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Hispanic Heritage Month is a fantasy


Frank P. Barajas

Hispanic Heritage Month officially ends Friday after a month of events commemorating the contributions of people in this demographic. It all started in June 1968, when Southern California Congressman George E. Brown introduced a resolution to correct the omission of contributions from a significant part of his constituency, the ethnic Mexicans. The decree brought together 19 Western cosponsors for a week of recognition. Subsequently, administrations from Presidents Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan extended this holiday to one month.

This annual tribute aligns with the anniversaries of the independence of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica from the Spanish Empire in 1821.

But I don’t pay much attention to Hispanic Heritage Month. Why?

Because I and most of the Mexicans around me do not identify with Spain’s legacy of violence in the Americas. Oh sure, I have known people, even family ones, who extol their Iberian lineage to the detriment of their native ancestry. But not me.

Ethnic Mexicans (citizens and migrants, documented and undocumented) are people with a long history in America. Additionally, self-identified Chicanas / os like myself are aware that our culture is historically rooted in sexual violence that encompasses many ethnicities and races: early Native Americans of the Western Hemisphere, Iberians (a good number of expelled Sephardic Jews ), Africans, Asians, and a range of European nationalities.

Early 20th-century Mexican philosopher-politician José Vasconcelos bestowed on his people the cognomen La Raza Cosmica. Many foreigners in my culture translate awkwardly raza mean race. Most Chicanas / os don’t, as it suggests a yeast cross-cultural community of working class people.

Other ethnic Mexicans adopt the epithet Chicano in the same way. I remember how my politically moderate father proudly referred to fiery Mexican ethnic crowds in place of Oxnard as the chicanada, the hoi polloi we belonged to because they enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Independence parties or the city salsa festival.

As legendary journalist Ruben Salazar astutely put it in a February 6, 1970 Los Angeles Times editorial titled, “Who’s a Chicano?” And what do the Chicanos want? “:” A Chicano is a Mexican-American with a non-Anglo image of himself. He does not like being told that Columbus “discovered” America when the ancestors of the Chicanos, the Mayans and the Aztecs, founded highly sophisticated civilizations centuries before Spain funded the voyage of America. Italian explorer to the “New World”. ”

Aware of the cultural labyrinth of ethnic Mexicans, I also reject the label “Hispanic,” fabricated by foreigners, as it eradicates the historic presence of my people in the Southwest.

Lawyer turned historian Carey McWilliams wisely coined fairytale features like Hispanic Heritage Month, a fantastical legacy by which early 20th-century Anglo-American boosters glorified Iberian as a ploy in the form of Santa Barbara Fiesta Days, Ramona Pageant, Columbus Day and real estate development such as the multi-million dollar Spanish Hills development in the town of Camarillo in Ventura County when Mexicans settled in California.

McWilliams also recognized Spain’s fantastic heritage as a lie that erased the reality that ethnic Mexicans in the United States were here before the Anglos. They are therefore not strangers. When he ostensibly published the first book of Chicano studies in 1948 North “From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People in the United States”, he argued that our nation’s European origins were first conceived in the Spanish colony of New Mexico in 1598 and not in the English Jamestown. nine years later.

When ethnic Mexicans head to northern Mexico today, they follow a flow of migrants centuries before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 which concluded a war started by the United States to acquire what are now the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and California.

And from different parts of Latin America and Haiti, refugees often flee repressive authoritarian regimes backed by our government to cross a synthetic US-Mexico border born in nativism and brutality secured by mounted guards, respectively, in the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 and the Texas Rangers before the creation of the Border Patrol.

During the Chicano movement in Ventura County, intrepid activists partnered with allies and peers in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara to insist an inclusive agenda centered on the history and culture of people of color. be adopted in schools in order to make such a heritage month unnecessary. To publicize this demand and others to address the exploitation of farm workers, challenge police brutality, dismantle school segregation, and end the Vietnam War in which Mexican-American military troops experienced high rates of losses disproportionate to their number in the southwest, Chicanas / os have embarked on the The March of the Reconquista in the spring of 1971 from Calexico to Sacramento.

With self-determination, they marched north six hundred miles from city to city not as Hispanics but as Chicanas and Chicanos. And that I honor.

Frank P. Barajas is Professor and Chair of History at California State University Channel Islands.

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