Monday, May 3, 2010

Illegal Immigration Pt. 1: Stolen Land

With the debate raging over Arizona's SB1070 I thought now might be a good time to take a look at some of the arguments offered up by the pro-Illegal Immigrant side of things. I'll start with the claim that the United States stole the southwest from Mexico.

The interesting thing about this claim is that Mexico didn't even exist until 1821. Before then it was known as New Spain. New Spain was founded in 1521 after the Spanish conquered the Aztec, Olmec, Toltec, Teotihuacan, Maya, and other cultures who lived in the area.

I live in Texas. If anyone can make a claim that Texas was stolen from them it is the Apache, Comanche, Caddo, Wichita, Kiowa, and Karankawa tribes, among others, that lived here prior to the region being invaded by Mexico. In fact, the word Texas is a Spanish corruption of the Caddoan word taysha which means "friend." The Spanish and Mexicans stole Texas from them. In New Mexico, Arizona, California and the rest of the southwest this was repeated with Mexico taking the land from the native tribes that lived there first.

Now members of these tribes may complain about their lands having been stolen from them but they don't generally do it in the context of an illegal immigration rally. Probably because they're natives who aren't in any danger of being deported but also, I suspect, because the ones who are angry about their land being stolen aren't likely to rally in support of the Hispanic culture that stole it from them in the first place.

Make no mistake, despite the fact that they aren't lily white Caucasians, Hispanics are just as much a product of European imperialism and colonialism as the North American WASP. The very word "Hispanic" tells you that by denoting, as it does, a relationship with Spain. There's a reason that Hispanics speak Spanish or Portuguese rather than any native tongue after all. In fact, an argument can be made that of all the European powers, the Spanish were the worst when it came to their approach to the New World. While everyone else was sending colonists, people who were looking to build new lives for themselves in the New World, Spain was busy sending conquistadors or conquerors. Soldiers whose job was to claim territory and plunder riches for Spain. That's why the English and the French and the other European powers only managed to lay claim to part of North America and some islands in the Caribbean while Spain and Portugal managed to lay claim to the rest of North America and the Caribbean along with all of Central and South America. And the conquistadors weren't particularly nice people. This isn't that surprising when you consider that while they were busy conquering the Aztecs and the Mayans and the Incans, etc. the Spanish Inquisition was at the height of its power back in Spain. Greed and avarice coupled with religious intolerance that says its okay to do anything you want to pagan heretics is not a good combination. A lot of natives died very unpleasant deaths in the quest to fill holds of ships heading back to Spain with treasure.

So when Hispanics complain that the United States stole the land from them remember that they, in turn, stole the land from the original inhabitants. They are thieves complaining that what they stole was, in turn, stolen from them. That doesn't make me feel particularly sympathetic to them.

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