“Old Latinos” and “New Latinos”

This is a paper I wrote for an American Studies class “Latinos in the US” back in 2012 about the push/pull factors of immigration… we were asked to cover two countries. With the news the past few weeks, I figured I would post this if I could find it…and I found it…

Mexicans & Guatemalans

1
These days, it is not at all uncommon to see Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants working side
by side on farms across the United States, even in small New England farming communities. While their
laborious and thankless jobs help keep America running, little thought is given to how these groups,
along with the many others from Central and South America, wound up working in the fields and
factories of small-town, and big-city, U.S.A. In the ignorant eyes of too many Americans, these workers
are a burden on society, taking our jobs and chipping away at our European culture. That they come here
because we are the land of milk and honey, the land of freedom and democracy, is taken as fact. Their
home countries may well be in bad shape, but what does that have to do with the United States?
Minuteman vigilantism grows out of ignorance that floods network ‘news’ cycles, with Lou Dobbs, Bill
O’Reilly and their counterparts leading the charge, the poor and working-class American masses’ anger is
directed at the ‘enemy’, the real cause of Americas economic and social problems. In reality however, as
author Juan Gonzalez discusses in Harvest Of Empire, the immigration we have been seeing, increasingly
over the past decades, is the ‘Harvest’ of the American empire. While all of the groups we have studied
are uniquely interesting and complex, the cases of Mexicans and Guatemalans, the ‘old’ and the ‘new’
Latino groups, were most interesting to me, both academically and from my life experience. In high
school, I worked on farms with both Mexican and Guatemalan immigrant workers, though hardly curious
as to how and why they were in rural Western-Massachusetts. As a combat veteran, the role that the
military played, either directly or indirectly in this, is just as interesting. Gonzalez gives an amazing
overview of the push-pull factors leading to modern day Latino immigration to the United States, with
other scholars filling in the gaps. The cheap labor that our capitalist, consumer-based economy demands
being the fairly obvious ‘pull’, but the push is ignored, hidden and lied about. It is difficult for many to
see the role that the American government played in destabilizing both nations, the reign of terror that
they encouraged, supported or took an active role in, and how the expansion of empire and support for
capitalism created ‘push’ of the out-migration of Mexicans and Guatemalans.
The largest group of Latino immigrants, Mexicans have been demonized and criminalized in the
2
eyes of many Americans, while for many, the border crossed them, and for many more, they are returning
to their ancestral homeland, “Aztlan”, not for handouts or a free ride, rather, to work thankless jobs for
little pay. As for Guatemalan immigrants, they must cross that same US-Mexican border, evading Border
Patrol and minutemen who hunt them down, spending days in the scorching desert sun. They also have to
cross the Guatemalan-Mexican border and traverse the whole of Mexico, as less than welcomed
neighbors, and the lucky ones who make it, have the militarized US-Mexican border to cross before
making it to the ‘land of milk and honey’, where fear of deportation forces them into low paying jobs. It’s
easy to take things at face value, and write the immigrants off as ‘illegal’ human beings, not worthy of the
few dollars an hour they will make in the fields of plenty that keep the produce isle at Whole Foods and
Wall Mart stocked. If people are coming here by the tens of thousands, there must be a reason why, and
there is, but that reason doesn’t gel with the image Americans are led to have of the ‘land of the free’.
From the time of the first contact with the Spanish in 1519 when Hernan Cortes entered the
expanding Aztec kingdom, ‘western civilization’ has left an everlasting mark on modern day Mexico. The
Spanish influence that followed is still ever present today, with Mexico having both the largest Catholic
and largest Spanish speaking population in the world. However, the Aztecs and other Indians of Mexico
have left a lasting cultural legacy. (Gonzales 26) The Mestizos, born of intermarriages between
Amerindians and Spaniards, were both north and south of the current border, and while a cast system
certainly existed, the racism and hatred of Mexicans that is still alive today began to grow out the Texan
rebellion against the Mexican government¸ specifically, the battle at the Alamo in 1836. “Anti-Mexican
feeling became so vehement during the conflict and its aftermath that the Mexican contribution at the
Alamo was virtually annihilated from public memory”. (Gonzales 74) Negative stereotypes began to
grow after the Republic of Texas was declared that same year. This followed over a decade of a steady
flow of Anglo settlers in Texas, who began to usurp the land of the natives, beginning in the 1820’s. The
annexation of the Republic of Texas by the United States in 1845 was a shot across the bow in the eyes of
the Mexican government not willing to lose Texas without a fight, and war that was filled with racism and
3
brutality by US troops against the dehumanized enemy, followed, led by expansionist president James
Polk, and General Taylor. Some of the brutality was even condemned by General Grant who “later
admitted the war was ‘one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation’”
(Gonzalez 44)
Even before the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 at the end of the war that forced Mexico to
relinquish almost half of its territory, Mexicans’ labor was used in the south west, either those native to
the area, or recruited from Mexico. President Polk might well have sought an even larger ‘prize’ with the
treaty but there were fears that absorbing too many racially-mixed Mexicans would threaten the Anglo-
Saxon majority, not unlike similar fears today regarding Mexican immigration to the United States, and
America’s ever-increasing Latino population. “While the Mexican population of the ceded territories was
only 116,000 in 1848, it grew steadily after the war as hundreds of thousands more came and went
between Mexico and the United States as migrant laborers”. (Gonzalez 47) With some swallowed up in
the annexations, many more Mexicans migrated into the ‘new’ American territory as labor. Mexicans
were driven from their land in Texas, California, and the ceded territory in between, but the flow of
landless laborers continued to rise. Since 1820, Mexicans have immigrated to the United States in greater
numbers than any other group, nearly 8 million legally, though the push and pull factors have waxed and
waned. (Gonzalez 97) They were both early settlers in the American south west, and the largest group of
new immigrants today, with Mexicans comprising a large majority of Latino’s in the US. (Gonzalez 96)
While their labor has long been needed, they have long been unappreciated at best, and fallen victim to
racial hatred, and even lynching. At the same time that anti-Mexican racism was growing in the United
States, Mexico saw the rise of it’s own version of racism, aimed at the indigenous population. These
sentiments would later lead to the mistreatment and even killings of indigenous people from Guatemala
and other Central American nations, trying to pass through Mexico on their way north.
Along with agricultural work and mining, the advent of the railroad called on Mexican labor in
the late 1800’s, primarily in California, with over ten thousand living in and around Los Angeles. The
4
dawn of the twentieth-century saw the largest boost in immigration from Mexico, “In 1900, perhaps
100,000 persons of Mexican descent or birth lived in the United States; by 1930, the figure had reached
1.5 million.” (Lopez 25) By 1900, Mexican immigrants were primarily living in Texas, Arizona and
California, with over two-thirds living in Texas, which became the primary entry point after 1900. (Lopez
26) The Mexican Revolution in 1910, brought on by economic depression and massive inequality, sent
many Mexicans north, where they were welcomed with open arms, as cheap labor, by American capitalist
development in the south west, and later, the void left by American GI’s sent off to fight in the first World
War. The revolution cost over a million men, women and children their lives, and saw a string of
assassinated revolutionaries, from Emiliano Zapata in 1919 to Pancho Villa in 1923. The U.S. military
saw brief ‘excursions’ into Mexico in 1914, and again in their 1916 hunt for Pancho Villa, protecting
American economic interests south of the border, as mentioned by General Smedley Butler. (Gonzales
118) Many fled north during the revolution, but many more in its aftermath. Even more Mexicans fled
north during Cristero Rebellion in the late 1920’s causing yet another ‘push’, as the rebellion cost nearly
100,000 thousand Mexicans their lives. (Gonzales 119)
Cheap, unskilled Mexican labor was a cornerstone to economic development in the south west,
and the migrants filled the void left when European and Asian immigration dipped. This steady flow of
migrant laborers continued relatively uninterrupted, with nearly a million crossing the border in the
1920’s alone, from the ‘push’ of the revolution and rebellion, until the great depression. Then, just as they
have become synonymous with ‘illegal immigration’ in recent years, Mexicans were demonized and a
witch-hunt ensued, led by the newly unemployed white American masses, with misplaced anger and
frustration over their economic woes. Nearly half a million Mexicans were deported in the 1930’s, many
of whom were American citizens who were simply the wrong color at the wrong time. (Gonzalez 103)
Only months into World War Two, the United States executed an about-face and drastically
changed their immigration policy yet again, with a need for laborers after closing the door to European
and Asian immigration. The Bracero program brought up to 100,000 Mexican laborers a year into the
5
United States, this time spreading further out than just the south west, to places like Detroit, Chicago and
Seattle, and into the northeast. Similar to other immigrant groups, WW2 became a turning point for
Mexican-Americans. With hundreds of thousands serving, many on the frontlines, Mexican-Americans
came home as decorated American soldiers with their heads held high, “In the Battle of Bataan, as many
as a quarter of the wounded were Mexican American” (Gonzalez 103) Many bought into the mass
propaganda of the day and after returning from war, “They thought they had won their rights as US
citizens”. (Acuna 199) However, just as serving their country didn’t desegregate the lunch counters for
the African American soldiers of the south, it did little to end the racism and ignorance directed at
Mexican Americans, but helped give them the courage to stand up for themselves.
With the growing agricultural industry, as well as urban factories, in need of laborers, the Bracero
program brought nearly half a million Mexican immigrants in 1950 alone, with countless others crossing
illegally. The service and sacrifice of Mexican Americans in World War Two was for naught in the eyes
of the government. With the recession that followed the Korean War, the same rhetoric that grew out of
the great depression, returned, leading to “Operation Wetback”, following on the heels of a crescendo in
Mexican immigration. (Gonzalez 200) Just as the patriotic service of Japanese Americans in WW2 didn’t
prevent their internment, the service of Mexican Americans in WW2 couldn’t stop the mass deportations
of ‘operation wetback’. Ironically, it was Mexican labor that helped fill the void left by the ‘interned’
Japanese Americans. (Lopez 220) Due process was thrown by the wayside as millions of people were
deported. The anti-Mexican sentiment that preceded operation wetback was aided by the fact that, as
African Americans had been used in northern factories, the braceros were used as strike breakers on
farms, and the abundance of them had caused the stagnation of wages. (Acuna 170) The same fervor that
we see today surrounding undocumented Mexican laborers, while around before then, began to intensify
in the late 1940’s, and Mexican and Chicano alike continue to be scapegoated for America’s failures. The
government would pay lip service to enforcing immigration laws, but look the other way so labor
demands would be met. The ‘illegal’ immigrants not only hurt poor white laborers, but also Mexican
6
American workers who felt the sting of the depressed wages caused by paying the undocumented workers
so little. “The actions of the U.S. government in dealing with undocumented workers have been
hypocritical at best. It has assumed the façade of wanting to limit their entry, while at the same time
maintaining a revolving door…In other words, the United States only wanted the Mexican in time of need
and then only to exploit his labor…When labor was not needed, they rounded up the illegal entrants,
harassed the legal immigrants, and repatriated others”. Under the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950,
even naturalized citizens could be denaturalized and deported for ‘political reasons’. Many Chicano
activists met this fate, silenced similarly to leaders of other movements. (Acuna 214) In recent years,
though migrants from Mexico are still settling in the south west, they have also been in the Pacific
Northwest, Midwest, north and southeast, with Massachusetts having a large number. The majority who
arrive are working age men, and just over half have finished high school. Although the ‘recession’ in the
United States the past few years has caused a drop in immigration, the ‘push’ is still there, and still very
much caused by Uncle Sam. Though the negative effects of NAFTA have been a sizable economic
‘push’, a steady flow of illegal weapons south, and illicit drugs north is enabling the ‘cartels’ that
terrorize Mexico, creating another ‘push’ factor. These cartels, or the ‘mafia’, as they are known in
Mexico, are among the most elite soldiers in the world, having been trained at Ft. Benning’s School of the
Americas, the same US Government military training facility that trained thousands of Central
Americans, Guatemalans included, during their reign of terror. The push of violence, and always present
pull of agriculture jobs, combined with a struggling economy in the United States, has led to ratcheted up
anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the country, but specifically the south west where, in Arizona, it’s
reached a fever pitch. SB 1070 in Arizona and copy-cat laws elsewhere, have led to, as some have called
it, ‘Juan Crow’ laws for Latinos in the US, with legalized racial profiling.
Like Mexico, Guatemala was conquered by the Spanish in the 1520’s, and under Spanish rule for
the next 300 years. The local indigenous population, primarily the Maya, were decimated by bloodshed
and disease, with epidemics wiping out millions within decades. Guatemala’s indigenous population was
7
exploited as slave labor, kept under the heel of the criollos and mestizos even after gaining independence
from Spain in 1821, and are discriminated against to this day. With wages higher in neighboring Mexico,
Guatemalans migrated as laborers as early as the 19th century, working on the coffee plantations of
Chiapas. There has long been seasonal migration to neighboring Mexico for agricultural work but the
mass exodus of Guatemalans didn’t begin until the civil war, which lasted from 1960 until 1996. With
limits on places of refuge, as well as employment and income for Guatemalan migrants in neighboring
Mexico, they began to make the difficult journey through Mexico, in hopes of finding a better life in the
United States. The flood of political refugees during the civil war, and economic migrants of late is, to use
the words of Juan Gonzalez, the ‘Harvest of Empire’. In the 1983 film ‘El Norte’, Enrique is the only
surviving member of his family, alone in the United States. His father was beheaded by government death
squads for trying to organize a peasant revolt, mother abducted, and after a long, hard journey across
Mexico where they faced racism for being indigenous, a rat bite in the tunnel they crawled through across
the border is what would later kill his sister. By the movie’s end, Enrique is just one of countless day-
laborers seeking whatever work might come his way, and trying his best to evade the INS. His story is
representative of countless thousands who are working far below market value, in fields and factories
across the nation, driven from their indigenous villages by the gunmen of a brutal military dictatorship,
facing impossible odds even after fleeing.
The push for Guatemalan migrants, as with their Mexican neighbors, is directly related to the role
the U.S. government has played in helping shape their bloody history, silently, in the name of capitalism.
The presence of American companies, specifically United Fruit, led the U.S. to turn a blind eye to the
actions of Guatemalan presidents, who protected the rights of landowners above the rights of the nation’s
largely indigenous peasantry. Between 1931 and 1944, President Jorge Ubico was a dear friend of
American capitalism, helping United Fruit flourish, and they wound up owning over a million acres of
fertile Guatemalan land, a sizable empire on their own. U.S. investors flourished as the indigenous Mayan
peasants suffered, compelled to work for United Fruit, or other large landowners. (Gonzalez 135) Ruling
8
with an iron fist, Ubico was brutal to his opposition, silencing dissent. He was a bad guy, but he was
Washington’s bad guy for more than a decade. President Roosevelt’s ‘new deal’ however, inspired a want
for democracy, and the masses of landless peasants awoke in a popular uprising, leading to the resignation
of President Jorge Ubico in 1945. (Gonzalez 136) In the first democratic election in Guatemalan history
the following year, a University professor who had been living in exile in Argentina, became president.
Juan Jose Arevalo brought reforms that sought to drastically help the countless, mostly indigenous,
peasants. While Arevalo’s reforms didn’t sit well with United Fruit and the other moneyed Guatemalan
elite, the election of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1951 stirred the hornets’ nest even more. “The country’s
soil was immensely fertile, but only 2 percent of the landholders owned 72 percent of the arable land, and
only a tiny part of their holdings was under cultivation”. (Gonzalez 136) Arbenz sought to put the unused
land in the hands of the hungry peasant farmers. Paying a ‘fair’ price for the unused land (anything over
600 acres) Arbenz also provided the poor with low-interest loans to buy the newly vacant land. When
United Fruit and the U.S. Department of State didn’t agree with the price Arbenz was going to pay for
UFCO’s unused land, John and Allen Dulles, Secretary of State and Director of the CIA, with
connections to United Fruit, pressured President Eisenhower into authorizing “Operation Success” in June
1954, as the Dulles brothers had the previous year with “Operation Ajax” in Iran. While the coup in Iran
that replaced the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh with the Shah was over
the nationalization of oil, the coup in Guatemala that replaced democratically elected Arbenz with Carlos
Castillo Armas was over the redistribution of extremely fertile land, and a fair amount of red baiting.
Urged by the Dulles brothers, Eisenhower signed off on both. (Schlesinger 99) Democracy was short
lived in Guatemala. Not only had the CIA trained the mercenaries Castillo would use in the coup, they
also provided ‘air support’. The land was stripped from the poor and handed back over to United Fruit
and the other elite landowners, trade unions that had grown under Arevalo and Arbenz were disbanded,
and a terror worse than that imposed by Ubico, gripped Guatemala for nearly a half century. Foreign aid
rained down on Guatemala’s new government, and the dear friend to American capitalism, Castillo was a
9
graduate of U.S. Army Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth. (Immerman 642)
Migration shifted from the formerly economically driven workers heading to Mexican coffee
plantations, to political refugees fleeing the American backed government. Operation Success was
anything but for the indigenous people of the Guatemalan countryside. Having tasted democracy, many
were willing to fight, and die, to see its return. “Inspired by Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution, radical
students and intellectuals took to the hills in 1960, where they formed several guerrilla groups to resist the
dictatorship. To hunt them down, the government responded with scorched-earth campaigns, pacification
programs, and paramilitary death squads, often with assistance from U.S. Special Forces advisers.”
(Gonzalez 138) So began the bloodiest civil war in the history of Central America, a war that was off the
radar of the American public, but fought with American, and Israeli arms and intelligence, and often, ‘air
support’. “The State Department staffed the American Embassy in Guatemala with counter-insurgency
specialists from South Vietnam; twenty-five foreign service officers with experience in Saigon were
posted to the Central American nation between 1964 and 1974” (Schlesinger 228) The ‘Harvest’ was
being pushed from Guatemala by the American Empire, both indirectly, and directly. While news stations
were covering the war in Southeast Asia, “Vietnam is not the only place where napalm was used. The
United States has been lavish with the terrible jellied flame south of the Rio Grande…in Guatemala they
have been dropping it since 1966 on guerrilla zones of influence. ” (Galeano 69) During the 36 years from
the start of the civil war, until its official end, the number of emigrants increased steadily each year.
Revolutionary leaders and guerrilla fighters were being captured and disappeared, and the peasants
weren’t spared in the carnage. The refugees began to flow away from the civil war in Guatemala that was
hidden from the American masses, with the earthquake of 1976 an additional ‘push’.
The terror continued, with a string of leaders fighting for control of the country, each usually
worse than the last. While emigration from Guatemala during the 1970’s was over 50 thousand, and
President Carter attempted to ease the process of gaining refugee status, President Reagan executed an
about face, forcing those seeking political asylum into INS detention centers, driving many to traverse
10
Mexico and attempt to cross illegally, “Those who managed to get past the Border Patrol opted for the
uncertainty of hiding out illegally in this country over the risk of perishing at the hands of death squads or
guerrillas back home.” (Gonzalez 139) 1982 brought yet another coup in Guatemala, in which the CIA
played a quieter role than ‘Operation Success’. Rios Montt was only in power from March 1982 until
August 1983, but his time in office was the most brutal of the civil war, with hundreds of Mayan villages
being destroyed. “During the 14 months of Ríos Montt’s rule, an estimated 70,000 unarmed civilians
were killed or ‘disappeared;’ hundreds of thousands were internally displaced,” (Amnesty) The 1980’s
were the bloodiest years of the civil war and caused the most migrants to flee. “Their presence raised an
unsettling question: Why were so many people fleeing a government our country supported?” (Gonzalez
138) As with Enrique in the film ‘El Norte’, Indigenous Guatemalans who fled to evade capture after
watching their families killed or disappeared, had to risk life and limb crossing Mexico and illegally
sneaking into the United States since political asylum was denied under President Reagan. Like the scenes
depicted in the film El Norte, grass roots labor organizations, considered a base of support for the
insurgency, were targeted. But countless thousands of peasants in rural areas supported the guerillas on
some level, which was intolerable in the eyes of the U.S. backed government, “The worst excesses of
previous periods such as the occasional massacre of an entire village became more common. Families
were burned alive in their own dwellings, women were frequently raped, and old people and babies were
hacked to death. A scorched earth policy led to burned crops, leveled homes, and some 400 destroyed
communities. The violence left an indelible mark on those who survived.” (Manz 17)
The Guatemalans that made it to the United States settled in Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, as
well as small towns in the South East and along the west coast. This group of ‘New’ Latinos was different
in many ways than the Latino groups that came before. The Guatemalans, denied political asylum, were
undocumented, spoke no English, and were ‘illegally’ entering the workforce as unskilled laborers, at the
mercy of employers. They were also Indigenous, from the underdeveloped highlands of Guatemala.
(Gonzalez 139) In the South West, the undocumented Guatemalans were aided by religious groups who
11
opposed America’s policy in Central America, in what was called the Sanctuary movement, “a modern
version of the underground railroad”. (Gonzalez 140) Guatemalan immigrants began to organize, more
openly in the early 1990’s when many received green cards, and Indigenous (Mayan) Guatemalans like
Rigoberta Menchu, who spoke at UMass Boston in 2009, gave voice to the horrors of the civil war, and
the plight faced by the refugees. Waves of migrants fleeing hell, were likely arriving in the U.S. with Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder, many being the lone member of their family to have made it, and few
speaking English. Ignorant to the ‘push’ factors that were driving the new migrants to the U.S., many
Americans bought into the anti-immigrant sentiment. For much of the American public, it was just more
people who didn’t speak our language that here to take our jobs. For the international truth commission
however, they were survivors “of ‘acts of genocide’ and ‘massive extermination of defenseless Mayan
communities’ during that country’s 36 year war”. (Gonzalez 147) The fact that “President Clinton
publically apologized to the Guatemalan people for past U.S. support of repressive governments in the
region,” was not written in high school history books. (Gonzalez 147)
The American Empire stretching its tentacles south was the ‘push’ that has sent the ‘harvest’ to
the empire that created it. American firepower and terror in Mexico, and later Guatemala, is what has kept
a steady flow of cheap labor, risking life and limb to cross the border in search of whatever lay ahead. As
far back as the 1930’s, two-time Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Brigadier General Smedley
Butler (USMC) was discussing the illegality of America’s involvement in Central and South America, “I
helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914…I helped in the raping of half a dozen
Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. I helped make Honduras “right” for American
fruit companies in 1903. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the
international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909….” (Butler) Mexicans have a far longer, and more
complex history in the United States, but today face the same prospects as their Guatemalan neighbors. In
a vicious cycle, they are driven from their own countries due to dire economic situations and unstable,
often dangerous political environments, heavily influenced by the US government. The cartels have been
12
terrorizing both nations with U.S. made weapons, and American trained gunmen. From trafficking drugs
and people, our nation’s laws are enabling organizations that are far more destructive than Al Qaeda, and
the migrants that make it past the checkpoints of the cartels are being driven deeper into the desert and
higher up the mountains due to a beefed-up U.S. Border Patrol. They are enticed by US corporations who
exploit them as cheap labor, and when the US economy is ill, they are the first group blamed, rounded up
and deported by the thousands, to appease the Anglo-American working class masses, scapegoated time
and again. Modern day Mexicans and Guatemalans face death from both Mother Nature and border
patrol, both official and vigilante, or capture and deportation, yet still they flood across the border
escaping poverty and violence in their homeland, for American poverty and racism. ‘Samaritans’ aren’t
allowed to give migrants food, water, clean clothing, or any other form of help, facing risk of being
arrested themselves. The signs at the border might say ‘keep out’, but in reality they resemble ‘help
wanted’ signs in restaurant windows, the migrants knowing that employment lies ahead, and in many
cases, hell is in their wake.
There has been much debate in recent years about immigrants, mainly undocumented migrant
workers. Far from just cheap labor, there are other, far more sinister reasons why people hope the flow of
migrants keeps arriving in the South West. If they stopped coming tomorrow, America would starve. If
they stopped coming tomorrow, thousands of government employees would be out of a job. Customs and
Border Patrol keeps many people employed, but the prisons that house the migrants who get caught are
another story altogether. Detention of migrants is a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are
sold to the highest bidder. Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, and Management Training
Corporation are for profit companies who profit off of keeping people behind bars. The who’s who of the
prison industrial complex spent millions in Arizona alone in recent years lobbying for the passage of SB
1070. They have motive to keep Mexican, Guatemalan, and other migrants crossing through the Arizona
desert, detained. (Aljazeera) With increasingly harsher immigration laws that seek to make crossing
illegally a criminal, rather than civil offense, these private, for-profit prisons hope to grow. CCA’s
13
contract with the state of Arizona dictates certain minimum-occupancy requirements, as high as 90
percent. Operation’s ‘Hold the line’ and ‘Gatekeeper’ under President Clinton were some of the first steps
in making the trek more difficult for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and President Bush (43)
only doubled-down, drastically increasing the size of the Border Patrol. The idea was, allegedly, to make
the trip across the border so difficult that few would try it. While it may have been a deterrent for some,
for countless others it has been a death sentence. Since the year 2000, migrant deaths in the Arizona
desert have soared, but they keep trying to cross by the thousands. Organizations like Humane Borders
have put out jugs of water in areas of the desert with the highest death rates, but the water jugs get slashed
and peppered with bullets by anti-immigrant vigilantes, condemning migrants who have run out of their
own water, to a slow, painful death in the sweltering desert heat. With America’s taste for drugs, the
cartels are making a killing below the border, terrorizing Mexico and Guatemala with American weapons,
and the push/pull factor will remain. There have been some calls to end the war on drugs, which has been
a quagmire, and stop the violence through legalization. The new President of Guatemala, a military man
who served under General Montt, and was by many accounts connected to the genocide that Montt is
facing trial for, has recently spoken out about the need to legalize drugs, since there are 8 people killed for
every ton of cocaine that passes through Guatemala, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the
world. (CNN) And that violence that many try to escape is also an obstacle on their journey, with the
‘train of death’ that Guatemalans have to take on their thousand mile trip to the U.S.-Mexico border
passing through a country no safer than a war zone. The coyotes, working hand in hand with the cartels,
often abandon the migrants in nowhere land, or offer them as gifts to lookouts in the mountains. In a
Vanguard documentary on Current TV about crossing the border, a catholic priest in one border town
says that all of the women that cross take birth control before starting their trip, expecting to get raped.
Amnesty International says that 20,000 migrants were kidnapped by drug gangs in Mexico over the last
couple years, on their way to the U.S. Thousands more are killed by Mother Nature on the U.S. side of the
border, and even the ones who make it across safe aren’t out of the woods. There have been 8 cases in the
14
past two years of migrants killed by U.S. Border Patrol. Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was one of them and
he was in handcuffs. Some cases have clearly been murder, but only one agent was criminally charged,
and the case was dismissed. That ‘illegal immigrants’ have been increasingly dehumanized over the past
decade is certainly a factor. There was even a teenage boy who was standing in Mexico and was shot and
killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, who was cleared after his co-workers claimed the boy was throwing
rocks. The IDF has more restraint. (PBS)
With the Arizona immigration law SB 1070 currently being reviewed by the Supreme Court,
many are anxiously awaiting the outcome. Regardless, it won’t change the flow of migrants across the
border, just make their lives more difficult, and help make prison industry stocks more valuable. The
more difficult crossing the border becomes; the more migrants will die trying to do so. We must ask
ourselves what the push factors are that continue to drive immigration from places like Guatemala and
Mexico, since living under fear of deportation while making a few dollars an hour while separated from
loved ones, certainly isn’t worth risking prison, rape, murder or succumbing to the elements in the
Arizona desert. Behind every ‘illegal immigrant’ is a face, a name, a family, a journey, a struggle, and no
doubt a sad story. Behind every sad story is a complex history of a nation intertwined with our own,
though no doubt a smaller, economically and militarily weaker nation under the heel of empire. Their
journey isn’t easy and the choice to emigrate is never taken lightly, with all the risk involved, but still
they come by the thousands, many knowing that the American dream is a myth, to work as day-laborers
and farm-hands, nanny’s and construction workers, in a country that treats they as second class humans.
They knowingly enter a world where ‘Juan Crow’ dictates public sentiment, and ‘Minutemen’ volunteers
canvas the border to give them their official welcome. Arizona morgues are so overcrowded with ‘John’
and ‘Jane’ Doe’s who will never be identified, that they have had to bring in refrigerator trucks, like they
did in Chicago during the 1995 heat wave and usually only do during natural disasters. This is a manmade
disaster that is too difficult for many to even attempt to fix. We would have to admit that our economy
depends on cheap migrant labor, the pull that keeps the migration coming, and that our government has
15
blood on its hands from generations of toiling in the affairs of Mexico and its neighbors to the south,
aiding in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. When a Middle Eastern dictator kills hundreds of his
people, we rush to intervene for ‘humanitarian’ reasons, however, when the Mexican Cartels terrorize not
just Mexico but many of their neighbors, killing thousands, we hold debates over immigration policy, and
issue travel warnings to U.S. citizens. As long as America refuses to face the true history of its treatment
to its own indigenous population, the best that Mayans will get is a watered-down apology from President
Clinton. These groups, the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Latinos, have as many differences as any other two groups of
People, but in the eyes of the Minutemen, the Border Patrol, the Governor of Arizona and many
Americans, there’s no difference; they’re ‘illegal aliens’.

Works Cited
1.) http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/guatemala-general-s-trial-genocide-one-more-step-against-impunity-2012-01-27

2.) Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 95, No. 4 (Winter, 1980-1981), pp. 629-653 Guatemala as Cold War History: Immerman, Richard H. Published by: The Academy of Political Science http://www.jstor.org/stable/2150608

3.) Gonzalez, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York: Penguin Books, 2011

4.) Schlesinger, Stephen C, and Stephen Kinzer. Bitter Fruit: The Untold Story of the American Coup in Guatemala. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday, 1982

5.) Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America : the Chicano’s Struggle Toward Liberation. San Francisco: Canfield Press, 1972

6.) Gonzales, Manuel G. Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999

7.) López, Antoinette S. Latino Employment, Labor Organizations, and Immigration. New York: Garland Pub, 1995

8.) Manz, Beatriz. Refugees of a Hidden War: The Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988

9.) Galeano, Eduardo H. Guatemala: Occupied Country. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969

10.) Nava, Gregory. El Norte. , 1983.

11.) http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/incarceration-inc-0022161

12.) http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/23/world/americas/guatemala-drug-legalization/index.html

13.) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/security/video-first-look-crossing-the-line/13597/

Categories: american dream, family, immigration, poverty, racism, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Progress

The women sat there

aging like their

cheap wine

wearing decorations

from imperial wars

of old

as their children,

conceived on mid-tour leave

years ago

leave home

for the first time

to go

learn

the lingo

of soldiers

as they sweat away

their young souls

at their JROTC

summer camp.

Would you like another glass?

And oh, by the way

my niece leaves

for basic training

in the fall

 

Categories: Afghanistan, american dream, collateral damage, death, family, history, humanity, Iraq, love, memories, Poetry, summer, veterans, war, working class

Memorial Day 2014

 

cropped-chi-nato20walker20120520144931.jpg haliburton 10100449449875732droneydddcropped-gitmoff-lukeradl.jpgpeas196427_192996787404497_6494423_nzz11240266_10101507980751372_1262527416_n1488253_272456379569725_675131694_n

Enjoy your burgers and beer today, but remember that we’re still adding more and more tiny American flags to small town and big city American cemeteries by the day. Kids fighting in Afghanistan today were in kindergarten when that war began, a number of whom likely have no idea why they’re even there other than some obscure version of ‘to protect freedom and democracy’. The biggest threat to American freedom and democracy is our government, who are in all likelihood reading this since I’ve used ‘trigger words’ such as ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’. That is not what the government wants for Americans, and it’s certainly not what they want for the people in other countries they’ve long been dehumanizing. You can never ‘give’ another person, or another country for that matter, “freedom” and/or ‘democracy’… they have to want it, and the blood shed in the process of getting it has to be their own. The US government is the greatest obstacle for many countries to attaining freedom and democracy. To say that we want to help countries attain freedom and democracy is laughable. In the early 1950′s, Iran had a democracy which American and British ‘intelligence’ helped overthrow in a coup dubbed “Operation Ajax”.

We also fought against democracy in Guatemala, while supporting a brutal dictatorship responsible for genocide during a decades-long civil war fought with American weapons, conventional and chemical alike. Our boys and girls are being killed in a war which politicians and generals admit is un-winnable. A low-ball government estimate says that two dozen veterans are committing suicide every single day. If another country treated their citizens the way the VA treats veterans, we would invade, occupy, and bomb the hell out of them, and steal their resources,… until of course, things improved. But the government has always treated it’s veterans this way. It’s disgusting when these scumbag politicians shed alligator tears on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and are allowed to leave the halls of congress for cushy million dollar jobs in the ‘defense industry’. We are still at war, 13 years later, not because our ‘freedom’ is in jeopardy from Muslims in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, (the same ones we’ve been arming and training in Syria) or because anyone in Washington gives the slightest shit about the people of these countries…(google “collateral damage/drone attacks”) it’s because war is the most profitable industry there is. WW1 turned business men into millionaires, WW2 turned those millionaires into billionaires, and the last 50 years politicians have handed over trillions of our hard earned tax dollars to their buddies in the ‘defense’ industry, never even batting an eye at the loss of life, American or otherwise.

Everyone I served with, and every veteran I know, enlisted as a selfless act, wanting to protect and defend their fellow Americans and the constitution. Lets actually honor the memory of our dead brothers and sisters and hold the government accountable. Politicians are representing billion dollar corporations, not the American people. An integral part of a functioning democracy is dissent. The Government has criminalized countless forms of dissent, and if you plan on protesting against some form of injustice, be prepared to have the shit beaten out of you, to be tear gassed, fired at with rubber bullets and beanbags, arrested, or even killed. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are just as much heroes as those killed with an American flag on their sleeve in a faraway land where career politicians sent them and forgot about them…without whistle-blowers and activists to try holding the government the tiniest bit accountable, we might as well just call it what it is: a dictatorship.

No, it’s certainly not as bad in America as it is was in Germany in the 1930′s, or is today in Syria or North Korea or Iran or Russia or Israel, but we are by no means free and this is a sad excuse for a democracy. Why don’t we ever compare ourselves to the good countries, it’s always only the awful ones. “we’re better than Somalia…we’re better than Iraq…” well, that’s because it’s fucking awful there…that’s not a compliment. It’s like bragging about your D to the kid with the F. You still got a D.

for people thinking “well, if you don’t like America, then you can get out!!! Why don’t you move to North Korea!!!”
see, the thing is that i actually do like America. As a matter of fact, I love it. I turned the flag upside-down, I didn’t burn it. I care very deeply about this country, if I didn’t I would have already become an expat. I love this country and was willing to die for it’s people… that’s what most of us think we’re signing up for, for the country and the people. I’m just beyond disgusted with our government, beyond disgusted with the same crooked politicians who voted for war and continue to vote for hundreds of billions of our tax dollars each year to fund more and more war, wearing tiny American flag lapel pins and shedding alligator tears at Memorial Day ceremonies and continuing to underfund and under-staff the VA… if this government doesn’t give a shit about those it calls heroes, how do you think it feels about those who didn’t serve? The men and women we honor today died in the name of democracy and freedom, lets not let what little we have continue to be taken away.

If you care about this country and want to honor the dead and wounded, turn off the news and read, so history doesn’t continue repeating itself again and again and again and again and again, year after year, generation after generation, war after war…

and remember, all that ‘collateral damage’, all those ‘accidental’ drone bombings, all those statistics from the ‘other side’ we never hear about… those are human beings, those are families, those are loved ones, those are daughters and sons and mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and cousins and friends. Try to remember them as well. I know it might be hard, but try. They have names, they have faces, they have emotions and feelings and they laugh and they cry and they sing and they dance…and when we ‘accidentally’ kill them (many of whom don’t know why we’re even there) they are just as dead as every single American killed on 9/11, or every single American service person killed in action. When a drone pilot makes a ‘mistake’ and blows up a wedding party instead of a ‘terrorist training camp’, and 17 people are killed… that’s 17 families who are devastated the same way you and I would be if it were our cousins wedding, or our own wedding.

Take a moment to reflect on what today is supposed to represent… pause to honor all the men and women who signed up for their country, but were misused by their government and were killed in the process. They loved us enough that they were willing to fight and die for us… I think the least we can do to honor their memory is pay attention to what’s happening in Washington, and demand a representative government not so eager to send our kids into battles we have no business fighting to line the pockets of billionaires, and ultimately create more ‘bad guys’ and make us less safe and less free, while creating more Gold Star families, and traumatized veterans. If you think “I have nothing to hide, I don’t care if the government spies on me…” You have missed the point, and you don’t deserve to be free. You deserve the police state your attitude has helped create. Just know that willingly handing over rights that were paid for with blood, sweat and tears…sacrificing ‘freedom’ for an illusion of ‘safety and security’, is one hell of a way to honor those who were killed in an American uniform in the name of freedom.
The military is sort of like the TV show about internet dating called ‘Catfish’, you enlist for this amazing, beautiful country and are ready to die to protect democracy and freedom, but when you show up, it’s this ugly government not the beautiful country you fell in love with, and you’re protecting the bottom line of billion dollar corporations, not ‘freedom and democracy’. The men and women who gave their lives for us deserve better. You and I deserve better. This beautiful country deserves better than what we’ve had for the past 13 years, and in all honesty, since 1776.

Turn off the news and read. Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is a great place to start. So is ‘War is a Racket’ by Smedley Butler, a man twice awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. As a retired officer in 1932, Butler stood in solidarity with tens of thousands of WW1 veterans in what was know as the Bonus Army, when they descended on the banks of the Anacostia River and camped out for 3 months attempting to get the ‘bonus’ money promised to them after WW1, and were brutally attacked by the active military, had their tents and shacks burned to the ground, and a number were shot and killed, all because they wanted (and during the great depression, needed) the money the government had promised them. The Government has a history of shitting on it’s veterans, but they just love wearing tiny American flag lapel pins and giving speeches on Memorial Day.

 

cropped-802938467802.jpgstillvetswarDSC_2102934649_509726669097947_50380339_npeaccceee393051_10101288952336072_127674208_ncropped-cropped-429965_172342402883399_1867071876_n.jpgcropped-congress-shall-make-no-law-respecting-an-establish-10100399465355112.jpgCongress shall make no law respecting an establish - 10100399457630592cropped-she-s-not-dead-yet.jpg10100834974870552cropped-images_2007_04_10_arts_vonnegut5.jpgcropped-598790_10150977759710339_1711640235_n1.jpgboston252653_10100807859285402_1689768862_n533322_461440593869820_1648775802_n426994_203410559764032_1071661018_n538520_3693228656120_1678502860_n547842_734140233280874_1818896181_ncropped-cropped-4f0f2fe473fe2_image.jpgcropped-cropped-ku-medium.jpg403561_485556951460322_910316796_n421641_10151049507371243_281202633_n10384050_10203948708418313_8589126653233488341_n

Categories: Afghanistan, america, american dream, collateral damage, death, george bush, history, humanity, ignorance, Iraq, justice, love, poverty, racism, solidarity, suicide, veterans, veterans for peace, Vietnam, war, working class, world war two | Tags:

Hero

soitgoes1984:

there are more men and women dying by suicide after the war, than are being killed in it. We are pawns to the government, they really don’t give a fuck about any of us so lets not pretend. The government admits to TWO DOZEN SUICIDES EVERY DAY, but it’s likely far higher… and there are no statistics kept when Gold Star family members take their own lives.

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

He was broken from his glory days;

the whiskey wasn’t working anymore.

There was no way he’d ever change his ways;

he drove back over to the liquor store.

The devil had been on his mind again;

he fought the feeling today was his last.

He could not twelve-step away from the pain;

just praying that this moment would soon pass.

Then he awoke in vomit, blood and tears;

the Sig Sauer was lying on his chest.

He had been dying daily all these years;

now he was dying for a lasting rest.

He knew he’d never see his friends again,

then bowed and said sarcastically, Amen.

(2009)

View original

Categories: Uncategorized

Cinco De Mayo

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

May 5, 2011

Image

Cinco de Mayo

the rain is letting up

another soldier died

and the news hardly acknowledged

this young life lost

taken

stolen by a war that began

when he was in elementary school

I’ll have another beer

Corona

then a margarita

salt and lime

and a cigar

then I’ll try to find

a beautiful Señorita

to teach me how to dance salsa

and tell me everything will be okay

 

View original

Categories: Uncategorized

Babylon the Great

soitgoes1984:

written Memorial Day 2012

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

1240266_10101507980751372_1262527416_n

Written Memorial Day 2012

Wonderland smoke dims suicide fireflies under a Cheshire moon

mocking guerrilla teenagers

and confused tongues cry over dirty water dialogue

as crude hands sift gold from Babel sand

cutting orphan blood lines like teenage wrists

with eyes gouged from prophets

leaving a culture blind,

burning like Bronx tenements

in Sultanates looted for stale flat-bread

while fallen minarets replace dynasties of honey and milk

with multinational cholera and patent medicine,

clipping wings of human headed lions

holding receipts for chemicals and 80’s handshakes,

forgotten like the sixth commandment,

stockpiling sanctions followed by liberation

and a flying carpet exodus of Dresden dolls

to genie wishes and refugee camps

But God is on our side

and damage collateral,

Engagement rules in pencil

excuse slaughterhouse diplomacy

as a mail call respite

brings February-stale Christmas cookies,

erasing date palms along riverbanks,

playing chicken and zigzagging pale horses

and donkey carts

speeding…

View original 1,114 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Saving Freedom: (sort of a poem dedicated to men in uniform)

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

35536_3425517828965_20428155_n

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH… Men in uniform get all the ladies. maybe that’s why i enlisted 12 years ago. I could live with that story. Teenage boys are, after all, young, dumb and full of c…crazy ideas about women… so i wish i could say that i enlisted because I had heard that men in uniform get all the ladies but that would be a lie. granted, that was certainly a part of the allure, but as for me, i was also full of crazy ideas about america and freedom and democracy and apple pie and Toby Keith and Chevy pick-up trucks.
I never even gave it a second thought. guys like me go into the military. well-mannered, god fearing americans like me serve their country no questions asked. terrorists or no terrorists, we serve. Happily. and we don’t get involved in politics. just keep our noses clean, stay frosty, keep our heads…

View original 719 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Rockwellian Saturday Evenings

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

warbbq

Written Memorial Day 2008

Flag draped boxes on cross Atlantic flights make silent return trips to sleepy small town American neighborhoods resembling Rockwellian Saturday evenings. Towns where children learn to hunt each other with paintball guns in their worn out thrift-store cammies and go to church on Sunday mornings before basking in the midday sun at the picnic tables of backyard barbeques where the men drink Coors Light and flip burgers on grills as the women soak sexily in pools sipping margaritas and talking about the tragedy that is the war. The tragedy that is the war that might call on their working class sons and daughters to serve over in a land that no one in their town can even find on a map. And the children throw horse shoes as the clank of near misses brings out thoughts of almost, thoughts of the hand grenades yet to come…

View original 1,327 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

That last war

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

May 6, 2013

That last war?

Forget about it,

That was a long

time ago

Right?

Time to move on…

No sense living

In the past.

Sure,

it might have been

a mistake to go

but what’s done

is done.

Let’s close that chapter

The yellow ribbon

has faded

The war must

be over

And the newsman

hasn’t mentioned it

In a long time

So,

it’s over

Right?

And the veterans

got the GI Bill

Most people

can’t afford college

And here they are,

being paid to go

That must be closure,

right?

The war’s over,

right?

Time to move on

Right?

View original

Categories: Uncategorized

Memorial Day Weekend 2010, Oahu, HI

soitgoes1984:

i more or less feel the same way I did in 2010. I wrote this for my college newspaper, so I bit my tongue a little. enjoy your bbq and beer but please remember that kids are still dying in a war most Americans forgot about a long time ago. or killing themselves by the dozens daily if they make it home. Don’t give the government a pass because they tell you it’s for your own good. it’s not. unless of course, you happen to be invested in the right companies.

Originally posted on soitgoes1984:

This Memorial Day, I think back to a time when war wasn’t in our thoughts, a time when rifles were only made of sticks and used as backyard playthings on hot summer afternoons where imagination was the only thing that mattered. A time when, as cub scouts with hand me down uniforms and tiny American flags we followed our gray haired grandfathers down Main Street to the cemetery where shots rang out and a distant bugler played a chilling tune. Far from understanding the true meaning of the day, just mimicking the old men who wore sad faces and blank stares. Local men of the cloth led prayers, followed by battle hardened townsfolk who had fought in WW2, Korea and Vietnam speaking heartfelt words of remembrance. This Memorial Day I pause to remember the gray haired grandfathers, born before the great depression and showing up daily next to pictures of…

View original 1,655 more words

Categories: Uncategorized

Blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 320 other followers