Major Problems in Mexican American History
Mexicans have been a people long oppressed. That is evident not only by the readings edited by Zaragosa Vargas in Major Problems in Mexican American History, but also by the the documentary Chicano!. The Mexicans’ past is underscored by conquest of the present-day American Southwest first by the Spanish and then by the United States following the Mexican American War. With other countries establishing control over them, Mexicans have never really been able to establish themselves. Efforts were repeatedly made to shape them into what others perceived them to be. The language they should speak, the religion they should practice, the things they should learn, and the way they should live, were all decisions that for many years Mexicans did not have the power to control. This lack of power allowed the Spanish and the United States to take advantage of Mexican rights, labor and land. In addition, it also produced a loss of Mexican identity and culture.
Mexican American history began in the16th century under Spanish colonialism. The Spanish had a goal of conquest and colonization. Evidently, that goal was successfully accomplished because when the Spanish first arrived in 1492 Mexico’s population was fourteen million, but by the end of the 16th century it had drastically declined to one million. Numbers decreased because of the cruel treatment, forced labor, and disease brought by the Spanish. The Spanish eventually controlled most of the territory in the Southwest and over three hundred towns had been established for the purpose of control and conversion. The Spanish imposed conditions on the natives of Mexico that would belittle them. They aimed to convert them in order to make them reliant. If any signs were noticed of natives preserving their culture or rejecting Spanish conversion, the Spanish acted immediately without hesitation. This is clear in Document 2 of chapter two in The Major Problems in Mexican American History. In this document entitled, "Spain Asserts Control over the Indians of Nueva Galicia, Mexico, 1570," the king of Spain issued a royal order commanding the Spanish in Mexico to control the Indians, convert them, and use them as labor. The king did not’t like the fact the Indians were living in the mountains "preventing interference with their manner and custom of life" (34). By being away from the Spanish established towns, they were refusing to "be more advantageously converted and indoctrinated" (34).
What is ironic is that although the Spanish felt that Mexico’s population had to be converted because they were uncivilized and inferior, "mestizaje, the product of racial interbreeding with Indian, black, and mixed-blood women," took place. As a result, Mexicans share a rich mestizo cultural heritage of Spanish, Indian, and African origins. By raping the uncivilized Other, the Spaniards were in turn making themselves uncivilized. Those women represented nothing more but the...