By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Aliens," Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Lincoln

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...
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The upcoming feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness and empress of all the Americas (North, Central, and South, let it be noted) is a time to reflect on how we think of our Mexican neighbors within our borders. I find it amazing that political conservatives who like to pat themselves on the back as being so "logical" and so "smart" fail to see the profound irony of terming as "aliens" people who in the 19th century had sovereign rights over most of the American West and arguably lost those rights in a war of conquest opposed by no less than the young Abraham Lincoln himself, a man many of us consider, by far, the greatest American leader ever. (Listen to conservative talk radio to get a taste of that high, ever-flowing intellectual self-esteem.)

In addition, the culturally Hispanic nature of the West is so obvious that you would have to be obtuse not to see it. Just name the states with Spanish names like California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana; just name at least a small sample of the cities with historic Spanish names: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, San Antonio, San Diego, Santa Clara, San Bernardino, etc.

How can those people be aliens in the very land they first settled and named? The answer is that they can be "aliens" only in an artificial, legal sense of the term. For the record, I am not in favor of lawlessness or chaos or spill-over crime on the border. But, maybe, we need a new term for those who do not enter legally. In keeping with the history of the American West, I propose the name "illegal pioneers." For the people we usually associate with being aliens are products of the very same culture that first opened and settled the American West and founded so many of its great cities. 

Maybe, the new name will lead some to pause before they rhetorically shoot from the hip and sabotage any effort at regularizing the status of the "illegal pioneers." The problem for many in America is similar to that of some European countries dealing with refugees from former colonial possessions--if your priority was a homogeneous country, then you should have refrained from inserting yourself into very different parts of the world or of your own continent. Thus, Abraham Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American War was, in a way, prophetic for our times.
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