Hmmm. This starts off well. Probably a good read. -Angela
THE HISPANIC EXPERIENCE
Perspective on the Frontier
Houston Institute for Culture
Stolen Birthright: The U.S. Conquest and Exploitation of the Mexican
By Richard D. Vogel
A ghost from the past is haunting America. But this ghost is no phantasm
-- it is the emergence of millions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans,
descendants of the people who were dispossessed of their land and denied
their birthright in the southwestern United States, who are growing in
power and hungering for justice.
Part I: Conquest - Land and Wealth
U.S. Imperialism in the South and Southwest
The U.S. War on Mexico
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Part II: Exploitation - Capital and Labor
World War I and the Demand for Mexican Labor
The Great Depression and Mass Deportations
World War II and the Bracero Program
The Maquiladora Industry
Boomtowns and Busted Workers
The Impact of NAFTA on Mexico
Part III: Exodo - Reclaiming the Mexican Birthright
Essential Workers for U.S. Capitalism
Another 50 Years of Mass Migration
THE HISPANIC EXPERIENCE
The present population of Mexico is about 105 million people with a full
40 percent living in poverty. There are an additional 23 million
residents of Mexican origin (including 8.8 million Mexican-born) in the
United States. Almost 73 percent of them live in the border states of
California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas -- originally Mexican
territory. Beginning in the late 1980s, and continuing into the 1990s
there has been a significant migration of Mexicans into new areas of the
U.S. as the demand for their vital labor power has grown. In the past
twenty years, nearly 9 million Mexicans have migrated, both legally and
illegally, to the United States in search of a better life. The current
estimate of undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. is between 3 and 4 million
with another 300,000 to 400,000 crossing the border each year. And there
is no end of the migration in sight. Mexico's National Population
Council predicts that the Mexican-born population in the U.S. will at
least double by 2030, reaching 16 to 18 million.
Mexican immigrants work the most dangerous and lowest paid jobs in
America. Seventy-two percent of all legal Mexican immigrants and 91
percent of all illegal Mexican immigrants work in low-paying blue-collar
or service occupations. Despite their thrift and hard work, 61 percent
of all legal Mexican immigrants and their U.S. born children and 74
percent of all illegal Mexican immigrants and their U.S. born children
live at or under the U.S. poverty level. The current average annual
income for legal Mexican immigrants is 57 percent that of white
Americans, while illegal immigrants have to live on only 41 percent.
Even after 20 years of working in the U.S., the income of Mexican
immigrants is less than 60 percent that of white workers. But despite
their economic status in America, year after year they continue to send
a significant share of their earnings back to relatives in Mexico.
Mexican citizens who cross the border legally every day to work, shop,
or visit family line up at checkpoints on the militarized border that
partitions their original homeland: Tijuana/San Diego, Mexicali/Calexio,
Nogales/Nogales, Agua Prieta/Douglas, Ciudad Juárez/El Paso, Ciudad
Acuña/Del Rio, Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass, Nuevo Laredo/Laredo,
Reynosa/McAllen, and Matamoros/Brownsvil
le. An estimated 1 million
people a day legally cross the border in both directions. The largest
border crossing in the world is at Tijuana/San Diego where an estimated
50,000 people live on one side of the international boundary and work on
the other. The Ciudad Juárez/El Paso crossing is almost as busy.
Presently, 12 million people live along the Mexico-U.S. border, and the
population is expected to double in the next ten years.
Between official points of entry, the U.S. Border Patrol, the U.S. Coast
Guard, occasional units from the U.S. Army and Air Force, numerous state
and local police agencies (including the notorious Texas Rangers), gangs
of Anglo vigilantes, and armed landowners patrol the international
border to check the flow of desperate Mexican migrants.
Mexicans who attempt illegal crossings also face formidable man-made and
natural obstacles. Miles of concrete and steel barriers erected to block
their passage have diverted the flow of immigrants from the safer areas
near civilization into the wastelands of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan
deserts and deserted stretches of the broad and treacherous Rio Grande.
Though the border is monitored 24 hours a day by surveillance cameras,
night-vision scopes, and seismic sensors, the migrants get through.
Unknown numbers of Mexican immigrants die of heat exposure or drowning
every year. Scores more die or are injured in traffic and railroad
accidents. The toll taken on the travelers by traffickers, vigilantes,
and common criminals goes unreported. Over a million Mexicans are turned
back annually, but, because there is little economic opportunity in
Mexico, many return to try again. American border watchers estimate that
it would take an army of 20,000 Border Patrol Agents and an expanded
system of formidable fences and other barriers to stem the flow of
Mexicans who brave illegal crossings.
The unstoppable migration from Mexico to the U.S. is one the largest
movements of workers and their families in the modern age. This mass
migration from the underdeveloped South to the affluent North is the
specter from the past that is haunting America.
To be sure, there are other ghosts of history still lingering the U.S.
There are the shades of the Native American nations -- people
exterminated or driven to the edge of extinction for their land and
exiled to the wastelands of America. And there are the African American
people, mostly descendents of the survivors of slavery, some
assimilated, even prospering, and many, their cheap labor no longer
needed by U.S. capitalism because of its global runaway shops,
ghettoized in the cities or incarcerated in the vast prison system of
America. These people, too, hunger for justice. But it is the Mexican
people who present a unique challenge to American capitalism, a system
of exploitation that has historically targeted national minorities in
its unrelenting quest for profit.
Two elemental factors have affected the history of Mexicans in the U.S.:
first, unlike both the African American and Native American people, they
have had sanctuaries -- the borderlands of the American Southwest and
Mexico itself -- places to recuperate from the relentless exploitation
and regenerate, and, second, their labor power remains essential to
American capitalism. These two factors have saved the Mexican people
from the dismal fate of so many Native and African Americans.
Mexicans and Mexican Americans have endured over a century and a half of
exploitation and oppression and are emerging as a powerful force -- a
force that is already changing the social, economic, and political
landscape of North America. Stolen Birthright: The U.S. Conquest and
Exploitation of the Mexican People is a history of the expropriation of
over one half of the landmass of the republic of Mexico by the United
States and the historic and continuing exploitation of that country and
its people. Contrary to the official histories written on both sides of
the border, this inquiry leads to an affirmation of the Mexican people.
Copyright © 2004 by Richard D. Vogel.
Richard D. Vogel is a retired teacher who writes about current social
and political issues. Other articles by the author are available at
HOUSTON INSTITUTE FOR CULTURE
THE HISPANIC EXPERIENCE