Border Policy and Racial Identity
The tragedy currently playing out on the U.S. southern border has reminded me to once again ask my three-years-ago-posed and perhaps-more-relevant-than-ever question (slightly tweaked): If the U.S. had sponsored and funded infrastructural, educational, social and economic development in Mexico and Central America during the 1950s to the 1980s in the way the more prosperous countries of Europe helped the less prosperous nations of their region to prepare them for membership in the future European Union, would not Mexico and Central America today be considerably more prosperous, healthy and sustainable, and better and safer places to live than they are, with less immigration into the U.S. and immigration therefore a much less contentious issue? Could this be a topic deserving of book-length treatment?
Esperando sin Esperanza
Dear Waiting without Hope,
Book length? Try light-year length. A massive Marshall plan has been the dream of neoliberals in el gabacho and Latin America since the days of James Monroe, and while it makes sense — better for the U.S. to invest in nation-building in, say, Quintana Roo, than Iraq or Afghanistan, you know? — it'll never happen. Primeramente, there would be an uproar across Latin America, as inhabitants will always reject overt acts of gabacho government charity in the (understandable) fear that Americans are trying to create a puppet state (see: Nicaragua under Somoza, Cuba under Batista, Mexico under everyone except Lázaro Cárdenas). But even if Mexicans wanted that help, another group of people would be even more opposed: gabachos, who see any act of kindness towards Latinos as weak and sowing the seed for Reconquista.
Witness the current tragedy at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of Central American and Mexican kids are trying to cross to flee ultraviolence at home. America's reaction? Outrage that those chiquitos are looking for refuge, and outright assholery from residents in Escondido, California, where residents protested long and loud over a proposal to turn a vacant viejitos home into a temporary housing facility for refugee kids. Compare that with the 1960s, when the U.S. government and public openly welcomed tens of thousands of Cuban kids with Operation Peter Pan. Difference between then and now? In the American psyche, those kids were cute, light-skinned Cubans and useful Cold War pawns; on the other hands, the current niños are dirty Salvadorans, and Guatemalans, and Mexicans who deserve misery and death back home.
I continue to find that Mexican immigrants know they are not white, but refuse to identify or accept the fact that they come from indigenous people (even partly). Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way we fill out applications asking about race. Although we are free to identify as Hispanic/Latino (an ethnicity) we are also free to mark any/ALL races that apply. More often than not we leave this blank or mark off "white." Why is it that some Mexicans (like me) born on this side are more accepting of Amerindian ancestry and Mexicans born over there wouldn't dare? My best guess is education?Xicana Xingona
Dear Badass Chicana,
What Mexican in their right mind would want to be anything other than gabacho in this country? There's been much made recently of stats that supposedly show over a million Latinos checked off the gaba box in the 2010 Census, with academic yaktivists claiming the U.S. government duped dumb Mexicans into going white — but please. Being considered white gives you a muy grande advantage in this country, a secret known by everyone from negritos to Irish to chinitos to, increasingly, Mexicans. Indian? In the average mexicano mind, good for pyramids, funny movies and casinos where they can see Pepe Aguilar; otherwise, a vergüenza.
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org, be his fan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!
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