OK,” he said.

And it’s clear in the comments section — where else? — that Worthington isn’t a success story yet, at least to the outside world.

“People don’t want to go downtown because you there’s hardly a single sign in ENGLISH!” one wrote.

It’s going to take a little more time and at least a few more baseball managers.

  • Ken Paulman

    We recently found my great-grandfather’s birth certificate in a box of papers. He was born in 1900 in Illinois, yet the document was written in German.

    The family bible – probably the only book in an immigrant farmer’s house – was also in German.

    Other white people’s ancestors may have taken to a vigorous study of English the minute they stepped off the boat. But it seems pretty clear mine didn’t.

  • matt

    The commenter has some strength to his argument of all the signs being written in non-english – what a hassle! This weekend I installed a new light fixture and I had to flip the instructions all the way over to the other side to get it in english.

    Being the proud adoptive father of three “anchor babies” I see the looks I get from other parents when my kids play with theirs…will my 36lb kindergartener shank their son as a gang initiation rite? Then they notice Jose has a white daddy and they look at me with that special look that we reserve for people who take on huge burdens. At this point I want to slap them for thinking of my kid as a burden or of me as extraordinary. I am selfish, I wanted more kids so I adopted kids, not hispanics, not special needs, kids.

    Then I remember that growing up in Austin that I knew exactly 1 African American and 1 kid from Thailand and so it took me a decade in places like Denver and North Carolina to actually see that we are all the same. So I forgive them their sins.

    Then the parent comes up to me and says “hey buddy, you got a big ketchup spot on your shirt”.

    There are racists and xenophobes out there but I suspect that a lot of time we imagine the problem to be worse than it really is because we project ours fears and weakness onto others. The stories of the person running the trailer park and the commenter make it easier to do, because those people do exist but not always in the number we like to think.

    Good job Worthington!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Matt – Thanks for the laugh. (Was the ketchup stain from where your kid shanked you?)

    My two blond spanglish speaking kids ( thanks primarily to their “anchor” mom) get funny looks when they parleez that stuff with their more melanin-blessed friends.