Russell Contreras wrote another great story as we continue to add to our “all things Mexican” via the Tucson Citizen.
The great southwest is home to the fastest growing demographic in the nation — Mexican-Americans. I’ve always believed we ought to have a great relationship with our soil neighbors such as Canada and Mexico, and we ought to learn what Germany tried to do before WWI. Indeed we want to prevent other real war time enemies from doing the same thing Germany tried to do before President Woodrow Wilson intercepted an important telegram. Strong national security in the United States includes having amicable relationships with our soil neighbors and we cannot do so when we have Sheriff Joe Arpaio waiving his 50 caliber tank at the border. Mexicans aren’t the real enemy … thousands of our relatives have fought and died in U.S. wars.
World War II is often credited with producing the first generation of U.S. Latino civil rights leaders.
But it was the Great War 30 years before that planted the seeds for a movement that would change the lives of U.S. Latinos.
In 1917, the United States intercepted the Zimmerman Telegram. The communication was a invitation by Germany to Mexico to join the war effort against the U.S. in exchange for Texas, New Mexico and Arizona—territories lost in the U.S.-Mexican War. President Woodrow Wilson released the telegram to the public who then supported the nation joining the war.
Congress quickly enacted the Selective Service Act and required all men between the ages of 21 to 30 to register for duty. Those classified as “foreigners” were required to register with a local agency and prove their nationality.
Because of vigilante violence and regular lynchings by mob, some Mexican Americans in South Texas feared that being forced to join the U.S. military might make them join a group they hated — the Texas Rangers. In South Texas, the Texas Rangers ruled by violence and fear, often killing innocent Mexican Americans at random under the pretense that they were working to fight “bandits.” As a results, tens of thousands of Mexican Americans fled Texas to Mexico to avoid being drafted. Some saw the draft as another Texas Rangers roundup.
Others stayed and participated in the draft seeing the war as a opportunity to show the rest of America that, despite the discrimination and charges that they were un-American, they would demonstrate just how American they were on the battlefield.
And others even volunteered.
“We are proud of (our Mexican heritage) but ten times more proud that we are American citizens,” San Diego Constable Ventura Sanchez said at the time.
One corrido, entitled “La Guerra,” even had these lyrics: We Tejanos also know how to die for a great nation.
David Barkley Hernandez (pictured above), even tried to downplay his Mexican heritage because of fears that the San Antonio draft boards might not let select him to join the U.S. Army. So, using only his father’s name, he enlisted as “David Barkley.” FULL STORY>>>