Blog Post: 1

As George Orwell said, “Truth is treason in an empire of lies.” While America is not an empire of dictatorships but of freedom and democracy, recent events have made people question the way the American population views equality. From beginning as a small number of colonies fighting to be rid of British rule to progressing…

Evoking Mexican Patriotism

My mother was born in Mexico, and growing up in the United States I would hear her speak lovingly of her country while brutally criticizing the actions of the Mexican government. With the controversies of the current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, it was easy for me to agree with my mother that the government was corrupt and responsible for the poverty and violence that had spread throughout the country. The Latin media that I watched would occasionally cover protests in Mexico over violence or other national problems, but there was no sense of urgency in the news airings and soon the issues would be forgotten until the next report on Mexico. The broadcasts would show the same issues related to Mexico over and over again that it was almost a given to relate the country with drugs, violence, corruption, and poverty. I became desensitized to all the reports and though I grew up with Mexico in my heart and blood, I thought that being passive about the ongoing issues in Mexico was okay. I believed that since the Mexican government disregarded and censored its people, there was no use in fighting against such a powerful government, a government whose leader won his position through bribes and academic dishonesty.

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The Mexican flag reimagined [modern]-from PropagandaPosters
In 2010, my aunt, a police agent from Durango, disappeared. In 2014, a group of 43 students from Guerrero disappeared. Mass graves are found more and more often. Peña Nieto’s promises of a decrease in violence have proven false with his implementations of the same war-on-drugs tactics as his predecessor. The people of Mexico have shown discontent and anger with the government’s incompetency, and protests have long ensued to express those feelings. Still the Latin media airing those demonstrations did not spark any feelings of unity in me or my family. We felt helpless, with our ongoing search for my aunt and the police force giving up the search after a few weeks. The rising number of missing persons was not the factor that made me and my family want to fight back. What caused our passive attitudes to change was the election of Donald Trump as president and the outrage it caused.

Throughout his campaign, Trump made various remarks about the people of Mexico and the disrespect that he showed towards those people is what united many against his ideas of a greater America. Seeing the protests that American’s participated in, like the Women’s March on D.C., made me realize that being passive about the violation of human rights in any country is unacceptable. I believe that the ‘uprising’ of the American people served as a reminder that no government should be above the people. On Facebook and in Latin news channels I noticed an increase in people publicly voicing their opinions about Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, president Peña Nieto, and other national issues. A common phrase that I have seen circulating on social media reads: Amo a mi país y me avergüenzo de mi gobierno. This translates to: “I love my country and I am ashamed of my government.” The type of sentiment that Mexican people have begun to show is a renewed patriotism that I had not felt present before President Trump’s election.

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This image has been circling around Facebook among Mexican citizens.
Similar to Gandhi’s works influencing the people of India to protest against the British empire, Trump’s attack on Mexico and Mexican immigrants served as a means to incite people to unite against greater powers. Now Trump is definitely not a man who emanates peace, but his relation to Gandhi is that both men made people under a dominant government realize that it is better to have dignity and to fight against injustice. While people in America protest for equality and social justice, the people of Mexico have begun protests against the gasolinazo, against Peña Nieto’s reforms, and against the narco-state. The parallel situation of the people’s discontent against an unchecked government should serve as an inspiration to other nations that are under oppressive rule. Like the movement in India where many united against the force of Britain, the people of Mexico have begun to unite against the institute of fear and violence under Peña Nieto.

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Just as in the previous political cartoons, the political power is shown holding a stick to assert dominance. In America, Trump was holding the stick. In Mexico, Peña Nieto was holding the stick. In India, the British empire used to hold the stick.

My grandmother joined a rally where the people cried out for the resignation of President Peña Nieto.

With all the problems that are occurring in Mexico, Donald Trump’s election was the last straw for the people of Mexico. The conference that Trump had with Peña Nieto served to further anger the people of Mexico with people claiming that Peña Nieto was not decisive enough in the meeting and he allowed Trump to further mock the nation. These events have triggered an awakening of Mexican patriotism, with people fighting for justice in the same manner that Americans are doing.

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Peña Nieto with Trump at a conference.
A corrupt government is not something easy to fight against. People have been afraid of speaking up against the government or reporting incidences of drug cartel influences on politics. Votes are often bought or coerced out of people with the threat of violence. Evidence tampering is rewarded in politics. The renewed patriotism in Mexico is one that I hope will withstand against these forces. As the Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu said, “I pray that [the Mexican people] can build the government we deserve,” that is the goal that I know every Mexican citizen has in mind. I see people rallying, I hear of Mexicans helping out their fellow campesinos by buying only produce from Mexico and boycotting American products, and there are journalists who refuse to let themselves be silenced. President Trump has awakened a proud nation.

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Lessons from the Salvadoran Civil War

My dad always tears up after watching the 2004 film Voces Inocentes. The first time we watched it together I remember him staring at the screen with glassy eyes and a faraway look on his face. He was somewhere back in El Salvador reliving the civil war that drove him away from his homeland and to the United States.

The Salvadoran Civil War officially started in 1980 and ended after twelve years. The unofficial start occurred years ago dating back to the 16th century where the Spanish conquest of El Salvador established a military dictatorship, and thus began the long battle between the government and the guerrillas of native people. The ongoing war between the people and the government was later aided by the United States. The role of the U.S. was to supply the Salvadoran government with weapons and military advisers in order to suppress the guerrillas. What the superpower nation would gain from aiding the Latin American country was a guarantee that the Marxist guerrillas would be contained and that their political views would not take over in El Salvador. It was a matter of self-interest and concern over the global containment of communism that caused the U.S. to become deeply involved with the Salvadoran militia and its agenda. By setting up an advantage for El Salvador’s military government against the guerrillas, the U.S. also knowingly sealed the fate of civilians caught between both sides of the battle.

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The role of the U.S. in the Salvadoran civil war was reported as an unwitting action that later resulted in being a false statement. Both President Carter and Reagan were fully aware of the massacres and inhumane violence that the Salvadoran military used against the people of El Salvador.
My father left El Salvador in 1987. He was twenty years old and was running away from his home after an air raid. In his arms he was carrying my two year old step-brother. The account of my dad’s life in El Salvador is just one of the many stories of the violation of human rights in the war torn country. With the U.S. having originally denied that their role in the Salvadoran role was a purposeful act, it raises the question as to whether any national superpower should be allowed to decide the fate of country for self-interest or ‘national security’. The world was unaware of the war crimes committed in El Salvador mainly due to the censorship of the media. News sources reporting massacres in El Salvador would be denounced by the U.S. as war propaganda, and the country went on as far as refusing to acknowledge the deaths of American nuns in El Salvador that were brutally murdered by members of the Salvadoran militia; these members were trained and supplied by the U.S. The U.S. went to extreme lengths to cover up the stories and to lessen the impact that the accounts were meant to bring in order to show the world the atrocities being committed in El Salvador. This power should not have been abused because it resulted in the deaths of many innocent people. Most of the deaths in El Salvador during the civil war were comprised of children. With this knowledge one would believe that a leading nation would have helped defend the voiceless, but instead the U.S. kept an anti-Communism agenda at the cost of lives.

Other leaders arose to defend the voiceless. Óscar Monseñor Romero was the archbishop of El Salvador. His defense of the Salvadoran people cost him his life. Interestingly, he was shot dead during a private mass after having recently spoken out against the U.S. government supporting the Salvadoran military. The assassination of Romero is thought to be a contributing factor in the onslaught of guerrillas and revolts against the Salvadoran government. His death was able to rally people to speak up and have their voices heard. What people would fight against was the oppression of the poor and the mistreatment of the common obrero. The U.S. was heavily involved in Romero’s assassination as well as many assassinations that they immediately denied. This example of the U.S. barely containing the reports of war crimes in El Salvador proves that where there is a dominating force, the suppressed will always fight back. What helped spark the movements against the Salvadoran was Romero’s death, the poverty, and other oppressive factors against the people.

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Mural of Óscar Romero. “I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. That my blood may be a seed for liberty.”
I believe that nations should aspire to have the same mindset as individuals like Romero. Rather than rely on self-interested politics, national leaders should set an example of compassion and work to improve the lives of people in war ravaged countries like El Salvador. While the U.S. cannot travel back in time and fix the damage it inflicted on the Salvadoran people, it can learn from these events to not sacrifice lives for the sake of the weak pretense of ‘national security’. Seeking sanctions in the U.S. does not equate to being a threat to democracy or even to being a terrorist. In the present day, I think that the U.S. should serve to protect people that do not have the luxury of democracy, people who are oppressed and searching for a better life. Rather than meddle with the infrastructure of other countries, the U.S. should be working to repay for all the atrocities that it has willingly participated in. It owes it to the people of El Salvador. It owes it to my dad and to the millions of other people that were displaced or killed in the war. If not them then what other nation will step up for the defenseless?

The song “Casas de Carton”, originally by Ali Primera, featured in the film Voces Inocentes, was banned in many Latin American countries for its lyrics that criticized the state of the poor in comparison to the government.

English translation of the lyrics:

Cardboard Houses

How sad, the rain is heard
On the cardboard roofs
How sadly my people live
In the cardboard houses.

The worker comes descending,
Almost dragging his footsteps
For the weight of suffering
Look how much is the suffering
Look how much the suffering weighs

He leaves the pregnant woman above
The city is below,
And he loses himself in its tangle.
Today is the same as yesterday
It’s a world without tomorrow.

How sad, the rain is heard
On the cardboard roofs.
How sadly my people live
In the cardboard houses.

Children the color of my land
With the same scars
Millionaires of worms, and
Therefore how sadly the children live
In the cardboard houses.
How happy the dogs live in the
House of the exploiter

You’re not going to believe it
But there are schools for dogs
And they give them education
So they don’t bite the newsboys
But the boss
For years, many years
That he is biting the worker.

How sad, the rain is heard
On the cardboard roofs.
How far away, passes hope
In the cardboard houses.

Why the Lobster?

How a lobster and an Anaïs Nin quote represent the importance of risk-taking for growth.