Be­ware Latino push­back

Business Day - - OPINION -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s wall-build­ing ob­ses­sion on the Mex­i­can bor­der will have reper­cus­sions which I doubt he has con­sid­ered.

Dur­ing a World War 2 sum­mit, then US pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt pressed UK prime min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill to hand Hong Kong back to the Chi­nese. Fu­ri­ous at the thought, Churchill asked Roo­sevelt if he had con­sid­ered giv­ing Texas back to Mex­ico. Hong Kong has now been part of China for more than 20 years but Texas is still a US state. While this may look im­mutable, these are in­deed strange times.

For build­ing a wall fo­cuses at­ten­tion on where the bor­der “should” be, and threat­ens to let the Latino ge­nie es­cape the bot­tle. Apart from Texas, US Gen Win­field Scott forced the 1848 Guadalupe-Hi­dalgo treaty on the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment, which trans­ferred what be­came Cal­i­for­nia, Ne­vada, Colorado, New Mex­ico, Utah and Wyoming for a con­sid­er­a­tion of $15m. Barely a week ear­lier, gold nuggets were dis­cov­ered at Sut­ter’s Mill near Sacra­mento, giv­ing rise to the Cal­i­for­nia gold rush. As shady real es­tate deals go, I doubt this was a coin­ci­dence.

Suc­cess­fully as­sert­ing his­tor­i­cal land claims isn’t easy, as the Ar­gen­tini­ans found in the Falk­lands. But the Chi­nese suc­ceeded with Hong Kong and the Jews with Is­rael. As anti-glob­al­ist na­tion­al­ism is on the rise, the Lati­nos must be in with a chance. The fa­mous Zim­mer­mann tele­gram (promis­ing the re­turn of these ter­ri­to­ries on the al­lies’ de­feat), al­most brought Mex­ico in on Ger­many’s side in World War 1. There is an over­whelm­ing Span­ish-Latino cul­ture in the US, es­pe­cially in the south­ern states, and lit­er­ally mil­lions of Mex­i­cans have been al­lowed into the coun­try over the years to pro­vide the me­nial labour that Amer­i­cans feel be­neath them.

With more than 55-mil­lion Lati­nos res­i­dent in the US and an ex­pected pop­u­la­tion in­crease of 86% be­tween 2018 and 2060, ac­cord­ing to US Cen­sus data, Trump’s be­lated at­tempts to repa­tri­ate “il­le­gals” us­ing the “gestapo” and bor­der cages for chil­dren have boosted a new gen­er­a­tion of Latino(a) ac­tivists, of whom the fe­male Zorro Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez is just one.

If they can gar­ner sup­port from the wider Latino com­mu­nity, US ter­ri­tory could be con­sid­er­ably re­duced in 20 years’ time.

James Cun­ning­ham Camps Bay

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