Monday, January 10, 2011

Mexico and the United States by W. Dirk Raat

I am a Canadian, and I must admit, I know little about of Mexico. I think that this book can give anyone a handle on the relationship of Mexico and the United States. Theirs is a complicated relationship and I think it is one that we should all understand. I find little on the internet about Dirk Raat, but I found his book a very enjoyable one to read.

I know Mexicans still think that they were hard done by the American’s who now own what was the North West part of their country. However, I do not have much sympathy for them on this. Do not forget that Spain got that land by conquest not long before it was taken by the Americans. Of course, the Americans also got the land by conquest. However, this does not make the Americans any better or any worse than the Mexicans. Maybe we should consider that in all of this, the original inhabitants of this land were never consulted.

Raat starts of talking about the different attributes of the people on both sides of the US/Mexican border. All people perceive the world from an egocentric or ethnocentric point of view. The Aztec thought of the people outside their center, especially to the north, as “sons of the dogs” or barbarians. They were referring to the people basically in south-western US and northern Mexico.

There was cultural conflict between the Mexicans and the Americans. The American thought of the Mexicans as ignorant, indolent and cowardly. They called the Mexicans greasers and chili peppers. Both the Spanish and the Mexicans found the Americans presumptuous, ambitious and aggressive.

Raat spends time on the background to and the fighting between the Mexicans and the Americans. There was really an undefined border between the new countries of Mexico and America when they gained independence from Spain and England. The land of Mexico that became part of the US was always on the margin of the Spanish Empire and then on the margin of Mexico. Its people were basically neglected by Spain and then Mexico.

This land was sparsely populated and its people traded with the Americans. Mexico centralized its government in 1830’s (from a federalist system). However, it never integrated this area. The frontier was dependent on the Americans for goods, especially manufactured goods. The area basically first became an economic part of the US before it became part of the US. However, another part of this story is also the American ideal of Manifest Destiny.

With the economic ties of US also came Americans and others via America into this region. Another point that has seldom been mentioned is that Santa Anna executed the survivors of the Alamo who surrendered. He also executed Colonel James Fannin and his Army (around 365 men) who surrendered also to Santa Anna. To the Mexicans, Santa Anna was a hero. To the Americans, he was a butcher.

See an article by Dirk Raat on Innovative Ways to Look at New World Historical Geography.

On my website is how to find this book on Amazon if you care to purchase it. See Raat. Also, this book review and other books I have reviewed are on my website at Book Reviews.