To understand many Mexican attitudes toward the United States and immigration, you have to go back to the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, of which most Americans have never heard. The United States attacked Mexico in a war of territorial acquisition, occupied Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona, and drove south to conquer Mexico City. It did it because it could.
The attitude of Americans who have heard of the war is usually, “Get over it.” Mexicans have not gotten over it. People get over things they have done to others more easily than they get over things others have done to them. Tell Americans to “get over” Nine-Eleven, or Jews to get over Germany.
There is in Guadalajara a large and prominent monument to Los Niños Heroes, the adolescent cadets who marched out to defend Chapultepec as the Americans conquered Mexico City, much as the VMI cadets tried to defend Virginia in the Civil War. Countless Mexican towns have a street called Niños Heroes. They remember.
This does not make for a keen appreciation of the Exceptional Nation. Nor does memory of the conquest arouse sympathy about immigration–or, as Mexicans see it, emigration. It explains the occasionally heard phrase, “La Reconquista.”
Throw in the drumbeat from racialist sites to the effect that Mexicans are stupid, filthy, criminal, and parasitic, and Trump’s asserting that they are rapists and what all, which resonates in Mexico as Hillary’s Deplorables speech did in Middle America. And of course there was the bombardment of Veracruz, of which Americans have never heard, and Pershing’s Incursion, and Washington’s history of attacks, invasion, installation of dictators in Latin America and support for others.
For Mexico, as for most of the world, the US is not the shining city on a hill that it thinks it is. Over and over it attacks other countries and invariably is surprised when they don’t like it. Note that America and its vassals in Europe kill huge numbers of people in Muslim cities, yet express outrage when Muslims kill people in their countries.
In America, conservatives will erupt in fury on reading the foregoing. Well, bully for them. The behavior of Mexicans is determined by their history and what they think, not by what others think they ought to think.
These days, people often want a philosophical framework to justify their aggression. Among the better educated of Mexico, emigration is sometimes intellectualized by saying that flows of population have occurred all through history, Rome and such. These flows, they say, are inevitable and perhaps favored by Divine Providence. They don’t quite say, “Get over it.”
This reasoning is self-serving. If twenty million Haitians swam ashore in Veracruz, Mexicans would not regard it as a natural and inevitable flow. Note, though, that the Mexican inevitable-flow theory precisely parallels the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, which held that that America’s expansion across the continent was inevitable. It was an early form of American Exceptionalism, the idea that America is special and need not follow norms of decent behavior. Now it seems that Manifest Destiny is reversible. This notion too will anger many Americans, but then, the invasion of Mexico angered many Mexicans.
American attitudes toward Latinos, chiefly contempt, do not get a rousing welcome here. Americans both north and south of the border tend to see Mexicans only as gardeners, waiters, maids and, here, a few English-speaking doctors. Typically they have no idea of the lands between the Rio Bravo and Tierra del Fuego. They have not been there, do not speak or read Spanish. Americans, increasingly losing their own intellectual tradition, are unaware that Latin America has its own rich intellectual history going back for centuries. Fortifying this blankness is the charming view that Latinos are stupid and so, obviously, cannot have an intellectual anything. This annoys Mexicans.
Latin America has in fact produced a great many writers of the first rank, not to mention philosophy, architecture, and music. Pick a few: Vargas Llosa, Garcia Marquez, Juan Rulfo, Pablo Neruda, Borges, Ortega y Gasset, Octavio Paz, Carlos Monsivais, Mario Benedetti, on and on. I didn’t know most of them either, but my wife Violeta, a Mexicana, does. All of this ties in with the literature and art of Spain, the mother country, just as ours does with that of England. There is a major civilization down here, despite the views of internet louts.
While there is much discussion of immigrants in the US, it consists mostly of ideology, of impractical hostility on the Right and moral preening on the Left. Neither seems to have much interest in knowing what it is talking about.
For example, the illegals, a source of horror, are mostly not diseased, drug-dealing rapists with drooping IQs and psychopathic murderousness. This will come as a disappointment to many. Actually, come in flavors. They are not one thing.
At the negative end are the MS 13 types, tattooed killers. These could profitably be taken up in a helicopter and allowed to come down independently. Then you have the kid brought over at age two and who now, at nineteen, speaks perfect California English and horrible Spanish and thinks he is an American, never having been to Mexico. You have the guys who come for two, three, four years, save money, and return to Mexico to buy a house for their families.
You have our friend Rosa, I will call her, who came over illegally after high school, worked dirt jobs, found free English lessons, went briefly on welfare, and finally worked her way up to be head of food-services at a high school. (Incidentally, it annoys her that her kids do not speak Spanish, but, she says in flawless English, this is America, what do you expect. Many immigrants favor bilingual schooling so that their children can learn Spanish.) Anyway, after a few years she went to whoever you go to, said she wanted legal residence, was told she had to pay back the welfare, did, and is now a permanent resident in line for citizenship if Trump doesn’t stop her.
Finally you have those illegals who live permanently on welfare and never learn English. When Rosa speaks of them, she sounds like Breitbart News: “I work. I pay taxes. Who do these damned….”
Now permit me once more to infuriate conservatives. It is a service. It will keep their blood flowing briskly: Consider Eduardo and Maria, Salvadorans living in San Salvador in a dirt-floored cinderblock hut. They have little money, not because they are stupid or lazy but because there are no jobs. Their two kids cry at night because they are hungry. Their only hope, they decide, is for Eduardo to try to get to the US, a ballsy and dangerous idea, send money back, and try to figure out how to get Maria and the kids into the US.
So he and Maria scrimp and do without–more without–and lean on relatives to get the money for a pollero to get him across the US border should he get that far. Eduardo sets off hitchhiking, which he has never done, up Central America to the Mexican border where the police or los maras are likely to beat and rob him. Mexico enforces its immigration laws more vigorously than does the US. He rides the Train of Death, well named, to the US frontier, where he doesn’t know anybody or anything and, if he is not robbed, finds himself in a country whose language he does not speak. Somehow he gets to Kentucky, picks tobacco, and sends money back.
It is not an undertaking for someone who has feathers for balls.
Yes, it is illegal. No, it is not good for the United States. Yes, immigration should be stopped. But–if you were Eduardo, which would matter more to you, your wife and children, or some law in a remote country where, in any event, a lot of people want you to come and work? What would you do? Would it not be irresponsible not to do it?
I will now go into hiding.
Request to readers: I would appreciate being in touch with someone familiar with industry in Mexico, especially robotics, engineering, and aerospace. I do not need to quote anyone by name, but would like the information, and do not now have press credentials, so cannot just call and ask. [email protected] Please put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid autodeletion. Thanks.