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Machos, my little kings, and why las mujeres have to lead the Immigrant Rights Movement

My mother, Marina, crossed the border with a second-grade education, and saw almost all eight of her children born here finish college. Big mistake: She spoiled my brothers, those little kings of hers, who worshipped her too, awed by how she raised them on her minimum-wage jobs. Now middle-aged, they struggle with their double standards, treating most women, including me, with scorn and contempt. Though they've become expert at hiding it.

It is a well-known secret that the elders of the Chicano movement, and even the late Henry B. Gonzalez himself, the great Congressman from San Antonio, father of today's Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, were, how to put this nicely, dominating men. They must've had mothers like mine. These hombres fought hard for us to be equal, but weren't very equal at home or in the office. The Immigrant Rights Movement has the potential to transform this country with a whole nation of people who know what injustice feels like, but first, we will have to educate them about a civil society.

If we don't educate immigrants, and especially the men, we are slitting our own throat. My mother, who suffered throughout her life with my father, knowing injustice after injustice, voted for President Reagan, because Reagan believed in "la familia."

But then my mother was an economic refugee, with no experience in democracy. When I challenged then-Governor George W. Bush in print some years ago, she worried that something might happen to me, shocked at the way I wrote what she said about him around the kitchen table.

But my mother would have proudly marched for immigration reform if she were alive today.

What I'm saying is that the immigrants represent a crossroads for civil rights in this country. They can make this country more democratic, or repeat what we've had in the past. And the kind of leadership we need right now isn't in the Senate. She's too busy cleaning your house.

I'm thinking of a woman like Araceli Hernandez, a housekeeper in San Antonio, who understands that immigrants like her must aim for more than being good citizens, good mothers raising los reyes, who are grateful to belong to the American empire. Who will gladly send their children to war without question. She understands, for example, that the only solution to immigration is liberating Mexico. What does that mean? It means connecting Mexican immigration with the joblessness of a post-NAFTA world, the slavery of a thousand maquiladoras, and the corporate-stepping of politicians on both sides of the border.

Araceli has figured out that globalization is the reason she had to cross the border, and that women are its object and its trash. She is a witness to rape, crime, police brutality, the sickness of pollution, obesity, over-development, the resistance to a living wage, to public education, to abortion rights, to lesbian and gay unions, she has observed, if not articulated, that the world is dominated by the powerful, by men being machos like my brothers who want their chance at being just like them. And there are many other women like her, who represent hope at a sewing machine, in the fields, butchering a chicken, or bathing a child.

I'm telling you all this as the daughter of an "illegal" immigrant whose mother voted for Ronald Reagan.


dragonfly said…
Barbara! You, as always, are wonderfully on point, brilliant. I have joined your blog to keep up with what is REALLY going on in San Antonio. My Esperanza days are well-embedded into my consciousness. Up here in NY/NJ, it's exciting because EVERY immigrant community is represented -- from all over Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe -- though the most vocal of the groups have been the hard-working, underpaid and under-respected Latino communities.

I find this post of particular interest because it resounds so loudly with the same struggle within the Black/African-American community. So many cultural and political similarities that you and I had discussed so many many times before. Recalling my mother's lament that her brothers aren't "worth a quarter" for exactly the same reasons. My mama always told me that as a Black woman I would have to be twice as good to get half as much. A people cannot liberate if you've effectively oppressed half of your community [women and the GLBT] your damn self. Further, if you do not belong to the priviledged caste, then it is all the more reason to NOT lower expectations and coddle men in response to the oppression. We all have to be strong and unified for the good fight.

I also feel like the Black and Mexican-American communities share similar struggles as 'forced immigrants.' Blacks were forced to immigrate to this country via the Middle Passage and we still have yet to be treated with diginity and fair opportunity. In my observation, Mexicans are 'forced' to immigrate here on two levels: 1) this region was originally MEXICO! The borders crossed them, not the other way around! and 2) would people really want to leave their family, land, culture, customs, etc. if there was enough economic viability to stay? NO! So America extends its legacy of slavery upon people beyond its political borders and then blame them for liberating themselves.

I'm on your side. A working class hero is something to be.

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