Last month, during my morning
English as a Second Language class, I had an
unusually spirited conversation with one of the
handful of people who showed up. (Early January is
the rainy, foggy and cold season here in
California's San Joaquin Valley. And that translates
to sparse attendance at the Lodi Adult School.)
Gustava…as I will call her…is one
of the better pupils that I have had in my
two decades of teaching ESL.
By that I mean that she attends
most days, brings a dictionary, speaks above average
English for an
English language learner, participates actively in
the classroom and has a measurable interest not only in
the immediate subject matter but also in the
broader picture of life in America.
For lack of a better word, I will
say that Gustava is "aware."
On this particular bleak day, the
class was thumbing through the
Lodi News-Sentinel chatting about current events
when we came across the inevitable daily story about
the thing about the American government…always
interfering in other countries. Always fighting and
killing people to get its own way," said Gustava.
And within the next few seconds,
Gustava took a 160-year step back in time—to the
Mexican-American War and the
"stolen land" theme.
Mexican-American War and its consequences are alive
and well in the heart of every
Mexican student I have ever taught. The only
variable is how close to the surface it has bubbled.
A few grudgingly admit the war is
ancient history. For the majority, however, it could
have happened yesterday.
In Gustava's case, she is still
riled up. To her credit, she laid a good share of the
blame on the failures of the corrupt
Mexican leader, Antonio Lopez de
(If you want to hear the harshest
possible assessment of Mexican corruption, don't talk to
an American immigration reform advocate—ask
But ultimately, Gustava pointed her
While it is impossible to deny that
the United States was not in a land gobbling mode during the years surrounding the Mexican-American War—Manifest
Destiny, remember—what's much more interesting to
analyze is the mentality that will not let go of a war
fought and lost more than 150 years ago.
Here are a few questions that run
through my mind every time someone tells me that
America stole land from Mexico.
- How are we defining
"stolen"? The United States fought a war
with Mexico. Mexico lost. The two countries
signed a treaty. The United States gave Mexico
$15 million. That's stolen?
- Why have my
Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian students been
able to put behind them the much more recent
Southeast Asian War while Mexicans wallow in the
futile war destroyed the entire countries of
Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Men, women and children
were forced into exile and refugee camps. Millions
were killed. My students from those Asian countries
are saddened when the think back. But they are not
angry. Even former
Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, on a trip to
Vietnam, acknowledged that the war is
"ancient history" as far as the Vietnamese
- If Mexico is still angry, why
aren't the French? Years ago, I traveled regularly
France. I never heard word one about "stolen
land" or any talk of "getting even" for
the Louisiana Purchase. In that transaction, the
United States acquired for nickels and dimes what
now makes up nearly 25 percent of the national
- Finally—and this is the
$64,000 question—is Gustava and every other Mexican
in America better off even though the United States
"stole," to use their word, the
land they now live in? The answer is,
overwhelmingly, "Yes." According to a recent
Transparency International, the oddly-named
organization that monitors global corruption, Mexico
ranks 58th on the list of most corrupt
countries with #1 being the least corrupt.
- Nothing was stolen from
- And Mexicans are living a
better life in a progressive country instead of a
Third World slum where so many are still drying
laundry on adobe bricks.
Only the Mexicans cling to their
distorted view of the distant past…and bring it up at
Here's a suggestion to
Mexicans on either side of the border who are
still in a huff over the outcome of the
Mexican-American war: chill out… tienes que relajar.
And may I, at the same time, extend
an invitation to those of you griping about a
land grab to join the rest of us in the 21st
Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.