Hispanic Issues are more nuanced than often thought
Part One:  Hispanics in New Mexico -- a long, complex history

July 22, 2016
By Carroll Cagle

Many politicians and journalists have simplistic and inaccurate views about Hispanics, primarily by wrongly equating all Hispanics with relatively recent immigrants from Mexico – many being of the illegal, or undocumented, variety.

“The Hispanic vote” and related issues are big this year – bigger than in previous presidential races -- both nationally and here in New Mexico, which has the largest percentage of Hispanics in the United States -- 45 percent.

There are multiple reasons for this year’s increased attention to Hispanic voters, but they are relevant nationally and particularly so in New Mexico.

Hispanic issues have been highlighted, most of all, by Donald Trump. 

He has made frequent and ardent declarations that he will build a “big beautiful wall” between the U.S. and Mexico to control illegal immigration into this country.

Beyond that, there was Trump’s initial salvo during his presidential-race announcement

a year ago that Mexican immigrants are “rapists” – oddly adding that “some, I assume, are good people.”  Later he added “killers” to the declaration about “rapists.”

Both of these Trumpian rhetorical blasts are still echoing and bouncing around the media and campaign echo chambers.

Trump has very little support among Hispanic voters in America, according to multiple opinion polls.  That probably is because his views about Hispanics, if not hateful and racist, are seen as, at best, ill-informed. 

See how he purports to relish the Trump brand’s own taco bowl on Cinco de Mayo, wrong not only because it is simplistic and tone-deaf, but also because Mexico’s actual Independence Day is September 16, commemorating when Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821.  As The New Mexican newspaper 

in Santa Fe editorialized on the topic in support of a proposed Mexican Independence Day celebration on the Plaza:  “Too many Americans think of Cinco de Mayo as Mexican Independence Day; it is not, of course, and we Americans have done much to turn the celebration of a Mexican victory over the French into a major day for drinking.”

While there are many erroneous and blanket depictions of Hispanics in the U.S. by politicians and the media, the fact is that “Hispanics” and “Mexican immigrants” (whether illegal or not) are far from synonymous, especially here in New Mexico but also elsewhere along the U.S. border with Mexico from Texas westward to California.

What Donald Trump and others in the political and media realms often appear to be unaware of is that Hispanics in New Mexico, and elsewhere in the region, are far from recent arrivals.

In fact, Hispanics were the first major wave of European settlers into what is now the U.S.  The Spanish explorer Coronado and his men worked their way up the Rio Grande Valley into what is now New Mexico in 1540, decades before the founding of Jamestown, “the first permanent English colony, in Virginia in 1607”  -- and Jamestown in turn was 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in what is now Massachusetts.

Thus Hispanics in New Mexico, the rest of the Southwest, and California, were already well established before the great Westward push of “Anglos” into this region in the 1800s -- and they remain as established pillars of the business, professional and political worlds.

The same New Mexican editorial cited above noted that in Santa Fe, “there too often has been an uneasy relationship between local Hispanics and more recent immigrants and their descendants from Mexico.”

Two recent public declarations by New Mexicans in the political arena, one Democrat and one Republican, highlight that, painting a more nuanced picture than the popular one of monolithic Hispanic views.

The Democrat is Art De La Cruz, who serves on the Bernalillo County Commission in Albuquerque.  He recently put it this way in an interview with CNN,

saying New Mexico Hispanics… “don't feel like they came from somewhere, generally speaking. The people here still identify themselves as Spanish. They didn't identify with being Mexicans."  De La Cruz adds that when New Mexico joined the United States in 1912, "They didn't cross the border -- the border crossed them."

The Republican is CeciliaMartinez Salazar of Espanola, an alternate Republican delegate to the Republican National Convention.

Salazar’s views were reported by Michael Coleman, Washington correspondent for the Albuquerque Journal:

"Salazar said that, although Trump’s remarks about Hispanics were over the top, they resonated with some New Mexico Hispanics. ‘We’ve been here for generations, and we don’t like what’s happening with immigration,’ Salazar said. ‘We don’t like people living here illegally and taking advantage of the system. They are not all rapists and drug addicts … but there is a lot of anger among the Hispanics about it.’”




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