4 Ways Immigrant Cultural Wisdom Is Inspiring America

UNION CITY, NJ - MARCH 28: A Hispanic woman walks down a street bearing a large painting of an American flag on March 28, 201
UNION CITY, NJ - MARCH 28: A Hispanic woman walks down a street bearing a large painting of an American flag on March 28, 2011 in Union City, New Jersey. Union City New Jersey, one of the states largest cities, has a population of Hispanic or Latino origin of over 80%. According to the new 2010 Census Bureau statistics reported last Thursday, the Hispanic population in the United States has grown by 43% in the last decade, surpassing 50 million and accounting for about 1 out of 6 Americans. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The most diverse gathering of races and ethnicities from across the world is living in one place here in the United States. We often focus on the economic contributions of immigrants, but this tends to draw attention away from the tremendous social and cultural impacts that these communities have on American society. Immigrant communities bring time-tested traditional practices, customs, and knowledge from their countries that can inform and uplift American culture.

The following are four recent examples of immigrant cultural gifts that have inspired American society. This is only a sampling of the remarkable ways in which immigration has impacted the United States throughout history.

1. Eastern wisdom is deepening our understanding of spirituality. In the past two decades, Eastern spiritual teachings have blossomed in the hearts and lives of Americans. Meditation, yoga, and qigong -- the ancient Eastern arts for connecting with the soul -- are taught throughout America. These are rich cultural practices that Asian immigrants helped to bring from their homelands. In classrooms, seminars, and gyms across the country, this knowledge is passed to Americans of all races and creeds.

In the same way that the Bible teaches one to "know thyself," Asian spiritual teachings offer their own path towards this same spiritual goal. As the American understanding of Eastern Spirituality continues to deepen, our culture is being enriched with a fuller understanding of religion and faith.

2. Traditional cuisines are teaching us about proper diet. In America, new diet trends and fads come out every year. With so many different studies and perspectives being touted, the simple question of what to eat has become very complicated. In his book, In Defense of Food, renowned food author, Michael Pollan, discusses how the best answers for what to eat come from traditional cuisines. Traditional cuisines are complete systems for eating that give a person the full spectrum of nutrition needed to thrive.

Across the board, be it Korean, Ethiopian, or Armenian food, most traditional cuisines emphasize a diet of whole grains, many vegetables, and good fats. As Pollan affirms, there is a very low incidence of 'first world' diseases like diabetes and heart disease among people eating traditional diets. As a society, we are greatly informed by the presence of immigrant communities that bring their traditional cuisines to this country. There is much that we have learned and much more that we must continue to learn from immigrants regarding our diets.

3. Immigrant farmers are showing us how to grow organic . There's a word for organic farming in most other countries: farming. In the majority of cultures on earth, small scale farming is still prevalent. In many of these places, farming is organic by default because chemical inputs are not available. Cultures around the world have preserved centuries-old techniques for cultivating food. Immigrants in America who have this cultural knowledge are a valuable asset to us as we strive to grow more clean organic food here.

Ethnic communities from around the country come together at the annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer's Conference where they discuss combining traditional farming techniques with modern cultivation methods. Immigrant farming communities living in America include the Punjabis in California's Central Valley, the Somali and Hmong people in Minnesota, the Japanese, Mexicans, and Koreans.

4. Medical treatments from immigrants are supplementing our medical care. Cultures around the world have developed unique systems for treating and healing disease. Many medical systems that were brought from foreign shores have shown themselves to be effective and have gained wide popularity in American culture. Acupressure and acupuncture from East Asia, ayurveda from India, and herbalism from Latin America are just a few of the many immigrant medical systems that have enriched our body of medical knowledge here in the United States.

Reflecting on Immigration Reform. Immigrant members of our society deserve reform that recognizes their importance to us. All cultures possess wisdom that can greatly benefit the world at large. In America, the most diverse place on the planet, we have the historic and unique opportunity to embody the greatest features of all the different civilizations from which our ancestors came.


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