Are Caucasians Too Cheap to Honor the Real First Citizens of the County?

Dear Mexican, Why, despite the richest of Spanish colonial, Mexican-era heritages and histories in California, is Orange County so seriously lacking in public awareness and presentation of that history? Sure, we have a few streets named after mis primos—Yorbas, Avilas, etc.—but where are the park statues of vaqueros y mujeres, the replica carettas, the public PA systems blaring "This Land Was Our Land" in Spanish? Is the current crop of Caucasians too cheap or red in the neck to pony up a few pesos to honor the real first citizens of the county?A Long-Time Californio

Dear Readers, I swear I didn't pay this guy to ask this question. To make it relevant to ustedes outside Orange County, I'll limit my discussion to Mendez v. Westminster, a 1946 case that desegregated schools in California for Mexicans and served as precedent for the more-famous Brown v. Board of Education. This case is a landmark in American civil rights, an important part of the American experience, yet for decades the only history book that mentioned it was Carey McWilliams' 1949 North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States. In Orange County last year, original plaintiff Sylvia Mendez asked to be included in Huntington Beach's Fourth of July parade (the largest west of the Mississippi), but was rejected because organizers said she didn't provide enough entertainment! The contributions of wabs to our national tapestry are traditionally neglected outside of conquistadors and Manifest Destiny for the same reason that other subaltern histories get short shrift: Any examination forces gabachos to deal with the actions of their ancestors. Know-Nothings argue ethnic studies lead to the Balkanization of America, a false dichotomy that never acknowledges that disciplines like Chicano Studies would've never emerged if previous generations of gabacho instructors had done their damn job. garellano@seattleweekly.com

 
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