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THE IMMIGRANT REVOLUTION

by HOMERO ARIDJIS

from REFORMA, Sunday, May 7, 2006

The clamor of the immigrants that shook New York on May 1st was in Spanish. Even the Africans, Asians and East Europeans managed to utter the shout of "si se puede" (yes, we can). During the afternoon of that day the concentration of people in Union Square was so massive that when the demonstrators moved out towards City Hall, it took more than an hour for them to pass down Broadway. Whilst the solution to the illegal immigrant problem is dividing Congress, people are asking where this kind of immigrant revolution is leading to, since it has organizations but not leaders, and because it has fired up the attitudes of anti-immigrants and some African-Americans, who see Hispanics as a competing workforce. New York Times' opinion polls show that 49% of people think that "employers should be punished, 33% want more border patrols, and 9% more fences. Since the year 2000, some 850,000 unauthorized immigrants have entered the United States, almost equal to the population of Indianapolis". Here in Mexico, the Secretaria de Gobernancion (Ministry of the Interior) has admitted that the migratory flow to the northern border has increased by 20% this quarter; " the number of Mexicans repatriated from the US in January and February of this year and held in border posts totaled 103,236".

On the map of the United States another map has been drawn, one with a Hispanic, or rather a Mexican face, since 7 of the 11 or 12 million illegal are Mexicans. Perhaps that is why, in that nation, there exists a feeling of a demographic re-conquest of what was once Mexico. According to the National population Council, 10.8 million people of Mexican origin are living in California; 7.7 million in Texas; 1.7 million in Arizona. The ten states with the highest Hispanic presence are New Mexico, 43.3%; California, 34.7%; Texas, 34.6%; Arizona, 28.0%; Nevada, 22.8%; Colorado, 19.1%; Florida, 19.0%; New York, 16.0%; New Jersey; 14.9%, and Illinois, 14.0%. After the 67.6 % of whites, the Hispanic 14.1% of the total population is higher than the 12.9% of African-Americans. Africans, Asians, East Europeans and people from the Caribbean are not discussed so much in the debate about illegal immigrants.

Among the illegals' enemies are anti-immigrant immigrants who were once themselves illegal, discriminated against discriminators like the Afro-Americans. The Fox News channel has interviewed Reverends and activists opposed to Hispanics who claim that there are too many of them and they take away jobs, although leaders like Jesse Jackson defend the immigrants' struggle. Television hosts, like Lou Dobbs, accuse our government of being corrupt and of interfering in the internal affairs of the United States, of assuming erroneously that demographic and economic problems in Mexico can be resolved through migration to the United States. Notwithstanding the raging xenophobia of Dobbs, it is a fact that the remittances of the immigrants are an escape valve that relieves poverty in the countryside, and that an agricultural economy in Mexico is urgently needed, as well as restraints placed upon the corruption of the governors and mayors, eternal looters of the economic resources of those they govern. None other than the gober precioso1 governs Puebla, one of the states that sends the most immigrants to the New York region. The truth is that the shame of our countrymen who want to pass over to the other side, not caring about the humiliations, beatings, repatriation and possibly death in the attempt, is our shame, Mexico's shame.

"What brings you to the United States?" "Why did you leave Mexico?" In the airports and at border crossings these are harassing questions put to Mexicans, as if the purpose of the travelers was to stay and live the American dream. Officials like these should be given a history course: Pre-Hispanic California was inhabited by Californians, the Yumas and the Guaicuri. Their discoverers were Francisco de Ulloa (1539), Domingo del Castillo(1540) and the Spanish sailor Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Around 1602-03, the merchant Sebastian Vizcaino explored the bays of San Diego and Monterrey. California was converted to Christianity by Spanish Jesuits and Franciscans, such as Father Kino and Junipero Serra.

When Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821, the California settlements increased. From 1830, La Paz was the capital of Lower California and Monterrey of Upper California. In May 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. In June 1847, the "Californians" surrendered to Major John C.Fremont at Cahuenga Pass, near Los Angeles. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 18482, the Mexican government ceded to the United States Upper California, New Mexico and Texas2. Present day "Californians" possess a Hispanic nomenclature, their cities sound like Old Mexico: San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Ana.

The first Mexicans in the United States were those who remained in the annexed territories. The second were those who crossed the border during the Mexican Revolution. The third, at the present time, are the workers seeking economic opportunities. Along with the times, the immigrants have been braceros, wetbacks, the undocumented, the illegal.

Apart from becoming legalized, the struggle of the Hispanics to be accepted in the United States, not only as immigrants but socially and culturally as well, will continue for some time. By way of contrast, African-Americans who were discriminated against for centuries, now appear in movies, on television and in newspapers as presidents, generals, doctors, police chiefs and socially respected people. When will that happen with Hispanics? When in the United States will hear that "Latinos are beautiful"? When will the Hispanic face be accepted in the United States as its own?

The persecution of the illegals by the government of the United States could be considered in Latin America as an affront to its people. This, in a post-Monroe Doctrine period, could be politically dangerous for the Unite


[1] "gober precioso": a term of affection bestowed on Mario Marin, Governor of the state of Puebla, by Kamel Nacif in a taped telephone conversation, after the governor had facilitated the imprisonment of Lydia Cacho, a journalist who had accused Nacif, a very wealthy textile manufacturer, of protecting Jean Succar Kuri, an accused pedophile.
[2] Upper California: This included the states of Nevada and Utah in their entirety, plus parts of Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming, totaling 525,000 square miles of territory.


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