La Raza and La Overreach
One of the recurring themes of history is that of overreach. Many anti-war critics have accused Bush of doing it (or America in general) though I am not impressed by their arguments. One of the best examples was Hitler's decision to break his nonaggression pact with the Soviets. The Nazi economy was fueled by conquest (lacking sound economic fundamentals and based on a command economy) and when the price of acquiring new land and resources in the west exceeded the payoffs, he opened up a second front in the east which was just a classic example of someone knowing the lessons of history but being unable to learn from them.
In short, overreach in the political/military sense is like planting your pole vault pole before you get anywhere near the bar.
Last week, illegal immigrants and extremists who think of themselves as "La Raza" - the race (isn't thinking yourself to be special just because of your race kind of the definition of racism?) seem to have exhibited overreach. When speaking of La Raza in this post I will mean people who like the idea of the Mexican "race" assimilating and the south western states and separating to join Mexico to recreate a supposed ancient homeland called Aztlan where the Aztecs were supposed to have come from. I realize that the terminology is problematic but this movement is so new that the proper nomenclature has yet to be distinguished.
The kind of extremists who see Mexican immigration to the US as a conquest which is righting past wrongs (the "sins of the fathers" reasoning) have fallen for some key misconceptions which are, ironically the same ones that some opponents of immigration fall for:
1) Since Hispanic immigration is dominated by Mexicans, statistics on the number of Hispanics in America are indicative of a great block of like minded people. Val Prieto at Babalu Blog puts paid to that idea. What stands for Cubans likely stands for a huge number of legal Mexican immigrants. Many of those who worked hard to get to America and build a life legally and honestly, think La Raza supporters are loco.
2) A constant and unrelenting flow of Mexicans will eventually mexicanize the south west. Sorry, immigration, both legal and illegal, peaked at the end of the 1990s. And while the inflow is having an undeniable effect on the culture of the south west, it is nothing if not a two way street. It is fine for La Raza to look at a census map and think that Hispanics are taking over California or any other state but when many of these Hispanics were born here and don't speak Spanish, the idea of them all wanting to join a succession movement and merge with Mexico as some have dreamt of is kind of unrealistic. Maybe the decrease in immigration has something to do with the growth in the economy of Mexico which, while progressing in fits and starts, with lots of room for improvement, has been progressing. Ironically the growth might be faster if the much of the rural countryside were not being emptied of labour by emigration. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that Mexico is not an unlimited source of immigrants. In fact its population growth rate is below the commonly agreed upon replacement rate of 2.1% (or is it 2.2%). Their's is 1.17%.
3) The fertility rates of Hispanic immigrants will further mexicanize the south west. Firstly, these fertility rates drop in the second generation. Secondly, Hispanic kids being raised in the US, even in Hispanic communities are more assimilated into American culture than new immigrants. A kid who does not speak Spanish is not going to like the idea of joining Mexico, at least not once he is old enough to give it some thought. This does not stop La Raza theorists from looking at the statistics and dreaming of 11 million Mexican separatists in the US.
4) Nothing can stop the process now. Talk about painting your grapes before they are bronzed. The protests and the more extreme rhetoric has already provoked a political backlash among both legal immigrants and non immigrants alike. Just as the more fundamentalist North African immigrants to Europe have done, La Raza has over estimated their political and numerical clout and the result will likely be measures to slow immigration even further and to make sure that those who get in are the most loyal and personally invested people. In the case of Europe that is people who support pluralism and democracy while in America it means favoring the legal immigrants and deporting those for whom the law of the land is a mere inconvenience.