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Mexico\’s 196th Year of Independence

Poster from the Casimiro E. Giron Collection at the University of Texas at El Paso Special Collections Department UTEP Special Collections Department

As Mexico\’s 16th of September commemorates 196 years of independence from Spain, it\’s ironic that the country finds itself in a political quagmire, not unlike that of the USA\’s 2000 Gore vs. Bush Florida fiasco, which led to the Supreme Court ruling that George W. Bush was our elected president.

Nonetheless, recently the Mexican election was declared valid and Felipe Calderon was named president-elect.

At least Mexico has avoided a second revolution via the peaceful protests in Mexico City. Given that Mexico had a revolution in 1910, a hundred years after its independence, the recent uproar doesn\’t bode well for 2010. Having lived in El Paso across the river from Ciudad Juarez, I recall Mexican friends predicting a major turnover in Mexico in the 1970s, but that didn\’t materialize.

As many Americans who have cultural or ethnic ties to other countries, via their grandparents or great-grandparents, I can\’t help but feel some affinity to the cultural pride some of my ancestors felt when they celebrated Mexico\’s Independence in Texas and Nebraska. What matters is not so much one\’s bloodline but a political sense of fair play and common decency.

My paternal grandfather, for example, was quite involved with cultural celebrations as a result of being a musician and the conductor of his orchestra in San Angelo, Texas. Each year whether in San Angelo, San Antonio, and eventually in Scottsbluff, Nebraska where he moved to, after selling his San Angelo property to the first black family in the neighborhood as a means to point out the injustice Texans were carrying out against Texans of Mexican ancestry who did not have birth certificates (many were born in homes and did not speak English) and who were shipped to Mexico on trains during the Great Depression, there were musical events to commemorate the day that Mexico became independent from Spain.

Poster from the Casimiro E. Giron Collection at the University of Texas at El Paso Special Collections Department

The irony for my grandfather was that he was American, being San Angelo-born, and Spanish, French, and Bavarian ethnically but with family roots going back before the Texas Republic, Mexico\’s Independence, and to New Spain, what mattered in 1910 (see the posters) was that politically Mexico was Independent and individuals with the cultural history and traditions carried that with them regardless of their nationality, for in truth, nationality is changeable.

Then I think about my maternal side of my family, with Mexican roots via my maternal grandfather, though his family left Mexico before the 1910 revolution. I suppose my maternal great-grandmother, on the part of my mother\’s mother\’s side, might have had different feelings with regard to all of this. Being Comanche, she was born when her pregnant mother died during a Calvary raid near Comanche Springs near Fort Stockton, Texas, and though she eventually married a red-headed, blue-eyed Spaniard, she still continued some of the traditions she learned from the Comanche women who raised her near the Fort.

The recent discovery of Olmec writing in Mexico bids us well to remember the lost history of the Olmecs, the Aztecs, and the Maya. People forget that the original Americans of the Americas are quite present in the American societies, North, Central, and South. Granted many may have intermarried, unlike the braver ones who escaped the horrendous atrocities of European invaders, but even the native tribes fought each other.

But what one is called to remember on a day of Independence is the same reverence we Americans have for our Constitution on July 4th.

In order to hold our countries together, be it the USA or Mexico, citizens are bound by our forefathers who fought so bravely for our independence and the constitutional rights we hold so dear in the USA.

Neither time, political ambition nor political double talk must keep us from protecting these rights so that we, or Mexico, are not left without the basic freedoms the brave died for.

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