I. Before Columbus
Long before there was an America, the trick of infiltration and takeover was an old tale in Mexico.
Before Columbus landed, there were two major cultures in what is now called Mexico, plus one in what was then called Arizona, which included everything from the Rio Grande to southern California. In southeastern Mexico lived the Mayans, beginning to slide into decline. In the central west lived the Toltecs, whose culture was vigorous and flourishing. North of them, in the Arizona territory, lived the Pueblos - primarily the Navaho.
All of these civilizations had domesticated animals, agriculture, weaving, pottery, stonemasonry and some metal-working: gold, silver and copper, at least. All of them were literate; the Mayans and Toltecs had alphabets in which they wrote on clay, leather or stone, and the Pueblos had a remarkable alphabet of knots tied in string. They worshipped various gods, goddesses and spirits of natural forces, but did not commonly practice human sacrifice. The Toltec god of the sun and enlightenment, Quetzlcoatl, would occasionally ask his worshippers to shed a small amount of their own blood as proof of the dominance of the mind over the body, but no more than that. These cultures were all relatively peaceful, and traded regularly with each other.
Up and down the east coast of Mexico wandered the Chichimecs, a very different sort of people - possibly related to the fierce Caribs, who gave their name to the Caribbean Islands after wresting them from the peaceable Arawaks. The Chichimecs had pottery and weaving, but no literacy. They didn't bother with farming or domesticating animals, but lived on hunting, fishing, gathering - and raiding their neighbors, for the Chichimecs were cannibals. They worshipped bloodthirsty gods like Chac Mool and Tezcatlipoca, who demanded the fresh hearts of human victims, so that the Chichimec worshippers could then eat the rest of the bodies and use the skins for leather. The Chichimecs were not nice people, and in a very real sense they deserved what Cortez evenually did to them. The Chichimecs waited until the Toltecs were weakened by civil war and plague, and then began an effective strategy of infiltration.
By twos and threes, posing as simple merchants dealing in forest bird-feathers and hides, Chichimecs moved into Toltec territory. The Toltecs, always willing to trade, saw no harm in this. The problem was that those Chichimec "merchants" didn't go home again, but settled in Toltec territory. Little by little they took over outlying villages, then larger towns, and finally the cities, until the entire Chichimec population was settled in Toltec lands.
Just why the Toltecs didn't realize their danger, or act on it until too late, is anyone's guess. Perhaps they were flattered that the Chichimecs wanted to live among more civilized folk. Perhaps they thought the Chichimecs were eager to become good Toltec citizens. Perhaps they liked the availability of cheap Chichimec labor. Perhaps they'd been so badly weakened by civil war and plague that they couldn't unite against the invaders.
In any case, when enough of them were settled in Toltec lands, the Chichimecs made their bid for power.
There are very few surviving records of that conquest, so all we know for certain is that it ended with a Chichimec king on the formerly Toltec throne, and the rest of the Chichimecs were the new nobility ruling a Toltec underclass.
Once in power, the Chichimecs began cleaning up their reputation. They inaugurated a propaganda campaign claiming that they were really a branch of the Toltecs, rewrote the existing history books, and changed their name to Aztecs to make themselves look respectable.
We do know that the Chichimec/Aztec takeover was thorough and ruthless. They forbade the use of the Toltec language in public, making the Aztec language the official tongue. They were happy to make use of the Toltec alphabet, but applied it only to the Aztec language, so that today the archeologists have little idea of just what the original Toltec language was. They were also happy to make use of the skills of Toltec craftsmen, but put them to work only serving and glorifying the new regime. They destroyed or re-carved most of the old Toltec monuments, so that today precious few of the originals exist. And of course they changed the official histories to say that the Aztecs had been the original inhabitants of the Toltec lands, and had merely returned to claim what was rightfully theirs.
Does any of this seem familiar?
II. Before and After Cortez
After the takeover the Aztecs reordered the local religion, destroying or emptying the temples of the old Toltec gods and putting up the cruel Aztec gods in their place. The worship of the Aztec gods included state-sponsored holidays that involved mass human sacrifices and cannibal feasts afterward. The Aztecs made regular raids on their outlying neighbors, not only to keep the neighbors frightened and obedient but also to collect prisoners to be sacrificed - and eaten. Though they were happy to let their Toltec underclass farm and raise food for them, the Aztecs were not about to give up their convenient and profitable cannibalism.
One god whom they left in power was Quetzalcoatl. He had not only been a major god of the Toltecs, but there was also a legend that he had once walked among the Toltecs in human form and had promised to return someday. When a god says "I'll be back", it's prudent to listen. Even so, the Aztecs altered his worship to include mass human sacrifices - and feasts.
Despite, or pehaps because of, the ruthlessness of Aztec rule there were continual revolts among the Toltec underclass and outlying tribes. Though these revolts were reliably put down - and the rebels captured, and eaten - Aztec rule left a constant resentment among the survivors. Cortez made good use of this later.
The Aztecs repeatedly tried to conquer the Pueblo lands, but never succeeded. The Pueblos were a pacifistic people, but they knew the desert well and made good defensive use of it. Their favorite trick was to lure Aztec troops out into a stretch of desert, where the only available water was well hidden, and leave them there to die of thirst. Eventually the Aztecs stopped trying.
The Aztecs never conquered the American southwest.
That land remained in the hands of the Pueblo Indians, and was never truly owned by Mexico in any of its incarnations.
Then came Cortez. He had at most 600 men, 16 cannons, and 18 horses, but he walked right into the legend of Quetzalcoatl's return. This was excuse enough for the outlying Toltec tribes to join with Cortez, swelling his army by thousands, in hopes of overthrowing their hated Aztec masters at last. The rumor that Quetzalcoatl had returned, and was highly displeased, traveled before Cortez and threw the Aztec rulers into a religious panic.
We all know the rest of the story. Cortez conquered the Aztecs, murdered their rulers, stole their treasure, and devastated their society. The Spanish priests he'd brought with him destroyed as many Aztec temples as they could and burned most of the Aztec books, primarily because they found that those temples hosted mass human sacrifices, and those books - tens of thousands of them - were written on human skin. The Spanish conquistadors also, quite unconsciously, spread smallpox throughout Mexico and thereby killed another third of the population. All this is ironically parallel to what the Aztecs had done to the Toltecs.
Cortez then laid claim not only to Mexico but to all the lands of the New World, from the Russian settlements in Alaska down to Tierra del Fuego. The fact that he never set foot that far north or south was beside the point; he claimed it all for Spain, to which the king of Spain happily agreed. The kings of other European countries contested this - which is how Portugal got ownership of Brazil, and Engliand and France and Holland got settlements in eastern America - but Spain got the lion's share.
Mexico was just another Spanish colony in the New World. Mexico did not own California, Texas or the Arizona territories; Spain did.
But Spain's rule was not absolute. In 1586 Sir Francis Drake - a real "Anglo" - destroyed the Spanish military outpost and ended Spain's rule in Florida. Dutch, English and French settlers gained footholds in eastern America and in the Caribbean. Russian explorers laid claim to large tracts of Alaska.
And in 1680 the Pueblo tribes, having learned all they needed from the conquistadors, overthrew Spanish rule in the Arizona territory. They organized the revolt by the use of their unique knot-alphabet, which the Spanish didn't recognize as letters. When the revolt was over, Spain owned only Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, a few silver mines, and whatever their guns were pointed at for the moment. The Spanish viceroy in Mexico City kept sending punitive forces into the Arizona territory until 1697, meanwhile sending optomistic reports back to Spain. He dared not admit that he'd lost so much land to mere Heathen Savages; that would have earned him a quick return to Spain and a quicker visit to the cellars of the Spanish Inquisition. Instead he claimed that he'd put down the rebellion and the land was still under his rule - just not very productive, and therefore not sending much money to the treasury. Succeeding viceroys did little more than continue this polite fiction, establishing a few missions and the garrison of Tubac in 1752 to protect settlers - of whom there were not many. The Pueblos didn't care, since the vast majority of the land was theirs in fact. The last of the Spanish mines and missions in Arizona were abandoned in the aftermath of the war over Texas.
In other words, Spain lost the Arizona territory - to the Pueblo Indians - long before Mexico was an independent country. Mexico itself never truly owned Arizona or New Mexico.
III. After Spain
Mexico, as distinct from Spain, never owned as much of America as its propagandists claim.
As early as 1685, Robert Sieur de LaSalle established Fort St. Louis and claimed Texas for France. He and his colony died, but French and English settlers continued to move into Texas. Although Spain established towns and missions throughout Texas, it accepted non-Spanish settlers both for their skills in blacksmithing and as a hedge against the local Indian tribes, especially the Apaches.
The US did not "steal" Texas from Mexico; Texas rebelled on its own, and for good reasons.
In 1807 Napoleon attacked Spain, which broke Spain's hold on the New World colonies, and those colonies began freeing themselves from Spanish rule. In 1812 the Guiterrez-Magee revolt tried to pry Texas free of Spain, and in 1817 Jean Lafitte settled Galveston Island. Mexico broke free of Spain in 1821, and continued the Spanish policy of inviting in "civilized" settlers - especially trained blacksmiths. In 1823 Stephen Austin received permission from the transitional government in Mexico to settle a colony on the Brazos river. Mexico itself didn't gain a constitution until 1824. In other words, when Mexico became an independent country there were English and French and American settlers already well established in Texas.
In 1830 the new Mexican government, under Santa Ana, began flexing its muscles at Texas. It forbade all further "foreign" immigration, added special taxes, and finally demanded that the settlers all become Catholic and speak nothing but Spanish. This is what set off the Texas War of Independence, which ended with Texas becoming an independent republic in 1836. Mexico continued the war until Texas joined the United States in 1845, and then made war on the US until defeated in 1847.
And the US did not "steal" California, either.
After Cortez' conquests, and after Juan Cabrillo mapped - and claimed - the coastline up to Santa Barbara, Spain waited more than 200 years before trying seriously to develop California. Other countries hadn't been so lazy. By 1769, when Spain began setting up military forts and church missions to "civilize" the Indians, settlers from Europe and America had already established populations there. Although Spain offered land-grants to attract more, the settlers didn't care overmuch for Spanish rule - and the Indians died under it. This is when and where the legend of Zorro began. In 1777 the settlers created the first independent town with a civil government in San Jose, and other free towns followed.
In 1808, when the Spanish navy withdrew to fight Napoleon, more ships from England, France, Russia and the US were able to trade with the free towns, and more immigrants came to settle there. When Mexico became independent in 1821, the new government encouraged foreign trade and offered more land-grants to immigrants - provided that they were or became Catholics and spoke nothing but Spanish. It also broke up the old missions and gave their land to the settlers - many of whom now came from Britain, Canada and the US. Mexico's insistence that these settlers become Catholics caused considerable friction, as did the Texas rebellion, and by 1845 Mexico stopped trying to send Mexican governors to rule California.
In 1846, when Mexico expanded its war with Texas to include the US, the California settlers rebelled and formed the California Republic. A month afterward, California joined the US and likewise joined the war against Mexico. The war ended with Mexico's defeat, a year later.
In every case, the inhabitants of the southwestern states - Indians or White settlers - rebelled against Spanish and then Mexican rule. They later joined the US primarily to improve their defenses against Mexico. The US "stole" none of it.
IV. Reasons Why
Mexico began as a far richer country than the US, with milder weather, vast tracts of arable land, tremendous mineral wealth, and an advanced native civilization. It should have progressed steadily to become one of the wealthier countries on Earth. But what happened?
First, the Chichimen/Aztecs: an abolute military and religious tyranny, with the addition of cannibalism, does not create a healthy culture. The number of rebellions among the Toltec underclass, plus their willingness to join the army of a foreign conqueror, shows just how much the general population hated their masters. The legendary Malinche, the native slave-girl who became Cortez' mistress and helped him defeat the Aztecs, was in fact not "betraying her own people"; she was a Toltec, and had good reason to hate the Aztecs. The necessity of such treachery, and of hiding their intentions from the Aztec ruling class, made the people generally secretive and habitually criminal.
Second, the conquistadors: late-medieval Spain was not a healthy culture either. Government corruption, total feudalism, shameless nepotism and favoritism, rampant sexism and racism were business as usual, and the Spanish Inquisition was not a joke. On the excuse of hunting out hidden Jews and heretics, the church actively encouraged people to spy on - and report any misdeeds of - their neighbors. As a result, the only people one could trust were one's own family, and not always all of them. All this produced a culture of paranoia and rank opportunism, with a glazing of religious mania.
When these cultures collided, the results were not happy. The natives who survived the conquistadors' plagues and pillagings found the new ruling class an improvement in only a few ways; it imported new breeds of farm animals, new crops, new construction techniques, bronze and iron-working - and it did not practice cannibalism. Otherwise, the same old tyranny and corruption prevailed. The ideas of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment didn't reach Mexico until well into the 19th century, and even then were accepted only by the intellectuals - not by the general population, and definitely not by the government.
The Spanish government in Mexico tried very hard to establish old-fashioned medieval feudalism, with the Spanish settlers as aristocrats and the native peoples as serfs. The king back in Spain gave land-grants and aristocratic titles to his cronies, and the viceroy in Mexico suggested cronies of his own, whom the king usually agreed to ennoble - for the right price. Spain at the time was an absolute, not constitutional, monarchy.
After Spain was immoblized by Napoleon there were several rebellions that attempted to liberate Mexico, but all of them were defeated by the colonial government. Then in 1820, with Napoleon safely gone, a liberal revolution swept Spain - demanding, among other things, a constitution and a constitutional monarchy. This upset the feudal conservatives in Mexico, and they broke away from Spain in 1821 under the leadership of General Iturbide - who had, ironically, led the troops that put down the last revolt. This makes Mexico the only ex-colonial nation in the New World that rebelled in order to create a government that was not more liberal but more conservative than its former ruler's.
Once on its own, Mexico started on a merry cycle of palace revolutions. Iturbide was ousted in 1822, by a revolt that tried to establish a republic and made Guadalupe Victoria its first president. Victoria was overthrown in 1829 by Vincente Guerrero, who was assassinated in 1831 and replaced by Anastasio Bustamente, who was overthrown and replaced by Antonio de Santa Ana in 1833. Santa Ana "centralized" the government, declared himself dictator-for-life, and began to "get tough" with the settlers in Texas.
Besides not wanting to give up their religion, the settlers in Texas had another conflict with the Mexican government: slavery versus serfdom.
A Spanish-style serf, or "peon", differed from an American-style chattel slave in various ways: 1) he could not be sold separately from the land he tilled for his master, but went with the land as a package deal; 2) a peon was purely an agricultural worker, and could not be rented to a skilled craftsman nor learn any other trade; 3) he could not under any circumstances be taught to read or write; 4) a peon could be freed only by special dispensation from the king, the viceroy, or - later - the president of Mexico.
The few settlers in Texas who were rich enough to afford slaves treated them in the American fashion: 1) a slave could be sold or rented separately from his master's land; 2) slaves were often rented to skilled craftsmen, and learned skilled trades which added to their value; 3) a master could give his slave an education as preparation for freeing him; 4) a slave could be freed by a simple written declaration by his master, at the master's own discretion.
Even after the liberation, the government in Mexico City was disturbed by the presence of slaves who were mobile, not tied to land, could learn skilled trades and even a real education, and could be freed on a whim of their owners'. To Santa Ana and his cohorts, American-style slavery was too liberal for them; they feared it might give the peons dangerous ideas. So, the Mexican government tried to force the Texas settlers to adopt Mexican serfdom instead, which is another reason why Texas rebelled.
When the dust had settled, in 1853, America owned Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona - and another rebellion ousted Santa Ana in 1854. By then the political lines were drawn, between the old feudal aristocracy and the new liberals who wanted a real republic. Then, in 1861, France invaded Mexico and drove the liberal government - and its president Benito Juarez - into hiding. France established Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian as "Emperor of Mexico" in 1864, and it wasn't until 1867 that the Juarez government managed to overthrow French rule.
Perhaps because of his status as a patriotic hero, despite various revolts Juarez managed to stay in office until he died of natural causes in 1872. When his successor Sebastian de Tejarda sought re-election, the loser - Porfirio Diaz - led a revolt that made Diaz dictator in 1877. Diaz ruled until 1911, when he was forced to resign by followers of the liberal Francisco Madero.
Diaz brought 20th-century industry to Mexico, usually by selling or leasing big tracts of oil-rich and mineral-rich land to Dutch, British and American businesses. These foreign businesses then built mines, oil wells and refineries there, and hired local people for labor at better wages than they'd ever seen before. Madero, though he made many 20th-century reforms, was resented by other political factions who wanted the Mexican government to seize the wells, mines and refineries on land that Diaz had sold or leased to "foreigners".
Madero was overthrown and assassinated in 1913 by General Victoriano Huerta. Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata and Venustiano Carranza then made war on Huerta, and forced him to resign in 1914. Carranza took power, and Pancho Villa promptly made war on him. The only thing Carranza and Villa could agree on was that they both hated the United States; in 1916 Villa led a raid on a town in New Mexico, and when the US army sent General Pershing to chase after Villa, Carranza made great efforts not to help. Even so, Carranza was overthrown and assassinated in 1920, and Alvaro Obregon was elected president.
Obregon lasted until 1924, when Plutarco Calles was elected. Calles made land reforms and political reforms, ousting many of the old feudal land-barons and taking political power away from the Catholic Church, for which the conservatives hated him. In 1928, Obregon was re-elected, and then assassinated by a religious fanatic.
Two provisional presidents followed, and Lazaro Cardenas was elected in 1934 on a "progressive" platform, which meant the passage of an expropriation law which officially allowed the government, in 1938, to confiscate the oil and mineral lands that Diaz had leased or sold. From 1911 to 1938 the Mexican government had tried to get back those lands - and the mines, wells and refineries that the "foreigners" had built with their own money - but the one tactic it never seems to have tried was buying the lands and businesses outright.
Confiscating the wells, mines and refineries did not automatically make Mexico rich; it seems to have killed the golden goose. The government-run oil and mining companies had difficulties getting the products out, and more difficulties selling them. One reason they sold badly was because their quality was so poor.
In 1940 Manuel Camacho was elected and, seeing where the money was, joined the US in the Good Neighbor Policy - which involved commercial and military alliances. During World War Two and afterward this agreement brought considerable American industry and money into Mexico - and since then, no Mexican presidents have been assassinated or overthrown. Yet despite this alliance, Mexico's economy continues to be poor - to the extent that today an average of 500,000 Mexicans per year immigrate illegally to the US.
What this grim history reveals is a culture which simply does not understand such concepts as equality, the Rights of Man, the rule of law, or sensible economics. This is a culture which sees the world as a Zero Sum Game: that wealth is limited, and the only way to get it is not to create it but steal it from somebody else. It is also a culture that has no respect for the literal truth, especially when lies and propaganda will better serve its immediate politcal ends.
As evidence of this, note that the political faction known as La Raza was founded in the late 1930s by agents of Nazi Germany, who hoped to raise a Mexican war against the US that would distract America from fighting Germany. The Nazi hope failed because America simply bought out Mexico with the Good Neighbor Policy, but La Raza survived. It continues today, urging Mexicans to immigrate illegally and "take back" everything but the New England states, lying blatantly about Mexican and American history, and of course demanding all manner of special concessions for Mexican immigrants, legal or not.
This is not a culture that we want in the United States, and the people who live by it are not people we want here either.
So we find ourselves in the position of the Toltecs when the Chichimec/Aztecs began moving in. What can we do about it?
Plenty, it turns out - but we have to be firm.
First, regardless of the Democrats' hopes for cheap votes and the Republicans' hopes for cheap labor, we must expel the illegal immigrants. Regardless of foot-dragging by the federal government, we must finish the border wall and patrol it regularly. We must then, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city, state by state, round up the illegals and send them home.
By all means, let them keep the goodies they got and the money they made here in Goody-Land; they'll need decent grubstakes when they get back to Mexico. Perhaps we should also give each of the departing illegals a parting gift: a sturdy revolver, a cleaning-kit, several boxes of ammunition and an instruction book - with simple illustrated instructions, printed in Mexican Spanish. Perhaps, armed with experience and guns and money, they'll be able to alter Mexicon's culture for the better.
Under no circumstances should they be allowed back into the United States.
Second, the US must stop propping up the government and economy of Mexico. Like a third-generation Welfare case, Mexico will never change its destructive culture or build up its own economy or give itself a stable government so long as it can leech money out of the United States. We must repeal NAFTA , close off our borders and shut off the foreign-aid spigot.
There's nothing "undemocratic" about these methods; the majority of Americans want illegal immigrations stopped and the illegals gone. It is certainly lawful to deport people who, by coming here illegally, have committed one crime already - and they usually commit a few more on the way. There's nothing "cruel or unusual" about sending unwelcome visitors home again, especially if they return richer than they left. There's certainly nothing requiring the United States to support any other government or population to the detriment of its own people.
In any case, a country that cannot or will not defend its own borders will eventually be overrun. It has happened here before - and if we don't want to go the way of the Toltecs, we must keep it from happening again.
For more information, search "History of Mexico" on the Internet and at least skim the first hundred articles. For more rants and raves by the author, go to http://www.lesliefish.com
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