A Mexican Lesson for Americans:
An Excerpt from José Vasconcelos, A Brief History of Mexico
Translated by César Tort
The following excerpt is taken from the chapter on “Independence” in A Brief History of Mexico (Breve historia de México, [México, D.F.: Ediciones Botas, 1944, first edition 1937], pp. 255–60). The author, José Vasconcelos, one of the most celebrated Mexican intellectuals of the 20th century, wrote: “El desprecio de la propia casta es el peor de los vicios del carácter” (Contempt for one’s race is the worst of character flaws).
Americans who have visited their southern neighbor or observed Mexican immigrants in California and Texas and observed their overwhelmingly Indian phenotype might find difficult to imagine that in the early 19th century — just before the War of Independence in New Spain, the country that would retake its ancient Aztec name, “Mexico” — whites constituted one-sixth of the population. In modern Mexico, because of low white and high non-white birthrates, pure whites are almost on the brink of extinction. Thus the history of this nation should serve as a warning to the Americans against open borders, miscegenation, and affirmative action.
The independence of the Latin American nations is the result of the disintegration of the Spanish empire. None of the nations of Latin America had, by a process of natural growth, reached the maturity required for emancipation. . . . . In the colonies, the men of clearer vision and greater patriotism, for example, the bishop Abad y Queipo, gave Mexico up for lost, and rightly so, after he saw that the independence was inevitable. . . .
From the beginning, the war was supposed to destroy the Spaniards, who represented the force and culture of the country, in the same way that later a fight against the criollo was developed, and today against the mestizo—all under the pretext of freeing the Indian—in order to uproot Spanish culture and replace it with American.
The two lands most imbued with Spanish influence, Mexico and Peru, resisted independence, which happened through foreign intervention. Peru was freed by Colombians and Argentines. . . .
In the United States, the independence movement was not a race war. For Morelos, for example, to be comparable to Washington, it must be assumed that Washington had decided to recruit blacks and mulattoes to kill the English. Instead, Washington disdained blacks and mulattoes and recruited the English of America, who did not commit the folly of killing their own brothers, uncles, and relatives, only because they were born in England. Quite the contrary, each participant of the American Revolution felt pride for his British ancestry and hoped for the betterment of the English. This should have been the sense of our own emancipation, to transform New Spain into an improved Spain, better than that of the peninsula but with its blood, our blood. The whole later disaster of Mexico is explained by the blind, criminal decision that emerged from the womb of Hidalgo’s mobs and is expressed in the suicidal cry: “Death to the Spaniards!”
The absurd idea never crossed the mind of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, or any of the fathers of the Yankee Independence that a redskin should be the President or that blacks should occupy positions held by the English. What we should have done is to declare that all the Spanish residents in Mexico were to be treated like Mexicans.
The idea that independence would tend to devolve power to the Indian was not an Indian idea. The emancipation, as already said over and over again, was neither devised nor consummated by the Indians. The idea of stirring up the Indians appears in the leaders of the emancipation who had not found positive reception for their plans from the educated classes. They resorted to the dangerous decision of starting a caste war because they were unable to carry out a war of emancipation. Not even Bolívar escapes this charge, since in Colombia he stirred up blacks against the whites in order to recruit his armies. For the people of the North, such procedures would have seemed insane, as they were.
It was therefore a crime: stirring up the underdogs against the top brass without any social improvement, merely to have soldiers. In fact, the idea of putting the Indian in front of the insurrection was an English idea. One of the first people to speak of confederating the Hispanic continent under the rule of a descendant of the Incas was Miranda. This idea was given to Miranda by the two biggest enemies of the Spanish in America, namely the French and the English.
If, during the US War of Independence, an agitator had said that the country should be ruled again by the redskins, surely he would have been shot by patriots as a traitor. But among us, talk of returning the country to the Indians is greeted with smiles. The English originators of this propaganda knew well that the Indians would not even her it, but they counted upon the unseriousness, the vanity, and the folly of the criollos and mestizos, both of whom took sides against the Spanish. Once the Spanish were destroyed, these countries could be easily divided and thus fall prey to a new form of domination. Undoubtedly, a Mexico ruled by Indians and becoming Aztec again would be as easy prey as it was for Cortés.
Even if the Indians deserved this restoration, which is absurd to imagine, it is obvious that people do not go back three hundred years—much less in the case of Mexico, where the race itself, apart from the customs and ideas, had been transformed. Contempt for one’s race is the worst of character flaws.