A time traveler from the United States of 1965 would, on arriving today, find that much had changed and everything was more diverse. She’d first notice that many people looked different. Most obviously there would be more skin colors, and not just on the street but on billboards and television. She’d hear more languages and kinds of music, and she’d sample foods, clothes and customs unlike any she’d known in 1965.
Today’s Americans live in a nation shaped by an immigration law enacted 50 years ago. Since the 1920s, the U.S. had set a fixed annual limit on immigration, and divided it among the world’s nations in a way that favored northern and western Europeans. The new law in 1965 instead favored skilled immigrants and those with family already in the U.S.
- Today more than 40 million Americans were born in another nation. In 2014 alone, the U.S. issued nearly 470,000 immigrant visas.
- Over half of these foreign-born Americans are from Latin America and over a quarter from Asia.
- About 60 million speak a language other than English at home.
- Today’s Americans speak an estimated 300 languages.
What else has changed? Start with music.
Today’s scene includes Ethiopian-reggae-jazz fusion and gypsy-punk rock (check out Gogol Bordello above), and there might be some Hindu Holi holiday paint-throwing at the concert. Phagwah festivals and Buddha’s Birthday parades grace the streets of New York. In fact, there’s now an entire calendar of New York City Ethnic Festivals.
If all this culture’s making you hungry, check out the menu at Kogi Korean BBQ, started by a Filipino American who married into a Korean family, then blended Mexican and Korean dishes into an award-winning cuisine all his own.
That’s America! Read more about the diversity of its people and culture. Start with these stories about Hispanic-American heritage, Ramadan in the U.S. and the Ethiopian-American community in Washington.