FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mexican-Americans, Iraq and the Politics of Immigrant Bashing

by JORGE MARISCAL

At the southern tip of Texas on the Mexican border across from Matamoros lies the city of Brownsville. According to the official visitors’ bureau website: “Brownsville, Texas is a truly international city located in a semi-tropical paradise where two cultures meet to create a unique land of exotic sounds, flavors, history and natural beauty found nowhere else in the U.S.”

Kristian Menchaca was born in Houston but grew up and attended schools in Brownsville. The son of immigrants, he often visited his many cousins on the Mexican side. In Brownsville there are no walls that separate families and cultures. This week family members from both sides of the border will gather to bury Kristian’s remains.

A typical working-class youth, Menchaca had dropped out of high school and obtained a GED. He loved to play basketball, rooted for the Houston Rockets, and worked at a gas station and a Wendy’s before enlisting. But hamburgers were not his favorite food. According to friends, he preferred taquitos de trompo con cilantro y cebolla.

On June 16 insurgents in Iraq abducted Pfc. Menchaca, 23, and fellow soldier Tommy Tucker, 25, at a checkpoint somewhere along the Euphrates ten miles south of Baghdad. Their bodies were found a few days later. A third soldier, David Babineau, 25, died in the initial attack.

On MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Norah O’Donnell introduced Kristian’s uncle Mario Vásquez (“Vaskwez” she said repeatedly) and tried to spin the story: “You know, there’s this debate raging in this country about the troops coming home, but a lot people who have family members over there say we need more troops to make sure we keep the guys safe. I assume that’s what your family believes.”

Tío Mario agreed: “Yes, we believe very strongly that, if we’re going to have our soldiers over there, we should have more soldiers protecting our soldiers of our own country.”

But what O’Donnell failed to report and what was not widely covered in the English-language media was that days earlier Menchaca’s mother, Maria Guadalupe Vásquez, had issued a statement in Spanish: “Estoy en contra de la guerra y me duele mucho lo que pasó a mi hijo” (“I am against the war, and I feel very hurt by what happened to my son”).

The statement was mentioned briefly on June 20 in the Houston Chronicle and quickly disappeared. Several relatives reported that both Vásquez and Julio César, Menchaca’s brother and an Iraq veteran, did not agree with her son’s decision to join the military.

In a mixture of bravado and clarity, Julio César told a local Spanish-language newspaper: “Kristian nunca tuvo miedo de ir a la guerra, aún cuando esta guerra en Irak no es una guerra por la que vale la pena morir” (“Kristian was never afraid to go to war even though this war in Iraq is not a war worth dying for”).

On Monday, Menchaca returned to Brownsville. As poet María Herrera Sobek wrote about the U.S. war in Southeast Asia: “Another Mexican American hero brought home under the Stars and Stripes/Long gone the need to prove his manhood/Long gone the need to prove his red-blooded American genealogy/And only the stars twinkle at our foolish pride.”

While America once again kills its young in a needless war, senators and congressmen in Washington play politics with the issue of immigration and nativists harass Mexican workers on street corners across the country. It is a crushing irony characteristic of Mexican American communities that Kristian Menchaca had joined the Army in hopes of someday becoming a Border Patrol agent.

Later this week in Los Angeles, the Latino youth organization Coordinadora estudiantil de la Raza (Student Coordinating Committee of the People) will attack that irony head on by holding a protest downtown. Building upon an earlier action in which Chicano high school students resigned from their JROTC units, the group brings together two of the most pressing issues in their community–the unchecked stream of Latinos and Latinas into the lowest ranks of the military and the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border.

In their literature they ask the question that might have saved Kristian Menchaca’s life: “If you are thinking about joining the (J)ROTC or the MILITARY consider this: DO YOU WANT TO BE SENT TO IRAQ OR THE BORDER?”

JORGE MARISCAL is a Vietnam veteran and director of the Chicano-Latino Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of Project YANO (San Diego). Visit his blog at: jorgemariscal.blogspot.com/ He can be reached at: gmariscal@ucsd.edu

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail