by James E. Garcia
following is from an email I received just the other day.
"Dear Mr. Garcia, the illegal immigration invasion originating from Mexico is cancerous and anti-American ... Mexican nationalists on both sides of the border, are working very, very hard for what they refer to as 'La Reconquista' or the take-back of land that 'rightfully belongs to Mexico and was stolen by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.'"
The email message went on to say that "To serve that goal, supporters of massive illegal immigration in government, business and THE MEDIA" -- I think the writer was referring to me -- "are pushing for day labor sites to facilitate this invasion, occupation and the reconquest of the American Southwest."
The email was signed, "Vaya Con Dios and have a good day, Larry Brown, Riverside, California."
I don't know if Mr. Brown is a real person. You see, when it comes to bigotry, the Internet can be a giant, electronic, pointy-headed white sheet. Who knows what sort of evil lurks behind that email address.
What I do know is that Mr. Brown's sentiments are very real and increasingly widespread.
In recent months, I've written routinely about the growing clout of America's Latino population. For most of us, this simply means that the dawn of the millennium could mean the beginning of the end of literally centuries of cultural, economic and political subjugation.
I'm not talking about ancient history. Mr. Brown, if that is his name, is exactly right about one thing: In 1848, after a war instigated by President James K. Polk in the name of "manifest destiny," the United States did steal from Mexico what is now known as the American Southwest.
Mr. Brown's wild delusions to the contrary, Mexico has no interest in reconquering that land. But that doesn't mean they've forgotten the humiliation. Mexicans have long memories. Not to mention, the United States hasn't exactly treated them kindly over the last 150 years.
At the turn of the 20th century, whites, often backed by U.S. troops, forced Mexican landowners off millions of acres of valuable farm and ranch land along the new U.S.-Mexico border. In the 1930s, President Roosevelt ordered hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrants, and even some Mexican Americans, shipped on freight trains to Mexico. Thousands of families were separated and lives destroyed as a result of the mass deportations. As late as the 1950s, Mexican children in Texas and elsewhere were taught in segregated and inferior schools. As a boy, I myself worked 10-hour days for $1 an hour on a cotton farm in the Texas panhandle, and remember being threatened with expulsion from school if I was caught speaking Spanish in the playground.
Given the history of our nation's treatment of Mexicans and Mexican Americans, not to mention other Latinos, it is actually quite amazing, Mr. Brown, that there is no secret guerrilla army of Chicano militants plotting revenge. They could do so in the name of the thousands, if not millions, of migrant farm workers poisoned by cancer-causing pesticides while picking crops on land stolen from their ancestors.
What is it that prompted Mr. Brown to write to me? Mr. Brown, it turns out, is a loyal devotee of an anti-immigrant group called American Patrol -- an organization that has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national group that tracks such organizations.
How do we know that American Patrol is a hate group? Among other things, its followers believe that Antonio Villaraigosa, a leading candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, is a covert agent for the Mexican government. The group recently took out a full-page ad in a California newspaper leveling that very charge. The group has also held contests to find the best video of a Mexican sneaking into the United States. And to prove his disdain for all things Mexican, American Patrol's president, Glenn Spencer, burned a Mexican flag in front of that nation's embassy in Washington.
American Patrol's virulent attacks against immigrants can sometimes verge on the farcical, but there is nothing funny about the warped mentality of groups of people who believe that you must have white skin and European blood to qualify as a real American.
Whilte this may surprise you, Mr. Brown, I welcome your comments, as distasteful as they are, because despite my Mexican heritage I also love this country and respect the constitution that is the foundation of our great, if imperfect, democracy. But the difference between you and me, Mr. Brown, is that I believe that cultural and racial tolerance is the only way to sustain and enhance our democratic tradition, whereas your approach would guarantee an end to the freedoms you purport to protect.
By the way, President Bush celebrated Cinco de Mayo on the White House lawn last week and delivered his first radio address to the nation in Spanish.
Apparently, the overthrow has already begun.
Vaya con dios, Mr. Brown. And have a nice day.
May 14, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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