Analysis of Mexican America History

Subject: History
Pages: 5
Words: 1392
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: School

Introduction

The origin of Mexican Americans can be traced back to the nineteen’s century when the hostile nature of these relations was established. Neil Foley presented his view of these events in detail in chapter one, “The Genesis of Mexican America.” It was interesting to learn from this chapter the viewpoint of many people in the United States about Mexico as the country of cruel and uneducated people. Indeed, it points to the erased memory about the Aztec Empire, abolition of slavery in Mexico much earlier than in the U.S., and annexation of Texas. The new legislation after the war gave people the choice of returning to Mexico or becoming U.S. citizens with formally equal rights that were not respected in reality (Gutiérrez 5). The negative attitude against Mexican immigrants and citizens was rooted in the 1846-1848 war and subsequent approval of the Treaty, making Texas and Mexican people part of the U.S. but less actual rights than its citizens.

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Foley’s Representation of the 1846-1848 War Between Mexico and the U.S.

The migration of people from Mexico started long before the government implemented restrictive regulations. Indeed, they were the central part of the skilled labor in the second half of the nineteenth century on the gold and silver mines (Gutiérrez 5). The author’s central claim is that the American government created an image of lazy Mexican immigrants who cross the border to take Americans’ jobs, murder, sell illicit drugs, and rape women. However, the truth was that white settlers from the southern states were illegal invaders in Texas in the 1830s because they, despite Mexican loyalty, refused to obey the country’s laws (Imery-Garcia 12). The 1846-1848 war between the two countries was an unfair, violent act of the U.S. government towards a weaker neighbor, which suffered economic downfall at that time (Foley 24). I agree with the author’s final point that this historical event created not only the political border but caused subsequent misunderstandings in the relationships of the two nations.

How Did the Annexation of Texas Affect Mexico-American Relations?

Considering the current perception of Mexican immigrant workers as a danger to the American nation and legislative restrictions to foreigners, the relationships between the two countries are complex. The inciting event was the document about the annexation of Texas signed by President John Tyler in 1846, making its territory the 28th state of the U.S. (Imery-Garcia 14). This act was viewed by Mexicans “as a slap in the face,” while America’s win in the war gave the United States confidence in their ability to attain dominance in the international arena (Imery-Garcia 14). American settlers and the government viewed Mexicans as an inferior race (Foley 25). In fact, the former refused to obey the laws established in Texas before becoming a part of the U.S., while the latter deprived Mexican people, who chose American citizenship, of their rights. Therefore, the subsequent generations inherited this hostile attitude towards each other, creating the label on Mexican workers as “lazy, inordinately dependent, diseased, delinquent, illiterate, and inassimilable” (Gutiérrez 10). Similarly, people in Mexico disrespect American laws, crossing the border illegally and staying on the U.S. territory as undocumented workers.

A Mexican Viewpoint

It appears that Mexicans rightfully do not admit American depiction of them because they have a rich history and culture. Mexicans are the descendants of Spanish conquistadors and Indian tribes with a developed civilization of the vast Aztec empire (Foley 17). Moreover, they gained independence from Spain in 1810 after a prolonged and exhausting war (Gutiérrez 5). Indeed, Mexico was in the midst of economic depression when the United States started fighting for Texas’s lands, which was unfair and cruel. Furthermore, this act was an open attempt by American politicians to take control over the entire territory of Mexico (Imery-Garcia 14). The U.S.-Mexican war seemed to be the cause of the generational trauma, creating an urge to enter the American job market illegally to produce minor damage to its economy in the form of unpaid taxes.

The issue of Mexican Americans was that most had anxiety about how white citizens perceived them. Therefore, they strived to assimilate into the general population by employing physical features inherited from their Spanish ancestors and learning to speak English without an accent (Foley 36). It seems that these people had to lose their ethnic identity to avoid being stigmatized as lazy, undereducated, and potentially dangerous Mexicans. This fear is not only a consequence of the generational trauma but also a statistical fact. For example, one survey revealed that 50% of Mexican Americans experienced some form of discrimination by their ethnicity (Telles and Sue 45). Furthermore, in the 1910s, Mexican Americans were exposed to brutal violence from the white mob in the U.S. (Contreras and Attanasio). Men with darker skin and Spanish names are often perceived as aggressive individuals, while Mexican American women are viewed as exotic figures (Telles and Sue 46). In both cases, this attitude affects their mental health and creates obstacles in their careers. Overall, the stigmatization of Latinos in the United States influences their decision to forget about their ancestry and culture.

An American Viewpoint

American citizens, historians, and politicians have an equivocal opinion about this situation. On the one hand, millions of undocumented foreigners damage the economy and stability of the state (Gutiérrez 25). On the other hand, it was a shameful point in American history because the United States was involved in the violation of another country’s freedom. As described by Foley in the first chapter, Nicholas P. Trist, the U.S.’s peacemaker, shared his “feeling of shame as American,” admitting that the war was “an abuse of power on our part” (29, 31). His colleagues in the White House likely shared this thought because the government refused to conquer the entire Mexican territory. Still, Americans’ antipathy towards Latinos since the times of the Founding Fathers caused the illustration of Mexican Americans and immigrants as an unworthy group of people (Arana). In fact, the history of this period is presented in a romanticized form about Spanish Caballeros, grandees, and Puritans who brought education, culture, and civilization to New England despite the hostility of Indians.

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Is the U.S.-Mexican Consensus Possible?

Although the United States and Mexico are not in a state of military conflict, political tension still exists and discrimination against Mexican Americans. The federal government continues to place restrictions on Mexican immigrant workers, banning all social and legal benefits for these people (Gutiérrez 24). Moreover, Mexican Americans were granted the status of whites and given legal rights, but they were treated as an inferior group for a long time (Gutiérrez 5). The long-standing silent conflict between these two countries made it hard to foresee a better attitude, cooperation, and openness in the near future. Nevertheless, the hope is that this tension will end if the industrial, agricultural, and other sectors’ development accelerates and the number of new workplaces increases, resulting in the rise of employment in Mexico. It may enable a substantial drop in the number of immigrants to the U.S.; hence, it may reduce the misunderstanding between Mexicans and Americans. However, it is challenging to predict whether this shift encourages Mexican Americans not to be afraid to speak about their mixed ancestry.

Conclusion

Foley’s first chapter in Mexicans in the Making of America presented a historical overview of the events that preceded modern discrimination of Mexican Americans and silent hostility between two nations. He discussed the Aztec empire, Spanish conquistadors, gaining independence by Mexico, and annexation of Texas by the United States. The author was able to reconstruct past events that enabled the appearance of Mexican American diaspora that primarily hid their authentic ancestry to escape stigmatization that affected their counterparts from Mexico. Historians of both parties described the war between the U.S. and Mexico for Texas as an unfair act of the American government toward a weaker neighbor amid the crisis and economic recession of the latter. Since the outcome of this conflict was the inclusion of part of Mexican territory into the United States, people living there also became American citizens. The reality showed that they were discriminated against for a long time, causing many of them to deny their ethnic identity. Still, there is a hope that discrimination will cease to exist if unlawful migration stops; however, this scenario is only possible if both sides are ready for a dialogue.

Works Cited

Arana, Marie. “A History of Anti-Hispanic Bigotry in the United States.” The Washington Post, 2019, Web.

Contreras, Russel and Cedar Attanasio. “Mexican Americans Faced Racial Terror from 1910-1920.” AP News, 2019, Web.

Foley, Neil. Mexicans in the Making of America. Harvard University Press, 2014.

Gutiérrez, Ramón A. “Mexican immigration to the United States.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, Oxford University Press, 2019, pp. 1-32.

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Imery-Garcia, Ash. How Mexican Immigrants Made America Home. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2018.

Telles, Edward, and Christina A. Sue. Durable Ethnicity: Mexican Americans and the Ethnic Core. Oxford University Press, 2019.