For a kid like me, these were exciting days. Regular TV programming was suspended for hours so viewers could watch preparations for liftoff, the blastoff, the mission and the splashdown.
My mother even prepared my own personal "spacesuit" to wear while I watched the real astronauts on TV, complete with a paper bag helmet with something transparent so I could see out of it. When my dad carried me on his shoulders, we'd pretend I was riding a spaceship. Later I had my own G.I. Joe astronaut with a Mercury spacecraft which would float in the bathtub.
Yeah, those were great days, and I wanted to be an astronaut too. I even instituted my own training program, setting out to spend the night in a cabin behind our house, to prepare myself for space travel. (After a few minutes, though, I gave up and went back to sleep in my own bed).
By today's standards, the 1960s astronaut corps was not very "diverse". They were selected on merit and they were white males. They were all in, or had been in, the military. Interestingly enough, they were overwhelmingly firstborns. All 7 of the Mercury Seven astronauts (photo here) were firstborn sons, and 21 of the first 23 Americans in space were firstborn sons or only children.
Since the astronauts weren't "diverse", the emphasis was on the space missions themselves—the first American to walk in space, the first orbit around the moon, etc.
But our Soviet rivals had already beaten us in the "diversity" game years earlier. Sure, most of their cosmonauts were white men (look at the photos here ). But way back in 1963, the U.S.S.R. had sent Valentina Tereshkova to space, allowing Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to boast that "It is our girl who is first in space".
Since the 1980s we've been sending space shuttles into orbit, and astronauts from other countries are often taken along as part of the crew.
Rodolfo Neri, who flew on the Atlantis shuttle in 1985, was the first Mexican in space.
The following year, 1986, saw the first Hispanic American citizen fly to space. This individual, Franklin Chang-Diaz , was a naturalized American, born in Costa Rica. As his paternal surname Chang suggests, his father was of Chinese ancestry. That makes Chang-Diaz a twofer, entitling him to be on both the Chinese-American astronaut list and the Hispanic-American astronaut list.
Nine Americans of Hispanic ancestry have actually flown to space. Only four of them were of Mexican ancestry. Four were naturalized Americans born in other countries. The nine: the aforementioned Franklin Chang—Diaz; Sidney Gutierrez (the first U.S.-born Hispanic in space); Ellen Ochoa (the first female Hispanic in space); the Spanish-born Michael Lopez-Alegria (first astronaut actually born in Spain); Carlos I Noriega (the first Peruvian-born astronaut); John "Danny" Olivas; George D. Zamka (Polish/Colombian ancestry); Joseph M. Acaba (first person of Puerto Rican ancestry in space ); and finally, Jose Hernandez.
Which brings us to the latest space shuttle mission, STS-128, which took place from August 28th to September 11th. It was the first space mission to carry two Hispanics—Danny Olivas and Jose Hernandez. (Here's the walkout photo with the seven crew members—Olivas is at the back, Hernandez is the second astronaut in the left column.)
For Danny Olivas, a third-generation American, it was his second space flight. He made some obligatory "Hispanic" statements, but seemed mostly focused on the mission.
But the publicity revolving around Jose Hernandez was almost exclusively focused on his "Mexican" identity. As reported by Julie Watson in the Associated Press:
"Millions in Mexico watched Hernandez's mission daily on Televisa, as well as following it on Twitter, where his dispatches appeared in English and Spanish. Hernandez also danced salsa, munched burritos and discussed Mexico's World Cup aspirations while floating in space aboard the shuttle Discovery.
"Past NASA space missions barely got a mention on Mexican newscasts." [U.S. Astronaut Says Legalize Undocumented Mexicans, Julie Watson, AP, September 14, 2009]
Yes, the U.S-born Hernandez was a big hit in Mexico—even getting an invitation to visit President Calderon in Mexico City.
At this point, allow me to take a moment and salute everybody, regardless of race, gender or national origin, who has had the privilege of traveling to space.
But that doesn't change the fact that back here on Planet Earth, race and ethnicity are key factors in national identity and political power. The Jose Hernandez case illustrates some of the problems with illegal immigration, birthright citizenship—and specifically, how the assertion of Mexican identity in the U.S. is a threat to our national identity.
You've only read this on VDARE.COM, although you work it out if you read between the lines of the MSM reporting: astronaut Jose Hernandez was an "anchor baby", whose automatic U.S. citizenship derived exclusively from the fact that he was born on U.S. soil—to illegal alien parents.
Hernandez´ parents, Salvador Hernandez and Julia Moreno (they were married but in Mexico the wife doesn't officially take her husband's surname) entered the U.S. illegally in 1957 and traveled about as migrant farm workers. Little Jose was born in 1962.
By 1969, when Jose was 7, Mr. and Mrs. Hernandez had somehow secured their green cards, about the time they settled in Stockton. That means that they were still illegal aliens when Jose was born—thus making him an anchor baby.
As we see in the case of Jose Hernandez, the mere fact someone is born on U.S. soil doesn't mean they will identify as an American. Growing up, Jose Hernandez spent several months a year in the state of Michoacan, Mexico. And—get this—he didn't even learn English until he was 12!
Hernandez and his sister and two brothers worked with their parents as migrant workers in California. All the evidence indicates that Hernandez' parents had a good work ethic and instilled it in their children. Apparently, they also emphasized the importance of education: Hernandez went on to obtain a good education.
That's all great. But it doesn't answer they key question—does that make such people Americans?
Apologists for illegal immigration constantly emphasize the illegals' alleged work ethic, and success stories like those of Hernandez. For example, Art Pedroza [Email him] on the Orange Juice Blog says of the latest Hispanic spaceman: "This man is proof positive that Latino immigrants can do anything that other Americans can do. Sorry haters! You are wrong about immigrants again. "
But let's assume for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that all illegal aliens—putting aside the fact that they entered the U.S. illegally—are indeed great people. Even if they were, that still wouldn't make them Americans! Nor, in many cases, their anchor baby children!
Jose Hernandez is apparently a competent astronaut, a family man, and all-around nice guy. Nevertheless, despite being U.S.-born, he clearly does not identify with the United States of America, but with Mexico.
Hernandez had two official astronaut photos taken. One photo has the American flag in the background. But in the other photo , now appearing on the Mexican space agency website, he has the U.S. and Mexican flags behind him.
Interesting. When Rodolfo Neri went to space, he was photographed with the Mexican flag because he was from Mexico. But Jose Hernandez was born in the U.S.A.—remember?
Nor is that all. In 2008, in one of several interviews with the Mexican media, Hernandez promised to take a Mexican flag to space—and lamented the fact that he couldn't wear the Mexican flag as a shoulder patch:
"They don't let me put on the Mexican flag because I joined as an American astronaut, but I'm going to take the Mexican flag." (My translation)
And upon returning to earth, the Anchor Baby Astronaut used his newfound celebrity to agitate for amnesty for illegal aliens. According to the aforementioned Associated Press piece:
"Spaceman Jose Hernandez said Monday the United States needs to legalize its undocumented immigrants — a rare, public stand for a U.S. astronaut on a political, hot-button issue."
That's bad enough. But look at which network he said it to:
"During a telephone interview with Mexico's Televisa network, Hernandez pushed for U.S. immigration reform — a key issue for Mexico that has been stalled in Washington amid fierce debate. 'The American economy needs them,' said Hernandez, 47, a California native who toiled in the cucumber, sugar beet and tomato fields alongside his Mexican-born parents. 'I believe it's only fair to find a way to legalize them and give them an opportunity to work openly, so they can also retire in a traditional U.S. system.' …" (My emphasis).
"Hernandez said he wished all world leaders and politicians could see the Earth as he has, 'so they could see our world, that really we are one, that we should work together.´ 'What surprised me is when I saw the world as one. There were no borders. You couldn't distinguish between the United States and Mexico´…"
So here is a U.S-born astronaut, utilizing his celebrity to complain to a foreign country about U.S. immigration policy.
At least NASA put out a (mild) disclaimer:
"NASA spokesman James Hartsfield told The Associated Press that Hernandez was expressing his personal views, 'not representing NASA, the astronaut office or any NASA organization in his responses.´ "
But why did NASA select him in the first place? Hernandez has been agitating for "comprehensive immigration reform" a.k.a. amnesty since at least 2006, when he was interviewed by CBS' Sixty Minutes (view here).
On the 22nd of August, before the flight, President Calderon of Mexico had a telephone chat with Astronaut Hernandez. Here are some excerpts from their conversation:
Calderon: How are you, Don [Spanish honorific title] Jose, a very good afternoon to you.
Hernandez: My beloved president, how are you? …. [AW: "My beloved president"? Isn't Hernandez a native born U.S. citizen? ] I am very well, and how are you?
Calderon: Very well. Very proud, very very proud of this personal and professional exploit you are about to carry out, Jose. Very happy that you put the name of Mexico literally very, very high. You put the name of Mexico in space. And I personally feel very excited.
Hernandez: Many thanks, many thanks, President. And especially because the two of us are from [the Mexican state of] Michoacan. [AW: Actually, Hernandez was born in the U.S. but obviously considers himself a michoacáno].
…Calderon: Hey, Jose, tell me how it feels to be a Mexican of humble origin, a laborer, and now to be one of the men going to space in one of the most complex and technical missions of the world?
Hernandez: Well, it feels very good, Mr. President. Because what motivated me to be an astronaut was when I was in the last year of high school and I heard that the first Latin American [AW: i.e. Chang-Diaz] was selected by NASA to be an astronaut. Therefore, I saw how important it was to have examples to follow. [AW: So all those previous astronauts weren't examples to follow, until Hispanics go to space?] Therefore, I now find myself in this situation; I take this position very seriously. So, what we are trying to do is motivate the youth here, in the United States, because the Latinos, as in Mexico, that they realize that the key to get out of a situation that maybe isn't so comfortable for them, is education. …
Calderon: …What an example you are for our youth, Jose, that somebody with intelligence, with talent, but especially, with much will, with much heart and with much desire to get ahead, is now one of the most important astronauts of the world [AW: !?] , and especially, on a mission so delicate…
Hernandez: There are now six crew members on the international space station and there are seven of us on the shuttle that's going up. There will be 13 people together. We are going to represent, officially we are going to represent five countries. And I tell you that really we represent six because, I tell you that Mexico cannot be left behind.
Calderon: Of course. Mexico is present in space. What's more, I know that there is another member of the crew of Mexican origin, right?
Hernandez: That's right, that's right. He is my beloved companion Danny Olivas, of El Paso, Texas. He's like a third generation Mexican-American. I have spoken with his mom and she has told me that her grandparents were from Chihuahua. But he was born and has lived all his life there in El Paso. In contrast, I lived half of my life there, in La Piedad [municipio in Michoacan] and half in the United States. Thus, for my part, my heart stayed there, in Mexico….
Calderon: Look, in the name of all Mexicans, of Michoacános, of course, I want to extend to you enormous congratulations with all our admiration, all our affection, and with all our pride because you are putting the name of Mexico very, very high. I know that you are going to take on this delicate mission, of which you are one of the most important protagonists, the flag of Mexico.
I know that you have carried Mexico present with you in every moment. I know that you continue working with your book, through the Foundation to help Mexicans to get ahead, the ones who want to study like you, making the effort in technical fields, mathematics, in astronomy… And you are an example to millions and millions of young Mexicans…
Jose: Thank you, Don Presidente. And with great pleasure I accept the invitation to present to you the Mexican flag which I bear. At the same time I would like, I hope to obtain your support for the Mexican Space Agency that we are prompting in the [Mexican] House of Representatives and the [Mexican] Senate. I think you know that it has passed through the House of Representatives and through the Senate and is now returning for the final vote in the House of Representatives.….I think it is something very good for Mexico that we should do. …. [AW: Now Hernandez is meddling in Mexican politics!]
Calderon: ….We admire you greatly, we are very proud of you, and thank you for putting the name of Mexico so high.
[Conversación que sostuvo el Presidente Felipe Calderón con el ingeniero José Hernández, Mexican Presidential website, August 22, 2009. My translation]
Consider this. Hernandez was formally educated in the United States, was trained and sent to space by NASA—and yet the Mexican president gushes on about how this is a great credit to Mexico. Why?
"…President Felipe Calderon took advantage of the opportunity to speak on the topic [of immigration] and said that it is unthinkable that the United States would have become the most powerful country in the world in the past century without the collaboration of the Mexican workers."
So, according to Calderon, the U.S. owes its position in the world to Mexican labor. Well, since Mexico has even more Mexican workers than the U.S., then why isn't Mexico the world's economic powerhouse?
If it's still not obvious where Hernandez' loyalty lies, consider an interview he had with ¡Ahora Sí! ("El periódico en español líder en el Centro de Texas"—"The Leading Spanish Newspaper of Central Texas").
In De Campesino a Astronaut (From Peasant to Astronaut) [September 18, 2009]. Hernandez was asked point blank "Which (of the two, U.S. or Mexico) do you consider your fatherland?"
Hernandez answered unequivocally:
"I feel more Mexican than American. [AW: my emphasis] I am from California because I was born in the summer, but half of my siblings were born in La Piedad, Michoacan."
So there you go. The children in his family were born in the U.S. or Mexico based upon where they were at the time. Hernandez happened to have been born in the U.S., but he identifies with Mexico, despite the fact that he owes his professional success (and paid trip to space) to the United States.
Remember that Hernandez is only one of millions of anchor babies. How many feel the same way the Anchor Baby Astronaut does?
My fellow Americans, in the words of a popular expression associated with the space program: "HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM".
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) recently moved back to the U.S.A. after many years residing in Mexico. In 2005, Allan served a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his Mexidata.info articles are archived here and his website is here.