The UCLA Chicano Network has a nice summary of the holiday Cinco de Mayo, which is celebrated in Mexican American communities (one such celebration in California a couple of years ago, pictured right, photo credit) and not yet much outside those communities: Cinco de Mayo is a date of great importance for the Mexican and Chicano communities. It marks the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Although the Mexican army was eventually defeated, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to represent a symbol of Mexican unity and patriotism. . . . Cinco de Mayo’s history has its roots in the French Occupation of Mexico. The French occupation took shape in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. With this war, Mexico entered a period of national crisis during the 1850’s. Years of not only fighting the Americans but also a Civil War, had left Mexico devastated and bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for a brief period of two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.The English, Spanish and French refused to allow president Juarez to do this, and instead decided to invade Mexico and get payments by whatever means necessary. The Spanish and English eventually withdrew, but the French refused to leave. Their intention was to create an Empire in Mexico under Napoleon III. Some have argued that the true French occupation was a response to growing American power and to the Monroe Doctrine (America for the Americans). Napoleon III believed that if the United States was allowed to prosper indiscriminately, it would eventually become a power in and of itself.In 1862, the French army began its advance. Under General Ignacio Zaragoza, 5,000 ill-equipped Mestizo and Zapotec Indians defeated the French army in what came to be known as the “Batalla de Puebla” on the fifth of May.Clearly, it was a substantially indigenous army that defeated the mighty Europeans, an early and clear counter-colonialism event. This is an event that all who support self-determination for indigenous peoples and full human rights for all peoples should remember and honor.The UCLA network account also makes some interesting observations about how this day is differentially celebrated in Mexico and the United States:In the United States, the “Batalla de Puebla” came to be known as simply “5 de Mayo” and unfortunately, many people wrongly equate it with Mexican Independence which was on September 16, 1810, nearly a fifty year difference. Over, the years Cinco de Mayo has become very commercialized and many people see this holiday as a time for fun and dance. Oddly enough, Cinco de Mayo has become more of Chicano holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated on a much larger scale here in the United States than it is in Mexico. People of Mexican descent in the United States celebrate this significant day by having parades, mariachi music, folklorico dancing and other types of festive activities.And here is a more detailed discussion of how it came to celebrated by Chicanos (Mexican Americans) over the years in the US. In my view, this is a good holiday for all those Americans who are opposed to colonialism and imperial invasions.
In the recent announcement of his candidacy for the Republican Presidential nomination, Donald Trump took the opportunity to hurl an ignorant, Hitleresque tirade against immigrants from Mexico. Trump reached deeply into the White Racial Frame bag and came up with the worst:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
Reaction against Trump’s statement was swift and widespread. Much originated in the business community which likes to avoid controversy. Some of the participants were major corporations:
On Monday, NBCUniversal cut all ties with Mr. Trump, saying it would no longer air the pageants or ‘The Apprentice. Televisa, the world’s largest Spanish-language media company, also cut ties. Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire, scrapped a television project . . . On Wednesday, Macy’s said it would drop his fashion line, which had been sold in the store since 2004.
An additional loss happened when Mexico decided not to send a contestant to Trump’s Miss Universe pageant. Finally, another setback occurred when two renowned chefs pulled out of Trump’s upcoming luxury hotel in the historic Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C:
Geoffrey Zakarian, the chef and a partner at the Lambs Club and other Manhattan restaurants, was to open a branch of the National, his brasserie-style restaurant in Midtown, in the new hotel. But on Thursday, he said in a written statement that ‘the recent statements surrounding Mexican immigrants by Donald Trump do not in any way align with my personal core values.’ Mr. Zakarian’s decision to abandon the project, scheduled to open in 2016, follows that of the chef José Andrés. Mr. Andrés has said that Mr. Trump’s statements made ‘it impossible for my company and I to move forward.’
Trump, the billionaire businessman, paid a very high price for his tirade. I am at a loss to understand his machinations. Trump did not make any friends in the Republican Party. John McCain stated: “I disagree with his comments.” Mitt Romney objected to Trump’s comments because of the damage they caused the Republican Party.
The objections of two Florida Republican figures were particularly strong. Marco Rubio labeled Trump’s comments as “extraordinarily ugly, offensive and inaccurate.” Jeb Bush questioned Trump’s motives and added a personal note to his disapproval:
[H]e’s not a stupid guy, so I don’t assume he thinks that every Mexican crossing the border is a rapist. He’s doing this to inflame and incite and to draw attention, which seems to be the organizing principle of his campaign.
Bush went on to say that he took Trump’s comments “personally” (his wife is from Mexico).
Hector V. Barreto, an advisor in all Republican presidential campaigns since 2000, went a step further beyond other Republican figures by exhorting the Republican Party to reject Trump:
The Republican Party is going to have to be much more aggressive in dealing with him . . . And I would expect my party to do that, to call him out. . . Maybe this is our Sister Souljah moment when we say, “He is not a Republican, he does not represent us, he needs to get off the stage.”
Trump encountered severe disapproval in Arizona, a staunch Republican State, to a planned speech in Phoenix. Among the critics were Republican leaders who were not attending the event, John McCain among them. But it was worse than that. The business community, as represented by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, declared Trump persona non grata:
“The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is proud to have played host earlier this year to events featuring three of the leading Republican presidential contenders: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush,” said Glen Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “I expect we will welcome additional candidates from both parties in the fall. Donald Trump will never make the cut. His recent comments on Mexico are not only despicable, but they reflect an individual who, despite his billions, is astonishingly ignorant about Mexico, trade and immigration.”
Although few and far between, some Republican politicians supported Trump. Not surprisingly, Ted Cruz embraced Trump warmly: “I’m proud to stand with Donald Trump.” A second fan was Jan Brewer, former Governor of Arizona who gained infamy by signing one of the most vicious anti-immigrant laws in the United States which among other things legitimated the racial profiling of Latinos. Brewer averred:
I believe that Mr. Trump is kind of telling it like it really, truly is. . . You know, being the governor of (Arizona), the gateway of illegal immigration for six years, we had to deal with a lot of things.
Although apparently many Republican leaders wish that he would disappear, Trump is popular with voters. In two recent polls he placed first, followed by Jeb Bush.
Trump brought down the house when he delivered his standard racist speech in Phoenix on July 12. Although there were some dissenters in the audience, the vast majority of the crowd of over 5000 received him warmly. Donald Trump has made it big recently because his oratory evokes a widespread anti-Mexican hatred, an old part of the White Racial Frame. It is not clear where this will take him, but one thing is sure: he has given racist passion a shot in the arm.
On November 19, after a long delay, President Obama issued an Executive Action on Immigration Reform that contained three stipulations. First, more resources will be given to law enforcement personnel charged with stopping unauthorized border crossings. Second, the President will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay. Third, the President announced steps “to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.”
The first provision will please opponents of unauthorized immigration and the second will be supported by business interests. They are not likely to give rise to controversy. The third provision, however, has already caused a furor among conservative Republicans. For example, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz asserted that Obama’s “actions are . . . unconstitutional and in defiance of the American people who said they did not want amnesty in the 2014 elections .” House Speaker Boehner, brimming with vitriol, stated that “President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left .”
Once again, white-oriented Republican leaders reached in their demagoguery tool kit and grabbed their standard response to all things Obama: Obama is dishonest, the problem is his fault, and the American people are on their side. Of course, they won’t do anything to fix it.
Many individuals sympathetic to the undocumented‘s difficulties are in a festive mood. But there is a factor to consider before we can truly celebrate: we need to see President Obama follow through. Angelo Falcón, President t of the National Institute for Latino Policy, puts it as follows:
We are . . . concerned that the President will not fully exercise his power of executive action to impact on all those who should be eligible for legalization, and expect that they will be shortchanged in terms of what should be basic human rights benefits such as health insurance. President Obama’s record also demonstrates that his public pronouncements do not necessarily result in effective federal action, with agencies such as Homeland Security consistently undermining the President’s rhetoric.
I share Mr. Falcón’s misgivings. I’ll wait and see how things turn out before I celebrate.
In this week’s edition of Inside Higher Education, Scott Jaschik reports on a picture taken of a group of Penn State Chi Omega sorority sisters mocking Mexicans. It is offensive enough that the picture depicts the group dressed in spaghetti western attire, but even more despicable are the signs featured in the picture:
“Will mow lawn for weed and beer” and “I don’t cut grass, I smoke it.”
What does this say about the collective views this group has of Mexicans? We have expectations about where certain groups belong based on generations of ethnic and racial stereotypes and societal stratification that are illustrated in this example. These views not only shape our expectations about one another, but also impact the way we treat each another.
For example, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez writes about the experience of being mistaken as a criminal defendant in a federal courthouse. He states:
Let me mention for example attorneys of color who are sometimes in criminal cases mistaken for the defendant by the participants. How do we respond to that? Sometimes we are overly formal, by making sure that we’re dressed particularly well and that our speech is particularly professional, just to let people know who we are because we’re not always given the benefit of the doubt. I remember when I was a federal prosecutor I was traveling with my wife to Texas and we went to the federal courthouse in Laredo, Texas. I was curious, I thought I’m part of the federal family, so I’m going to go in and see what a different federal courthouse looks like. When I went into the courthouse I started getting tailed by security; they followed me through the courthouse, and when I walked into a courtroom the clerk said, “Defendants sit to the left.” That was the first thing she said to me as I walked in. And I realized that out of my suit, I looked to them like a suspicious person or a defendant in that context.
(soon available here)
Being out of his suit is only part of the story. The other part is the fact that there are negative stereotypes about Mexicans and Mexican Americans that follow us wherever we go. Latino professionals universally encounter these challenges as I highlighted in my book on Latino lawyers. The notion that we should be mowing lawns, drinking a beer (presumably under a cactus), or working as maids/custodians has certainly impacted my life both personally and professionally. The impact of the views represented by the Chi Omega sorority picture penetrate into all aspects of Latinos’ lives and certainly bring to mind many memories of my own experiences.
Some of mine include being asked for a my social security card during a routine traffic stop for speeding (it took me years to stop carrying my social security card), or being asked for a “green card and an ID” before being allowed to go into a club or being asked rather aggressively by an older woman at a health club I used to belong in, to bring her some water while I was sitting down on a bench waiting for my daughter to finish tennis lessons. (The coach teaching the lessons recognized what was going on before I did and turned to the woman after she’d asked me for water for the third time and tells her he’ll get it for her when he was done giving his lesson). These examples pale in comparison to the examples I’ve experienced as a professor. I am not alone. It has been recently documented in a book on academic women of color, Presumed Incompetent that cover topics from campus climate to tenure and promotion as experienced by female faculty of color.
At the heart of all these examples is the way Latinos continue to be stereotyped by others as so grossly illustrated in the Penn State Chi Omega sorority example.
The Pew Hispanic Center has an eye-catching headline on a May 3 press release, which I have not seen much coverage of in the mass media: “Net Migration from Mexico Falls to Zero—and Perhaps Less.” The research account headed by a former student of mine (talented demographer Jeffrey Passel) at University of Texas begins with this:
The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill. After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants—most of whom came illegally—the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped and may have reversed, according to a new analysis of government data from both countries by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center. The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and broader economic conditions in Mexico.
Lots of interesting and revealing data in this report (pdf for researchers here), some of it countering much political conventional wisdom.
Do these data pose a problem for our many nativistic politicians and anti-Mexican-immigrant pundits, and their often racist arguments?