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Commentary Opinion

We Are Still a Pretty Good Team

We both go way back. Mexicans and Americans. My ancestors had been on this continent much before Americans arrived. Mine were centuries-old civilizations that were eventually conquered by the Spaniards. The pilgrims, the most notable forebears of today’s America, were fed up people, most of them seeking religious freedom and a home on pristine land. Those pioneers settled in North America some four hundred years ago.

While the pilgrims were busy running their colonies, fighting the natives and learning how to survive at a precarious place, my forebears, well, most of them didn’t have a choice. They were conquered people, turned into slaves by greedy and heinous rulers who extracted almost every ounce of wealth hidden in the bosom of our land. My predecessors were kept docile and unlearned, with almost no access to schooling or to the practices that could eventually lead to self-government. While Americans were fighting off the English Crown, declaring independence and seeking justice for all, Mexicans were still the servants of the conquerors and of their descendants.

Nothing much changed after the country declared its own autonomy in the year of eighteen ten. The new nation continued to be ruled by the same people. It was still the Spaniards, born in Mexico, but still Spaniards. Americans, on the other hand, were working on building a large and powerful nation. They were looking south, but mainly to the west, for new territory to tame and control. Fueled by beliefs of expansionism, they went after the coveted land soon after the turn of the nineteen-century. Much of it was Mexican.

That land fever wasn’t good for relations between the peoples of both countries. It’s been a struggle ever since. It’s ironic, too. We allowed Americans to come into Texas to raise and herd cattle. We taught them the business and gave them tips on how to survive on the range. We showed them how to cook food underground so it could last longer. We called it barbacoa, by the way. They couldn’t pronounce it, so they called it barbeque. Americans picked up a whole bunch of words from us, like rodeo, reata, lazo, juzgado, desesperado, and vaquero. They changed most of them. Some words became lasso, hoosegow, and desperado. Vaquero became cowboy.

It must have been fun, working together, taming the west. I think we made a pretty good team. But then the Americans got greedy. They decided to take over Texas and eventually they did. However, they didn’t stop there; they went after other lands in the west. It was manifest destiny, they said, a divine calling, to expand America’s borders from sea to shining sea.

After America invaded Mexico and took a big chunk of its land just prior to the eighteen forty-nine California Gold Rush, some of my ancestors remained on the now U.S. side. They became second-class people, without a nation and in limbo. Most of them lost their real property and for almost all purposes, had no legal rights, although citizenship and protection by U.S. law had been guaranteed by the pact that settled the Mexican-American War: The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Talk about illegal residents in their own land.

There’s much more to be told about how us Mexicans and Americans got to know each other real well, especially after we worked together in Texas. True, there’s no need to go back and cry over spilled milk. But we need to learn from that yesteryear and not repeat the same mistakes. And in case you’re interested, there have been plenty blunders in our past relations.

It’s sad. More than a hundred and sixty years after the end of that hideous war between the two nations, many Americans still fail to understand the enduring and beneficial value of the neighbors to the south. Or of the millions of Mexicans that now live in this country.

Categories
Commentary Opinion

America, My Kind of Lady

I’m one of the immigrants in America. I’m not alone. Most people in this country are either newcomers or the descendants of those that arrived here some years back. I came along with my family more than half a century ago. Thousands and thousands and more thousands of Mexicans have moved north since then.

Migration from one country to another happens a lot, by the way, in much of the world. People leave their nation of birth for other lands. They often don’t have a choice. As history is our witness, humans have moved about the earth forever and ever. There have been several reasons for doing so, but most motives have been tied to seeking food or shelter or both. Both justifications make sense. We humans have certain basics needs and food and shelter are two of them.

There’s also a latent nomadic spirit in men and women, which is sometimes awakened by a need to seek greener pastures. We, the Chávez García family, did just that. We came to America looking for the opportunities we didn’t have back home. In a way, we were also looking for the promised land.

“Most Americans are good people that love freedom and having the opportunity to thrive in whatever they choose to do. Most still retain the vestiges of a pioneering spirit and a staunch belief in democracy. That’s why the United States is still a great place.”

I’ve gotten to like America a lot, I have to admit. I hope you don’t mind if I call her a “she.” I’ve chosen that gender because to me she’s not only a she, but also a great lady and a noble dame.

Anyway, I think she likes me too. Maybe it is the Mexican in me. I know she likes Mexicans. It must be because most of us work hard. America is difficult to understand sometimes, though, and is often stubborn and nasty, and tells some newcomers like me that she doesn’t want us here. But she eventually gives in and extends her hand. Especially to those that understand her and know where she’s coming from.

She likes brainy people too. Boy, a lot of brainy immigrants are coming from Asia now, that’s for sure. If you were to ask me, America is causing a brain drain in some of those countries. It’s not good for them, for the places those people are leaving behind. I have to add, those brainy folks are coming to the United States in droves because there’s plenty work for them here, good work, and money. Plenty money.

Brainy Mexicans don’t come to America much, unless it is to shop. They prefer to stay at home. It’s nice for them there. A lot of good things are going on in Mexico now, that economy is just growing and growing. Besides, most of those brainy Mexicans have good jobs and are well off. There’s no need for them to come here and have to put up with the likes of those who claim Mexicans are bad; criminals and rapists.

I’m telling you, that’s something I don’t like about this country; there’s too much finger pointing and loose talk sometimes. Some people call it freedom of speech. I call it a cancer; bad talk that gets others to hate some of their fellow men and women. It’s not good.

Most Americans don’t fall in the trap, though. Most of them are good people that love freedom and having the opportunity to thrive in whatever they choose to do. Most still retain the vestiges of a pioneering spirit and a staunch belief in democracy. That’s why the United States is still a great place.

But a lot of people don’t talk much about that, the good things, especially in the media. Boy, they like to badmouth America and to get the citizens riled up. Politicians do it too, they say some dumb things sometimes just to get attention. They also twist the truth to pander to their bases. They lie, flat out lie.

I don’t like politicians. Too bad we need them to run our government. Most of them have no shame. But I like America, with all its rotten apples and all. It’s a good place. It just needs some tweaking to make it even better.