Folks from other places, like the far side of the world, or New York City, probably think of California or Texas as slightly crazy but basically White European places with a quasi-British heritage, rather like theirs. This is entirely wrong, but a common belief. Heck, even some folks in California think that way.
The reality is that both were, in prior times, Spanish. It’s not just the Missions dotted around, nor all the Spanish place names, nor the history taught in class. It’s the families that have lived here on the same lands with title that starts with Spain. It comes up when doing a deed search. It is part of the basis of the land. Spain “had issues” and the Spanish Empire fell apart. Mexico claimed it owned huge tracts of what had been Spain. The USA and Mexico “had words”, and we collected The West… All told it was just a couple of dozen years that Mexico had much claim. In some cases closer to single digits.
Yet we run into folks with names like Sanchez and Vallejo who have family that have lived here since the 1700s…
But even that is not enough to explain what it means to be “from here”. These folks are my cousins, in some cases quite literally. (Or nieces or nephews or…) Yes, “you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family” still applies. Sometimes we get on each others nerves. Sometimes we shout at each other: “Learn The Language, pendejo..” and “Gringo oppressor!” then we find ourselves at dinner together, talking about WWE vs Lucha Libre and saying things like “pass the salsa y los buffalo wings”…
I don’t know when I learned Spanish, exactly, but I think the first time was at about age 4 when I met a “Mexican Kid” in the alley behind our homes. He had a red toy truck and was playing in the dirt. I added my toy truck to the mix and said “nice red truck”, he responded with something like “La trucke roja!” We were close friends until he joined the Navy and moved away. He learned to drink English Tea and hold his pinkey out. I learned to dump on 2 x the salsa verde when his “cousins” were talking about the gringo and putting 1/4 tsp on their tacos… and watched them get wide eyed when I ate it… Eventually I had 5 years of Spanish in grammar school and high school (and the Castillian messed up my Mexican something awful… it’s like Old English vs London Slang some times…) Poor Miguel was constantly raising his hand and asking “Isn’t it FOO?”, and getting an understanding look from Mr. Enrique while he explained “In Castillian it’s BAR, FOO is Mexican dialect.”
So yesterday I was in the grocery store. The clerk at checkout was a chica who had a name like “Gonzales” on her badge. I was putting frozen burritos, enchiladas, and chile relleno, along with mexican black beans and spanish rice ‘microwavable packets’ and a package of large tortillas on the counter… ( I can make tortillas, but they are too thick for making good burritos…) The person behind me was a young girl of that peculiar ambiguous ‘look’ we get here: Perhaps Hispanic, perhaps Asian, in a ‘misto’ kind of way… The counter next to us opened and the clerk announce open in English… Do I tell her it’s open? Did she not hear or does she speak Spanish? (She just didn’t hear… her mother showed up and I mentioned in English the other line… they responded in English with a slight indefinable accent).
My niece married a Hispanic guy. Didn’t realize it when I met him. Just another Red Neck Kid from farm country central valley California. Later saw the last name and asked. Some Mexicans have a more “European” look, others more Indian. There’s an internal racism inside Mexico over the degree of Spanish ancestry (perhaps fading over the last 1/2 century since I first learned about it from My Mexican Friend as be bragged on his high Spanish content…) The Niece’s kids are something. They have the bright eyes and energy of the Hispanic and the sort of Viking / Celt facial structure – fine hair of a dark henna red sort of brown. (She a redhead, he quite black hair). More energetic and full of life (and a devilish spirit ;-) than most kids. It’s a good mix.
So here I was, up to my eyeballs in My Mexican Heritage… A pure white (redhead gene don’t ever tan kind of pink-white) with a Mum from England and a Dad from Iowa of German / Irish ancestry. Yet I grew up “half Mexican” and we eat about 1/3 of our meals from a Mexican Menu. I’m as likely to ask for a Cerveza as a beer (especially at sporting events if the folks near me are speaking Spanish or if the guy behind the counter does or at the Mexican food stand or…) My wife has about 1/3 of her students as bilingual learners. She has meetings with Hispanic parents all the time (official translators provided, but she has some Spanish too for ‘unofficial’ communications) and paperwork sent home is usually bilingual. Voters pamphlets and many other things are bilingual. Heck, every package on the shelf in the store is usually Spanish / English labeled. Sometimes I’m reading what it says and half way through it realize I didn’t turn it to the English side (usually when I hit a strange word I don’t know…)
And I’m not the only one.
On one side, the neighbor was a guy who’s folks came from Mexico. Married to a blondish European type. (They have now moved to South America for a while). One child a blond, the other more brown. The other side neighbor is a “White Guy” of unknown ancestry that I’d guess is English / German / Irish of some sort (but could be French) or a mix of all of them. Your typical Average American Guy. He’s a company rep selling stuff to stores and as American as you can get. His wife is one of those “quasi Asian” dark types. I have no idea exactly what her heritage is, but I think it’s got some Mexican in the mix. They have a couple of daughters that are stunning. Nice, cheerful, “all American” kids, who just happen to have an exotic EurAsian look.
We just don’t care about crap like historical discrimination. It’s more a ‘conversation starter’ to ask about ethnic background than anything else. We are, quite literally, busy becoming “One Folk”.
There are some places where the stresses are higher. In some of the cities there are historical animosities between some of the barrios and other richer areas. But over time even they have faded. Pretty quickly folks are just “moving on”.
Where To From Here?
All of that got me wondering. Loads of Americans are retiring to Mexico. Loads of young Mexicans are moving to the north. We have large growth on the border where many factories are split 1/2 on each side. “Maquiladora” is the only word I know for them.
Clearly we are integrating our economies and our lives. So “play it forward”…
This isn’t just a “California Thing”. It’s true in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and other places as well. What could be more exemplary of that than “Tex-Mex” cooking? http://www.texmex.net/ has an example in their top page greeting: “BIENVENIDOS YA’LL”
So here’s my idea. Crazy off the wall idea. Never going to happen in my lifetime idea. (Yet I’m pretty sure it is inevitable in some ways as the region becomes what it is destined to be…)
Make the Regional Government of TexMexifornia. Let the USA and Mexico each continue to claim they “own” their respective parts. Let them have ultimate authority on the laws that apply in each part. But have a regional integration with regional rules made more consistent. Declare the States of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas along with the Mexican States of Baja California (both north and south) and the top tier states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, and Durango as TexMexifornia, a Free Trade Maquiladora writ large with a regional passport.
Basically, you get an endorsement that says “I live here” and it’s a free pass anywhere in the region for anyone. Perhaps just a State issued drivers license from one of those states. Tourists can head south with the retirees. Workers can head north. Factories and managers can move wherever works best for them.
What about the drug lords? Well, if you just stop the “war on drugs” that does nothing but ruin lives and burn money, they will cease to be an issue. If anybody who wants it can grow some grass, it will cease to have profit. It is not a terrible drug. (How do I know? I’ve smoked it. When in college. Stopped after about a year as I found it dampened my memory too much; yet a friend smoked much more and graduated Berkeley with a Law Degree and another made millions in real estate management; so clearly my experience was a bit idiosyncratic. At any rate, it’s not addictive and mostly just make you hungry and sleepy. Anyone who thinks were ‘controlling’ it now doesn’t go to many parties…)
If you look at a map of those Mexican States, the population density is fairly low. Most Mexicans live further south (like most Americans live in the North East) so it’s not like we’re going to have a space dominated by Mexicans. Yes, anyone could suddenly decide to ‘move to the area’. Most folks won’t. Heck, most folks won’t even move to the town next door, never mind another State or Country. To the extent they do, it would be part of creating even more economic growth. Folks don’t move to places that are in decline.
The line from that “pokey bit” where Texas ends over to the other coast is about the lower edge of the states listed. An interactive map of the Mexican States where you can click on them for closeup views with roads and population is here:
On the northern end, anyone who thinks we’re going to be flooded with Mexican Immigrants has not bothered to notice that it’s already a “done deal”. Central Valley California, where I grew up, has many small towns that are now basically Mexican cities. My home town is on its way to that. Might as well admit it and put the passport check points at I-5, I-80, and I-15 (into Oregon and Nevada). Similarly, there is already an immigration check on I-10 in the middle of West Texas, so it’s not like folks haven’t already realized that places west and south of there are a ‘free range’ area…
I know I’d be more inclined to ‘hit the road’ down to Baja for a long weekend if all I had to do was flash the drivers license. Crazy talk? When I was about 5 years old, my Dad drove us over the border to Mexico for a visit. All he had was his drivers license. My mother was told not to talk (as her British accent would stand out and we’d left her passport at home – she was not naturalized yet… so technically a British Citizen entering America.. we kids had no papers…). I clearly remember sitting in the line of cars to the border check, Dad saying “California resident, returning home” and us driving through… THEN Mom could talk ;-)
So all I’m suggesting is to return to what it was once, accept the facts on the ground, and realize that the folks “out here” are already integrating our cultures and our lives.
(Frankly, if we could get BOTH the Mexican and the USA governments off our collective backs, I suspect that TexMexifornia would be even happier and more successful… but that’s “for later” ;-)
If folks “Back East” feel left out, they could do the same thing with Eastern Canada, they are all a bunch of Euro-French wanabes anyway ;-)
So that’s my muse for the day… time to make dinner. Burritos and quesadillas sound good.
( I ate the chile relleno yesterday ;-)