If you go to el Zócalo in Mexico City, you may see all kinds of Mexicans. You really can’t say you’ve been to Mexico City unless you’ve actually visited el Zócalo. So every time I go to Mexico City, I end up in the Zocalo at least once.
I really love this public square because many Mexicans feel compelled to visit it. El Zócalo is the center of Mexican life. You’ll also see many foreign tourists. Cathedrals, the presidential palace, and colonial buildings surround the Zocalo. If you look down in front of the cathedrals, you will see some glass inlaid into the sidewalk revealing the remains of Aztec pyramids below, which the Spaniards razed to construct the cathedral under orders of Hernán Cortés. As a reminder of Mexico’s past, Aztec dancers are ever present near el Zócalo dancing for the public. They will also do a cleansing for you. They will cleanse you of any bad spirits that are hindering your happiness and wellbeing. Whenever you see the Aztec dancers, they are always cleansing someone with at least several others waiting for their turn.
I told my cousin that I probably needed a good cleansing and she said I should get one. She confessed that she was once cleansed when life wasn’t treating her well and it improved her life for the better. She insisted that I should be cleansed. I would become a much better person. Well, I didn’t really believe a cleansing would really help me, so I passed. But now I wonder.
Today, I saw the second movie of the Chronicles of Narnia with my sons Adam and Alex. Adam was worried about watching the movie because he never read the book. I was glad that I saw the first movie last week before seeing this one because I wouldn’t have understood some of the allusions otherwise. I thought the sequel was actually better than the first movie. And my sons enjoyed it even though they couldn’t spoil the plot for me. Even though this is a generally serious movie, I laughed at many scenes that were intentionally funny. I was surprised the humor was successful.
One thing that bothered me about the movie was the depiction of the “bad guys.” In most movies, the plot revolves around the conflict between the good guys and the bad guys. That’s just one of the few available movie plots. However, these bad guys look as if they’re from Spain, they have Spanish accents, and they wear the helmets and body armor of the Conquistadors. I mean, these are my ancestors. Spaniards have always been hated from the Middle Ages on. In fact, until about a few hundred years ago, Spain was considered part of Africa by most Europeans. Some of this residue hatred is still present to this day in the U.S. toward all Mexicans. Many things that happened in Europe carried over to the New World. So this xenophobia toward Mexicans in particular is just an extension of a trend that began in Europe.
I suppose just analyzing this juxtaposition made watching the movie worth my time. That alone gave me plenty to think about! Of course, I didn’t even discuss this issue with my sons afterwards. But someday I will.
Well, it’s all about imperialism. And Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. So what do they all have to do with Mexicans? Actually, it’s a long story that goes way back. I am often amazed by how events of thousands of years ago still affect us today. We should never forget the past because we are always repeating it! For example, history has a long, long history of repeating itself through imperialism and colonization. That is, one nation conquering another and then imposing their laws and culture upon the conquered (colonized) nation. Eventually,that empire is, in turn, conquered by another newer, bigger, “better” empire. So what does all this have to do with Mexicans in the United States? Actually, a lot!
On the one hand, Mexicans don’t physically resemble other European races or African-Americans. However, Mexicans assimilate into the work force without much rebelliousness or resentment. Mexicans come from a culture that has European roots. They come from a Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman culture, much like most citizens of the U.S. It all started when Spain arrived in the New World that was “New” to the Europeans, but not to the local inhabitants who had already lived there for thousands of years. It’s all a matter of perspective. The Spaniards mixed with all the indigenous people they met in the New World resulting in the fusion of races and cultures that still affects us today. The reason the Spaniards could create their own melting pot was because they had a history of thousands of years of mixing with other races. However, since Spain was also colonized many times throughout its own history by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors, among others, Spain merely applies the lessons they learned to the New World.
But let’s look at Spain’s name. The country’s official name of España is derived from the Phoenicians who arrived there about 1100 BC and saw rabbits. They named their new colony “i-saphan-im,” meaning “coast or island of the rabbits.” When the Greeks arrived about 500 BC, they called the tribes the met “iberos” after the Ebro River, hence Iberia. Being fond admirers of the Greeks, the Romans also colonized Spain beginning in 218 BC giving the region the name of “Hispania” because the Romans didn’t bother to learn the local language and couldn’t pronounce the Phoenician name. (Does this sound familiar?) It seems like local residents always hate when foreigners come and don’t bother learning the language.
But getting back to Mexicans, what does all this have to do with the U.S. today? Well, by analogy, Spaniards–and Europeans in general–have a lot in common with Mexicans when you look back far enough in history. For example, when the Spaniards came to the New World, not everyone wanted to leave Spain to make their fortune. But some of those who left Spain did make their fortune and sent money back home. And that occurred for generations, including other Europeans who came to what would eventually become the United States of America. And Mexicans are no different. Except for some Mexicans in America’s southwest who never left Mexico but somehow found themselves living in America when the U.S. took over the northern part of Mexico, some Mexicans want to come north to America to make their fortune. Those who do come have many goals such as improving the living conditions of their family, here and in Mexico. If we examine previous generations of European immigrants to the U.S., not everyone learned to speak English. Usually the first generation learned just enough English to get by, the second generation learned their native tongue at home and then English when they entered school, and most of the third generation only learned English. However, more Mexicans than other ethnic group seem to continue being bilingual due to the constant influx of Mexicans from Mexico who are actually related to them, and therefore, have an actual need for speaking Spanish.