Landscaping with cacti in Cabo San Lucas

About five years ago, I ran into one of my cousins who was born and raised in México, but then came to the U.S. I had not seen him for years, so we had to catch up on what we had each done since the last time we met. The last time I really talked to him was, well, I actually couldn’t remember the last time I talked to him. But I’m pretty sure it was in México when he was still a boy. So I asked him what he did for a living and he said he was a landscaper. How cliché! A Mexican landscaper! But he actually owned the company because he started his own business. I wondered why I didn’t see him for the last three or four years and he told me that he was living in México. And he left it at that. But I wanted to know more. At first, he was hesitant to say anything else, but then he opened up. The reason I hadn’t seen him in years was because he was working in México. And making a good living, too.

Of course, I pressed him for more details, but he didn’t require much pressure because loves to talk. To be truthful, I’m not sure that I believed everything he told me. But he told it well enough to sound believable. Well, it turns out, so he said, that he started selling marijuana on a small-scale and his business grew, probably because of his talkative personality and charisma, and he eventually became a major distributor. Soon he started transporting marijuana to the U.S. Eventually he was arrested my the Mexican authorities. He was convicted and jailed. From what he told me, I would never want to be in a Mexican jail. They don’t feed you there. You live in squalid conditions. If someone doesn’t bring you food, you don’t eat. I asked him if he felt safe in jail and he said that he did. Well, because he had a gun in his cell. How did he get a gun in his cell? It was easy, he told me. He had money saved up from his “landscaping” business and he had  friend bring him a gun to jail. How did the friend sneak the gun into jail. That was easy, too. His friend hid the gun in a bag of marijuana. When the guards at the jail looked in the bag, they asked his friend what was in the bag and his friend bribed the guard and was allowed to take the gun hidden in the bag of marijuana into the visitor’s room and he gave the marijuana and gun to my cousin. Amazing! He told me he was sentenced to fifteen years in jail. I did the math and asked if he shouldn’t be sitting in a Mexican jail right about now. He said yes, but since he had money, he was able to bribe the jail authorities to mark him present whenever they took roll call. So here he was in Chicago telling me this story that sounded too unrealistic to be real. But I did enjoy how he told it. The moral of the story? Don’t believe any story anyone tells you. And don’t believe everything that you read on the Internet!

Would you like to buy some marijuana? I mean, would you like some landscaping?

Happy birthday, America!

Phoenix, Arizona

Last night I went to a Fourth of July celebration in Phoenix, Arizona. Most of the spectators were of Mexican descent. There were also a few whites and Native Americans, but most of the people were minorities in this sea of humanity. There were several stages were a variety of current music was played. We sat by a stage that featured two bands that covered American Pop songs. As I listened to the bands, I read a newspaper in Spanish, La Voz. No one criticized me for reading a Spanish-language newspaper. I loved the bands, even the one that covered Metallica. The crowd applauded all the bands equally. People were even dancing in front of the stage, although there was no mosh pit. Some spectators were actually singing along to many songs. This was truly an American event, despite the ethnic appearance of the spectators. Thousands of Americans came out to celebrate America’s birthday. I brought my sons to this celebration to instill the importance of patriotism to the USA. You could feel American pride throughout the crowd. We were all proud to be Americans!

¡Feliz cumpleaños, Estados Unidos!


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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.

But aren't all Americans mult-cultural?