Motezucoma Sanchez / Guest Columnist / Bilingual Weeky
For two hundred years, Mexicans have celebrated their independence on September 16th. But 200 years later we must ask ourselves, are we really independent? Are we really free?
The masses of Mexicans, primarily native, aided the Spaniards born in New Spain to gain independence from the Spaniards born in Spain. Though successful, they were still left with Spanish overlords ruling a system stratified by class and race which had no benefit to the masses of the people of Mexico. Even with a Constitution modeled after the U.S., and outlawing of slavery, the people would see little benefit.
Two hundred years later, after more invasions from foreign powers including the United States which would strong-arm the acquisition of half of Mexico’s territory, the people of Mexico are not much better off. One hundred years after, Mexico would find itself once again embattled with foreign forces, this time fighting for independence from entities just as deadly as a standing army: US and European corporations. This great war known as La Revolución would displace and take the lives of millions, even escalating into a religious conflict with the Cristero War —pitting the Catholic Church against those seeking reforms for the nation. Ironically millions, including my grandparents, would migrate North to much of the source of the oppression.
Fast forward one hundred years to today and we find that not much has changed. The people of Mexico are faced with violence related to a drug trade that is fueled by its economic impoverishment and demand from the U.S.
It’s ironic that the greatest drug in demand is marijuana, which as the only drug on the U.S. prohibition list with not only its slang, but Spanish name, was primarily outlawed to combat the growing Mexican population in the Southwest. This move would greatly affect the Mexican American population in the country as can be seen in the prison population and crimes related to the trade of that prohibited plant, such as street gangs and the negative effects they have primarily on the same population, as if no lessons were learned from the prohibition of alcohol.
And although most Mexican Americans fare better than their counterparts in Mexico (at least economically) they find themselves —almost across the board— at the bottom of every social indicator of success and well-being.
One hundred years after the Revolución and two hundred since the declaration of independence from Spain, Mexico finds itself embroiled in economic devastation much like the conditions that created the Revolution of 1910. The implementation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) has become the new Porfiriato, allowing U.S. corporations to move in and monopolize the Mexican economy just as the case was in 1910 when 90% of Mexico’s wealth and natural resources were controlled by U.S. and British companies including Randolph Hearst and Rockefeller.
Today NAFTA, which has been contested militarily by revolutionaries known as Zapatistas, in homage to the great leader of the Revolución, has decimated local markets in Mexico displacing workers and forcing them to follow the wealth northward to the U.S. Illegal immigration has skyrocketed so much, that Mexico now relies greatly on remittances from those working abroad as the biggest driving force of their economy.
We as a people must celebrate this Centennial and Bicentennial remembering the struggles we —as a collective people— have been through and where we have come from. But we must also clearly understand the parallels with the past and our current challenges.
Where we are in the next hundred years depends greatly on our understanding of our progress, or lack thereof, and the actions we take now to ensure a brighter future and freedom worth celebrating.