By Miguel Quezada
For many Americans, Mexico is the neighbor where college kids spend their spring break and where tequila originates. Many Americans still believe that Mexico gained independence on 5 De Mayo and that California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona – with the exception of Texas, Remember the Alamo!—have always been a part of the United States.
Since gaining independence on Sept. 16, 1821, Mexico has faced political, social and economic turmoil. For Mexico independence has not always meant freedom; nor independence translated into a government that respects the dignity and human rights of the Mexican people.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was the nation’s first internal confl ict that pushed the nation to become a democratic country. The revolution was a result of the campesinos and citizens seeking agrarian reform and a stake in their country’s wealth. The revolution was successful, but eventually it was followed by the 75-year oneparty rule that brought about the same circumstances that Mexico had fought to end in the fi ght for independence.
The nation’s second internal confl ict stemmed from the same history of social and economic inequality. On New Year’s Eve in 1994 as many Mexicans celebrated, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) declared war on the Mexican government. The root cause of the rebellion was the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA meant wealth for Mexican leaders, the US and Canada, but for many of Mexico’s indigenous people the agreement meant their dislocation from land and the destruction of much of the nation’s natural resources.
The turmoil is a refl ection of ‘Dignity and Human Rights of the Mexican People’ File courtesy of The Rolling Stones Barrios Unidos founder: Daniel “Nane” Alejandrez Journalist Ruben Salazar Cesar Chavez, founder of the National Farm Workers Painting depicting Miguel Hidalgo rallying the people File courtesy of The Rolling Stones Activist and labor organizer Dolores Huerta Mexico’s longstanding practice of corruption that is imbedded in the country’s political and economic institutions. From political leaders pocketing wealth made from selling the countries’ resource to foreign nations to the traditional “mordida” (literally, a “bite,” a small amount of money that is given to local police to avoid any trouble).
The corruption has kept the average Mexican citizen living in poverty with limited educational, employment or social opportunities. This causes uncertainty; the result is an emigration that has sent thousand of Mexicans across the border into the United States to seek those opportunities for themselves and their children. Emigration has cost thousands of Mexican men, women and children their lives as they swam across the Rio Bravo or walked across the desert.
Today the general corruption that plagues Mexico is compounded by the larger issue of the billion dollar drug trade. The “war on drugs” has led to the deaths and disappearances of thousands of Mexican citizens. Thousands more have immigrated into the United States seeking refuge and an escape from the violence that has overrun Mexico.
Today, while the average American views immigration through the lens of political leaders for or against immigration policy, many Mexicans have found a better life in the U.S. and have contributed to making America a better and stronger country.
This includes fi gures like union leader Cesar Chavez; authors Luis Rodriguez, who is working to end gang violence, and Alberto Urrea, who highlights the plight of the immigrant; and Daniel “Nane” Alejandrez, who has dedicated his life to ending the mass incarceration of Latinos and to ending gang violence.
In spite of this long history of turmoil, Mexican immigrants have thrived culturally in their homeland and in their adopted homeland of the United States. They have maintained a deep sense of pride in their rich history of music arts and traditions, while sharing them and adding to the melting pot that is America