Celebrating Mexico’s Bicentennial and Centenial (Celebrado el Bicentenario y Centenario).

Tonight, September 15th 2010, Mexico will start celebrating its two hundred anniversary of independence.  Mexicans around the world will celebrate all the historical events that leaded the creation of the independent Republic of Mexico, officially named United Mexican States. Mexicans will also celebrate November 20th 2010, the centennial of the Revolution. But, does this beaten country really have something to celebrate?  Let’s review some important facts in the History of Mexico that lead me to this question.

Mexico, from Nahutal (Aztec’s language) Mexihco, a composed word from Metztli  = Moon, Xictli = Navel or belly button, and a suffix –co= place. In this way Mexico literally means: “In the Moon’s Navel” or “In the Moon’s Belly Button.”  If you look at the moon (specially a full moon), you will see a darker area, Aztecs (People from Aztlan) believe this darker area was a lake, and if you pay close attention to that darker area, you will see a small whiter area right in the middle, resembling an island. Aztecs founded their city in a small island in the middle of Texcoco Lake. If seeing from the air, it resembles the moon’s dark area; which is why they named their city this. Right from its beginnings, earlier “Mexicas” (as other groups around the lake called the Aztecs) were abused, slaved and they have to pay tribute to the lord of those lands. Until they decided it was enough! Twenty years after defeating the lord, they raised to be one of the biggest empires in the world.

Aztecs ruled their known world from 1427 to 1521, when they were conquered by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez.  Mexico was subjugated by Spain for over 200 years. All Aztec culture was destroyed in the name of the King of Spain and Catholic religion. Temples, sculptures, scripts, languages, beliefs, and incredible knowledge (modern science is starting to understand) were totally destroyed. Indigenous population almost vanished during this time, and the few “lucky” ones were slaved for generations.  On September 15th 1810, Mexico declared their independence from Spain, achieving it until 1821. In 1836 Texas declared its independence from Mexico, starting the first American invasion into Mexico’s territory. This war ended in 1848 when Mexico lost more than half its territory (California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming). La Mesilla (now south side of Arizona, and New Mexico south east area) was sold in 1853 in the Gadsden Purchase. Spain, the United Kingdom, and France formed a triple alliance in 1861, protesting the economic politics of Mexico and their navy ships arrived at Veracruz, Mexico in 1862. Spain and The United Kingdom understood the reasons why Mexico decided to cancel the payment of their foreign debt and retired their armadas, but France declined to move their naval fleet and invaded Mexico. This is where “Cinco de Mayo” comes into place; this is the date Mexico’s army defeated the French army in the famous Battle of Puebla. Napoleon III insisted in creating a French Empire in Mexico and initiated a second military occupation a year later, 1863. This second empire lasted until 1867 when Maximilian of Austria was executed.

From 1876 to 1880, Porfirio Diaz (a general from the French war), ruled Mexico as president; but likely by fraud, he was reelected in five consecutive elections. He ruled Mexico from 1884 to 1911 a period known as “The Porfiriato.” During this time, all foreign investment and Mexican bourgeoisie was favored by this government, while all the working class, farmers, and peasants in general were exploited to death. The last reelection is what leaded to the Mexican Revolution in 1910. By this year, it was estimated that Mexico population was around 15 million; it is believed that in this war, around 900,000 Mexicans died. These events re-ignited different civil wars within the same war from 1910 to 1929. Different leaders appeared in separate parts of the country, each demanding different things. This is where Jose Doroteo Arango Aranbula aka “Pancho Villa” comes into place. He’s not only known as a revolutionary fighter, but also is considered a murdered, a hero, and even a movie star. Pancho Villa is the only individual who dared to “invade” the USA. In March 1916, he and five hundred Mexicans attacked not only the little town Columbus, New Mexico but on May 15 they attacked Glen Springs, Texas, and in June they attacked San Ygnacio, Texas.

1929 is the key year that will settle the foundation of what Mexico would be during the whole twenty century. This year, President Plutarco Elias Calles founded the National Revolutionary Party (PNR).In 1938 they changed their name to Party of Mexico’s Revolution (PRM), and in 1946 they adopted the name Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). This organization held power and ruled Mexico for more than seventy years, by enhancing and exaggerating the presidential system. Imposing a phenomenon called “dedazo;” an infamous presidential selection, action, and attitude where the president in turn will choose his successor by pointing a finger, no questions asked.  Most Mexicans will agree that after several decades in power, this party became a symbol of electoral fraud, corruption, and in some times, oppression. Perfect example will be the student movement in 1968. This year, Mexico City hosted the Olympic Games, and since the entire international journalism was already focusing in Mexico; students decide to protest the lack of democracy and social justice to the world in Tlatelolco’s Three Culture’s Square (Plaza de las Tres Culturas). Government reacted by sending the army and also infiltrated the protest; shots were fired and hundreds of students were massacred in the square and hundreds more were arrested; mysteriously more than hundred totally disappeared. Official reports claimed only 39 students were killed.  In 1971, a paramilitary group named “Los Halcones” (The Falcons) was sent to oppressed another student protest, president in turn hereby released from all actions, he promised would find all responsible parties in the event. To this date, nothing has been done nor found. During the 70’s, big oil sites were discovered in the Gulf of Mexico, putting this country as the fourth largest oil producer in the world. But the mismanagement of economic politic programs and more corruption stopped the good investment of these profits, accelerating external debt. In the 80’s and 90’s, corruption and economic crisis increased when the government adopted the Neoliberalism model and Mexico sold its soul to the devil by also adopting IMF politics. Tax payer money was used to bail out private banks and IMF imposed conditionality’s to force privatization of basic industries such as banking, water, and telecommunications. This is when Carlos Slim purchased TelMex from the government in questionable bid litigation. Millions of Mexicans lost everything they had invested in the stock market, their jobs, houses, and small business closed forever.  This is the time when immigration to the U.S.A.  began to boom. Millions of workers, small business owners, and farmers left their lands and families behind searching for a decent way of life.

Another important date in Mexico’s history is 2002. In this year, the Mexican society dethroned decades of electoral corruption and ended PRI’s reign of misery.  Unfortunately, for this Mexican society, new elected president Vicente Fox’s promises for a change were just that, promises. Mexico is now living its second period governed by National Action Party (PAN), as president Felipe Calderon is in charge of managing the country.

After this brief review of facts about Mexico; Is there something to celebrate? From its beginnings as a small nation to current days, Mexicans have been abused by different forces from all directions. Two major events left a deep impact, Independence Day (1810) and Revolution Day (1910). These two events separated by a century give the impression that Mexicans only have an awakening of collective consciousness every hundred years. Is it going to be another awakening in 2010? Who is the foe now? Sheltered by a corrupted government, criminal organizations flourished during PRI’s ruled years. In the last 10 years, these organizations grow strong, and now control almost 100% of the territory. In culpability with USA high demands of well-known and new paraphernalia drugs and the easiness to buy high power arms in USA territory; these cartels are now embracing a new “terror” era in Mexico.

More than 22,000 people have been slaughtered since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war against the drug cartels. Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua; has been declared the most dangerous city in the world. Been in this city, south of El Paso, Texas, is more dangerous than been in Afghanistan or Iraq. In the last decade, Mexico has had more deaths per capita than any other country in the world, and it does not have a “declared war” with any other country nor fighting guerrillas within the territory. Ridiculous low salaries have been the motive on why cops and federals agents have moved to the “dark side” providing protection to drug lords, their whole organizations, and their drug shipments. Lack of school access and employment opportunities have drawn youths and even kids to work for the cartels too. People in Mexico now live in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time as cartels are now going extreme by using car bomb tactics.

Should Mexicans initiate another armed movement as society and finish this new stupid war? Should they fight fire with fire? Is another violent awakening of the conscious needed to realize Mexicans are tearing each other’s? Yes, another movement is needed, but no armed. A cultural revolution will bring final peace and prosperity to this country. “Uneducated people are easily manipulated” (Che Guevara). According to the National Institute for Adult Education (INEA) numbers, in 2008 more than 33 million Mexicans were in educational backwardness, this is around 44% of people 15 years old and older. What is the future of a country without education?

Frankly, I think the war with the cartels is currently lost, anybody who does not see this is either blind or in denial. But history has shown that sooner or later, Mexicans will rise from their ashes. I have seen this society getting together when are required by natural catastrophes and when help is needed.  These people have the temper needed to achieve this and more, warrior blood runs deep in their DNA giving them the stamina to keep fighting. How do I know that? Because I’ve been there, I have lived their crisis, I have suffered their same struggles, and I’m one of them.

An old Mexican proverb reads: “Even a cactus with biggest thorns gives flowers.” That is the same characteristic we as Mexicans have. In that unique way, we can smile instead of cry, we can flourish happiness even when we are getting hurt.  So, on September 15th, let’s celebrate two hundred years of freedom! But as a society, let’s open our eyes, our conscience, and our awareness the next day!


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