Your footprints are not always left in deserts, mountains or rivers. Like a shadow, they follow you everywhere. From México and Central América, and South América too, they follow you into El Norte.
From your NAFTA-decimated fields and factories, your footprints follow you into toxic factories and pesticide-laden fields. They follow you into food-processing and manufacturing plants, construction sites, hotels and restaurants. For more than a century, wherever there has been tedious, dangerous and back-breaking work, your footprints have led you there.
Don’t believe the news; here, some love you, some hate you and many exploit you. Some even look like you. You make billions for corporations and they give you back centavos. They lower wages and shutter factories and you get the blame. Still, they love your work
ethic; long hours, low pay and no benefits. You pay into social security, medical and unemployment insurance, knowing you will never collect. But to many politicos and extremists, you are a criminal, drug dealer and a drain. Even a terrorist.
What many like is your silence: just work, don’t complain. Don’t organize or fight back, and if you must speak: “In English, damn it!” And if you ever fall ill, “go back to where you came from!”
Don’t believe the hype; you pay exorbitant taxes, you enrich global corporations, employers, landlords, merchants and the nation’s treasury. Without you, food prices would be sky-high, hotel prices and houses would be unaffordable, lawns would turn to weeds, homes, cars and offices would go uncleaned and the children and elders of the middle class and the well-to-do would be uncared for. Through your sweat, you make life convenient and make their dream possible, and yet they clamor for walls and to chase you down?
Those that vilify you strive for a checkpoint society because América is an idea; they believe it was created by God for Americans, and to many, Mexicans are not Americans. Not real Americans, nor a part of their dream. They hate you because like American Indians, you are a reminder that their ancestors came from afar… that they’re part of a
young nation, not a thousands-of-years civilization. You’re a reminder that their land-theft project called Manifest Destiny failed, though many believe it is simply on hold.
Those that denigrate you, especially hate, yet covet your color. They are schizophrenic. They love your food and love to be served and cleaned-up after, preferably in silence and out of sight. They hate your language, but make it impossible for you to go to school and for your children to receive a higher education. And they especially hate that your children – not theirs – will one day become bilingual. The only two words in Spanish they approve of are: “Si señor.”
That’s why they insult you and call you names, beginning with immigrant. You are not an immigrant! They also accuse you of being lazy and on welfare, this while claiming you are taking their jobs. There’s that schizophrenia again. Those unwanted jobs, they claim, are reserved for African-Americans and Hispanic Americans. Not surprisingly, the best jobs are not reserved for them. Oh, how they love to swing you like a political piñata.
They don’t blame the corporations for this exploitation, instead they blame you and brand
you illegal alien – despite knowing that no human being is illegal and that your ancestors have traversed these lands for thousands of years. They ignore this and call you wetback. Yes, the same ones whose ancestors came over on boats… When you learn their language, they will call you beaner. And it’s true; for millennia you’ve been eating
frijoles, maize, calabaza, nopales and chile – a healthy Indigenous diet.
Migrante: you are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and afforded your full human rights. Neither governments nor the United Nations dole them out. Instead, you are born with them; they simply affirm them. Always remember that. Never forget that.
Migrante: don’t believe their propaganda; they’ve always needed and wanted you… just without rights and without a voice. Yes, even those that hate you, deep down, admire and envy you. They know of your sacrifice, your hardships and of your inspiring commitment to family.
They are also aware of those footprints that never made it out of the desert. In another time, they will honor and thank you.
Roberto Rodríguez can be reached at: XColumn@gmail.com.
© 2007 Column of the Américas