Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thoughts on "Independence Day"

The whole Independence Day and "fourth of July" crap has never really had any meaning to me. Growing up I could never see any of my family's history present. We weren't descendants of anyone who came to the United States for a better life or to escape any type of religious persecution. My parents were actually on this continent long before the grand ole heros that we all celebrate were even born. 

I can remember being frustrated all of the time in class because I would learn about all of these white men who fought a war and established their own country on land that belonged to someone else in the first place. I frequently got into trouble because I would ask my teachers why we were constantly celebrating the date of July 4, 1776. I was born in 1976, and when I was a young child I was always told what an important years the 76 years were.

My great grandfather told us a different story at home. My great grandfather, my abuelito, told us of ancestors on his side who lived in California long before California was part of the United States, and some ancestors lived here long before the Spanish even arrived. My abuelito told us of the days when the American settlers arrived and intermarried with many of the prominent Mexican Californios. He told us tales of the time in 1846 when American settlers arrived, slapped up their Bear flag in northern California and took over the land from the Mexicans in the Bear Flag Revolt. 

July 4, 1776 means nothing to me. California wasn't even ceded to the United States until 1848. There was no grandiose display of fireworks, no picnics, nothing of the sort. Rather, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed into law in order to protect the Mexican inhabitants, but was since systematically broken like all the other treaties "they've" ever broken. 

On a certain courthouse in a certain city in Southern California, one of my old great uncle's names is displayed on a plaque in the front of the building for having been a prominent land grant owner. Hah, but the last laugh was on him once the US decided to not hold up their end of the bargain of the treaty and weaseled all of the land grants out of the hands of the descendants of those who owned the land grants. 

So tomorrow while everyone is out lighting fireworks, I'll be wondering how many of those fireworks are burning down the land that was stolen from some of my ancestors. I'll also be sitting there and thinking of everything in the treaty after the Mexican-American war that was just pushed aside. And for those people who will inevitably pull the "if you don't like it go back to Mexico" bullshit, just remember that many of my people were here long before the US was even a thought in any founding father's head. 

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