Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Weirdness of New Mexico Hispano Nationalism

One of the strangest things in this strange state is the nationalism (or perhaps ethno-centrism is the correct term) of our Hispanos. Many people claim pure Spanish blood, which is a total joke. It's really a cover for racism and elitism among the state's wealthy.

Even weirder is when this nationalism comes from progressive Hispanos. I suppose this originates in the Chicano movement of the 1960s and the Atzlán myth of the Aztec homeland in the modern American southwest. Anyway, I was listening to a radio show the other night on KUNM, the city's public radio station, where some guy was talking about the importance of immigrants to the United States and the need for Chicanos to stand in solidarity with their Mexican brothers and sisters. I can buy that. He then said that people of Mexican descent had long served their country in the military. Absolutely. No question.

But then he goes on to say that without the Spanish people of New Mexico, the United States could not have won the American Revolution. This is just off the charts absurd. Yes, the Spanish did ally with the French and the Americans against the British. But the Spanish contribution was minimal to begin with and they really had no interest at all in seeing a free US because they were rightfully scared about what such a nation would engender in their own colonies. The Spanish simply went to war because they were related by blood to the French monarchy, because they hoped to gain some land in the Americas, and because they hated the English.

But beyond this, people in New Mexico did approximately nothing to help or hinder the formation of the United States. Nothing at all. Any claim to the contrary is totally absurd. That this commentator would make connections between the Spanish army and his ancestors who spent their lives in a tiny New Mexican village trying to not get taken into slavery by the Comanches is laughable. Not only does this commentator completely misunderstand the Spanish intentions during the American Revolution, he assumes that his rights as an American are greater because a country halfway around the world that his ancestors shared a limited amount of blood, language, and culture with sort of helped the nation become free.

Of course, he is speaking from a position of strength--his people are so often not given full rights as Americans and are subject to racism from the dominant white society. And he is trying to do good by making these connections. But how can you really accomplish anything when you are basing your argument on myth supported by shaky "facts." As a historian, I was deeply frustrated and annoyed.