Reconquista? It Won't Do Hispanic Youths Any Good

By Hector Alaya
Volume 13, Number 1 (Fall 2002)
Issue theme: "Earth policy in the making: highlighting the work of Lester Brown"

There is a movement afoot to reclaim our state [Arizona] and most of the southwest United States and return them to their rightful owners. Unfortunately, the rightful owners are no longer around and so Chicano movements of the Southwest, usually in the guise of hypernationalist Latino organizations around high schools and colleges, and sundry other fringe Latino groups, will be glad to oblige. In the name of justice, such people ČÎ never call them Mexican-American ČÎ claim that because the ˇ§white manˇ¨ at one point misappropriated these territories, and as descendants of the original settlers, they deserve to have their land back. This is an issue that has loomed as somewhat interesting ˇV the notion that anyone in this country who is not ˇ§Native Americanˇ¨ should determine that it is they who require their land back. It is ironic that people with Spanish surnames should feel they are the most vehemently abused of all, considering how they fail to concern themselves with the fact that Native Americans had their land taken away by the Spanish to begin with. It is a common occurrence to hear some one or another Chicano activist decry the fact that his ancestors, earliest of colonists, were despoiled of their land by the white man, the lands they so diligently farmed and worked. For this reason they have set out to make it known that their lands must return to them -- not to the Native Americans who have a larger, more real claim to them, but to the Hispanics whose ancestors farmed these lands for hundreds of years -- again never admitting that at one point the Spanish took these lands from the Indians. All memories have limits. At any rate, this relatively new attitude, which has begun to ally itself with the mandates of all minorities as righting the wrongs of the past, most notably the idea of reparations for past injustices to descendants of former slaves, is a real one, so real that it even has a name La Reconquista ˇV The Reconquest. This notion is continually romanticized by associating the lands taken with the Aztecs (a fantastic notion that has no basis in fact) in order to increase the severity of the Anglo crime; and it will happen not with guns, but with rage, demagoguery and immigration sleight of hand, which seeks to redesign geography by redefining demographics. Keep the Southwest Hispanic, force all school districts to teach Spanish, keep bilingual education at any cost, enjoin politically correct public officials, and demonize anyone who cannot see the benefit in such a philosophy. The fact remains that the Spanish and Anglo Americans have always wanted the American southwest, and it ultimately went to the highest bidder. The Russians, with their intent to expand southward from Alaska in the 1700s, impelled the Spanish to strengthen their hold in the Southwest by forcing native Indians to build fortresses and towns for them. Several times native Indians fought Spanish invaders, only to be subsequently reconquered by them. But for all the years before the period 1846-1848, when President Polk orchestrated war with Mexico, Americans outnumbered the Spanish in all the Western territories. And so when the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo went into force in 1850, and America paid for these territories to help Mexico finance its war machine, these American citizens were pleased for the simple reason that the territories would finally have the stability of the American government. The Spanish were chagrined once again and beset by having to reconquer the land they originally took away from the Indian nations, which brings us to the present day and the current attempts by the descendants of so many generations of imperialistic Spanish, as who wasnˇ¦t in those times, true. But to what degree can we expect this Reconquista to be successful? Already, Chicano groups in our schools have begun to grasp our Mexican-American youth and to enrage them about what the militant leaders of such groups have determined to be inequities of the past. Such injustices are often so farfetched and unreasonable, given the tenor of the times, that they appeal only to lazy thinkers and generally displaced youths, which is what such reactionary organizations must count on. But our youths donˇ¦t need slanted history as tutored by special interest America-haters to make them successful revolutionaries. Such vague notions as ˇ§injustices of the past,ˇ¨ when thrust on unsuspecting youths, create separation, divisiveness and bitterness, because they make good excuses for those who have difficulty with the American system. As Americans we must get beyond such Balkanizing ideas, not perpetuate them or create new ones. We should concentrate on making kids successful, not by building higher walls, but by knocking down the old ones. It could be much easier to make them successful by making them Americans, by insisting on their literacy above all else. Can the Reconquista win out? No, but one need not be a conspiracy theorist to understand that that philosophy is out there, and that little by little, while it is not succeeding any better than in the past, it certainly is ruining Mexican-American youths by giving them notions about evil America which are not theirs, and which they have never learned to intuit or internalize as their own.

About the author

Hector Ayala has been an English teacher at Cholla Magnet High School in Tucson, Arizona, for the past 15 years. This commentary appeared in the Tucson Citizen, April 2, 2002 and is reprinted by permission.