Main | Monday, May 01, 2006

Jose', Can You Si?

In 2000, I happen to be in Sacramento, the state capital, on the day of California's sesquicentennial celebration. Amidst all the pomp and circumstance of paying tribute to the state's 150th birthday, there was a sizable counter-demonstration, staged by immigration reform activists. Passing by that rally, I saw a demonstrator's sign whose message has lingered on my mind to this day.

"We didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!"

However you feel about immigration, illegal immigrants, border security, or whether the national anthem should ever be sung in Spanish, I think it's worth remembering that for a large part of this country, our Spanish heritage is much older than our English heritage. Texas, for example, has been a part of the United States for 161 years. However, the previous 320 years (or so) were spent as part of New Spain, Mexico or as the independent Republic of Texas. Ironically, while under Mexican rule, one of the most divisive issues facing Texans was that of illegal immigration from the United States.

Therefore, we should keep in mind that California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Texas were all part of New Spain for hundreds of years, before their relatively brief period as part of the newly independent Mexico, and then it was decades longer still before the Stars and Stripes flew over any of their capitals.

People who speak out against illegal immigration have valid concerns. But wrapping their campaign in a furious cloud of anti-Spanish sentiment is not only racist on its face, it demonstrates a really, really poor knowledge of American history.

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