Cepeda column: There’s a lot more than Mexico south of the border
CHICAGO — So many Mexicos, so little time!
I have no idea who created it, but there’s a handy little chart of “all the Mexicos” rocketing across the internet. It’s a humorous clapback at the recent folly in which an onscreen chyron on Fox News said that President Trump was cutting aid to “3 Mexican Countries.”
Some genius mocked up the graphic showing the Mexican flag labeled as “Mexico” and the flag of Peru labeled “Mexico with Llamas,” the flag of Brazil as “Portuguese Mexico,” the flag of Venezuela as “Comunist [sic] Mexico” and the flag of Bolivia as “Mexico Without Sea.”
Identifying, in part, with my dad’s homeland of “Irrelevant Mexico” (Ecuador), my own reaction echoed that of countless non-Mexican Hispanics who rolled their eyes and/or belly laughed at the Freudian slip of whoever wrote the chyron. They seemed to channel the disinterest of countless white Americans when it comes to any non-Mexican country they’re confronted with.
It’s good to laugh at such stupidities because otherwise you’d have to cry — and you’d be right to.
The lack of understanding most Americans have about our neighbors to the south is merely stunning under the best of circumstances and adds insult to injury under the worst.
Even as many of us were enjoying the privilege of lightheartedly tweeting about whether we’re from “Narrow Mexico” (Chile) or “Tiny White Mexico” (Uruguay), several news outlets were circulating the story about the elderly white Anaheim, California, man who went on a racist rant against the owner of a restaurant, screaming “That’s bull——! It says it in Mexican. We’re not in Mexico, we’re in America … This is America. Not Spanish.”
The man, who also threatened to call immigration officials, was upset about … wait for it … a Mexican restaurant’s taco sign. Yes, in southern California.
Stories like these are in danger of becoming of the dog-bites-man variety: too commonplace to bother reporting on.
To be sure, these sorts of misconceptions — that if you “look” Mexican, you must be in the country illegally; that “Spanish” is the correct way to describe our neighbors to the south; and that “Mexican” is the accurate way to refer to the Spanish language — have been around forever.
But these misconceptions are getting multiplied and accelerated by the twin evils of social media and our president’s own histrionic and uninformed policies and declarations about Latin America.
They’re about as far from funny as you can get.
Trump launched his campaign with the crack about Mexico “not sending their best.” Now, with his counterproductive plan to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras — which most informed observers agree would only worsen the flow of economic refugees from those countries — he is merely doubling down on his election-stump promises, the crown jewel of which is shutting down the southern border.
“Any effort to close the U.S.-Mexico border or cut off aid is doomed to failure. It is like stopping funding for cancer research on the theory that fewer cancers will occur,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, professor of immigration law practice at Cornell Law School, in a statement. “We need more foreign aid, not less, to attack the root conditions of poverty and violence in Central America so fewer people in those countries will flee to the United States.”
But facts, reason and pragmatism seemingly have no place in Trump’s administration, in his America or among his most ardent supporters. They appear to place a premium on how Trump makes them feel — elevated, empowered and on the “winning team” after so many years of being ignored or mocked by liberal elites who turn a collective blind eye to their misfortunes.
It’s not good, nice or humane for people to have little to no regard for their “fellow man” outside the borders of their country. But it certainly is human nature — flawed, selfish and, ultimately, as self-harming as it is self-interested.
After all, students of America’s immigration history know that past crackdowns at the border have been largely to blame for exacerbating unlawful residency, because limiting the to-and-fro flows of migrant workers has the effect of incentivizing immigrants to put down roots in this country even without “papers.”
But just try telling that to anyone committed to the slogan “Make America Great Again.”
You might as well try to explain that Ecuador is a South American country located on the equator, and not some exotic far away land with zero value to anyone in the United States.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter: @estherjcepeda.
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