(This essay first appeared on my Medium (SocialUnwind.com) channel on Wednesday, October 5, 2016)
As if this election cycle couldn’t get any more anti-Mexican there goes Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence expressing out loud what the true sentiments of the Donald Trump campaign are – a hatred for Mexicans. During the vice-presidential debate, Mike Pence uttered “that Mexican thing again,” referring to Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican rapists during the debate. I have heard many Trump supporters argue that Trump did not mean “all” Mexicans were “rapists” or that they were “all” thieves. The Donald Trump spinmeisters have been attempting to spin Trump’s comments as something the media has misconstrued. I listened to the recording of Trump uttering the quote and I know I have not misconstrued what he said.
Nonetheless I have found myself in a situation where one of the two worst possible candidates – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – is going to be elected this November. I have argued to those that would listen to me that the reality is that the Republicans have been better for the Mexican immigrants then the Democrats. I silently hoped that Donald Trump would see the folly of his rhetoric and dial it back to something more palatable.
However, instead of dialing it back he has doubled down and continued to attack Mexico and its people.
After Pence’s comment about “that Mexican thing” on Tuesday night, I can’t sit back and hope for the best.
Those of you that follow my blog regularly know that I am a Mexican immigrant living in the United States. I cannot vote in November because I am not a citizen.
However, I cannot sit back silently and let Donald Trump, and his ilk demonize Mexico, or the Mexican people, like me. I may not be able to vote but I do have a voice – you know – that Mexican thing.
Part of the problem that has led us all down this road of Mexico, or Mexicans, being the boogeymen to all that ails the country is because we, Mexicans, have a problem with speaking up. That includes the Mexican government that prefers diplomatic back-channels rather than publicly defending the dignity of our people.
Well no more, it is time that we counter the narrative that has created the illusion that Mexicans have no place in the United States.
Here is my first list of “that Mexican thing” that has come to the defense or the rescue of the United States during its time of need.
Medal of Honor Recipients
The highest sacrifice anyone can give for their country is their life. This is even more significant when the life is given for their adopted country. The highest award that the United States bestows upon those who serve her is the Medal of Honor. It is awarded to those whose valor is beyond the call of duty. It is the highest award the United States can bestow upon anyone. About 60 Hispanics have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Seven Mexicans, those born in Mexico, have been awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary sacrifice in the battlefield. They are:
Pedro Cano: Pedro Cano was born on June 19, 1920 in La Morita, Mexico. On December 2, 1944, Private Cano, armed with a rocket launcher, crawled through a minefield. Under heavy enemy fire, Cano fired a rocket and killed two gunners and five riflemen disabling a German emplacement that had repulsed US infantrymen. Cano then attacked another enemy position with another rocket and hand grenades. He then crawled in front of his company and with two additional rockets killed four gunners and disabled another German gun. The next day, Private Cano, armed with his rocket launcher killed an additional six gunners and destroyed three German gun emplacements. For extraordinary heroism, he was awarded the Medal of Honor on March 18, 2014.
Jesus S. Duran: Jesus S. Duran was born on July 26, 1948 in Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, México. He joined the US Army on May 13, 1968. Specialist Four Duran, on April 10, 1968, with an M-60 machinegun blazing from his hip thwarted the imminent overrun of his command post and assaulted enemy positions causing the enemy to flee. His actions also saved several wounded US servicemen.
Marcario Garcia: Staff Sergeant Garcia, acting as squad leader of Company B, 22d Infantry, single-handedly assaulted two enemy positions on November 27, 1944. Although wounded he refused to be evacuated and on his own initiative crawled towards the enemy position that was pinning his company down. Once he reached the German machine gun emplacement, he destroyed the gun. He killed three enemy soldiers who were attempting to escape. He then stormed a second emplacement, killed three Germans and captured four prisoners. Garcia, born in Villa de Castaño, México did not allow himself to be evacuated for medical care until after his unit reached its objective. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 1, 1945.
Silvestre S. Herrera: Private First Class Silvestre Herrera was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, México. His parents died when he was a one-year-old. His uncle brought him to El Paso, Texas where Herrera worked as a farm hand. Up until the age of 27 years old, Herrera believed that he was born in El Paso, Texas. It was not until his unit was mobilized that his family told him the truth about his citizenship and place of birth. While his platoon was pinned down on March 15, 1945, near Mertzwiller, France, Herrera made a frontal attack against the gun emplacement and captured eight enemy soldiers. Later that day, his platoon was once again pinned down by another gun emplacement. This time Pvt. Herrera attacked the position. This time, however, both his legs were shattered by mines that he had stepped on during his attack. Disregarding the pain and loss of blood, Herrera pinned down the enemy gunners allowing another squad to capture the enemy emplacement. Pvt. Herrera was awarded the Medal of Honor on September 5, 1945. The government of Mexico also presented him the Order of Military Merit, First Class.
Jose F. Jimenez: Jose Fernando Jimenez was born in Mexico City on March 20, 1946. On August 28, 1969, while his unit was under heavy attack by North Vietnamese soldiers, Jimenez advanced under heavy fire killing several enemy soldiers and silencing an antiaircraft gun. Although the target of concentrated enemy fire, Jimenez continued his assault destroying another enemy position. He was killed while continuing his assault. Lance Corporal Jimenez was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on August 1969.
Isaac Payne: Isaac Payne, born in Mexico was a Trumpeter in the US Army. According to the citation on his Medal of Honor, he and three other men participated in a charge against 25 hostile Indians on April 25, 1875 near the Pecos River in Texas. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 28, 1875.
Alfred V. Rascon: Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Velasquez Rascon was awarded the Medal of Honor on February 8, 2000 for his heroism on March 16, 1966. Then Specialist Four Alfred Rascon, assigned as a Medic ignoring directions to stay sheltered until covering fire could be provided, he ignored flying bullets and exploding grenades to reach severely wounded soldiers. Rascon intentionally placed his body to protect a wounded comrade while under intense fire. As a result, Rascon suffered various injuries, including a serious wound to his hip. Ignoring his own injuries, Rascon then delivered ammunition to a machine-gunner running out of ammunition. Fearing an abandoned machine gun would fall into enemy hands; Alfred Rascon recovered the weapon and gave it to another soldier for additional suppression fire. In the process, Rascon was severely wounded again, the wounds now including shrapnel to his face and torso. Although critically wounded, Rascon ignored his wounds and continued to search for and aid the wounded. Not until after the enemy broke contact and he was on an evacuation helicopter did Rascon allow his own wounds to be tended.
She Sacrificed for Her Adopted Country
Even today, Mexicans, both documented and undocumented, continue to serve the United States in the armed forces. On May 12, 2015, 23-year-old Sara A. Medina, who was born in Mexico and had recently become engaged, gave her life while serving in the United States Marine Corp.
Mexico Comes to the Rescue of US Citizens When the US Government Was Unable to Help
Many US citizens like to believe that Mexico only takes and never gives back to the United States. It is an illusion that we, as Mexicans, do nothing to dispel. We take it in stride. On September 8, 2005, the unthinkable happened, a 45 vehicle convoy of Mexican soldiers crossed the US-Mexico border near San Antonio and proceeded into the United States unimpeded. At least two Mexican warships docked in the Gulf Coast.
It was not an invading army armed to the teeth looking to take back its lost territories, but rather a humanitarian taskforce responding to its neighbor in need. The Mexican soldiers served hundreds of thousands of meals, even buying the meat locally after the USDA refused to let the Mexicans serve the meat they brought with them because they could not prove it came from a mad cow free facility. In addition to the meals, the Mexican soldiers distributed over 180 thousand tons of supplies and provided over 500 medical services to the population in need. The Mexican Army responded by helping the U.S. when it was struggling to provide aid to its own citizens.
You know – that Mexican thing.
As the campaign continues I will add my voice to the narrative so that Mexicans also have a voice in the public agenda of the country in which we toil as part of the people that make America great.