Canto for a Cinco de Mayo Weekend

Many call themselves philosophers, but who tells you one day “that you should eat nothing the day you are arrested” and then the next day that “children do not disturb thought.”

Who is this philosopher who runs the department of education for the revolution yet who never refuses a child to his study. The adults, of course, you have to keep away from the study. Their faces sneer why and what not, so you can’t work. But the children play with their own time.

Did the philosopher work near playing children when he spun a myth of the cosmic race, la raza cosmica, a new people of peace born from the rainbow reunion of earth’s scattered families come home to Aztlan, North America’s Southwest (and putting an end forever to little boy bullies who fight you the first day of school, the way they all fought the boy Vasconcelos on his first day at school in Eagle Pass.)

So the philosopher’s name is Vasconcelos, and the only reason you don’t remember him as long-time president of Mexico is because the question was never posed to the Mexican people. No, check that fact. The election was held, and Vasconcelos won big, but the New York press was in charge of announcing the results. So it never happened that Vasconcelos became the philosopher-president of Mexico. The Associated Press correspondent was sent in to secure the philosopher’s acceptance of the way things really are, but he chose exile instead.

“Why don’t these immigrants go back to Mexico and fix their own problems?” is a question I hear from very close sources lately. The life of Vansconcelos reminds us how busy the American Ambassador can be, getting in the way of the Mexican people. If Mexico had been left up to the Mexicans in 1929, para ejemplo, you could study the history of the Vasconcelos administration today.

The case is not so one-sided with Cinco de Mayo. I don’t know if you caught the quote from a right-wing think tank this week, responding to news that Mexican immigrants were singing the Star Spangled Banner in Spanish. “Would the French sing their National Anthem in English!” decried the distraught think-tank smarty-pants, just as Mexican people all over the world were preparing to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

On the one hand, it was ignorant timing to raise the spectre of French patriotism as all-American standard this week, since Cinco de Mayo celebrates the day that General Diaz pulverized an army of invading soldiers from France. Not to mention the lasting damage done to French standards in America by the right-wing “freedom fries” movement.

On the other hand, nobody at the table complains when a rash player tips his cards. Everybody else this week is trying to work out some kind of alliance “on the fly” between a quite impressive showing of immigrant activism and a generally dispirited homeland workforce that forgets to believe in anything bottom up. But not the think-tank boy genius! In response to yanquis and Mexicans in pairs, he plays the French for trumps!

Cinco de Mayo reminds us that there are times when the USA and Mexico actually sort of get together under the table, with yanqui moguls selling just enough hardware to keep the Mexican Army strong enough to, you know, protect the soft underbelly and all that. Try this structure of perception the next time you see a story about machine-gun-loaded Hummers on the “wrong side” of the Rio Bravo.

I know Richard Rodriguez has already thanked immigrants for cleaning the swimming pool, but I’d like to thank them also for trying to elect a philosopher president in 1929 and for defending themselves so well on Cinco de Mayo, Sept. 15, and 1910. Against the French, the Spanish, and homeland dictators, the Mexican people have fought hard enough to sing about red glare in Spanish. As for the yanquis, it would be better if their well-paid thinkers spent time putting the works of Vasconcelos into English. Viva Vasconcelos!

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at:




Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. Moses is a member of the Texas Civil Rights Collaborative. He can be reached at