by Juan J. Guajardo
Many men like me live in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. We are Americans of Mexican descent. Some of us are a darker shade of brown than others, and some of us could use more melanin than others. Some of us are followers of Jesus Christ, and some are followers of a nationalistic, agnostic/atheistic Mexican worldview. Yet we all have one thing in common: we’re classified as Hispanic by the predominant American media outlets, not the least of which is our civil government.
And there’s the rub, for Mexican-Americans in particular have been lulled into a slumbering stupor that brings shame to what used to be called the American dream. We need to wake up before it is too late.
The first dream is that we are Mexicans. I used to be a Mexican. I used to love Mexico. Then I grew to hate it. Then after becoming a Christian I learned to love it again. I love Mexicans, but I am not a Mexican. I am an American. How many are here like me? I don’t know. When my friend Ron refers to himself as Scotch, I know he doesn’t mean that he’s a citizen of Scotland or somehow prefers that nation over the USA. When my friend Kirby used to say that he was Canadian, he meant that he was a citizen of Canada. He seemed to appreciate the USA; I know he loved Mexico because he started two or three churches down there; but he was a Canadian citizen. When some of my fellow hispanics say they are Mexicans, sometimes I don’t know what to believe they mean.
The next dream—nightmare, really—is that regardless of what we are, “white” Americans don’t see us as equals. If they could, they would discriminate against us as the previous generation of gringos did in South Texas. There is an inbred racial antipathy for anyone who is not brown and who has a European/Anglo surname. As I told a friend a few years ago, racism is still alive and commonly practiced in the Delta Area: no quieren a los gringos [they don’t like anglos]. In other words, it’s the same racism but in the opposite direction. Common on, how can we, in all intellectual sincerity, say that only white people can be racist?
But the last fantasy is the most insidious. It’s the belief that la raza is somehow the way out of an oppressive condition. While community and unity are real assets and can help accomplish much, it’s the direction not the pedigree of a people that determine its real, historical blessings. Those who built the Tower of Babel were in unity, but God did not appreciate it. He confused them and dispersed them. And they were all of one race: the human one (the only race that exists, for we differ only in amount of pigment). No, a people’s blessings come only by trusting and obeying God’s commands.
This essay is not an academic exercise; it is a shout to wake up from this deeper-than-slumber of the hispanic community. Look at what has happened to our nation in the last half century.
The social and cultural mores of men and women have been blurred, even perverted. Civility has suffered because American hearts are captive to idols of both manual and mental production. Our families–black, brown, and white–are broken and in many cases dead.
Our elders are picked up in vans and taken to amusement centers half a day…so they can mingle and stay out of younger people’s lives, younger people who have no time or see no need for them. And when these old folks get too old for the adult day care, the ones who can afford it get sent to a nursing home to die comfortably and out of the way. For the ones who can’t afford it, the government will find a way to pay; that is, our neighbor citizens will pay. What happened to taking care of Abuelita or Abuelito? What happened to generational family care? What happened to learning from our elders?
Our children are dying. Some don’t even get to be born, some die emotionally and spiritually, and some die at each other’s hands. Many of those who haven’t died are having their own children, or are killing them.
Our people prefer to be fed rather than respected. Hispanics have bought the lie that if someone else can support us, it’s better for us than if we have to put our bodies to labor. What ever happened to the hard-working hispanic? What’s wrong with working for less than minimum wage until I develop skills for a better job? Nadie se muere de hambre. What ever happened to not deserving to eat if I don’t work? What ever happened to caring for my boss’ interests because I owe him my honest work? What has happened to our dignity? It’s been sold to the politician with the promise of the biggest bowl of pottage. We don’t need food stamps; we need the seal of the Spirit of God.
Below is my proclamation to free hispanics, or any subgroup of the race, from bondage. Or is it the antidote for the hispanic sleep disorder? You decide.
1. Follow only causes and people who live truth, justice, and mercy. Do not be beholden to any political party or humanistic ideology. Education will not save us, neither will ethnocentricity nor provincialism. Sí se puede, but only with God’s grace.
2. Watch what we say and why we do things. As my dad used to tell us, con los hijos las pagas.
3. Work hard and rest well so that we can be productive.
4. Honor authority. Hispanics used to be so good at this one. Now, we commonly either dishonor or idolize those in charge of us. Both routes will lead to an early death for us individually and/or communally.
5. Don’t hate others. That is, hate only evil, and that only as God defines it, not as you or your neighbor wish to.
6. Keep your heart, hands, and mind from those things that belong to others. As Benito Juárez said, Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno…es la paz.
Nations come and go, but there is only one race. Every baby belongs to it; we inherited it from Adam. It doesn’t matter who our parents were or where they came from. I long to see the day when hispanics—and blacks and peoples of all shades—will stop referring to their ethnic group as “their people.” When Jesus came to Earth, God’s people were clearly defined as those who follow Him. Those are my people.
There is only one way to belong to both race and God’s people. Jesus said He was it. Follow the Way, or it won’t matter long what color you are. You don’t want a rude awakening.