Don't Burn My Flag
By: David Yeagley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 23, 2001
"F—K YOU, this is still Mexico," says a popular LED-illuminated sign appearing in car windows on California highways.
The sign refers to the fact that much of the American Southwest belonged to Mexico until the U.S. siezed it in 1846.
Now some Mexicans want the land back. As a Comanche Indian, I have a problem with that.
We Comanches pushed the Spaniards out of Texas and eastern New Mexico over 200 years ago. Neither Spaniards nor Mexicans ever managed to return.
Comanches used to ride across the Rio Grande every fall to attack Mexican villages, killing, scalping, plundering and carrying off captives and livestock.
"Upwards of ten thousand head of horses and mules have already been carried off," wrote one English eyewitness. "…everywhere the people have been killed or captured… ranchos barricaded, and the inhabitants afraid to venture out of their doors."
The truth is, Mexicans were helpless against us. So where did they get this idea that they used to own our land?
One of their arguments is that the American Southwest is really "Aztlan," the original Aztec homeland. They say that some distant ancestors of the Aztecs wandered through here in prehistoric times.
Well, even if that’s true, what does it prove?
According to the CIA World Factbook 2000, 30 percent of Mexicans are Indian, 60 percent mestizo (part Indian, part Spanish) 9 percent white and 1 percent other.
Of that 90 percent who are fully or partly Indian, some no doubt have Aztec ancestors. But how many? And which ones? Nobody knows. Spaniards and Indians have been intermarrying for almost 500 years in Mexico and the Aztecs were just one tribe out of many.
No matter. Aztec is in. On the website of the Nation of Aztlan, members of the so-called Revolutionary Council are listed with Aztec names such as Cuahtemoc and Moctezuma.
All this reminds of my trip to Mexico in 1993. I was one of thirty American Indian Ambassadors sent down under a Kellogg fellowship program for Indian leadership training.
It was a fascinating trip. But, to this day, I’m still wondering what the point of it was.
The group leaders – most of whom were white – kept telling us we had to build solidarity with Mexico’s "indigenous" people. But we couldn’t see the purpose. We were American Indians. What did we have to do with Mexico?
One day in Cuerna Vaca we listened to an elderly gent with few teeth, who was introduced as a shaman, but resembled a homeless man from New York’s lower East Side.
While he extolled unity of all indigenous peoples everywhere, the black bark incense he kept burning drove me out of the room coughing and choking.
In Mexico City, we saw a troupe of "Aztec" dancers. I’m afraid we didn’t connect with them either. Actually, we felt kind of sorry for them. No one was watching their dance, and, to be honest, it wasn’t that great. A lot of slow-motion arm waving, and not much legwork or rhythm. They’d never cut it at a Comanche pow-wow.
Someone told me this troupe had learned these "authentic" Aztec dances from American Indians somewhere up in Texas. Hmmm.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Mexican people just fine. But I sure don’t like Mexicans calling my land "Aztlan" and saying it belongs to them.
Another thing I don’t like is people burning the American flag, as a mob of violent Mexican demonstrators did Last Fourth of July outside a veterans’ cemetery in Los Angeles.
"Mexicans have every right to be here," said Augustine Cebeda of the militant Brown Berets de Aztlan. "This land was stolen from us."
Well, I guess the Mexicans can try to take it back if they want. But we Comanches remember how they fared the last time around. It wasn’t anything to brag about.
If push comes to shove, I’ll be standing with the Anglos this time. One thing whites and Indians have in common: We respect the American flag.
Go to any pow-wow, and watch how those Indians honor the flag. At the annual Red Earth festival here in Oklahoma City, the vets step in first, in uniform, carrying Old Glory proudly, its pole surmounted by the head of a real bald eagle.
It’s enough to send chills down your spine.
Those Mexican radicals can call themselves "Aztecs" if they want. But they’re not going to connect with me by burning bark incense.
And they’re sure not going to connect with me by burning my flag.
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