The Border on our Backs

Peoples not afraid to stand up for their rights

By Roberto Rodriguez
Published on LatinoLA: April 14, 2006

The Border on our Backs

Look up the word Mexican or Central American in any U.S. political dictionary and you will find these definitions:

1) people who are illegal, or are treated as such, no matter how long they've been living in this country; 2) the nation's number one threat to homeland security; 3) people who do the jobs no Americans want and who threaten the American Way of Life; 4) as a result of extremist politicians, the nation's favorite scapegoats; and 5) people, who due to vicious anti-immigrant hysteria, are prone to become Democrats.

By next year, there may be two new entries: 6) Peoples who carry the border on their backs, and 7) peoples not afraid to stand up for their rights.

Who could have predicted that millions of peoples would be taking to the streets nationwide to protest draconian immigration bills that call for the building of Berlin-style walls, more migra, massive repatriations, the criminalization of human beings and the creation of a new anti-family apartheid-style Bracero or Guest Worker program? Beyond the bills, the protests are actually about asserting the right - virtually a cry -- to be treated as full human beings.

How long was this community supposed to remain in silence?

Perhaps it is racial/cultural fatigue.

Let's not pretend that this hysteria is not about race, color and dehumanization. It's not even anti-immigrant or even anti-Latino/Hispanic bigotry. It's the exploitation of a deep-seated fear and loathing of Mexicans and Central Americans by shameless politicians. Why? Because of what our color represents. Otherwise, how and why do government agents single us out at lines, borders and internal checkpoints? Otherwise, why do dragnet immigrant raids always target brown peoples? Why is all the hate and vilification directed at brown peoples and the southern border? Otherwise, why are these politicians also not bothered by the millions of Canadians, Europeans or Russians who overstay their visas (No one should hate them either).

Just what does brown represent in this country? Shall we delude ourselves like the Census Bureau and pretend that we're actually White?

Or should we simply stop speaking our languages, stop eating our own foods? and stop identifying with our home countries of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, etc. In other words, we're Ok if we stop being who we are - if we culturally deport ourselves and conduct auto ethnic cleansing campaigns (we're also Ok if we fight their illegal permanent wars).

And yet, there's that small matter of our red-brown skin. Just what could it possibly represent? A reminder? Memory? Might it be our thousands-of-years old Indigenous cultures -- the ones that were supposedly obliterated -- the ones we were supposed to reject?

We deny the nopal no longer. We know full well we're not on foreign soil, but on Indian lands (Were we supposed to forget that too?) So there's no going back. If anything, we are back. The whole continent, the whole earth - which our ancestors have traversed for thousands of years -- is our mother. Meanwhile, we watch Congress and the president do a dance about not pardoning or not granting amnesty to those who've been remanded to live in shadows. Sinverguenzas! Just who precisely needs to be pardoned? Those who are exploited and who've been here forever? or those who've been complicit in our dehumanization?

Through all this, we've been baited into fighting with African Americans, American Indians, Asians, Mexican Americans, and poor and white middle class workers - because Mexicans supposedly steal their jobs and are ruining the quality of life.

The truth is, American Indians, African Americans and Asians should be at the head of our protests - for it is they and their struggles against dehumanization that we draw inspiration from. But in the end, it is those who allow extremists to speak in their name, who must also step forward and tell their representatives that a society divided into legal and illegal human beings is no longer acceptable.

Every cell in our bodies tells us this. And the unprecedented protests have created the consciousness that a two-tiered society - the definition of apartheid - is intolerable.

A flawed bill will pass - many bills will pass -- yet some sectors of the population will continue to view and treat Mexicans/Central Americans as illegal, unwanted and subhuman.

But enough. Ya Basta! IKUALI! As is said at the rallies: Nosotros no somos ilegales ni inmigrantes. Somos de este continente. We are neither illegal nor even immigrants. Tojuan Titehuaxkalo Panin Pacha Mama.

? Column of the Americas 2006

About Roberto Rodriguez:
* We can be reached at: 608-238-3161 or or Column of the Americas, PO BOX 5093 Madison WI 53705. Our bilingual columns are posted at:

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