September 4, 1998


COMMENTARY

No Americans in America, Circa 1788

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

There were no Mexicans before 1822. There were no Mexicans in California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas before 1822.

So state a spate of revisionist propagandists for the fanatic anti-Mexican haters among us in an effort to denigrate anyone of Mexican background. They do so because they are: (A) Bigots? (B) Racists? (C) Xenophobes? (D) Uneducated? (E) Illiterate? (F) Half-witted? (G) Asinine? Or, all of the Above?

In letters-to-the editor and on radio talk shows, a broad attack is being waged against Mexicans and historical claims to their residence in what is now the Southwest. Fact: Mexican residence in some places (e.g., Santa Fe, New Mexico), predates all English and French colonization of America's Eastern Seaboard. These revisionists draw some sustenance from historians who wrote all-Anglo histories over a century ago, even as the Governor of California was named Pacheco and never saw Spain.

Specifically, they state that as there was no country of Mexico before 1822, there were no Mexicans. Thus, they maintain, only Spaniards came to California and other parts of the Southwest at various times. The result of this theory is that Mexicans couldn't have come to California, Texas, Arizona or New Mexico until 1822 because there were no Mexicans.

Let's see. The Spaniard arrived on the mainland of the New World in 1519. Under the command of Hernando Cortez, 200-plus Spanish adventurers came looking for a land of gold and jewels. They brought no women. When they landed at Vera Cruz (Mexico), they interacted with the indigenous population we call Indians. That interaction included sexual intercourse and the birth of babies of Spanish fathers and Indians mothers. Those were the first Mexicans, i.e., Spanish and Indian.

It was years before Spanish women were allowed to come to "New Spain", otherwise known as Mexico (Mexía in the local Indian dialect). As Spanish soldiers and explorers spread North and Northwest, more children were born to Spanish fathers and Indian mothers. Mexicans, not "New Spaniards," were born. By 1550, children were being born a far north as Santa Fe and Texas to Spanish fathers and Indian mothers. There were Mexicans.

The King of Spain administered the New World through royal Achichincles (gofers), Vice-roys. The Seville-based Council of the Indies supervised all territories in the "New World." Nonetheless, the general appellation for the territories of the New World from what is now Central American north, was Mexico.

In actuality, few people in the New World were Spanish born after several decades of Spanish rule. Most Spanish who came were not the "pick of the litter," so to speak. Good Spanish families sent the family Black Sheep to the Americas, but rarely came themselves. It is generally acknowledged that most Spanish settlers who came to the New World, were from the lower classes of Spanish society. The Council of the Indies facilitated this kind of settlement by passing racial classification laws so strict that Adolf Hitler was an amateur on racialism by comparison.

In an effort to keep Spanish settlers on top of the social and economic food chain, the Council decreed over thirty (30) racial classifications and restricted economic activity and favorable tax treatment to the top all-White classifications.

Number one, were those born in Spain; number two were children born of Spanish-born parents (Creoles); number three were children and later descendants of Creoles with no other blood. The next category was of children with Spanish and Indian blood. Other categories were Spanish and Negro, pure Negro, Negro and Indian and, lastly, came the heavily-taxed Indian.

The number of pure Spanish-born people in the New World rarely, if ever, exceeded 10% of the total population. Within a hundred years (1620), most people in the Spanish territories north of Managua were mixed Indian and Spanish, Mexicans.

By the time Spain extended its reach to California, few of the original party of Father Junipero Serra and Spanish soldiers that arrived in 1769 were Spanish-born. The rest were born in Mexico, as Creoles, mestizos and mulattos, but nonetheless, Mexican-born, thus Mexican. They certainly wouldn't have been treated as Spaniards in Spain.

Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo commenced the Mexican War of Independence on September 15/16, 1810, and led an ersatz army of Indians, Creoles and Mestizos. Eleven years later, victorious Mexican rebels marched into Mexico City and Vera Cruz, from where they watched the Spanish sail away.

With the Spanish expelled, Mexico declared itself an Empire and Mexican as a nationality came into being. But had not there been Mexicans since 1519?

Proof: Were there Americans before the United States of America drove the British out and became a republic in 1789 when the Constitution became the law of the land? Yes, of course. Thus, applying the same standards, there were Mexicans before Mexico became an independent country in 1822. That is a fact. That is irrefutable. N'estce pas?

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