The San Diego melting potBy Union-Tribune Editorial Board

The statistic, part of a quiet trend, is startling only because of where it comes from: Escondido, the local city struggling most with ethnic change, empowerment and assimilation.
Escondido, by the latest estimates, is 46 percent Hispanic and 44 percent white. Coming Census figures may put Hispanics in the majority.
A changing blend of ethnicities and cultures is old news in the South County. But North County, too, is taking on more of a salsa flavor. Vista is 44 percent Hispanic, Oceanside 35 percent. In East County, sprinkle some tahini paste in El Cajon proper (26 percent Hispanic and possibly 15 to 20 percent Iraqi Chaldean).
An Hispanic mayor or city department head is hardly news in the South County. That’s not the case yet in Vista or Escondido. But consider a few nuggets on how far our melting pot has come:
• Five elementary schools in eastern Chula Vista have reached the elite 900 mark in API test scores, rivaling schools in the county’s most affluent areas. All five are majority-minority schools.
• One in four Chaldeans in the East County is a new arrival, a poor refugee. Yet Noori Barka, who arrived a generation ago and who put on the recent Chaldean festival, has a doctorate in immunology and owns a biotech products company that employs 25.
• In San Diego, El Cajon Boulevard may soon get a Little Saigon, marketing a blend of 120 shops and services.
The cannery workers are gone from Point Loma, but not the proud Portuguese heritage. The same with Escondido, Valley Center, San Marcos and the Dutch dairy farms.
Assimilation changes both the community and the descendants of each incoming ethnic wave. The first generation may speak only halting, if any, English. The third generation may not even know the mother tongue.
The first generation faces an agonizing personal decision: Is becoming a naturalized American citizen a rejection of the mother country? The second generation doesn’t even ask; they are American citizens.
Some of the friction we see is economic, not ethnic. Escondido and El Cajon allowed too high a proportion of apartments to be built. Rundown, older apartments tend to become de facto affordable housing with a disengaged, transient population.
Hispanics don’t yet have the political or economic power the demographic figures foreshadow. They eventually will, and the trend will become more pronounced. Educators put the region’s school attendance at 44 percent Hispanic, 33 percent white. At some point schools will transition from teaching English as a second language to our cultural history.
Escondido’s values are the same as the pastoral town of a century ago, one official said. Hispanics don’t assimilate, said another.
We don’t agree. We encourage a community dialogue on the issue: who we are, where we’re going – and how we’re the better for it