ethel’s words

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“IMMIGRANTS” AND THE IMAGINARY LINE DRAWN BY THE TREATY OF GUADALUPE-HIDALGO

Immigrants from Europe had made major incursions into Mexico before the war that ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848). The treaty claimed, for the United States, from Mexico, a territory greater than the area of France and Germany combined, and that was half of the land possessed by Mexico in 1821. (fidelis, NORTH FROM MEXICO, Carey McWilliams.)

Spanish-language-speakers, Mestizos, and others recognized as Mexican citizens were to be granted U.S. citizenship if they remained on their lands, their farms and towns, for one year (as differentiated from moving to Mexico). But it is doubtful that many of the Mexican farmers even knew about the change in their status. As usual, the people went on living their lives, undisturbed by governments, of which they had only a vague concept.

The Treaty makes no mention of the thousands of Native American Indians in the ceded area.

But these various peoples did not disappear: They had children, by birth citizens of the United States. They have been the “hands” of the industrial giant--the nation that never succeeded in “conquering” the dynamic culture rooted in its war-acquired territories. The lifeways did not change, except now the people are called Mexican-American--a misnomer, as it implies immigration--or Chicano, if they are differentiated at all.

Throughout the decades, the imaginary line that purports to divide a people, cut asunder, was only that: an imaginary line.

Descendants of the Mexicans who remained in the ceded territories were linked by heritage to Mexico, and Mexicans who remained in the Treaty-shrunken Mexico did not feel alien to the Southwest United States that was the home of their grandfathers. The war-drawn Line divided the land, but did not divide the people.

Unlike the Europeans who left their native countries and came to this Continent voluntarily, the Mexicans have not moved. They were always here. Only the border moved.

United States of America laws that categorize them as “aliens” are no more substantial than the border that tried to re-define them. Wiping out those laws, allowing a natural conversion to citizenship--“legalizing them”--is the only feasible solution to the perplexities that some Yankee Americans perceive.

Ethel C. Hale