Cinco de Mayo (5th of
May) festivities are to Mexican-Americans what St. Patrick’s Day
festivities are to Irish-Americans—a joyful expression of ancestral
pride and a celebration of the rich diversity of American culture.
Mexican-Americans, like Irish-Americans, migrated to the United States
because of dismal economic prospects at home. Both have prospered here;
both love to party. Indeed, that unquenchable love of party shows great
courage of spirit. It persisted despite many generations of grinding
poverty in “the old country.” Party on, amigos!
Cinco de Mayo commemorates a resounding victory
of Mexican troops over French invaders in Puebla, Mexico, on May 5,
1862. The French emperor, Napoleon III, antidemocratic despot that he
was, planned to recolonize Mexico. He then hoped to help the
Confederate Army secure the disintegration of the United States
republic which he despised so thoroughly.
Fortunately for the Union Army, the valiant
Mexican forces at Puebla thwarted Napoleon III’s game plan. The Mexican
victory gave the Union Army enough time to build the massive military
force that led to the decisive victory at Gettysburg in 1863. After
Gettysburg, Lincoln dispatched General Philip Sheridan and troops to
the Texas-Mexican border, where they supplied Mexico with weapons and
ammunition. The Union even supplied soldiers, allowing honorably
discharged American soldiers to keep their uniforms and rifles if they
joined the Mexican army.
Although it took several years, the French
invaders were eventually expelled. The American Legion of Honor marched
in the Victory Parade in Mexico City. Because of American support in
the 1860s, thousands of Mexicans crossed the border after Pearl Harbor
to join the U.S. Armed Forces, as did others after 9/11.
Despite the Mexican-American war in Texas in
the 1840s, by the 1860s, Americans and Mexicans coexisted primarily as
allies and friends. Sadly, in the background of today’s celebration of
Mexican-American brotherhood, all is not sweet concord. I won’t address
the serious problem of anti-Mexican bigotry today, but instead will
focus on the militant nationalism of hotheaded and hate-mongering
Mexican-Americans that seeks to pervert the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.
A quick Google search uncovers various lurid
statements that some Mexican-Americans are making about the United
States. For example:
“Get out! We are the future. You are old and tired…Leave like beaten rats. You old white people. It is your duty to die.”
“California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn’t like it should leave.”
“We are practicing ‘La Reconquista’ in California.”
The concept of “Reconquista” is crucial. The
“Reconquest” refers to the reconquest of Spain by Christians after
centuries of occupation by Muslims from the 8th century until that most eventful year of 1492.
It is useless to try to alter the opinions of
the men who made those statements. Malevolence cannot be reasoned with,
so I merely offer the cautionary note that people consumed with anger
about what happened to their ancestors often condemn their children to
strife and violence. However, to Mexican-Americans and Mexicans of a
calmer frame of mind, I humbly ask you, why would you want Mexico to
take over California or any other American state?
Think about it. Why have you emigrated from
Mexico to come here? Was it not for economic reasons? Then ask
yourself, why is the United States a land of vast economic opportunity
compared to Mexico? Why has the United States prospered over the
decades while Mexico stagnated?
You can accuse me of Anglo-American jingoism if
you want, but would you at least consider the possibility that the only
reason the American southwest is so affluent today is because it is
part of the United States and not Mexico? Both the Southwest and Mexico
were blessed with temperate climates and abundant natural resources.
The only reason why the former prospered while the latter stagnated was
because the one was well governed and the other poorly governed.
If Mexico had been under the same system of
law, governance, and justice as the United States, then its economic
development would have paralleled that of the United States. If, on the
other hand, the American Southwest had remained part of Mexico, it
would be as underdeveloped as Mexico, and Mexicans would be emigrating
northward from California in search of economic opportunity. In short,
everyone—regardless of race or ethnicity—in the American Southwest
today should be glad that Santa Anna lost the Mexican-American War! It
would be a lot poorer region if he had won.
In closing, I offer an undiplomatic, pointed comment to the Mexican macho men who brag about reconquering California: If
you really want to do something manly and heroic, try reforming Mexico.
Set that beautiful land free so that it can finally achieve its
Happy “Cinco de Mayo,” everyone.