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The Dilemma of Mexican Native Americans
Are Mexico’s Native Americans who migrate to the U.S. “Mexican immigrants,” or are is this a migration of Native American, or First Peoples, across the whole of North American?
What is one to make of the fact that for most Mexican Native Americans
Spanish is as second language – their traditional language being the one in which they are fluent?
What are the moral implications of the U.S.-Mexico and the U.S.-Canada
borders arbitrarily separating the indigenous First Peoples of the
What happens when, for instance, there are an estimated 30,000 Zapotec
people from Oaxaca State (Mexico) now living in New York State (U.S.),
and the U.S. Census Bureau refused to make Zapotec-language material
available to them for the 2010 census?
What are the moral obligations of U.S.-based Hispanic, Latino and Latin
American organizations to the First Peoples now in the U.S. who were
born in Latin America?
The Return of Native Americans as Immigrants
New America Media, Commentary, Louis E.V. Nevaer
The United States is seeing a resurgence of Native Americans in the form of immigrants who are descendents of North America’s indigenous
populations. As Native Americans, they are terrifying precisely because
they have a moral claim to cross the borders imposed on their lands,
writes NAM contributor Louis E.V. Nevaer.
the immigration debate rages throughout the nation, the lingering, but
unspoken, fear is that illegal immigration from Mexico heralds the
return of the Native American.
“The persistent inflow of Hispanic
immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two
cultures, and two languages,” Samuel Huntington famously argued in
Foreign Affairs magazine in March 2004, unleashing a firestorm of
protests among U.S. Hispanics and Latinos. “Unlike past immigrant
groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream
U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic
enclaves — from Los Angeles to Miami — and rejecting the
Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream.”
almost all Mexican immigrants are descendents of North America’s
indigenous peoples. As Native Americans, they are terrifying precisely
because they have a moral claim to migrate throughout the nation-states
imposed on their lands.
This vilification of immigrants differs
from the same sentiment of earlier generations. Previously, Americans
debated and settled immigration issues through legislation: the Alien
and Sedition Acts of 1798 to keep French and Irish Catholics out, the
anti-Papist sentiment that fueled Nativism in the 19th century aimed at
Italian, Irish and German immigrants, the xenophobia that culminated in
the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” of
1907 aimed at the Japanese.
In “The Clash of Civilizations and
the Remaking of World Order,” Huntington argued that the Mexican state
was complementary to the American one, both heirs of Europe and the
Enlightenment. This suggests that the cultural conflict he fears is
between Western versus Native American.
He is correct. Native
Americans are indifferent to the Western values used to obliterate them,
and he recognizes the moral authority with which they challenge the
very concept of the nation-state.
To refuse entry to immigrants
from across the oceans, from Europe or Asia, is one thing; to stand
against the internal movements of Native American people, Americans find
unsettling. They can’t forget that efforts to transplant and expand
European civilization in the New World have been the driving force
behind the settling of the West in the 19th century and the exclusion of
Native Americans from the mainstream of society in the 20th.
It almost worked: There are no Manhattans on the island of Manhattan, no Coast Miwok in San Francisco.
only good Injun is a dead Injun,” is a line in a Hollywood Western that
sums up the nation’s attitude during the 19th century, and it is true
that Native Americans were massacred, subjected to forced migrations and
deliberately infected with contagious diseases so as to reduce their
numbers. It is also true that during the last century, the establishment
of reservations created marginalized communities where alcoholism,
substance abuse and unemployment demoralized Native Americans into early
Now, peoples rendered almost irrelevant to American
society are thriving in such large numbers that they are once again on
the move across the continent.
The return of the Native American
began in earnest in the 1980s, during the Sanctuary Movement in
California. Suddenly, people apprehended at the borders spoke neither
English nor Spanish. Isa Gucciardi, who managed a translation company in
San Francisco, reported getting calls from the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), as it was called then, with requests for
interpreters who spoke “Indian” languages from southern Mexico and
Central America. “We had to double the rate, since it was so difficult
to find anyone who spoke English and Tzotzil Maya,” she said.
their best efforts to wipe them out, at the start of the 21st century,
Zapotec, Mixtec, Maya and scores of other indigenous peoples have
They are working in our restaurants, stocking shelves
in our stores, building houses and doing our landscaping. They are
taking care of our kids while we’re at the office, and giving birth to
more Native Americans in our hospitals. They are fueling the economic
expansion, contributing to a society that looks upon them with disdain.
in the second half of 20th century, it was Europeans who looked on
Americans with disdain. Walt Whitman celebrated America being one people
out of many – “Of every hue and caste am I” – but to the Europeans,
hyphenated Americans are mongrels and half-breeds: Irish-Americans,
African-Americans, Italian-Americans, Anglo-Americans.
realization that Native Americans are crossing the borders that crossed
them is alarming even Jesse Jackson. Interviewed on CNN’s “Lou Dobbs
Tonight,” he complained that the workers streaming into New Orleans were
“outside workers,” since he could not bring himself to say “Native
Americans from Latin America.”
My office in New York is in the
Citigroup Center where the only Native American used to be the
“Manna-Hata” Indian on the seal stenciled on the flag of the City of New
York, standing next to an early Dutch colonist.
Not anymore. Now
when I go to the lobby and downstairs into the subway concourse that
connects the Uptown Number 6 train with the E and V subways, there are
Maya women, wearing their traditional textiles. Their babies strapped on
their backs in shawls, with a blanket made of blue basket, they lay out
before them for sale probably the last thing that is actually made in
New York City: pirated DVDs of Hollywood movies.
Having rid ourselves of the Manna-Hata people, we import Native Americans from Mexico.
Given this demographic trend, it’s only a matter of time before we hear, “Press three to continue in Zapotec.”
Originally published by New America Media: http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=0d7ce12ef7b01fe9806ce6d90e349853
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