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25 August 2019

The 35 million or so African-Americans (and the rest of the United States, for that matter) owe their cultural heritage to 20 unfortunate Angolans … and English pirates.  And the King of Spain.  And Christopher Columbus.

Slavery had been an accepted in most of the world in one form or another… usually prisoners of war and their descendants.  It was less “racial” in the modern sense than cultural:  the Irish had English slaves, the English had Irish; in medieval Iberia, the Islamic communities had Christian slaves, the Christians held Islamic slaves.  And both, sometimes had Jewish slaves.  Even into the 19th century, defenders of the “peculiar institution” claimed to be bringing their slaves to the “true religion”, never mind that most slaves had adopted the religion of their owners.

Christopher Colombus not only “discovered” America, he discovered a whole new market opportunity… the wholesale capture of indigenous Americans, under the dubious claim that they were enemies, and shipping them off to the Peninsula to be sold to the highest bidder.  His close acquaintance, Bartolomé de las Casas (who edited Colombus’ logbook for publication, by the way), before his surprising conversion to the cause of the Indigenous people, was himself an enthusiastic slaver.  However, las Casas, in noting the massive death rate among slaves, in convincing Carlos I (Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, Carlos I of Castile and Aragon) to outlaw indigenous slavery (at least officially… it lingered into the late 20th century in some backwaters of Bolivia and apparently still exists in Brazil) miscalculated in suggesting that Africans might be better workers in the tropics.  With the Portuguese expanding their hold in Africa, the “Colombian excuse” (overrunning communities and claiming the captured people were prisoners of war), coupled with the huge labor shortage in the Americas (also, thanks to Columbus, and the importation of old world pathogens) created a lucrative market for Spanish planters in the Americas.

At Carlos’ abdication in 1556 (one of the few monarch in history to simply decide to retire), he had left his Iberian possessions a single state, Spain.  His son, Felipe II, though his mother, Isabella of Portugal, added Portugal to the family porfolio, although, like Aragon and Castile before Carlos, they remained separate nations.  His son, Felipe II, was double-dipping into human misery … his Portuguese subjects invading Angola and taking “prisoners” to be sold as slaves (there was a Portuguese tax on the export of slaves) for resale in New Spain (where he’d get another cut from the sales tax).

Enter Portugal and Spain’s economic rival, England.  The Virginia slaves were aboard the San Juan Bautista headed for Veracruz when they were attacked by British “privateers”.  Just as the Portuguese and Spanish gave license to rape, plunder, and murder Africans under the guise of empire building, the English gave their seamen similar license to rape, plunder, and murder their fellow imperialists.

The crew of the White Lion, having “taken” the San Juan Bautista (killing the crewmen) sailed for the nearest English settlement in the Americas.  Indigneous slavery was still accepted and legal in English settlements, but… like the more southern parts of North America, where Europeans had been longer settled, and their pathogens had already decimated the local population, the Virginian native peoples were dying off quicker than they could be enslaved.

And so, Royal Governor Sir George Yeardley, among others, purchased stolen people, stolen from their homes, and stolen from yet other thieves.  We know almost everything about the kings, and much about the pirates and the royal governor.  We know nothing of the histories of those stolen Angolans, before or after their voyage, and next to nothing about the 600,000 Africans stolen from their homes bound for English America, let alone the other 1.5 million bound for other parts of the “New World”.  But, they survived… somehow… which is the real story.

It’s said History is written by the winners, but it is also said that the first “history” was that of Adam and Eve… and the original sin.  1619 was the Original Sin of the country some say they want to make great again.  To recover their greatness, would it be so hard to confess their sin?

The founding mother

23 August 2019

I’m somewhat surprised that no one has written an epic romance novel, or made abig budget film about Leona Vicario… María de la Soledad Leona Camila Vicario Fernández de San Salvador. to use her full name.  In 1810, at the outbreak of the Mexican war of Independence started, she was a 21-year old heiress to a mining and mercantile fortune, and a ward of the wonderfully villainously named Pomposo Santiago.  Extremely well educated for a young lady of quality, she naturally found herself less attracted to the various Spanish officers and aristocrats presented as suitors as she was to a penniless lawyer, Andres Quintana Roo.   Quintana Roo”s day job might be toiling away at handling Pomposo’s legal affairs, but at night he was writing and reporting for the underground independence press.

Joining Los Guadalupes, the anti-Spanish underground movement, gave Leona a reason to at least attend those boring receptions in the Viceroy’s Palace, and put up with the aristocratic twits uncle Pomposo would drag home…pretending to not quite understand their talk of troop movements, but, “oh do tell me more”, Which, of course, was being passed on via Andres to the Insurgents.

Considering her next door neighbor was the Inquisition, when she expanded her activities to secretly selling off jewelry to buy weapons, and became an active distributor (and sometimes editor and printer) of insurgent propaganda, some inquisitive soul was bound to notice.  Uncle Pomposo, of course!

Leona fled to the safety … relative safety… of Padre Morelos’ insurgent camp in Morelos, where she and Andres married, and she took an active role in drafting and writing the 1814 “Sentiments of the Nation”… Mexico’s “Declaration of Independence” and draft constitution, the first document to call for the complete elimination of legal racial discrimination.

As far as we know, it was a happy marriage, Andres going on to a career as one of the early Republic’s more competent leaders and having a state named for him while Leona’s merely graces a few municipalities and colonias around the country.  However, as “Sweet Mother of the Nation” (Dulcísima Madre de la Patria) she was the first… and only (so far) Mexican woman to have a state funeral, 25 August 1842.

Mexico: President AMLO has a message for USA and Canadian mining companies (from IKN533) — IKN

18 August 2019

Having seen this issue repeated erroneously on a few media channels today. This from The IKN Weekly IKN533, out last night. Cost creep comes to Mexico. Mexico: President AMLO has a message for USA and Canadian mining companies This weekend, while on a visit to the mining town of Concepción el Oro in Zacatecas State,…

via Mexico: President AMLO has a message for USA and Canadian mining companies (from IKN533) — IKN

International terrorism?

6 August 2019

The national news this evening mentioned that the Federal Government here would appoint a special prosecutor to look into the shooting in El Paso, which the Mexican government has said was an act of “international terrorism”.  Given that it was (and fits all the legal definitions the US imposed on other countries where it wanted to impose its solutions on the “perps”) Mexico certainly will get its due, and be privy to any US investigations.  THis could have some interesting effects. Those in the US who have commented on it suggest it means Mexico could open various US arms makers and sellers to lawsuits, which I suppose it could, but even if they can’t (given the US law protecting arms makers from liability for misuse… or rather, intended use… of their products), it could have a major impact.

It’s irrelevant whether Mexican investigators are good, bad or indifferent. By demanding this be treated as international terrorism, Mexican authorities will have access to US findings… which can, in turn, be given to Mexicans and other victims (and their families) as discovery for the wazoos of lawsuits that can (and will) be filed against everyone from Walmart to the State of Texas and the Federal Government.

Furthermore, based on the findings, Mexico can slap sanctions on various businesses and individuals the Mexicans see as being at fault. No effect on the US? Let’s say Remington Arms is seen as contributing to the terrorist attack. Remington Arms is owned by Cerebus Capital Management, which has substantial investments in all kinds of US businesses. Getting a few other countries to agree to the Mexican sanctions (or just Mexico alone) would hugely impact US exports and investments.

Or, say it held the State of Texas responsible, and sanctioned the state and its officials.  What would be the effect on the US economy (to say nothing of the US economy) if no Texas business could do any business in Mexico?  Or, if to collect settlements, the Mexicans froze the assets of US businesses in the country?  I bet the businesses, and the politicians would be begging their representatives to change the laws to those Mexicans (and every other relatively sane person in the world) would like to see when it comes to US firearms laws (or lack thereof).

More practically, the Mexicans want the US to at least crack down on its practically non-existent enforcement of laws against gun smuggling, and force certain US officials to watch their tongues.

If US people benefit, all the better.

Question of the day…

5 August 2019

… será necesario contemplar preparativos para ofrecer refugio a estaduidenses que ya temen por sus vidas bajo esta régimen?

(Will it be necessary to consider offering refuge for US citizens who fear for their ives under this regime?)


David Brooks (not the NY TImes David Book), in today’s “American Curios” (Jornada, 5 August 2019).



From the El Paso “Bath Riots” to the Migrant Concentration Camps

29 July 2019

… in just over 20 minutes.

Chronicle of a chronicle foretold: Positivism and immigration

28 July 2019

In a way I feel like Doctor Frankenstein, sewing together bits and pieces of the corpse of my original book into something new and alive. Attempting to resurrect Gods, Gachupines and Gringos in a more robust version, I had written various parts here and there while recovering from my accident (and the long dreadful aftermath). As mentioned, I don’t see it as a financial windfall, but if it is to get published, I0m resigned to doing it on the cheap, although to do a half-way decent job, I will be needing to outsource a few tasks to professionals who expect to be paid. Donations are always appreciated, though what is posted here is creative commons, and other than expecting attribution, free for the taking.

Positivism and immigration

Porfirio Díaz may have presented himself (and largely remained) a simple soldier from Oaxaca, but when it came to his advisors and cabinet, his choice fell on the era’s elites: with the singular exception of his former girl-friend, the Zapotec entrepreneur, Juana Catalina Romero, he was surrounded by rich, well-born white men, While honest and well-intentioned for the most part, were out-of-touch with the masses. Díaz’ “think tank”… los cientificos (the scientists) … were, to a man, influenced by the then “modern” philosophy of Positivism.

  At its most basic, the Positivists said that all human knowledge is based on the logical interpretation of natural events. In other words: What you see is what you get. Having fought both the clerical party in the Reforma, and the monarchists during the French intervention, the new elites of Porfirio’s generation naturally gravitated to a school of thought that no longer depended on either tradition or divine revelation for guidance. However, Positivism lost something in translation when it reached Latin America.

Porfirio was the great nationalist hero who had heroically fought against the French, but Positivism was for the most part a French import. Positivism had first developed in France, and Latin American intellectuals largely depended on French writers for their own understanding of the new thinking. Positivists’ experience of the world being that of France, Porfirio depended on men who saw their former enemy as the source of not only the best thinking of the time, but as a nation to emulate if they wanted to turn their weak nation into one that could fend off further foreign intervention… from, among others… France!

The cientificos, like other Positivists, had adopted the best of the new scientific thinking from Europe, as well as some of the worst. Misreading Darwin’s “Origin of Species” in which “survival of the fittest” meant the survival of a species in a given place meant the successful breeding by those individuals who had best adapted to their environment to mean that those human cultures that were the most “advanced” were the “fittest”: the French, naturally, seeing France as the ideal of an advanced culture. Quite logically, the cientificos could cite statistics showing that European workers were more productive than Mexicans, not noticing the Europeans were better fed, housed, and clothed than their own people, and that western Europe was highly industrialized fifty years earlier, in large part thanks to natural resources imported from colonial possessions and countries like Mexico. All factors that were overlooked by “Social Darwinism”: France and western Europe were thriving because the people were more “developed”. The cientificos saw was “whitening” the population as an imperative for national development.

Realistically, they knew the “criollos” were a shrinking minority, and – although they gave thought to preserving “traditional values” when attempting to recruit Irish and Italian migrants (both from Catholic nations, with the Italians having priority, being seen as having a “Mediterranean” culture closer to that of Latin America) – they were less interested in preserving the Church and tradition than in whitening the “Mexican race”.

With the United States on its northern border, however, Mexico would be an “also ran” in the 19th century contest for attracting new immigrants. Both countries had large tracts of “undeveloped” land (meaning, often as not, populated by indigenous people who weren’t engaged in exploiting the land for export agriculture or mining) but the United States, having a stable economy, and better transportation into these open territories, was better able to attract the European immigrants. Mexico had to settle for what they could get.


Having been the first nation to outlaw slavery, black slaves in what had been Mexican Texas had freeing themselves by heading south before the American Civil War. After the war, the U.S. army occupied the former slave-holding states until 1876. When the troops withdrew, the former slaves lost most of their new economic and civil rights as citizens. African-Americans—especially those with farm management skills—were also welcome during the Porfiriate.


Despite the cientificos, in common with other positivists, contention that the “white race” as the most advanced, they supported William Henry Ellis, a Texas businessman born a slave, and his plans for founding colonies for former black slaves who wanted to leave the United States. The plan, meant to foster the Mexican cotton industry, fell apart mostly because Ellis was too good a salesman. To raise the funds needed for both settlement and paying moving expenses for the would-be colonists, he naturally changed his “pitch” depending on what might appeal to the particular interests of whatever financial backers he hoped to interest in the colony. To those who supported racial segregation, he sold the Mexican colonies as a way of ridding the country of African-Americans. To those sympathetic to the former slaves, he sold it as a way of giving people a chance at an independent livelihood. And to those who were still set on annexing Mexican territory into the United States, Ellis sold it as a way of “infiltrating” people whose first allegiance would be to the United States. The latter, when reported to the Porfirian cabinet, was the end of Ellis’ colonization plan.

Langston Hughes as a young man

Still, individual African-Americans were drawn to Mexico. Langston Hughes, the African-American poet and essayist, was the son of a Toluca factory manager. Hughes Senior, despite having a university degree, was unable to find professional work in the United States because of his race. In moving to Mexico, the elder Hughes was not only able to use his education, but, he hoped, provide a better future for his son. The poet later noted ironically that as an African-American he was sometimes forbidden entry to segregated facilities that would admit him when he said he was “Mexican”; and that some places forbade Mexicans, but not African-Americans, and some forbade all “non-whites”.

African-Americans and later Afro-Caribbean migrants, were for the most part accepted into the Mexican culture, despite the “colorism” expressed by the “cientificos” and still noted today by the small (less than 2 percent of the general population) number of Mexicans who define themselves as “Afro-Mexican”. Less fortunate were Chinese and Korean migrants.

Small numbers of Chinese had been living in Mexico since the 16th century: mostly merchants or sailors who had emigrated by way of the Philippines. In the United States, Chinese railway workers had come south as lines expanded into Mexico. When the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1888 in the United States prevented further Chinese immigration north of the border, Chinese immigrants already in the United States could not send for their families, and Chinese migrants, both direct from China and by way of the United States, settled primarily along the northern border. Seen as outsiders, and often financially better off than their neighbors (Foreign railroad companies, having depended on Chinese labor in the United States, paid Chinese workers more than native-born Mexican workers) they were resented, leading to some ugly racist incidents that persisted into the 1930s. With the Yucatan sisal industry dependent on the dirty, back-breaking work of reluctant Mayans, and even more reluctant convict labor, employers recruited landless peasants from Korea.

This is not to say that the cientificos simply gave up on encouraging European immigration, only that … outside of the Italian colonies in Michoacán. attempts to attract large colonies of Europeans who would easily assimilate into Mexico never completely succeeded. Europeans who assimilated were single men who arrived on their own, for the most part Spanish (which until 1898 included Cubans), and German (and German-American) businessmen or farmers… including one Joseph Fox, born Fuchs, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1865. Having gone nearly bankrupt in the Depression of 1896, Fox had enough capital to buy a farm in Guanajuato. His grandson, Vicente Fox Quesado, would be elected President in 2000.

While never assimilating (or, in any real sense “whitening” the general population), two large scale immigrant settler communities continue to thrive in Mexico. And led to re-imagining of Mexico as a safe haven for persecuted minorities. Ironically, both came from countries considered havens for the persecuted: Mormons from the United States, and Mennonites from Canada.