Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Reflections on the Bicentennial
Reflections on Mexico's journey through the struggles of the past and today, and thoughts on a future of hope as dictated by an anonymous citizen
As my mind wanders through the history of my nation’s past, I dare to fantasize and enter the minds of the illustrious revolutionaries who lived the many injustices in the country of their birth, or in the case of some, the country in which they chose to live out their destiny. I speak of the patriots Miguel Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende, Jose Maria Morelos, Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez, Manuel Bravo, Mina, Aldama…..who saw their society degraded with each passing day by the arbitrary rule of Spaniards who came to steal Mexico’s wealth.
Few of these overseers loved this land like its native insurgent sons and daughters.
Over time, the seeds of liberty, planted by injustice and arbitrary rule, began to germinate in gatherings that echoed the ideals of independence: freedom for all, social justice and the right of association. The rights and individual guarantees that are written in our Constitution (the Mexican Constitution).
Today’s generation has forgotten that these rights were paid for with the blood and sacrifice of those passionate insurgents, who managed to motivate an entire nation to take up arms and liberate Mexico from the conquerors. In 1810 the nation was willing to die, and many did die, for the just cause of peace and independence.
After independence came the stormy struggle to forge a nation.
A resurgence of the original insurgent’s vision came during the Presidency of Benito Juarez, who inherited a country totally bankrupt, disorganized, with weak laws, no social project. A nation lost and off its course. Juarez and those who shared his vision eagerly sought to anchor the roots of the country, to start building the foundations of a dream that would translate into a great nation. They knew the road ahead was long, the end of the journey beyond their lifetime.
The French saw the weak position of Mexico and took advantage of its very poor state to invade and occupy the country. This invasion almost came to destroy the will of the nation, until a man named Wincar and 30 men in the town of Villa Gigedo (better known as Villa Union) defeated 300 French soldiers.
With this action a flame was lit that would motivate the nation, with all its heart, to repulse the French occupiers under the slogan: Remember the Villa Gigedo, Remember how they won their victory! Nothing could stop the galloping of the nation as the French fell in battle after battle, ending with the death of Maximilian.
This is the story of another generation of Mexicans who died forging a nation.
However, the country was left in ruins, coffers completely empty, sunk in ignorance, without democracy, without a development plan. The despair of the nation called for drastic measures.
Enter General Porfirio Diaz, after the death of Don Benito Juarez, leaving a map that would eventually lead, with still more blood, to democracy. The seeds of concepts were planted that would guide the way to a nation of good men. Respect for the rights of others, among individuals as among nations, is peace.
Words that were written in granite, that gave meaning to the anguish, hardship, hunger, misery that had been experienced firsthand. Words that gave meaning to the struggle of so many Mexicans without names, with no headstones, no photographs, no bodies to mourn.
Times called for drastic measures and concrete actions were taken. Foreign investment arrived to move the country forward and give it direction, to mark the way forward on the map. All wrought by General Porfirio Diaz.
In doing so, better times would come, industrial revolutions and modernization for a country which the people had to forge, to build brick by brick. Much of the world’s capital found a home in Mexico and thus came a generation of foreigners who called Mexico their country.
They were times of plenty for some, but a dark secret was emerging, a secret that could not be buried. The secret came at a high price to society, revealing that a minority enjoyed the excesses of affluence, and the majority tasted only misery. Little by little the injustice touched more citizens, leaving a wake of dishonesty and corruption. Little by little the upper class turned its back to the poor with their tears of despair and teeth gnashing in frustration.
These were the times of stillness before the big storm, when the sins of injustice and indifference exploded and gave birth to the Mexican Revolution.
Paradoxically, it was the son of a multimillionaire that would bring about that watershed moment that marks the “before and after” of Mexican history. His name was Francisco I. Madero. His ideals enlightened the rude and wicked men, forged by the environment of their upbringing, that the dice throw of destiny chose for those times. Men like Francisco Villa, Rodolfo Fierro, Felipe Angeles, Emiliano Zapata and the constitutionalist Venustiano Carranza.
The human cost of the Revolution was high, about one million lives dedicated to “the cause”, or “La Bola” (the game) as the proletariats of the day called it.
The immediate achievement was the end of the hacienda and terrateniente (landlord) land use systems, but the largely rural citizenry was still completely overwhelmed by ignorance and the legacy of abuse at the hands of the deposed landlords.
It was not until Plutarco Elias Calles that we began to see a pseudo social order and a system of socio-political ideas that formed the basis of the political society that would last for over 70 years. These were times of peace and society as a whole advanced.
When the tightly woven bonds forged by the PRI political system began to fray and break, the cancer we suffer today began to emerge; violence, violation of individual rights and abuse of authority, which led to the emerging pattern of the drug cartels. Cartel violence emerged in an environment perfectly suitable for it, full of corruption and social disorganization.
In retrospect I can say that we have been hardened almost all of our time as a nation. We have been killed, abused, insulted, violated and exploited by personages who placed personal interests ahead of the interests of the nation.
I can not say that all is lost, of course. I remember the words that President Felipe Calderon said in a speech where he emphasized that we should understand that generations of Mexicans have enjoyed peace and generations of Mexicans have been destined to fight for peace.
If I have to embrace the idea of fighting in the trenches to leave my children a real and tangible peace, then I accept the challenge. It is through my participation in the activities of my society that I will contribute to a more just and equitable distribution of wealth among all the nation’s citizens.
It is only through these acts of contribution that our society will realize the goals of social welfare and peace and become a magnet for the global community to attract investment in Mexican territory.