Mexican American History Is A Patriotic History

By Salomón Baldenegro

In Tea Party Republican Arizona, teaching Mexican American history is illegal because that history is purportedly “un-American” and foments the “overthrow of the government.”

The shamelessness of people who rally under the Confederate flag — a flag of treason, whose adherents renounced their U.S. citizenship, declared war on our country, and actually tried to overthrow our government! — claiming our history is “un-American” is breathtaking.

Let’s look at a few instructive snippets from scholars regarding this “subversive,” “un-American” history:

  • Carole Christian documents how during WW I Mexican Americans enlisted in great numbers, urged on by Spanish-language newspapers that reported the “courage and sacrifice, sometimes of their lives,” of these soldiers.
  • Raúl Morín describes the immense contributions and bravery of Mexican Americans during World War II and inKorea. One chapter details how “Company E, the All-Chicano Company,” whose members won many medals for bravery, was instrumental in winning several major battles.
  • John Culhane writes of the courageous WW II-Korea exploits of 57 Mexican American young men who lived onSecond Street(“Hero Street”) in Silvis,Illinois, many of whom lost their lives and were awarded medals for bravery. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, this constituted “…the largest number of servicemen from the same ethnic group to come from any area of comparable size during these conflicts.”
  • Ricardo Santillán’s “Rosita the Riveter” describes the contributions of Mexican American women who operated the factories, manufacturing ammunition and other war materiel during WW II.
  • Christine Marín wrote about the Asociación de Madres y Esposas (Association of Mothers and Wives) who developed a network of “VictoryGardens” so that the country’s harvest could go to feed the troops, sold war bonds, collected and sold scrap metal, and picked cotton, donating the proceeds to the WW II war effort.
  • Ralph Guzmán memorialized how Mexican Americans from southwestern states were 19.4% of Vietnam War fatalities but comprised only 10% of the population in those states.

Proportionately, Mexican Americans surpass all other ethnic groups with respect to the number of Congressional Medals of Honor earned for valor in combat.

After WW II, these patriotic men and women encountered “No Mexicans Allowed” signs in public places. Robert Oppenheimer describes a typical incident of a Mexican American WW II veteran, in his medal-decorated uniform, who was refused service in a restaurant. “White” cemeteries refused to bury Mexican American veterans.

Compare the decency of these patriots to the racism they faced: In Silvis, the home of Hero Street, Mexican American WW II veterans were not allowed to join the whites-only VFW chapter, but when the “white” VFW building was later razed and the members had no place to meet, the Mexican American chapter welcomed the displaced members to their chapter.

It is a perversion and a libel of monumental proportions to categorize the history detailed above — and similar historical dynamics regarding the immense economic, labor, cultural, political, educational, social, civil-rights, etc., contributions of Mexican Americans to our country — as “illegal” and “un-American.” Especially by people who rally under the treasonous Confederate flag.

Read Salomón Baldenegro’s previous essay on anti-ethnic studies activities in Arizona.

[Photo By Carissa GoodNCrazy]

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