You Can’t Call it What it is if You Don’t Know History:
Anti-Mexican Violence in the Southwest

By Irene Sanchez

There was a massacre yesterday in El Paso, Texas.

There was a shooting motivated by hate in Gilroy, California last week. 

They were both motivated by Anti-Mexican sentiment which has been present in the U.S. for over 180 years specifically in what is known now as the U.S. Southwest. In other words since before the border crossed us. Scapegoating is a tool that was and is used to justify violence. Whose violence?  The white supremacist violence then and now which includes people from Central America and other parts of Latin America who have migrated to these places. The roots of this violence must be understood for us to see it.

Trump disparaged Mexicans and Latinos in his campaign for President. In fact it was a central part of his platform. A platform that may very well get him re-elected. He kicked off his re-election campaign in June spreading hate again against our communities and in May 2019 asked a crowd what should be done about migrants and laughed when an audience member said “shoot them”. 

What is happening now is related to the rise of Trump in the U.S. and his hate filled rhetoric that got him elected to begin with.

Hate crimes against Latinos in the U.S.rose by 24 percent after his first year in office and in California alone rose by 52 percent from 2016-2017.

They don’t teach the history we need to call it what it is in most schools or U.S. history classes and when they did or do they ban our classes and books.

Occupied America by Rudolfo Acuña was banned for stating the truth that in fact the U.S. did invade Mexico. 

Arizona banned Ethnic Studies to specifically target Mexican American Studies in Tucson Unified School District where they later dismantled the program and fired experienced and award winning teachers such as former directorSean Arce who won the Myles Horton Education Award for teaching Peoples History from the Zinn Education Project. Some may not think much to this if they don’t know the history, but this ban happened in the last decade and in 2017 was ruled to be motivated by racial animus against Mexicans. Another act of violence against our communities.

Perhaps this is why Ethnic Studies is needed now more than ever and is promising with the progression of AB 331 in California. What is even more important is having courses that are region specific and in the Southwest it is necessary to have courses in Chicano/Latino Studies that do not water down these important historical facts that our students need to understand these times we are living.

We do no one favors with sharing inaccurate and ahistorical information. Even after Gilroy last week on July 28, 2019 many news agencies hesitated to say what it was and claimed authorities were still searching for a motive despite the fact that the shooter had posted on Instagram he was tired of the “hordes of mestizos” and also cited a white supremacist text before shooting at a festival in a city with a 60 percent Latino population (mainly of Mexican background).

Yesterday on August 3, 2019 a massacre occurred in El Paso, Texas. The New York Times was the first news agency I saw headline the event a massacre and it surprised me. What didn’t come as a surprise though was to see that one of the reporters who wrote the article, Simon Romero also writes on anti-Mexican violence/lynchings that took place in the Southwest.

It seems that the country has historical amnesia as we as Mexicans had already been written out of U.S. history despite the fact that the land from which I write yes was Mexico once despite what the shooter who committed the massacre said in his manifesto that he was tired of Hispanics invading Texas, no it is us who are tired of being blamed, scapegoated, and violence enacted against us in this country generation after generation since white supremacists invaded Mexico in 1836. There were broken promises of equality since 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. People need to know these facts.

You can’t call it what it is if you don’t know history. You can’t confront it unless you know where it comes from and even when a shooter says his goal was to shoot as many Mexicans as possible, some people including the media still act as if they don’t know what this is. It’s time to stop protecting and justifying white supremacist violence.

Us calling it exactly what it is and confronting it has been long overdue.

It’s time.

Ya Basta!

Art: Lalo Alcaraz

2 thoughts on “You Can’t Call it What it is if You Don’t Know History: Anti-Mexican Violence in the Southwest

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