There is no denying that the rhetoric on Mexican-Americans has elevated in our political circles the last few years on many issues such as immigration, language, and residency; particularly with our undocumented counterparts. Many Mexican-Americans have since been homogenized with undocumented immigrants and have been mocked, ridiculed, and held responsible for the issues above. As a result, some Mexican-Americans have blamed undocumented immigrants for the nasty rhetoric they've heard instead of blaming those who continue to harass all Latinos, documented or not. However, what's important is for Mexican-Americans to understand their history in this country and how it impacts them and every other American or non-American.
Here is a brief history not taught at our schools:
The Spanish conquest of Texas in the 1500s included the dissemination of the Spanish language and Christianization among the many Native tribes in Texas. This “Hispanicization” of the native population was facilitated by the intermarriage of Spaniards and Natives, adoption of Native children by "Spanish" families, and the capture of Native slaves. Eventually this mixed race known as “Mestizos,” treated as second-class citizens by the Spanish, revolted and eventually obtained independence from Spain in 1821.
Soon after, Anglos migrated to Texas, partly because the Mexican government encouraged migration. Racial-cultural tensions developed and Mexican-Anglo relations broke down, eventually leading the Anglos to declare war against the Mexicans. The Anglos were victorious, but the Mexican government never formally recognized Texas Independence. In 1846, President Polk, wanting to expand the U.S. and annex Texas formally, invaded and occupied Mexico, forcing Mexico to formally give up what is now known as Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California through the Treaty of Guadalupe (Treaty).
The Treaty’s intended purpose was to give Mexico money for half of the land that was taken, Mexican’s full U.S. citizenship, and the right for Mexican citizens to keep their land. As a result, 75,000 Mexicans stayed to become U.S citizens. Unfortunately this treaty was not honored and many Mexican-Americans lost their homes because the courts, law enforcement, and government officials willfully ignored their pleas. For example, the Texas Rangers often terrorized the Latino population, earning a reputation for shooting first and determining later if Mexican’s were ever armed. Moreover, national leaders often warned against letting Latinos join in the ranks of White America.
Borderlands: La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua is a book consisting of poems and historical reference to Latinos internal and external struggles in the U.S. The author describes the U.S. Southwest as “Aztlan,” the true homeland for Chicanos.
“This is my home
this thin edge of
but the skin of the earth is seamless.
The sea cannot be fenced,
el mar does not stop at borders.
To show the white man what she thought of his
Yemaya blew that wire fence down.
This land was Mexican once,
was Indian always
And will be again.”
The context of the poem describes a border between Mexico and the U.S. that is arbitrary because of the historical implications and the right of first possession. Here, the author makes the claim that the Chicano was here first; therefore, the land is the land of her people. She explains, “the oldest evidence of humankinds in the U.S.—the Chicanos’ ancient Indian ancestors—[were] found in Texas and has been dated to 35000 B.C.” Further, the author describes the border as an unnatural boundary, one created by the “Gringo” that considers inhabitants as aliens—whether they possess documents or not. But the poem goes beyond describing a border; the poem expresses anger, pain, and sorrow. She describes the retaliation of Mexican-American resisters who robbed a train in Brownsville, Texas, but only further increased the violence against Latinos. Vigilante Anglo groups started lynching and murdering Latinos and thousands of Mexican-Americans fled to Mexico, leaving their only homes known behind.
The historical context of Latinos in America serves as an outline to understand the early beginnings of discrimination against Latinos. Further, the colonization of the Natives by the Spanish and then eventual colonization of the Mestizos by the Americans provide a roadmap to the complexity of the Latino identity. Borderlands serves as a voice of the “Chicano,” expressing the injustices of Anglos on the Latinos native land. The social injustices of Latinos in its early beginnings continued to exist in the 1900s. Schools, a component of the bureaucratic system, were routinely segregated, racial identities stripped, and ethnic studies dismissed.
Just something to think about it in today's current climate about us as Natives, Mexicans, and Mexican-Americans.
 Jose Roberto Juarez, Jr., The American Tradition of Language Rights: The Forgotten Right to Government in a Known Tongue, 13 Law & Ineq. 443, 470-472 (1995).
 See Salinas, supra note 7, at 272; citing Samuel Harman Lowrie, Culture Conflict In Texas, 1821-1835 59-60 (1967).
 Id. Other factors were involved; Anglos encountered largely Catholic population, repealed slavery by the Mexican government, and the language barrier between the two.
 Id. at 273.
 Id.at 274, 274 n.26. The Treaty of Guadalupe was to give Mexican’s who chose to stay in the U.S. full U.S. citizenship and fifteen million dollars for the land taken.
 Id. at 274.
 Id. at 279.
 Id. at 274.
 See Anzaldúa, supra note 8, at 23. The author explains that the Aztecas del Norte, the largest single tribe in the United States, often identify as Chicano and see the U.S. Southwest as their true homeland (Aztlan).
Id. at 25.
 Id. at 25, 114 n.3; citing John R. Chavez, The Lost Land: The Chicano Images of the Southwest, 9 (University of new Mexico Press, 1984).
 Id. at 25. A “gringo” is a Spanish term used by Latinos to describe non-Latinos, usually White.
 Id. at 30.
 See Juarez, supra note 30; see also Salinas, supra note 33.
 Lupe S. Salinas & Dr. Robert H. Kimball, The Equal Treatment of Unequals: Barriers Facing Latinos and the Poor in Texas Public Schools, 14 Geo. J. Poverty Law & Pol'y 215, 221 (2007).
Benny's Books is a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization that creates diversity in children's fiction and gives out children's books for free.