Searching for a shared history
After 'identity,' the next shared core belief of LULAC, MALDEF, MEChA, and La Raza is 'history.' What is presented as history, however, is a series of half-truths and total falsehoods to advance the 'Hispanic' claim that 'we were here first.' A claim officially promoted by the U.S. government whose rewriting of history proves Orwell's dictum in 1984 - 'Who control the presents controls the past; and who control the past controls the future.'
In the introduction to 'We the American Hispanics' - part of the Census Bureau's 'We the American' series which provides a separate demographic profile for Blacks, 'Hispanics,' Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, even the Foreign Born but not for European-Americans - the Census Bureau proclaims 'Our ancestors were among the early explorers and settlers of the New World. In 1609, 11 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, our Mestizo (Indian and Spanish) ancestors settled in what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico.'
This statement is remarkable not only for the breadth of its falsehood but also for its injection of a subtle anti-Southern prejudice into its overall anti-European-American message. The first permanent English settlement in the New World was not Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, but Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The settlement of Jamestown predates that of Santa Fe by more than two years.
Nor was Santa Fe settled by 'Mestizos.' It was founded in the winter of 1609-1610 by the governor and Captain-General Don Juan de Onate who was, along with his large party of priests and settler-soldiers, white. The true history of the Spanish settlement of this region is told in T.R. Fehrenbach's monumental work, Fire and Blood A Bold and Definitive Modern Chronicle of Mexico (New York Collier Books, 1973). This book received critical acclaim from, among others, the Los Angeles Times, the Albuquerque Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor. Fehrenbach writes
He [Don Juan de Onate] reduced the sedentary Zuni and other Amerindians of the Puebloan culture and soon subordinated them to Spanish landowners and mission priests, but the Puebloans resisted the loss of their old religion and sacred rites more than many Indians. The Spanish were unable to provide the reduced indios full protection from ancient enemies like the fierce Apaches. The Puebloans revolted in 1680, driving all the Europeans south after a general massacre.
The Spanish returned ten years afterward, suppressing resistance in fire and blood, powerfully aided by smallpox. However, the missionaries now pragmatically permitted the northern indios to keep many of their ancient practices alongside the Mass. The result was that these indigenes, who had felt only pale emanations of the Meso-American culture, were never fully Christianized or Hispanicized.
The New Mexican outpost failed to grow. It had a thin, isolated population scattered along the river [Rio Grande]. When Anglo-Saxon explorers and traders found it early in the nineteenth century, New Mexico was still living in the seventeenth century, following life styles as primitive as the lances and shields still carried by its horsemen. (p.274)
However, the Spanish settlement of St. Augustine in Florida, founded in 1565, does predate the English at Jamestown and by approximately half a century. It is, in fact, often cited by 'Hispanics' as proof that they were here 'first.' Why then did the Census Bureau not cite St. Augustine? The apparent reason is that the history of St. Augustine is an acute embarrassment to the authors of 'We the American Hispanics.' No amount of historical revisionism by them could hide the truth about St. Augustine and St. Augustine reveals the truth about Spanish colonization.
By the Treaties of Tordesillas in 1494 and Saragossa in 1529, Spain and Portugal partitioned the world between themselves. By comparison, the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939 was miserly; it only partitioned Eastern Europe between the Nazis and the Communists. The treaties recognized Spain as ruler of the entire Western Hemisphere minus Brazil, which went to Portugal, as did most of the Eastern Hemisphere. In that portion of the globe claimed as its property, Spain did not tolerate the presence of any European rivals, especially if those Europeans were Jews or Protestants.
Following instructions from King Philip II of Spain, Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles founded St. Augustine in 1565 for the express purpose of destroying the French Huguenot (French Protestant) colony of Fort Caroline which had been established along the St. John River in northeastern Florida in 1564. After capturing Fort Caroline, the Spanish, on September 8, massacred all the Huguenots - men, women, including pregnant women, and children - and then renamed the colony 'San Mateo,' a name it still bears to this day.
The Spanish Empire invaded California in 1769 and established the Mission of San Diego. Within a month, Indians attacked the mission and, thereafter, effectively confined Spanish control to the coast of California. Three dates stand out in the Indians' armed struggle against Spanish/Mexican invasion, colonization, and oppression. On November 4, 1775, Indians destroyed the Mission of San Diego. This is considered to be one of the earliest and most successful uprisings. In September 1795, Indians rebelled against the Spanish in the region of San Francisco. In Spanish-occupied California, resistance was greatest among the Indians of this region. And in February 1824, when the Mexicans 'ruled' California, Indians revolted at Missions La Purisima and Santa Barbara in what some historians consider to be 'the most spectacular Indian rebellion in California during this era...' All three dates should be made official State holidays.
'History' as told by supporters of LULAC, MALDEF, MEChA, and La Raza almost invariably includes not only the claim that 'Hispanics' were here 'first,' but that 'Hispanics' were established in large numbers throughout the Southwest at the time the United States annexed that territory in 1848.
In fact, the Spanish Empire was unable to establish effective control over most of the land that today forms the seven States of the U.S. Southwest - Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. The Indian nations - Apache, Comanche, Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, Shoshone, Ute, etc. - not only militarily defeated the Spanish attempt to invade and colonize this land, but the Apaches and Comanches counter-attacked and raided deep into what is now Mexico. The Comanches raided as far south as Guatemala. Spain retreated and established a series of military forts eastward from Sonora, south of California, to San Antonio in south Texas as a buffer between them and the Indians, especially the Comanches. North of this 'boundary,' with the principal exceptions of the coastal strip of California, and Santa Fe, Spain exercised no effective authority in the territory which later became the U.S. Southwest. On obtaining independence, Mexico inherited Spain's claim to this land but like Spain Mexico had no means to impose its rule. The land belonged to the Indians and the Indians were free, sovereign and independent nations.
Since the Indians controlled this land and were independent of Mexico, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was a swindle whereby Mexico received $15 million for 'selling' the United States territory it did not legally own. Thirty-eight years later, the U.S. Supreme Court was forced to recognize this fact in United States v. Kagama, 118 U.S. 375 (1886). The previous year, Congress had enacted the Indian Appropriation Act of March 3, 1885, 23 Stat. 385. This legislation specified seven crimes - murder, manslaughter, rape, assault with intent to kill, arson, burglary, and larceny - over which the federal government had absolute jurisdiction on Indian land. The basis for this claim of federal jurisdiction was the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The constitutionality of this law was challenged on the ground that the U.S. government had never legally acquired sovereignty over the territories of the so-called 'Mexican Cession' because Washington had never negotiated any treaties with the Indian nations who were the de facto owners of the lands of the Southwest.
Under the Constitution, the U.S. government was required to negotiate treaties with Indian nations. Article 1, Section 8 conferred on Congress the power 'To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.' Article II, Section 2 empowered the president 'with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties...' That Indian nations were sovereign polities and that the U.S. government had to deal with them through treaties was affirmed by Chief Justice John Marshall and the U.S. Supreme Court in the 'Cherokee Nation v. Georgia,' 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831).
In fact, between 1787 and 1871, the U.S. government negotiated more than 650 treaties with Indian nations in various territories it had acquired - but not in the so-called 'Mexican Cession.' In 1871, Congress passed legislation declaring 'No Indian nation or tribe...shall be acknowledged or recognized as an independent nation, tribe, or power with whom the United States may contract by treaty' (25 U.S.C.A. & 71). While this law was blatantly unconstitutional, its wording did acknowledge that prior to 1871 Indian nations had been officially recognized as sovereign polities and their relationship with the U.S. government had been officially based on negotiated treaties. In other words, if Washington had wanted to acquire legal sovereignty over the so-called 'Mexican Cession' in 1848, it would have been required to negotiate treaties with the Indian nations of the Southwest.
However, in 1886 the U.S. Supreme Court panicked. If it ruled that the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was invalid, the Court would be admitting (a) that the United States had been swindled, (b) that it had to negotiate a multitude of separate treaties instead of relying on the convenience of one, (c) that until such treaties were negotiated the federal government did not exercise any legal authority on Indian lands, and (d) that all previous convictions of Indians under federal law were null and void.
To avoid such consequences, the U.S. Supreme Court falsely claimed it could not question the legality of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The Court further asserted that treaties were not necessary for governing the relations between the U.S. government and Indian nations in the Southwest. The reason given by the Court for refusing to render a decision on the constitutionality of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was so outrageous - it was repudiating the wording of the U.S. Constitution, previous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the existence of more than 650 treaties - that its 'decision' actually proved that the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was legally invalid, a fraud, and a swindle.
How insignificant the Spanish-speaking presence was even in the part of this territory Mexico did control can be seen in Texas. In 1824, the Spanish-speaking population in the Mexican province of Texas - a vast territory of 389,000 square miles that included most of present-day New Mexico as well as parts of Colorado and held one of the largest concentration of Spanish-speakers in the Southwest - numbered only 3,000. Compare that to the number of English-speakers in Rhode Island, the smallest State in the Union, with an area of only 1,525 square miles. Extrapolating from the 1820 U.S. Census, if the number of English-speakers is restricted to just the native-born 'free white' population then they numbered approximately 83,000.
In other words, although Providence was founded in 1636 twenty-seven years after Santa Fe, and Rhode Island possessed less than one half of one percent of the land area of Texas, the number of English-speakers in that State was at least 28 times greater than the number of Spanish-speakers in Texas.
In 1824, the Government of Mexico invited Americans to settle in Texas, a land neither Spain nor Mexico had been able to effectively colonize or develop. The Mexican government extended this invitation because it saw in the American colonists a source of revenue through taxation and a source of protection, acting as a buffer or cannon fodder, against the Indians. By 1834, Americans outnumbered 'ethnic Mexicans' ten to one. In 1860, 'ethnic Mexicans' were less than two percent of the population of Texas - an estimated 12,000 out of a total population of 600,000. By 1900, the number of 'ethnic Mexicans' had risen to 70,000, but this was still less than three percent of a Texas population that exceeded three million. In San Antonio, home of the Alamo and cradle of Texas Independence, German immigrants alone outnumbered 'ethnic Mexicans.'
The question of slavery
'Hispanic' historical revisionism also includes the claim that with the Guerrero Decree of September 15, 1829 Mexico had abolished slavery several decades before the United States. This is another example of intellectual dishonesty. All Mexico abolished in 1829 was the name, not the institution.
In fact, the Spanish were first to institute race slavery in the Western Hemisphere. The Indians were enslaved almost immediately but when they proved unsatisfactory, the Spanish introduced African slaves in 1502. The last two Spanish colonies 'officially' to abolish African slavery were Puerto Rico in 1873 and Cuba in 1886.
The history of African slavery in the United States, on the other hand, begins in the colonial era with the arrival of African slaves in Virginia in 1619 and officially ends with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 following the Civil War.
African slavery in 'Hispanic' America, therefore, predates the establishment of that institution in British North America by 117 years, and continued to legally exist for another twenty-one years after it was extinguished in the United States.
Despite 'Hispanic' assertions to the contrary, slavery and the slave trade officially existed in Mexico from the 1840s until at least 1890. Among the first victims were the Mayan Indians of the Yucatan who revolted against Mexico in 1847 in what is known as 'The Caste War.' The Mayans defeated the Mexicans. From 1847 to 1901, Mexico did not exercise any jurisdiction in central and eastern Yucatan. This vast area became an independent Mayan country called 'Chan Santa Cruz.' But by instituting a policy of 'ethnic cleansing' - consisting of the mass murder of Mayan Indians, the mass rape of Mayan women, and the destruction of their villages and crops - the Mexicans were able to regain control of the western coastal area of the Yucatan. 'The Caste War' lasted from 1847 to 1850. The dead, mostly Mayans, numbered between 147,000 and 275,000 out of a total population in the Yucatan of 575,362. In other words, thirty to thirty-five percent of the population in the Yucatan was exterminated.
The policy of killing captured Mayans was replaced on March 5, 1849 with a policy of selling them to Cuba as slaves. Eventually, Mexico would sell hundreds of Mayans into slavery. While slavery was once again 'officially' abolished in 1861, this time by Mexican President Benito Juarez, all that changed was the identity of the slaves. The slave trade shifted from the Yucatan in the southeast to Sonora in the northwest. Instead of Mayan Indians, the slaves were now Yaqui Indians. Instead of hundreds being shipped to Cuba, thousands were shipped, ironically, to the Yucatan. 'Men were kept in barracks and marched to work by armed and mounted guards, encouraged by majordomos with whips, marched back, and locked in at night.' By 1890, one-third of the population of the Yucatan, more than 100,000 people, were 'indebted servants' - a Mexican euphemism for slaves - and their families, principally Mayan and Yaqui Indians.
In a military campaign lasting from 1898 to 1901 and involving four Mexican army battalions, units from the Yucatecan National Guards, and the Mexican Navy, Mexico finally succeeded in invading and conquering 'Chan Santa Cruz.' The defeated eastern Mayans were now subjected to the Mexican debt peonage system - slavery under a different name.
While the debt peonage system was supposedly abolished in the aftermath of the Mexican 'Revolution' of 1910-1920, nothing really changed. Witness the scandal involving the business activities of the newly elected President of Mexico, Vincente Fox. He has been employing underage children on his ranch in violation of Mexico's child labor law. Fox epitomizes Mexico - there is the 'law,' then there is the reality.
Elsewhere in 'Hispanic' America, Indian slavery existed in Peru as late as 1915; and, as documented by the International Workgroup for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) and the Anti-Slavery Society and reported to the United Nations, it still existed in Bolivia in 1975, and in Guatemala and Paraguay in 1978.(1)