In a recent episode of The View, co-star Kelly Osbourne attempted a riposte to Donald Trump’s bellowing in a clip about shipping all illegal Mexicans back to Mexico: “If you kick every Latino out of this country, then who is going to be cleaning your toilet, Donald Trump?” To which, taking umbrage by Osbourne’s riposte, the co-host Rosie Perez became infuriated and directing her remark to Osborne said, ‘Latinos are not the only people doing that.” Though at the insistence of the show’s producers Rosie Perez apologized to Osborne, at the end of the show Rosie Perez bolted to her dressing room and has re-fused to appear in the last two episodes of the show. Good for you, Rosie! As Latinos we must all resist and call out racism in whatever guise it appears, even in what may be well meant. ABC was wrong and Rosie was right (Ortego, Latinopia.com, July 2014).
Asking the victim to apologize to the culprit of racism es el colmo (is the height) of adding insult to injury (Johnson). We the Latinos (Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and American Latinos) are the aggrieved despite the truth of Kelly Osborne’s retort. Yes, I remember the countless toilets I cleaned during my early years of janitorial work and cleaning houses. These were the years right after World War II. From 1943 to 1946 I served in the Marine Corps and did my share of latrine duty. With only one year of high school I was equipped only for the jobs of last-resort, including jobs as laborer in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. Fortitude and the G.I. Bill got me through the intellectual labyrinth at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) from 1948 to 1952.
Getting a Master’s degree in English from the University of Texas wasn’t easy either. Nor was getting the Ph.D. in English in British Renaissance Studies at the University of New Mexico where I was the first Mexican American to earn that degree. I cite my academic progress to show that despite the jobs of servitude we work at we can rise above those circumstances. Admittedly, vicissitudes and circumstances can vitiate one’s progress, not to mention legal barriers like Jim Crow laws or other racial obstacles like voter ID laws. I’m also aware that because I made it doesn’t mean everybody else can make it.
It seems to me that current American attitudes toward Latinos—Mexicans specifically and Mexican Americans by extension—reflect the historic prejudice engendered by the Black Legend/la Leyenda Negra as I have characterized it in my work on La Leyenda Negra/The Black Legend: Historical Distortion, Defamation, Slander, and Stereotyping of Hispanics 1588 to the Present (Somos Primos. 2009-2015).
With the unexpected destruction of the Spanish Armada by a perfect 10 storm in 1588 Queen Elizabeth lost no time in turning the inglorious Spanish encounter into a major public relations campaign against the Spaniards, a campaign that endures to this day. The result has been a more than 400 year assault on the Hispanic character. Never mind that it was a “raging storm” (Crow, 174) that defeated the Spanish Armada of the most powerful nation at the time, more so than the English navy, as many historians would have us believe, Garrett Mattingly among them.
According to David Howarth, reports of observers confirmed that “such a violent sea and wind, with fog and rainstorms, [had] never been seen before [then]” (73). Robert Hutchinson asserts that the reality of the Spanish Armada is very different from the way popular history has described it. “In truth, it was climate change and pure bad luck that destroyed the Spanish Armada . . . The weather cycle in 1588 was almost the worst since the late Roman period with an unsettled summer and a tempestuous autumn. The breath of God (or the ‘Protestant wind’) was the decisive factor” (1). In despair, Philip II of Spain exclaimed, “I sent my fleet against men, not against the wind and waves. Hay Dios mio!” A similar situation occurred historically when in the 13th century China and Mongolia launched an invasion of Japan. A divine wind (kamikaze) destroyed China’s intentions.
Since 1588 The Black Legend took root and has not abated one iota in its vilifying onslaught of Hispanics. Three decades later in the Americas the heat of The Black Legend revealed the true nature of the conflict: Protestant English settlers (essentially Puritans, though hailed as Pilgrims) regarded themselves as the vanguard in America against the Papist Spanish Catholics. The Puritan English settlers believed it was their destiny to rescue the Indians from their Spanish oppressors.
The most ardent of those rescuers was Cotton Mather (1663-1728), the most prodigious writer of Puritan America. In his zeal to free the Indians under Spanish rule from the yoke of Catholicism, he translated the King James Bible into a rough but tolerable Spanish for publication and distribution to the Indians of New Spain (Davis). Perhaps this contributed to the very common practice of intermarriage between Spanish colonists and the Indians of New Spain encouraged by Catholic priests, abetting the emergence of “la raza cosmica” as Jose Vasconcelos called them or mestizos as they are more commonly referred to.
By the end of the 17th century the most virulent reference of the Black Legend which made Spain less than European was propagation of the concept that Spain’s greedy thirst for gold could be attributed to Spain’s racial corruption after 800 years of Moorish occupation mixed with Visigothic and Jewish remnants. That reference has become so historically ingrained in the collective consciousness of the world that even today the Spanish past in the Americas is characterized as a search for gold, nothing else. Never mind that Spanish settlers established communities, built human networks, and practiced agriculture, ranching and mining whose techniques are still with us in the Americas.
The polemics of the Black Legend has so demonized Spain and its progeny that efforts to repair the character of Spain and its progeny seem almost insuperable. Every day, manifestations of the Black Legend surface across the face of the nation, from outright murder to discrimination in housing, unemployment, and public accommodations. The polemics of the Black Legend has changed to hate rhetoric in its most vicious and virulent forms. In the public debate over immigration, the rhetoric of hate seems to know no bounds. Talk show hosts, commentators, and guests, speak without restraint about Hispanics slanderously, libelously, defamatorily, stereotypically, and distortedly whether or not their comments are accurate or true. The nearest analogy to this rhetoric of hate about Hispanics is the historical rhetoric denying the Jewish holocaust and anathematizing Jews for being Jews.
American Hispanics receive scant coverage in the U.S. Media despite the fact that they constitute 16.3 percent of the total U.S. population–about 1 out of 6 Americans is an American Hispanic. By 2040 Census projections estimate that 1 out of 4 Americans will be Hispanic. And, according to the Census Bureau, by 2095 half the American population will be Hispanic—if fertility and motility ratios remain constant.
American Hispanics receive news coverage only when events cast them in adverse roles or stereotypes or situations of buffoonery. In film, particularly Mexicans have been cast as passive and benign in subservient roles or as jocular and bellicose characters in boisterous saloons or crowd scenes, there to be tolerated as riff-raff. More recently Mexicans and Cubans are casts as thugs or gangsters. In whichever roles they are cast they are always “the usual suspects” to be rounded up. American mainstream media has tended to regard American Hispanics as Mr. Hyde rather than as Dr. Jekyll Simply put, it’s as if the American media sees American Hispanics as a population suffering from mass bipolarism (Ortego, 2013).
This is why the jingoist American public has declared “open season” on American Hispanics, specifically Mexicans and Mexican Americans. This situation is glaringly present in the hoopla of the Iowa caucuses of Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States. While not heavily vetted in the New Hampshire campaigning by Republican presidential hopefuls, the anti-Hispanic propaganda is simmering just below the surface. Not only Fox News Television but all the American media venues stream out a barrage of anti-Hispanic propaganda that obscures the realities of American Hispanic life. This is the anti-Hispanic propaganda trumpeted by Donald Trump and others of his ilk.
In an act of utter disdain for American Hispanics, Trump had Jorge Ramos, the distinguished Univision journalist, forcibly ejected from his forum when Jorge Ramos asked persistently about Trump’s immigration views. In a follow-up segment, Trump referred to Jorge Ramos as “some clown,” little realizing that the “P” on his own forehead stands not only for Pendejo but also for Pajaso.
According to national Hispanic organizations, Trump’s anti-Mexican immigrant rhetoric” inspired the senseless beating of a homeless Mexican man in Boston solely because he was Mexican (Associated Press, August 21, 2015). No telling what portents his rhetoric about a sturdy wall between Mexico and the U.S. will conjure.
Lost in this anti-Hispanic hysteria is the real history of the American Hispanic presence and how they got here. The first American Hispanics of what is now the United States were the Sephardic (Spanish) Jews of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam which later became New York when the English attached it in 1664.
While there are no records of Hispanic migrations to the English colonies between 1664 and 1804 there’s no reason not to believe that there was some historical stream of cultural intercourse between the Hispanic Caribbean and the English colonies cum later the United States.
With acquisition of the lands of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 (828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi), the United States acquired an additional population of Hispanics in the territory, principally in Spanish New Orleans. Skimpy census data does not reveal the size of that population.
Per the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, a sizeable Hispanic population in Florida was integrated into the United States, including St. Augustine founded in 1565, making it the oldest continuously occupied settlement of Spanish origin in the United States. Vestiges of the First Spanish Colonial Period (1565-1764) are there today in St. Augustine, Florida. Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is the oldest capital city in the United States and the oldest city in New Mexico. American Hispanics as an integral part of the nation.
The first largest annealing population of Hispanics acquired by the United States occurred with the addition of 500,000 square miles of territory wrested from Mexico as a result of the U.S.-Mexico War and annexed per the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848. The territory of the Mexican Cession today comprises the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado as well as parts of Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
Again, we don’t know exactly how many Mexicans came with the territory. In North from Mexico, Carey McWilliams, long-time editor of The Nation magazine, put the figure at 75,000. Progressive Chicano historians estimate a population of 3 million Mexican and Hispanicized Indians. This is the core population of Mexicans in the United States, referred to by Chicano historians as the “conquest generation.”
Initially—and even to this day—the conquest generation and its progeny faced three challenges: (1) a different political system, (2) a different language, and (3) an apodictically different educational system. Admittedly these are the same challenges faced by most immigrant groups to the United States. But Mexicans of the Conquest Generation were not immigrants; they were a conquered people become Americans by fiat (Treaty) and treated as unwelcome chattel of the nation (Ortego, 2005).
Like the Mexicans, Puerto Ricans became Americans by conquest and by fiat as a result of the U.S.-Spanish War of 1898 and the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Puerto Ricans are also not immigrants to the United States. They did not cross the U.S. border; like the Mexicans, the U.S. border crossed them.
This is, in brief, the origins of American Hispanics. Hispanics from other Latin American origins (with the exception of some Panamanians) are immigrants to the United States. Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans are of the United States. Historically, many of us are descendants of Hispanics who were here on lands before they became part of the United States. For example, a branch of my mother’s family—the Gasca’s—settled in San Antonio in 1731 as one of the 16 families from the Canary Islands that founded la Villita, original name of San Antonio, Texas.
The shadow of an angry god is covering the American landscape, a shadow engendered more by malice than mischief, made stronger by frightened hordes of Xenophobes. There is a growing movement of Catonists in the American Republic who fear immigrants and what they augur for America’s future. Cato was a Roman Senator during the Punic Wars (264-146 BC) who fed Roman fears of encroachment by decadent foreigners whose alien values, he contended, would disrupt the Roman political tradition and organization of the nation. Cato believed that Rome was for the Romans just as Donald Trump believes that America should be for Americans—this means that Mexican Americans are not Americans.
The United States is a nation of nations. It was so in the beginning as Jean de Crevecoeur wrote in his Letters from an American Farmer. At its founding, the population of the United States was a polyglot aggregation of people: Swedes, Norwegians, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Dutch, Polish, English, Indians, and African slaves. It’s a “rainbow nation” as the Reverend Jesse Jackson proclaims, waiting for the storm to subside so it can sparkle in its multi-colored radiance.
It was not multiculturalism that destroyed Rome, which Samuel Huntingdon believed will destroy the United States, it was the excesses of its leaders who believed that be-cause of the power they wielded they had become like gods. Lord Acton’s warning should be heeded at this point in time: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
What is most distressing in this immigration brouhaha is the dark force of anarchy in American democracy (cloaked as American exceptionalism or providentialism as Frederick Jackson Turner called it), something Alexis de Tocqueville missed in his whirl-wind tour of the country in 1831-32, but noted almost 50 years earlier by the Spanish soldier Francisco de Miranda (The New Democracy in America)—precursor to Latin American independence—when he visited the United States (1783-1784), meeting (unlike de Tocqueville) George Washington, Thomas Paine, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Knox, and Thomas Jefferson.
Make no mistake about it—this dark force of American providentialism, this dark force of American anarchy is crafting the “Final Solution” to rid the country of Mexicans and Latinos. What makes this augury so foreboding is that the list of cities and states taking up the cry of “America for Americans” is growing. The moral dilemma is: how to con-front this dark force? We must all speak up or suffer the consequences as Pastor Niemollor warned:
“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Donald Trump keeps emphasizing that he’s got the Latino vote because so many Latinos keep referring to him as a “cool arrow.” On a sidenote, Joy Harjo, the distinguished Native American poet posted on her Facebook a proposal that the Muscogee Creek Nation begin deportation proceedings against Donald Trump for unlawful immigration of his parents, grandparents.
Copyright 2015 by Philip de Ortego y Gasca. Photos of Rosie Perez and Donald Trump used under Creative Commons attribution, photos by Joella Marano and Sage Skimore respectively. Trump campaign button used under “Fair Use.” Photos of street scene and immigrants copyrighted by Barrio Dog Productions, Inc. All other photos in the public domain.
WORKS CITED AND CONSULTED
Associated Press, “Trump Fan Beats Homeless Mexican.” Aug. 21, 2015
Crow, John A. Spain: The Root & the Flower. Harper & Row, 1963.
Davis, Ron, “America’s Early Bibles. The Bible Review Journal, Fall 2014.
Howarth, David. The Voyage of the Armada. Lyons Press, 1981.
Johnson, Zack, “Kelly Osbourne to Donald Trump: If You Kick All Latinos Out of America, Who Is Going to Clean Your Toilets?” E, August 4, 2015.
Mattingly, Garrett. Defeat of the Spanish Armada. Penguin/Putnam (2nd Ed), 1988.
Ortego y Gasca, Felipe de. La Leyenda Negra/The Black Legend: Historical Distortion, Defa-mation, Slander, and Stereotyping of Hispanics 1588 to the Present, Somos Primos. 2015.
Ortego y Gasca, Felipe, “Guises and Disguises of Discrimination,” Bravo Road with Don Felipe, Latinopia.com, July 2014.
Ortego y Gasca. Felipe de, “Immigration Reform: American Latinos and the Rhetoric of Hate—Round ‘em up, Brand ‘em, Then Kick ‘em Out,“ From Somos en Escrito: The Latino Literary On-line Magazine, May 5, 2010; posted on Facebook Poets Against Arizona SB 1070, May 6, 2010; posted on Aztlan Libre Press, May 6, 2010.
Ortego y Gasca, Felipe de, “Bridges Not Walls: The “Great Wall of China” in the United States,” From The National Hispanic Forum: Perspectives on National Hispanic Issues, July 14, 2007. Posted on Newspaper Tree, July 18, 2008. A shorter version published by Hispanic Link as “The Great Wall of the United States,” March 6, 2008, and distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, March 7, 2008. Reprinted by El Paso Times as “Building a Wall Will Worsen U.S.—Mexico Relations, April 27, 2008.
Ortego y Gasca, Felipe, “Mexicans and Mexican Americans : Prolegomenon to a Liter-ary Perspective, The Journal of South Texas, Spring 2005.
Ortego y Gasca, Felipe de, “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde:The “Bipolar” Hispanic in Contemporary American Mainstream News Media,” in Evolving Realities of U.S. Hispanic Media, Edited by Alejandro Alvarado(E-Book), School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Florida International University, 2013. Prepared for the Conference on Hispanics and the Media: The Emerging Power Conference, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Florida International University, Biscayne Bay Campus, Florida, October 18, 2012
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