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California’s birth as a bilingual state set Golden State on path to become world’s 5th largest economy
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

There are 48 signatures on the State of California Constitution.

One of out of every five were Californios.

Jose Antonio Carrillo. Manuel Dominguez. Jose Maria Covarrubias. Antinio Maria Pico. Jacinto Rodriguez.

Pablo de la Guerra. Pedro Sainsevain. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Miguel de Pedrorena.

The rest that signed the constitution at Colton Hall in Monterey on Oct. 13, 1849 were American pioneers and European settlers.

Keep this in mind when you hear someone telling another person that is speaking in Spanish “to go back where they came from.”

There is a good chance California is where they came from.

Almost all 39.24 million present-day Californians came from “somewhere else” based on the ability to trace roots back before Oct. 13, 1849.

The only other exemption, of course, is if you come from a lineage of indigenous Californians.

Californios — the Spanish term for Californians — in the context of the Goden State’s rich demographic history references those descended from Spanish and Mexicans settlers as opposed to current state residents that simply are Hispanic.

The ranks of Californios includes  American and European settlers between the 1820s and 1840s that migrated to Mexican California. Many married Californio women and became Mexican citizens, learning Spanish.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone — although it does — that the original State of California constitution was drafted in both English and Spanish.

All of the original signatures were on the English version.

But it was clear out of the gate that Spanish was considered just as much a language of California as English.

It is why the constitution had a section explicitly requiring that all official state documents be produced in both languages,

That provision was dropped during the Sacramento constitutional convention of 1878-1879 in the name of efficiency.

The idea of an official state language didn’t gain traction until 107 years later.

That was when California voters in 1986 added a constitutional clause, stating that: “English is the official language of the State of California.” —  California Constitution, Art. 3, Sec. 6

And by that, it didn’t mean English was to be the only spoken language in California. It was the designated language of government — a declaration critical to keeping the bureaucracy from doubling down on being unwieldy.

Spanish though, remained widely spoken throughout the state.

It is why government forms, documents, and services are bilingual, in English and Spanish. All official proceedings are conducted in English.

There needs to be a primary go to language to conduct government business and engage in regulated commerce.

It has to do with keeping confusion and misinterpretations at a minimum. English is the language that serves as the yardstick that governs us.

It is more than a giant leap to assume it is somehow “un-American’ to speak a language other than English.

Just like it is seriously flawed to assume that because someone has a Hispanic ethnicity that they can speak Spanish.

There are more languages spoken in California than just English and Spanish.

Language — or more specifically the variety thereof — is no small thing in California.

California is viewed as one of the most linguistically diverse regions in the word.

 There are 200 plus languages spoken in California.

English is clearly the most spoken language with Spanish being the second most spoken.

Los Angeles Unified with 435,958 students, is tasked with teaching  English to 86,081 kids that speak one of more than 97 languages.

English, if you will, is the benchmark language. There needs to be a conmon denominator. Civilization on any level can’t afford — or survive — being a modern-day Tower of Babel.

There were nine districts that sent representatives to the original state constitutional convention. San Francisco. San Diego. Sonoma, Sacramento. Los Angeles San Jose, Monterey. San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara.

And just like California, there were all Spanish names.

As an aside, San Joaquin had six delegates  one more than Los Angeles — because, believe it or not, there were more people living in the San Joaquin Valley in 1848 than the Los Angeles basin.

In fact, at one point roughly 90 percent of the people in California lived in the northern part of  the state.

The original founders of California statehood were no fools.

They were driven by a desire that drives most people — the desire to prosper and enjoy the good life.

Being a bilingual state from the start gave them an economic boost.

It made it easier to draw from south of the border the manpower needed to grow prosperity on the 155,959 square miles of challenging terrain that had been carved out to create the political subdivision dubbed “California.”

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t racism, bigotry and such. There was.

But it didn’t overshadow the objective of growing California.

If you make sure your mind takes in what your eyes see and ears hear, you might come to the conclusion that a more truly bilingual state — with English still being the benchmark — would be a long-term economic boost for the state.

There are 656 million people in Latin America.

It is a market we  need to engage more thoroughly in.

Stronger trade with Europe and Asia has always been the mantra.

But the most advantageous market for the United States might just be what is on our doorstep. Our border crisis — and it is a crisis — gives a lot of clues to why it makes sense that we step up our economic and cultural alliances with Mexico and countries all the way south to the point of Cape Horn.

If we more robustly developed markets and cultural exchanges in a true partnership to address interconnected ills and potential to the south, it would raise all proverbial ships in the Americas.

And what better way to start a shift toward markets not fraught with Euro-Asian and even African baggage from endless centuries of history than to push to make Spanish a required “foreign” language in the California school system with the expressed interest of growing the state economy.

The Americas — as we define them through non-indigenous perspectives — all came into being in the past 500 years.

The solution to the border crisis is raising prosperity and expectations  in Latin America while raising prosperity in the United States.

And part of that puzzle is for us to speak the same language(s).

It worked to give California unparalleled growth in the 19th century and it can work again to strength the Golden State’s collective bottom line as we head deeper into the 21st   century.

And it is a contributing factor to California, based on 2022 data, being the fifth largest economy in the world if the Golden State were a freestanding nation.