Sunday, July 16, 2006

GayProf Fears for New Mexico

Certain news stories can ruin my good mood. Most times I take the news in stride. Boston’s collapsing “Big Dig,” for instance, has been brought to my attention many, many, many times. Usually this is accompanied by some type of joke about me being crushed to death upon moving to the city. Hilarious.

Let’s be candid, though. It could rain concrete on me everyday in Boston and it would still be better than living in Texas.

Of course, there are other, more obscure, news stories that have some relevance to me. Allegedly medical doctors have concluded that Latinos from Northern New Mexico are more predisposed to a wide range of neurological problems (including muscular dystrophy and spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage (my father’s sister, btw, died of a spontaneous cerebral hemorrhage in her early thirties)). A couple of centuries of being fairly isolated might have resulted in my New-Mexico kin-folk being just a tiny bit inbred. Great news for GayProf!

This won’t concern me, though. I figure my mother’s Irish-American background should offset all of that. Being of mixed ancestry has to pay off here, right? Right? Medical doctors?

Of course, we have already discussed news of an Albuquerque raid on a local gay gym in the previous post. Currently, the ACLU and a local gay rights group are considering suing Albuquerque police for civil rights violations.

Another story from New Mexico, however, also invoked my full gravitas. Shortly before I arrived in Albuquerque, the city celebrated U.S. Independence Day. New Mexico has a long history of navigating its internal racial dynamics by claiming a unique tri-cultural heritage (Latino, Native American, and Euro American).

We can debate the problems of this claim some other time. Yes, GayProf understands that this vision reenforces racial categories in certain ways. I also believe that the “tri-cultural” model intentionally ignores a greater racial diversity in New Mexico (that includes Asians, African Americans, and so forth). Moreover, the Latino-plank of that tri-cultural model is often skewed to favor a romanticized (and fictional) Iberian connection. Nor does this idealistic tri-cultural model address the serious economic disadvantages symptomatic of the state’s racial divisions.

All that aside, though, the state came to the tri-cultural model after generations of racial conflict. It’s an attempt, though imperfect, to acknowledge the contributions of each of these groups and guarantee their role in the state. Unlike the rest of the United States (except Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which have similar visions and programs), New Mexico mandates institutionalized multiculturalism. This often manifests in state and local-sponsored cultural programming. On July 4, for instance, Albuquerque sponsored a celebration with three stages with performances representing the three ethnic groups (Yes, it really is often that formulaic and obvious).

Imagine my outrage when I opened the Albuquerque Journal to find a series of letters to the editor complaining about this city-sponsored event. According to these letter writers, listening to Linda Ronstadt perform music in Spanish had infringed on their Independence Day Celebrations. Seemingly all Euro-American, these letter-writers claimed that Spanish was incompatible with the United States. One such letter stated, “It is no more proper to celebrate the United States Independence Day in New Mexico with a tribute to Mexico in Spanish than to celebrate it in Minnesota with a tribute to Norway in Norwegian.” Much in the same tone, another wrote, “We came there to celebrate the American [sic] Independence Day, not Cinco de Mayo.” Likewise, a third letter complained, "Linda Ronstadt...did not sing one song in the English Language. Was I celebrating Cinco de Mayo or the Fourth of July?"

Alright, now the Right Wing is intruding on what’s mine. I grow tired of the right’s basic hatred of any group different from themselves. Why, though, do these folk need to live in New Mexico? Poor New Mexico is surrounded by states that would welcome this type of hate. Heck, Texas alone would canonize these individuals for their xenophobia.

These letter writers’ total lack of respect or knowledge of New Mexico’s history particularly annoys me. As they deploy this “Nativist”-tinged rhetoric, they conveniently ignore that New Mexico did not enter the United States willingly. Rather, U.S. imperialism brought it into the union and kept it powerless as a territory for almost seventy years. Demands to celebrate July 4th implicitly require New-Mexico Latinos celebrating their own ancestors’ subjugation to outside invaders.

Mexico’s corrupt regional military leaders abandoned New Mexico to land-hungry Euro-Americans in 1846. Mythology promotes a vision of the U.S. Army triumphantly entering Santa Fe with claims of bringing a “better life” to the inhabitants. New Mexicans, though, seemed unconvinced.

U.S. military sources reported that many people in Santa Fe wept at seeing the U.S. flag rise over the capital. It turns out, they had a reason to fear the new government. “The great principle of freedom,” Donaciano Vigil wrote in 1852, “has been so quenched out that it is enjoyed only nominally.” Despite explicit guarantees in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, New Mexico’s Latinos lost 90 percent of their lands to Euro Americans by 1880.

Even with these conditions, New Mexico’s Latino population did build a sense of place within the nation thrust upon them. Creating a unique place for New Mexico as a “tri-cultural” state became part of the way that they reconciled themselves to the invasion. They demanded recognition of their role in the state. It is this recognition which those letter writers apparently detest.

Currently New Mexico faces an onslaught of wealthy Euro Americans who descend on the state like locusts. They gobble up land and precious water in their quest for mansions and golf courses. Though they claim to “just love the uniqueness of New Mexico,” they do everything in their power to reshape it to meet their own expectations. The desert landscape doesn’t work for a good golf game, so why not just trash the local environment? The local people speak more than English? That can be changed as well. “But,” they say, “New Mexico is NEAT! You can buy turquoise here.”

Locals bitterly point to Santa Fe as the key example of the ongoing costs of U.S. imperialism. Latinos whose families had owned property in the capital city for generations could no longer afford the taxes by the end of last century. As multi-million dollar houses appeared, the local Latino community disappeared. In 1990, for the first time since Santa Fe’s 1610 founding, Latinos became out numbered by a surging migrant Anglo population. From 1970 to 1990, Santa Fe’s Latino population did not climb above 26,500; however, the Anglo population escalated exponentially, jumping from under 14,000 to 27,000. As Santa Fe became a playground for the rich, many of them brought their racist demands with them, including English-only.

While out shopping, I chatted briefly with a Latina sales clerk. For whatever reason, the conversation drifted to the new gated housing communities [sic] springing up between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. “That’s how it is with New Mexico,” she commented, “The rich outsiders buy up everything. Now you have to pay to walk on land that used to be free.”

Her resignation to this situation haunted me. It occurs to me that those on the political right are really the ones who “hate America.” They loathe acknowledging that the United States has a multi-racial, multi-lingual population. This diversity is neither good, nor bad. That’s just the reality.

Yet, the right will not rest until they ensure their narrow vision's dominance in political discourse. We can’t just passively accept that they have the authority to name the meaning of the nation state. All of us who are committed to social justice, regardless of our own racial category, needs to fight this narrowness both in and outside of New Mexico.


pacalaga said...

Living in southern Arizona, about an hour from the border, I get to hear about a lot of this too. I'm routinely assaulted by people (my now-elderly aunts and uncles included, disgustingly enough) who think that government forms in Spanish are going to bring on Armageddon. I get to hear about the morons who patrol the border (I mean the vigilantes, not the border patrol) shooting at people in the desert. Apparently, the fact that this country is overwhelmingly populated by children of immigrants is forgotten. Either that, or maybe it's only children of white immigrants who can speak English that are welcomed.
GayProf, you should be fearing for what's left of the soul of this whole ridiculous country. (Or maybe you gave up on the rest of it.)

Elizabeth McClung said...

I have never and continue to not understand the twin personality often evident in the USA, of pride in a diverse background while crushing the idea of a multicultural groups. European nations also have thier whipping ethnicities but they are open about thier bigoted and bias nature.

For example, the US has NO OFFICIAL language on a federal level, yet people continue to complain about group that don't speak english. English is NOT the official language of the US ( - whatever language spoken by a US citizen is currently the official language of the US.

When empowered anglos get together to demoan the loss of "American culture" they are actually bemoaning the fact they they might have to learn a world view that doesn't revolve ONLY around them. Boo freaking hoo. I certainly doubt that "independance day" for the majority of Americans is about standing around thanking the lord that they are British (particularly if they have complaint that the Queens English isn't being universally used). But it is more about affirming thier identity as Americans. In which case, respecting and embracing the diversity that America offers is very much an "Independance day" event whether that is in spanish, Norwegian or Creole.

brian said...

The ethos of arrogance and entitlement is the hallmark of our times,look at the legacy fratboy running our nation.The destruction of the "Land of Enchantment" saddens me.As population shifts from elsewhere to the southwest,AZ,NM AND NV are destined to experience unprecedented challenges. Water being primary.Other areas are hardly immune,anyone want to lay odds on the future development of New Orleans? The minority diaspora that eminated from there may never return. One can only hope that those who truly love NM will step forward as legislators and judicial stewards of her many treasures.

dykewife said...

interesting. this particular issue is something we're studying in the sociology class i'm taking. officially, canada is a multicultural country. it's celebrated and touted in all kinds of advertising from the feds. but you can't demand services from the feds in any languages other than english or french. english and french are the two official languages, the two heritages are considered charter heritages, but that totally ignores the many aboriginal nations that were here before.

the concept of one country/one culture is something the united states has claimed because of the "melting pot" it was supposed to be. of course the norm that everyone is supposed to aspire to is the white middle class suburban norm. reality isn't that, but that doesn't stop people from expecting everyone to want it.

it's unfortunate that diversity is so feared by so many people.

jeremy said...

remember the hubbub when you crazy mexicans rewrote the star-spangled banner in mexican?
this is obviously the fallout from that.
p.s. when are we going to make english the national language?
p.s.s. i'm feeling really conservative today.

Words83 said...

GayProf, you allude to the tri-cultural heritage celebrations as painting the "Latino" section with a fictional "Iberian" connection. But, if the other section is labeled "Euro American" is this not just another example of the Black Legend which tries to other Spain (and Portugal) as non-European? Are Latinos a race or an ethnicity for you?

GayProf said...

Words83: Thanks for commenting.

I believe all of these identities are socially/culturally constructed categories that have no real meaning outside of our current discourse. Moreover, I believe the discussion of differences between “race” and “ethnicity” only reify those existing assumptions. Therefore, I avoid use of the term “ethnicity.”

I am fairly unique in the use of the term “Euro American” rather than “Anglo” which is most often used in New Mexico. I prefer “Euro American,” because I think it acknowledges the greater historical diversity of people who moved into the area after the U.S. invasion.

Finally, I didn’t create the “tri-cultural” notion. If it replicates the Black Legend, as you suggest, than that is certainly another area where we can critique it. Oddly, though, the Black Legend probably does not have as much currency in New Mexico because of the romanticized Iberian connection.

MaggieMay said...

Like pacalaga, I fear for the soul of this whole ridiculous country (well put!).

Here's a hopeful tidbit about New Mexico: my dad moved there 4 years ago. My dad is what I would call a paleoconservative (of the libertarian variety). Since moving to NM, though, he has become *almost reasonable* in his political positions. And MUCH more progressive on immigration/border issues.

So maybe the solution is that everyone should spend some time in New Mexico. (Or does that make NM sound too much like a re-education camp?)

BTW, when I was in New Mexico, I picked up a scary-ass bumper sticker from Los Alamos: "Los Alamos: We've Got Enchantment Down to a Science!" There was no little mushroom cloud on it, but it was still pretty freaky.

GayProf said...

MaggieMay: Yes, the whole U.S. could learn from New Mexico. That is why they sent me to join Patriarch's World and teach them about love and compassion. Oh, wait, no, that was Wonder Woman. Damn -- I really need to stop doing that.

As for Los Alamos, don't even get me started! They dropped an atomic bomb on us -- literally. Fuckers.

Roger Owen Green said...

Your conversation with the clerk reminded me of the verse from "This Land is Your Land", which says, and Oi'm paraphrasing On one side, the sign said, "No tresspassing" and on the other side "it didn't say nothing."

I commend NM for at least TRYING to embrace diversity.

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

The Fascistas hate about 90% of America. everything that doesn't fit into the fantasy of a KKKristian, White, Hetero(acting), wealthy, Powerloving profile is slated for elimination, by corrupt four horsemen of the poxy-lipsy.
Seemingly since WWII America has marketed to itself the BSh*t mythology of the "Land of the free and the home of the Brave". It's a terribly dangerous thing to start believing your own marketing propaganda.

Seeker Onos said...

Totally silly, off-topic questions:

(1) Exactly how MANY Wonder Woman comics (or covers that you use for your posts) do you have...

(2) Ignorant question (I don't follow pop culture much) ... but is Joseph Bottoms a bottom? He looks positively queenish in that pic you have up on your "Gayprof is currently stalking..." vignette.

(3) ... how old is he now? I mean, I seem to remember hearing about him in the '70s.

GayProf said...

Seeker Onos:

1. Hmm -- I have not counted my WW comics. I have a pretty good run starting in the late 1950s, but have some gaps in the sixties. The covers on the blog, though, do not represent my actual comics. Their actual source is, of course, part of the mystery of GayProf.

2. I have no knowledge of Joseph Bottoms' preference in terms of sexual activities. Extremely sharp readers, though, might know that he is tangentially related to something mentioned in the picture meme.

3. He is 52 years old (the picture is from his 1970s prime). Alas, he is soon to be replaced as the object of my stalking affection.

Thanks for asking.

Adam said...

I cannot believe that people behave like this. Don't they realize that the ones who CHOOSE to be here do so because they think its a better place and here we are spitting on them. My family came over here one by one from Italy at the turn of the last century, as did many acestors of those who are complaining. They came here only with their blind pride for a country they had never been to, they longed to be American. When they first arrived they didn't know english but I guarantee you that when Luca Bonagura attended his first 4th of July celebration he was able to express his pride in America in spite of his inability to speak english.

I'd also like to add that while listening to a certain podcast from the Chicago area, the hosts made an observation that the only people who were out in the parks in Chicago celebrating 4th of July were mexicans.

MEK the Bear said...

Assimilationists of any kind disturb me to know end. Diversity is a beautiful thing, go with it!

tornwordo said...

I heard the same xenophobic comments out in California. From my family even. It made me distraught.