For nearly 700 years, Spanish Christians struggled to drive the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, finally completing what came to be known as La Reconquista in 1492 when the last Moorish stronghold of Granada fell.
Today, a similar epic struggle is taking place right here in the Good Old USA, at least according to some of the more hysterical voices raised in the debate over immigration. It all goes back to the Mexican-American War of 1848, you see.
In that splendid little war, the United States ended up annexing almost one-third of Mexican territory, a mini-empire that today comprises all of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California, as well as large chunks of Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.
In addition to setting the stage for our own Civil War, this massive land grab incorporated thousands of Spanish speaking Mexican nationals within U.S. borders – the ancestors of the millions of Chicanos who currently reside in the Southwest. If you’ve been following the “debate” you will be aware that these millions, who also happen to be U.S. citizens, constitute a potent fifth column biding its time to act against America.
Whether the Mexican-American War really has inspired revanchist aspirations in the hearts of several generations of Mexicans, I cannot say for sure, though we can imagine how Americans might respond to, oh, a Canadian conquest of New England and the Middle Atlantic States. After all, it’s hard to lose a third of your country in a trumped-up war of aggression without it leaving a bitter taste in your mouth. So now, perhaps indulging in a bit of projection, the Pat Buchanan’s and Tom Tancredo’s of the world are not just hinting, but openly claiming that the influx of immigrants across our southern border is actually a stealth plan, a “reconquista,” by which Mexico will reclaim its land not by force but by the sheer weight of numbers
To which I say – let’s not overlook the possible benefits of such a swap! I mean, would returning the Southwest to Mexico be such a bad idea? Would we be any worse off – indeed, might we not be better off? – if Hollywood fell into Mexican hands? At a minimum, that would mean that Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise and Lindsey Lohan and Mike Orvitz would suddenly become someone else’s national embarrassments. At best, it might mean more films like Pan’s Labyrinth and fewer like Shrek the Third.
Other advantages might accrue. This country’s fateful turn to the extreme right began with the rise of the Sunbelt in the 1960s. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind transferring John Kyl – or Tom Tancredo, for that matter – to the Mexican national assembly. Don’t let the border gate hit you on the ass on the way out, guys! Of course whether Mexico would be willing to take these cretins off our hand is another matter altogether.
Seriously, though, there is nothing sacred about national boundaries – or the permanence of the nation state. Over the course of history, countries have come and countries have gone and there is no eternal law that says that the USA must last forever. Given that today America presents, arguably, not only the greatest threat to world peace but perhaps the very survival of the Earth’s ecosystem (or at least an ecosystem that can support human civilization), maybe dismemberment isn’t such a bad idea for less trivial reasons.
Still, fevered talk about a Mexican reconquest is just that – fevered talk, spouting from the mouths of those who combine a fear of dark-skinned people and a contempt for the ordinary aspirations of working people with maybe a smidgen of guilt for the way the United States acquired most of its territory.