Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo

You certainly won't hear this in a Trump administration -- Obama offering praise for Mexico on its national holiday.  The speech is from 2014, but he celebrates the day every year, and a big event is planned today as well.

Unfortunately, all Trump and many Republicans see is a wall between us and Mexico when it has been a very fluid border throughout the centuries.  One that has benefited us far more than it has Mexico.  It took decades to finally get the Colorado River flowing into Mexico again, after all the dams we had built upriver to supply US farmland and provide electricity.  This was a signature moment for the Obama administration when it signed the US-Mexico Water Pact, the kind of relationship we should have with Mexico.

Instead, many of us see Mexico as an enemy, forever evoking the Alamo, which paved the way for one of the biggest land grabs in American history.  Not only did we take Texas, but all of the New Mexico territory and California, after the "Lone Star Republic" infamously declared independence from Mexico.  Abraham Lincoln and other Whigs were staunchly against the Mexican War, as they saw it as nothing more than imperial ambition.

We had a growing cotton plantation system that desperately needed more land, so expansion was inevitable.  Mexico had only recently gained independence from Spain and was struggling to build a nation state out of its far-flung territories.  It was poorly equipped to defend them, so President James K. Polk saw a golden opportunity to give his Southern brethren what they wanted.

Mexico was in danger of being overrun by France during the American Civil War, but the Mexican Army stood tall at the Battle of Puebla, beating back the unwanted invaders.  This is the moment it honors from its six-year war with France.  Given the highly festive ways in which Mexicans celebrate Cinco de Mayo it is easy to confuse it with Independence Day, which is celebrated September 16.

It is nice that we share in this holiday with Mexico, making us all Latinos at least for one day.

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