U.S.-Mexican border in El Paso, Texas
(Image by (From Wikimedia) SGT Joseph Garrison, Author: SGT Joseph Garrison) Details Source DMCA
I was seventeen when the border patrol first pulled me out of line for questioning. I was crossing the bridge from Mexico to Texas by myself, like I'd done for years. An agent named Trejo looked at my passport and said, "step out of the line." When I asked why, he repeated the order. I asked again, and he didn't like that. Next thing I knew, I was escorted to a room by two other agents. They made me empty my backpack and pockets on to a table before they sat me down for interrogation. What made the whole thing so terrifying was that I was a minor, and my mom wasn't a legal US resident yet.
One asked: "Why do you cross over to Mexico at all? There's nothing for you there."
I wanted to answer: "That's my business." But things would've gone worse. They eventually let me go.
I've heard things like "wetback" and "speak English, this is America" from other people with Spanish names living in areas that used to be Mexico. Give it a few generations, or just a higher social status, and our common roots don't matter to them anymore. This is why politicians can say anything about Mexicans with virtually no backlash. This is why there's no "Latino Lives Matter" or any other well-known groups advocating for our civil rights. The system itself has created a caste system of Mexicans who look down on other Mexicans. And, as with any caste system, someone needs to be seen as dirt.
The bigger picture, among most Latinos is not much better. We might get along, but Mexicans will stay with Mexicans, Dominicans with Dominicans, etc. We also stereotype and think less of others. We could unite as one Latino people, but we don't.
And I don't think we'll come together any time soon either, at least not until we've collected enough martyrs and aggressions. President Trump called Mexicans murderers and rapists in the presidential elections. The DNC referred to us as the "Taco Bowl Engagement" in emails. The police and border patrol harass and abuse us. And what do we do? We join them. The last presidential election GOP had a higher Latino turnout than in previous years, and the border patrol draws a lot of Mexican-American agents. But that's not as bad as the rest of us who do nothing.
I'm just as guilty of this. I'm writing this in English, and living in the US. I don't do anything to help other Mexicans here. Because of my dad's Spanish ancestry, I don't even look that brown. My accent is what gives me away. I live between two countries with an Aztec calendar hanging around my neck. Living in the US has not made me forget who I am, it reminds me of where I'm from. I see this centuries-old problem, but I don't know what the solution is. Maybe we will keep selling each other out until things get so bad that we finally stand together as the same people and shout: " Latinos unidos!" But I know there will still be Latinos in the riot police that will come for us.
I'm twenty-three now, living far from the border. The north, especially a liberal city like New York, provides a faint sense of comfort where at least any discrimination will come from someone who doesn't look like me. Yet, so many people don't know or refuse to hear about this Mexican discrimination against Mexicans on the border. Some people here in the north even act like I'm making it up. But it's real, it's common, and it's very disheartening. I still think about that first time that I was pulled out of the line. I filed my first complaint against the Customs Border Patrol later that night. I forgot the names of the two other men who questioned me in the room, but I'll never forget that it was agent Trejo who pulled me out.