Joseph E. Fallon, American Renaissance, March 2000
There is a great deal of mumbo-jumbo about who “Hispanics” are and just what their history is in this country. First of all, “Hispanic” and “Latino” are recent, artificial terms that describe no clear racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural group. “Hispanics” have consistently shifted definitions in ways to maximize political power.
From 1820 to 1910, there was essentially no immigration from the Western Hemisphere. Only about 350 Mexicans arrived every year, and Mexican-Americans were officially “white.” In 1930, however, they were reclassified as “non-white” in response to two events. One was a sudden upsurge in Mexican immigration and the other was a combined Mexican and Mexican-American military uprising against the United States.
Between 1910 and 1930, approximately 700,000 Mexicans (three percent of the population of Mexico) crossed into the United States — principally Texas — fleeing the chaos of the Mexican Revolution. This dramatic growth in the size of the Mexican population gave rise to an early “reconquista” movement that hoped to retake the entire Southwest, from California to Texas. Mexican irredentists drew up the “Plan de San Diego,” according to which insurrection was to begin at 2:00 a.m. on February 20, 1915. Mexican-Americans hoped to kill every white man over the age of 16, and expel all other whites. The leaders of the insurgency sought an alliance with blacks, American Indians, and Asians, proposing that most of the United States be divided among these groups, with whites confined to the Northeast and Midwest. Blacks and American Indians rejected the offer but a half-dozen Japanese joined the “Liberating Army for Race and Peoples,” allegedly acting as weapons experts.
The insurrection made no headway anywhere but in Texas. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans waged a guerrilla war from bases in Mexico for 16 months — from February 1915 to June 1916 — during which time they launched 27 raids into the United States. Before the Texas Rangers and the U.S. Army defeated them, the insurgents killed 33 whites, wounded 24 others, drove thousands of Texans off their land, and destroyed considerable amounts of public and private property.
After this irritating experience, both the federal government and the state of Texas decided it would be a good idea to know how many Mexicans were living in the United States. “Mexicans” were therefore counted separately from “whites” for the first time in the 1930 Census. Texas was segregated at the time, and once they lost their status as “whites,” Mexicans became potentially subject to the same conditions as blacks. During the 1930s, one of LULAC’s major projects was opposition to the new categorization of Mexicans as “non-white.” Mexican-American leaders did not oppose segregation itself; they just didn’t want the same treatment as blacks. Within a few years, LULAC succeeded in having Mexicans once again recognized as “white” and treated as such for purposes of segregation.
Ironically, 40 years later in the 1970s, after affirmative action programs had been introduced for blacks, LULAC and La Raza successfully lobbied the federal government to recognize their members as “non-whites” for racial preference purposes. When there were advantages in being white, that’s what they insisted they were; when there were benefits to being non-white they changed color.
What later became the official “Hispanic” category was established by law in 1976. Public Law 94-311 asserted that what it called “Americans of Spanish origin or descent” were victims of “racial, social, economic, and political discrimination,” and ordered the Census Bureau to collect and publish statistics “which indicate the social, health, and economic condition” of this group. It even ordered the Census Bureau to start an affirmative action program to hire more of them.
At the time, LULAC and La Raza supported the new designation, but quickly decided “Spanish origin and descent,” and US citizenship were too restrictive. The next year, 1977, the Office of Management and Budget adopted the shorter label of “Hispanic” and decided it meant: “a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.” By throwing in anyone of “Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race,” OMB made “Hispanics” out of all the people from former Spanish colonies, such as Western Sahara, Equatorial Guinea, the Philippines, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands and Micronesia.
Internationally, the Hispanic designation has the odd effect of including a lot of people who clearly aren’t. There are many Indians in Latin America, and they are the majority populations of Guatemala and Bolivia. A great many of them speak no Spanish at all, but they are still “Hispanic,” and get racial preferences if they can manage to get to America. Italians from Argentina would likewise be surprised to know they are “Hispanics.”
Hispanic organizations love to promote a “we were here first” version of American history — a claim the U.S. government endorses. In the introduction to We the American Hispanics — part of the Census Bureau’s “We the American[s]” series of demographic profiles of blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and even the Foreign Born, but not whites — the Census Bureau writes: “Our ancestors were among the early explorers and settlers of the New World. In 1609, 11 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, our Mestizo (Indian and Spanish) ancestors settled in what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico.”
Of course, the first permanent English settlement in the New World was not Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, but Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The fact that this predates the Santa Fe colony no doubt accounts for why it goes unmentioned. Nor was Santa Fe settled by “mestizos” but by Captain-General Don Juan de Onate who was, along with his party of priests and settler-soldiers, a white Spaniard. Nor, for that matter, did Santa Fe amount to much. As T.R. Fehrenbach explains in his definitive history of Mexico Fire and Blood:
It had a thin, isolated population scattered along the river [Rio Grande]. When Anglo-Saxon explorers and traders found it early in the nineteenth century, New Mexico was still living in the seventeenth century . . .
The Spanish settlement of St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 does predate the English at Jamestown by nearly half a century and is often cited by Hispanics as proof they were here first. Why doesn’t the Census Bureau mention it? Probably because St. Augustine is an embarrassment that reflects Spanish intolerance of New World rivals, especially if they weren’t Catholic.
Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived in 1565 for the express purpose of exterminating the French Huguenots who had founded Fort Caroline in northeastern Florida. After killing all of them, including children and pregnant women, the Spanish renamed the colony “San Mateo,” a name it still bears. Needless to say, Admiral de Aviles was no mestizo either.
Hispanics like to claim not only that they were here first, but that they were present in large numbers in the Southwest when the United States annexed it in 1848. In fact, in 1821, the Spanish-speaking population in the Mexican province of Texas numbered only 3,000 — and this was a vast territory of 389,000 square miles that included most of present-day New Mexico and part of Colorado in addition to Texas. By 1834, ten years after the Mexican Government first invited Americans to settle in Texas, Americans outnumbered ethnic Mexicans ten to one. In 1860, ethnic Mexicans were less than two percent of the total population of Texas — an estimated 12,000 out of a total population of 600,000. By 1900, the number of ethnic Mexicans had risen to 70,000 but was still less than three percent of a Texas population exceeding three million. In fact, in San Antonio, home of the Alamo and cradle of Texas Independence, there were more German immigrants than ethnic Mexicans.
It was the dismantling of immigration restrictions in 1965 that brought in large numbers of people who now claim to have been here all along.