The other day I inadvertently interrupted a conversation between two friends who were discussing what to do when Hispanics become the new majority ethnic group in California by early next year. They are both Anglos and felt uncomfortable with the subject when I sat down with them at a neighborhood bar where they were enjoying a beer.
I am, you see, Hispanic-Basque actually-and they weren't sure if I would be offended by the ethnic nature of their subject. Call them Bruce and Doug. Bruce had the print-out of a computer report concluding that Latinos would surpass the non-Hispanic white population of the Golden State sometime during 2014 for the first time in its history. The projection was made by the State Dept. of Finance.
"Is that OK with you guys?" I asked, needling them a bit. They both agreed eagerly that it was fine, just great, swell, amigo.
"Well then, we're off to a good start. You're drinking Dos Equis and I'm drinking Heineken." Dos Equis is a Mexican beer, Heineken is Dutch, which counts as Anglo. "Beyond sharing beers," Doug said somberly, "how will this work out?"
I've known both these guys for years. Doug was the more serious of the two and looked for worry and woe wherever there was such a possibility.
In reality, populations shift all the time. We go where opportunities exist-and have ever since humans became nomadic. Essentially, we follow the food, the water and the weather.
"I wouldn't worry too much about it," I said. "You won't even know it's happening. No one with brown skin is going to pursue you swinging bolos and dancing to boleros."
"We'll just have to make certain adjustments," Bruce said. "How about another beer and some tortilla chips?" He pronounced it tor-tilla.
"That would be tortilla chips," I said, pronouncing it correctly as tor-tee-ya. "But you got chips right. We don't say cheeps."
After the second round of beer we agreed that the shift in population would pass the way the new millennium had occurred at 12:01 a.m. at the start of the year 2000. Despite the hype, nothing happened. Airplanes did not fall from the sky and the people in New York did not go berserk from moon madness. Life hummed on.
"I guess it will be all right," Doug said. "We've gotten along OK this far."
"One step at a time," Bruce said. "That's what it will take."
"I have an idea," I said. "Let's all switch to Tsingtao."
"Isn't that a Chinese beer?" Doug asked. I winked. "Everyone is coming to California," I said. "You never know who might be next."
And you never do.