Latinos, an ethnic group who makes up a large proportion of the minorities living here in the U.S. are a very important part of America. Mexicans, who are a subgroup of Latinos have actually been present since the early creation of this country. For the most part Mexican Americans, and even straight out Mexicans can be considered more “American” than Americans today. If we take into consideration the word American it has a lot of meanings and could be interpreted in many ways under different contexts. There is the “American” term that the world uses often to refer to people who are citizens of the United States, but then there is also the other type of “American” where if you think about it it refers to people who are from the American continent. In fact, if we take a moment to analyze the meaning of this label aren’t Mexicans, Canadians, Central and Southern Americans also Americans simply because they live in the American continents?
If you think about it, Americans call themselves American because they are from the U.S. but if you look closely at early American settlement, most were immigrants from outside North America. They were in fact from Europe and other countries from around the globe, but they were never originally from the American contients. Latinos, specifically Mexicans living in the 1800’s during the time of Manifest Destiny lived in present day U.S., in a huge portion of the U.S. which was once Mexican territory.
The reason we have 50 states today and the reason the U.S. looks the way it does on a political map is because Mexico had to cede a lot of their territory to the American government. This is where the saying of “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us” comes into play. Taking this into consideration, it’s quite true even if Mexico no longer owns this land. Mexicans were inhabitants of these lands way before there was a political border and before their country was cut in half.
This map shows the territory ceded by Mexico to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)
This land acquisition has in fact been a major event in American history which affects us today. During the Mexican-American war, President James Polk decided to declare war on Mexico in a dispute over Texas. After a while of fighting over this Mexican land, the Mexican government surrendered and the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848. As part of this treaty the United States paid Mexico $15 million for, “525,000 square miles to United States territory, including the land that makes up parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming” (Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). The Mexican government was forced to give up this land. Without this new territory gained during the times of Manifest Destiny the United States would not be what it is today.
There is so much stigma around Mexicans and immigration, but let me just remind you that there were Mexican people living in parts of the United States way before Anglo-Saxons came and took over what didn’t rightfully belong to them. There is quite a bit of animosity towards Latinos because we have “immigrated” here, but it is so hard for me to understand why some detest us for trying to achieve the American dream by coming to the United States when most Americans’ ancestors came to form this country for the same reasons. This country was formed by immigrants since the very beginning. It is unfair to say that we don’t belong here because we were here before they even came and took over our land, and it is even fair to say that they are less “American” in the ways most Mexicans and Latinos are.
During Donald Trump’s presidential race he said many incriminating things about us Latinos, or most specifically Mexicans. He made us out to be very problematic people which many took to be inappropriate taking into consideration that most work hard to prosper and even do jobs that most other people see as dirty and of the lower class.
When Donald Trump said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They are sending the people that have lots of problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” it made many like myself who have worked hard to get to where we are feel numb. Saying that most of us are those things is just straight out wrong because he has no idea what it means to be us; he has no idea what it means to be Mexican or Latino and in that case what it feels like to be looked down upon and discriminated against. We have other people talking for us, misrepresenting us, this being part of what Edward Said talks about in his works of Orientalism. The “outsiders” like ourselves aren’t appropriately taken into consideration simply because we are inferior and because it so hard to truly understand what it means to the insiders if they have never been in our position.
American Actress Eva Longoria who is of Mexican Heritage spoke at the DNC in July and made this very same statement about Mexico and the border. In her speech, she talks about her father being a Veteran, not a criminal or a rapist and that she is a 9th generation American. Speeches like hers are meant to be reminders of what it means to be American, and hopefully we can look at stigmas like these and look at the world a in holistic way exploring history as far as possible as we can. It’s important to talk about these topics just like Longoria did so we can all be included in the conversation and can be rightfully acknowledged.
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Mural: Mission District San Francisco Street Art- We Didn’t Cross The Border, The Border Crossed Us