Latinx files: the “bad Mexicans” who marked the history of the United States and Mexico


On the bookshelf

bad mexicans

By Kelly Lytle Hernandez
Norton: 384 pages, $30

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“Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands,” the latest book by historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, begins with the lynching of Antonio Rodríguez in Rocksprings, Texas.

The hand of the 20-year-old Mexican rancher was taken by a mob and burned alive on November 4, 1910. The extrajudicial killing was by no means an isolated incident – there is a long history of Mexicans and American-born mexican. to be lynched at the border – although this turned out to be particularly important. His death led to anti-American protests in Mexico, where there was a growing consensus that Porfirio Díaz’s dictatorship had placed the interests of American capitalists above its own citizens.

A few weeks later, on November 20, 1910, the Mexican Revolution began.

Rodríguez’s lynching is not a new historical discovery. As Lytle Hernández — professor of history, African American studies, and urban planning at UCLA and 2019 recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship (the so-called “genius grant”) — explained to me, “from many Mexican scholars who have written about the Mexican Revolution recognize the murder of Antonio Rodríguez as a precursor to the revolution.

“The only thing I do with this book is take it all, pivot it, and position it in the context of the history of the United States.”

This is the central premise of “Bad Mexicans”, the idea that Mexican and American histories are not isolated from each other but are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Rodríguez’s lynching is just one of many examples that prove his thesis. The book itself focuses on the magonistas, a group of anarchist and socialist dissidents led by the Flores Magón brothers, who fled Mexico and came to the United States to successfully instigate a revolution against the Porfiriato through their newspaper off -the-law, Regeneration. Much of this story takes place in cities I know – Laredo, San Antonio, and Los Angeles, to name a few – but knew very little about.

In over 300 pages, Lytle Hernández tells the story of Porfirio Díaz’s rise to power, how his dictatorship resulted in the plundering of Mexico’s wealth by American industrialists, how that power was challenged by marginalized people ( workers, indigenous communities, and women), and how the U.S. government went out of its way to capture this group of Mexican revolutionaries who threatened to overthrow a regime that had greatly benefited some of America’s most powerful and wealthy citizens.

And while “Bad Mexicans” meets the rigors of academia, it’s by no means boring. On the contrary, the book has the cadence of a corrido lyrically describing the extraordinary exploits of ordinary people. It’s packed with details so outrageous and wild you’d be convinced they were made up if it weren’t for the quotes provided by Lytle Hernández. For example, did you know that one of the FBI’s first missions was to pursue magonistas, or that the Flores Magón brothers’ feud with the Mexican dictator stemmed from a personal grudge tied to their father?

I asked Lytle Hernández, who is black and neither Mexican nor Latin, why she felt compelled to write this book.

“I grew up on the border and nobody could ever tell me who my neighbors were,” she said of her upbringing in San Diego.

“I always wondered why Mexican children were really treated [poorly] the same way black kids were treated, and I’ve spent a whole career trying to figure that out. How did we come to this together, how did we have these common struggles, or at least extremely similar struggles?

His hope is that Mexican American audiences will read the book and feel entitled to claim their place in American history.

“What if you gave every child a sense of belonging and entitlement, and I mean the nice guy, the one that makes you say, ‘I’m a part of this.’ What happens then? I hope that if we continue to do this work as cultural workers, historians and teachers, we can help more generations to feel and know their history. It is a power. That’s not all, but it’s something every child should have, access to stories about how they fit in.

It’s been a few weeks since I read “Bad Mexicans”, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. At the beginning of our conversation, I told Lytle Hernández that his book had radicalized me. I meant it as a joke, but over time I realized how much I meant it. The book fundamentally changed the way I see the world, the way I see myself in this country.

Here’s an example: I was recently in New York for a conference. During a period of free time, I found myself near Central Park and decided to go to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum since I had never been there. It was a beautiful space filled with wonderful paintings, and I certainly enjoyed myself. But as I ascended this spiral designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to discover Eurocentric art, I could not ignore the nagging question growing in me: how much of this museum was financed by the wealth extracted from Mexico by the Guggenheim family?

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Will anything substantial come out of the Summit of the Americas?

The nineth Summit of the Americas is currently taking place in Los Angeles. The meeting of dignitaries from the Western Hemisphere was to be an opportunity for the United States to countering China’s growing influence in the region, repair damaged relationships under the Trump administration and stem the flow of migrants to the US southern border. Instead, the summit turned into a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States. after Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador decided to boycott the event.

AMLO may not be present, but the protesters certainly are. Like my colleague Soudi Jiménez reported on Tuesday, dissidents took to the streets to condemn strongmen such as El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. Approximately 425,000 Salvadoran Americans and 39,000 Nicaraguan Americans call Los Angeles home.

But will anything come out of this summit? Not really, according to some of the workers running the conference.

Reyna Hernandez has been following the Summit of the Americas for years and thinks the leaders aren’t doing enough.

(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

“They just meet between four walls and talk to each other. That’s it,” Reyna Hernandez, a 61-year-old Uber and Lyft driver, told Cindy Carcamo of The Times. Hernandez moved to the United States from Puebla, Mexico in 1995.

“Yes, of course, they talk about important themes. They’ve been doing this for years, but they don’t offer real solutions. I don’t really see these governments taking care of their people.

What we read this week that we think you should read

— Author Daniel A. Olivas grew up in Los Angeles not reading stories like him, so he decided to become an author and write his own. Read his LA Times op-ed.

— In case you missed it: Last week, my colleagues Brittny Mejia, Anh Do, and Sandhya Kambhampati wrote about Asian-Latin families, who are California’s future.

— Just in time for graduation season, here are two recent stories from The Times to inspire you. As First Column editor Steve Padilla aptly put it, “One literally brings smiles and the other brings tears.”

Janette Villafana of LA Taco reports that more than 150 vendors and food truck owners face eviction from a Cypress Park commissioner because its owner shuts it down. The closure could jeopardize vendors’ ability to operate above the edge – in order to obtain a health permit, vendors are required to rent space in a commissary for their carts or trucks. This story is also available in Spanish.

– According to a new report, working, black and Latina non-teaching women at California State University are paid less than their white counterparts. History of Nathan Solis.

— Here’s some good news: After a few weeks of closure, the Bell Gardens Tamales Elena y Antojitos restaurant is back in business. Story of Stephanie Breijo.

– I’m not a Lakers fan, but I certainly feel the same way about the Celtics as most Angelenos. My disdain for Boston sports drives me to cheer on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. That fellow paisa Juan Toscano-Anderson, the first Mexican citizen to play in the league, is a warrior is just icing on the cake.

The best thing about the Latinternet: Alex Padilla did the job, literally

last fall, United Farm Workers invited US senators spend a day alongside agricultural workers as part of their “Take Our Jobs” campaign. Last Friday, California Senator Alex Padilla accepted UFW’s offer and spent the day in the pool at Moor Park.

“Today I got just a little taste of the demanding work farm workers do every day to feed millions of families in America,” Padilla told the Daily Kos. “I was only here one day, but the people I worked with work every day, often in the hot sun, to make sure there is food in our stores and on our tables. .”

Padilla deserves credit not only for walking, but also for supporting legislation that would provide pathways to citizenship for these essential workers. Do you want to know more? The Daily Kos has you covered.


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