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May, 2006

The Future is Up to Us!

Latino immigrants and the African Americans

Editor's note: This column is based on excerpts from the book, "The Future is Up To Us: A Revolutionary Talking Politics with the American People ," by Nelson Peery. We encourage our readers to join the discussion. Send your thoughts to info@peoplestribune.org. Order the book by sending $12 to Speakers for a New America Books, c/o People's Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

Nelson Peery

Since Mexico is a very large country with a unique revolutionary history and tradition, their immigrants have played a different role in the shaping of our political life. First, we should say a few things about Mexico and the United States. In an unprovoked aggression prior to the US Civil War, the US took Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada -- half of Mexico's national territory. Without this territory, the US would have faced Europe and inevitably have come under its control. At the peace negotiations, the US promised to maintain open borders forever.

The first great test came during the US Civil War. When Lincoln spoke of the Union as the "last best hope of mankind," he was referring to the political reaction that had conquered all of Europe. The ruling class of every country supported the Confederacy.

Protected by French arms, war material from Europe poured into Mexico and from there into the Confederacy (in exchange for cotton). If the French had defeated the Mexican army under Juarez, it was probable that France and probably England would declare war on the US and invade from Mexico.

Although hard pressed, Lincoln transferred arms and gold to Juarez who finally defeated the French, and along with the Federal campaign in Texas, shut off the flow of arms to the Confederacy through Mexico. Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican national holiday that celebrates the Battle of Puebla in 1862, where the Mexican Army stood up and fought the French to a standstill, and proved that they could defeat the French. It should be celebrated by all Americans.

African Americans have had a close relationship with Mexico. The African American people will never forget that Mexico's stand against slavery, their refusal to return fugitive slaves, was the excuse for the US aggression wherein Mexico lost one-half of their territory and a large section of their population. The Texas-Mexican border was an important, if little known terminal, of the Underground Railroad.

The African American has always enjoyed relative social democracy in Mexico. Mexico had proportionately the same percentage of African slaves as there were in the US, about ten percent. After their emancipation, the government enforced a no-discrimination policy and the amalgamation of the African into the Mexican population was an object lesson for the American Blacks. If they could do it, why haven't we done it?

For many years, the Mexicans we knew were those whose forebears lived in the half of Mexico conquered and annexed by the U.S. expansionist war of 1847. Over the generations, the ties of the workers with Mexico were weakened. Beginning with the "Bracero"program during W.W.II, and rapidly expanding during the past twenty years, Mexican nationals have come to play an increasingly important role in the labor and revolutionary movements. Here again, we see how the Mexican workers physically unite with the workers here, then ideologically with those first in Mexico and then in Central America.

I'm sure that in the future we will see a strengthening of the specific contribution of the Puerto Rican and Mexican workers to revolution in the hemisphere. Only these workers can politically and physically connect the Anglo American workers with the ongoing Central and South American revolutions.


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