Italians are not congenial to Iowa, they said

EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK

By ART CULLEN

Cedar Rapids, the city of five scents, must have had a stifling garlic problem back in 1895. The Evening Gazette back in that day published an editorial, “Italians Not Wanted” in the face of the papist coal miners coming in to the Centerville area. Gazette columnist Todd Dormann dug up the old clip on a reader tip:

“They are not congenial to Iowa. Our people can make no place for them in the commonwealth. They are not in sympathy with our institutions. They are not desirable elements in the population. With others of similar character they have cursed Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and other states,” the editors declared. “They will not educate. They have poor conception of our standard of morality. They are not self-governing. Whenever they are to be found in considerable numbers that locality bears every evidence of blight.”

Most of the Italians were run off, we suppose, to the coal mines around Des Moines where an Italian monsignor tried to organize a miner’s collective — Socialist stuff for sure. The “others” who ruined the other states with the Italians were, of course, the Irish. None of them came to much, as the editorial suggested. Except for maybe the Bisgnanos, or maybe the US senator son of an Irish coal miner named Francis Harkin from Cumming.

Iowa’s Second City came a long way fast. Cedar Rapids has the Mother Mosque in America today. It was organized by Syrian Muslims and built in 1934. But Des Moines got the good restaurants, and Omaha was blessed with even more Italian restaurants.

Update the language from 1895 here and there. You have the modern rhetoric of the Republican Party, specifically their state and national ideological leaders, Steve King and Donald Trump.

They have claimed that Latin Americans are unraveling the fabric of America.

We are inundated, just as Cedar Rapids was.

Buena Vista County saw a huge influx of immigrants in the 1990s. The die was cast. There is no turning back.

But since 2009, the number of Mexicans leaving the United States is greater than the number coming in — legally or illegally, according to the Pew Charitable Trust, the most respected surveyor of Hispanic trends.

Economic conditions are much stronger than walls or on-the-job harassment.

When the bottom dropped out of the US economy, Latinos returned home for lower living costs.

The rate of growth of Latinos to BV County has slowed since 2009. We have seen an increase from other regions, including Micronesia and Burma, as Latin American population flows have ebbed. Nobody is calling for a wall around Micronesia. Or a wall around Storm Lake to keep the Latinos from drifting to Sac City with their burrito carts. (They’ve already crept into Early.)

Given our voting habits and unwelcoming attitudes, would we rather see these towns die than have them inhabited by immigrants? Fonda will survive because of Latinos, not because of the Kellys.

Cedar Rapids did not get by without immigrants. It boasts the kolache but not linguine. The Bohemians were the ones working the mills, and the Gazette paid them no mind because they did not organize. It was the Italians and Irish that you should look out for because they might take over your city hall.

Today, it’s the Mexicans (and Guatemalans, and El Salvadorans and Hondurans).

Trump’s and King’s entire political foundations are built on shipping out immigrants and keeping them out.

Trump is in a dead heat with Hillary Clinton in Iowa. King is no doubt doing well in Northwest Iowa with his nativist views.

It shows us that not that much has changed since 1895. Once we get here we think we earned it. Those other people can just get out because they are stealing our birthright.

Just try to find an Italian these days willing to lay block or sod in 100-degree heat, or work the blood-drying room in a packinghouse. They’re too busy working on the Trump campaign so they can keep theirs.

Once the Mexicans own the packinghouse we can write an editorial about how the Micronesians don’t fit into our culture of papusas and sangria. Some hothead will be talking about how we will give up our sombreros for grass skirts, how you won’t even be able to find a decent tequila in Storm Lake.

And some old codger will talk about how Albert City Polka Time used to be on AM before it went Español. They will wonder what he was talking about. Scanda who?