Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WE ARE NOT HISPANIC

WHY HISPANIC?
By Antonio Bernal
August 20, 2000
In the sixteenth Century, Spain colonized the American mainland, Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines. The Caribbean colonies developed a rich African-Spanish mixture, the Pacific Island colonies developed a rich Asian-Spanish mixture, and the mainland Americans developed a rich Indigenous-Spanish mixture. This mestizaje was racial and cultural. The actual Spanish population was always in the minority. In Mexico, as in other places, Spaniards intermarried with the Native Americans to the extent that after Independence they ceased to exist as an ethnic group. The criollos that remained considered themselves Mexicans, not the loathed Spaniards. While Spanish became widely spoken, in spite of genocidal efforts the Native languages and customs did not disappear, and rather than the Natives becoming Hispanicized, the Spaniards became Americanized, developing a taste for Native food and customs, as well as Native partners in marriage.
It is hard to believe that people consider Mexicans Hispanic. One need only walk around the Aztec capital (Mexico is not a Spanish word) to see people today in the big city wearing native clothes, braids and huaraches as a matter of course. Those that do not, have identical features to those who do. As far as a ruling elite, it is true that Mexican politicians and industrialists tend to be European-looking, but it also true that some of Mexico's presidents, such as Juárez and Díaz, were full-blooded indigenous people. How many African-American or Mexican presidents has the United States had? Many Mexican intellectuals are indigenous (De la Cabada, Altamirano, Goitia). The same indigenous strength is obvious in Yucatán and Guatemala. People walk around speaking Maya in their daily activities. In other parts of the Republic there are more than one million Nahuatl speakers today. In Sonora and Sinaloa, where the indigenous people look more European, that is, they are tall and their skin is lighter, the fact that a man or woman is dressed in a suit or high heels does not prevent them from being Yaqui or Seri. Proof that "Hispanic" is strictly an Anglo concept is the attitude Anglos have about race mixing. To them, "half breed" is an attribute of contempt, while a Mexican will call himself "mestizo" with pride in his native heritage. Any observant gringo, if he bothered to notice at all, would soon realize the dearth of Spanish symbols in Chicano, Mexican or Central American iconography. There are no castanets, no mantillas, no paella, no flamenco. Instead we find the Aztec serpent and eagle on the Mexican flag, the feathered shield, the quetzal, the tamal, the coyotl. It seems the native people are trying to tell us something.
To say Mexicans are Spanish is to show the most spectacular ignorance of history, but most importantly, they themselves would laugh in amazement at the idea. Only Mexicans who have gone through U.S. public schools can say they are Hispanic with a straight face. The idea does not exist south of the Río Bravo. In 1978 the godess Coyolxauhqui was discovered under some priceless Spanish Colonial buildings next to the zócalo in México City. A few people objected to tearing the Colonial buildings down, but there was no contest; the Aztec buildings were more important. The buildings came down to reveal the ruins of the Aztec ceremonial center for the first time in almost 500 years.
How can Rigoberta Menchú, who has not a drop of Spanish blood and didn't even speak Spanish until she was 10, be called a Hispanic? If she can't, then why should Dolores del Río be called a Hispanic? Dolores, who wore furs and diamonds and stayed at the Plaza, and who made a perfectly convincing Otomí in María Candelaria. Aurora Bautista, a Spanish actress, contemporary of Dolores, could not have done it. Why should María Félix, who hobnobbed with Cocteau and Jean Gabin, and had a grandfather who was a full-blooded Yaqui, and proud of it, be called Hispanic? Columba Domínguez’s grandmother was also indigenous. El Indio Fernández speaks for himself. The list goes on ad infinitum. The fact is that Mexicans, whatever their color, are Native Americans, and if there is a small amount of Spanish blood in them, there is little Spanish culture, other than language and a few token institutions, such as Catholicism, remaining. One must bear in mind that many Mexican presidents have waged open wars on the Church, confiscating their lands, turning the buildings into libraries and forbidding their prelates to wear their habits in the street. Anti-Catholicism has a long tradition in México, precisely because Catholicism is considered a foreign ideology identified with the hated Spaniards, and the Conquest. In 1810, the people of Guanajuato rioted and broke into the Alhondiga de Granaditas, took out 138 Spanish prisoners there and murdered them in cold blood. That scene was repeated thousands of times throughout Mexico’s Colonial history. Don’t Anglos realize that September 16th, the famous Mexican holiday with parades, food and dancing, is celebrating the death of the gachupines (Spaniards)? Apparently not. Although mistrusting Catholicism, Anglo Americans have always supported the missions, which were indeed Spanish, as the central infrastructure. The anti-indigenous bias is obvious.
It is not even a question of Spanish blood. Mexicans are heavily intermarried with Germans, Jews, Arabs and Africans. Some Mexican last names; Herzog, Betancourt, Leduc, Caen, Haro, Awad, Mansour, Eherenberg, Ripstein, Von Bertab, Poniatowska and Yampolska. There are millions of indigenous last names. In Yucatán we find, among many others, Pech, Balam, Canché, Canek, and in other parts, such names as Suboqui, Ocomol, Xaxni, Nucamendi, Equihua, Cuautle, Coyote, Chimal, Xiu (who count 46 generations to date), Teopantitla and Jolote, are common. The Moctezumas, are direct descendants of the Emperor, with papers to prove it. Not a Hispanic in the lot.
If the foregoing is true, why the rabid insistence that Mexicans are Spaniards? U.S. Americans do not wish to be called "British". Filipinos are considered Asian, not "Hispanic", yet they were colonized by Spain and speak Spanish (Many even have Spanish last names, such as Monteverde, Romero and Silvestre). Why are Mexicans, who were colonized by Spain as were the Filipinos, and speak Spanish as they do, clamorously singled out for the "honor" of being called Spanish? The answer can only be political.
The term Hispanic came from the fevered mind of a Washington bureaucrat, not from contemporary reality or history. The Protestant English people on the East Coast of the U.S. who only recognize the colonizers, not the colonized, have been fighting the wars with Spain and Catholicism since the time of Queen Elizabeth the First. They took American lands from Spain, and never bothered to find out that the people on these lands are not Spanish. Refusing to intermarry, for years they have been harping that there were no more "Indians" (The Last of the Mohicans, The End of the Trail, Ishi, the Last of his Tribe, etc.) They have also been harping that there were no more Mexicans, whose Spanish masters (Californio aristocrats, not Mexicans, according to the scenario) played guitars to their dark-eyed señoritas. All gone. Their descendants have assimilated and salute the U.S. flag. Good citizens of Spanish descent, like Rita Hayworth.
The gauche Anglo mantra goes like this: First there were Indians, who were cruelly conquered by the Spanish. (Spanish cruelty was supposedly much worse than Anglo cruelty).. Then the Indians all magically disappeared from the Midwest and left the land empty for the pioneers. There were no Mexicans in the U.S. Mexicans were in Mexico, Spain. (Mexico is a corrupt and primitive nation, and no self-respecting Hispanic should have anything to do with it. Divide and conquer). They picked a war with the peace-loving US, but then it was over and the Southwest was empty to make room for the pioneers. Brown skinned people in the US have European ancestry, which means they are foreigners, not a native people. If they don’t come into the country with permission from the government, as the Anglos did through Ellis Island, then they are illegal and should be sent back. Never mind that Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Mexicans under colonial rule. Never mind that the Mexicas have ancestral ties with the arapaho, Comanche and Apache, their languages having sprung from the same source.
A similar situation existed in South Africa before the end of apartheid. The White ruling class, and especially the leaders of the Nationalist Party manufactured a version of the past and present of that country which they systematically attempted to impose everywhere, from the schoolroom to international opinion. According to this picture the early White settlers penetrated peacefully into a virtually unoccupied country. The African population, who are depicted as savage barbarians without culture, achievements or history, are represented as relative newcomers who entered the country at about the same time as the Whites, and conducted aggressive wars and raids against them. The impression is given that African occupation was always more or less confined to the present Reserves - the 'Bantu Homelands'. This version of South Africa's past is entirely false.
Amnesty International has recently pointed out that Spain is one of the worst offenders in Europe in terms of racism and xenophobia. They are just as vicious against Mexicans as they ever were. Calling us Hispanic is like calling Jews Germanic. Some Spaniards continue to have dreams of reviving the old Empire, and try to influence political events against the Latin American people, and in their favor, to safeguard their investments in the hemisphere.
Mexicans are Aztec, Otomí, Maya, Huichol, and Yaqui (the list goes on) who intermarried with Spaniards, Jews, Arabs, Germans and Africans, as well as with Chumash, Gabrielino, Comanche, Apache and Pueblo. Mexicans are native Americans who did not come from Europe. Should there be any doubt, the biological evidence is irrefutable. Most Mexicans are born with the Mongolian birthmark, a dark stain at the base of the spine that lightens as the child grows older. This characteristic is totally absent among Europeans, but present in indigenous people, whether North, Central or South American. The only foreigners in the picture are the European-Americans themselves.

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