Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mexico, the Latino Vote and Maximilian

I addressed this issue somewhat during the controversy over the SB1070 bill in Arizona but given the high profile Hispanics (the majority of whom are Mexican-Americans) in all the talk about the recent election, I thought it worth addressing again. Also because some common and often repeated misconceptions need to be cleared up. I have heard over and over again that Hispanics were the key demographic in the last election; they are the reason Obama won and Romney lost. This makes sense considering that Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States with, again, Mexican-Americans making up the largest part of that group. In fact, there are now more Mexicans living in the United States than in Mexico. That, in and of itself, should tell the world something about what kind of country Mexico is. It is no paradise and they certainly cannot blame the tiny monarchist minority. Mexico only ever had two monarchs who together ruled for less than a decade and they shot both of them. But I have noticed some rather glaring inconsistencies when it comes to people, particularly on the political right in the United States, evaluating the state of the average Latino and/or Mexican-American at this time. Allow me to explain:

Over and over again I have heard that the Mexican-American community shares many traditional values with the American “right”. Over and over again I have heard that these people are overwhelmingly Catholic, very family oriented and value hard work and individual achievement. They should be voting for conservatives! Yet, at the same time, many of these same “talking heads” repeat statistics which almost totally contradict that line about Mexican-Americans that they continue, nonetheless, to repeat. First of all, yes, the vast majority are baptized Roman Catholics. They are, in fact, the vast majority of all Catholics in the United States at this time. However, only about 30% of baptized Catholics in this country actually attend mass regularly. That leaves a whopping 70% that do not. This shows when you consider that Latinos in this country have voted consistently, by wide margins, for the Democrat Party which champions numerous things opposed by the Catholic Church, including gay “marriage”, taxpayer-funded birth control and most importantly abortion. I am, as most know, from the great state of Texas and am very familiar with this situation. Hispanics are the majority of the population in Texas. Take a look at a map of abortions in Texas and you will see that the majority of them are done in the area along the southern border where there is the highest concentration of the Mexican-American population. It is this same area which is the most solidly Democrat in terms of voting allegiance in an otherwise very Republican state.

The same holds true on strong families and family values. People say that Hispanics value these things and yet Hispanics have the second highest illegitimate birth rate in the entire country with only the African-American community having more. So, these very Catholic, very family oriented Hispanics have a divorce rate comparable with other ethnic groups, the second highest number of illegitimate births and the second highest number of abortions. Like the rest of America, in terms of Catholics at least, most of them, likewise, do not attend Church regularly. Now, I should not have to state (but I shall) that these are general statistics. There are, of course, many devoutly Christian Hispanics, very family oriented Hispanics and these tend to support more conservative candidates. However, it is simply a fact that these are not the majority and it should be no surprise as to why. That is the point I think everyone is missing. Not only is much of what is said about Latinos factually incorrect but there is no reason why anyone should think those things would be true in the first place because they are based on false assumptions about Mexico itself.

Things like family values are strongly entwined with religion and religious beliefs and despite the popular perception of Mexico as a very religious and very Catholic country, this is simply not the case. Growing up right next door to Mexico, it took a good number of years before I ever even realized most of the rest of the U.S.A. saw Mexico as such an overwhelmingly Catholic country. I never did. Sure, almost every Mexican has a statue or picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in their home and a rosary hanging from their rear-view mirror, but it is also a country famous for corruption, where anything and anyone can be purchased. I suppose growing up with both sides of the coin on constant display, I never noticed many people were only seeing one side. Another thing everyone on the border grows up with is the weekend rush of high school guys to the Mexican border towns. And no one went there to go to Church -trust me. So, even at a very early age, yes, I knew that most Mexicans were at least nominal Catholics but I also knew Mexico as the country where prostitution was legal, anyone could buy alcohol and where all the drugs came from. Statistics which list the religious affiliation of a people do not tell the whole story of the depth of faith of a country.

The fact is that for most of the recent history of Mexico, not only has it not been a devoutly Catholic country, it has in fact been a very anti-Catholic and generally anti-Christian country. Where did it all start? Believe it or not, it pretty much started with the fall of the last effort at a monarchy in Mexico. Actually, it was slightly earlier, but still a part of the same overall struggle. The reign of Emperor Maximilian was actually the last great hope for Mexico to be the devout and solidly Catholic country that everyone imagines it to be. I do not say that because of my own bias, it is perfectly true. The short-lived First Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide had been very Catholic and even the republican regime that succeeded it generally maintained good relations with the Church and many of the succession of generals who subsequently seized power often had close ties with the Church. Even under so notorious a sinner as Santa Anna, Catholicism remained the one and only religion of Mexico with the acceptance of Catholicism one of the requirements for citizenship. However, all of that changed during the presidency of Ignacio Comonfort and the new constitution drawn up largely by his Chief Justice; Benito Juarez.

It was at that time, for the first time, hereditary titles were abolished, religious holidays were banned, religion was removed from the schools, religious marriages were no longer valid and public officials were even banned from attending Church. Catholicism was also dropped as the state religion. This was 1857 so, obviously, the roots of anti-clericalism in Mexico go back pretty far (and the country had only existed since 1821). This was a major part of the reason for the outbreak of the civil war between the anti-clerical liberals and pro-Catholic conservatives that preceded the French intervention and the establishment of the Second Mexican Empire in 1864. Benito Juarez also provoked conflict by confiscating all Church property and this certainly influenced Pope Pius IX in blessing the effort of Emperor Maximilian to restore Mexico to the status of an officially Catholic empire. As it turned out, Maximilian was not as strident as the Pope and the local Church hierarchy would have liked. Truth be told, there was plenty of blame to go around for the state Mexico was in when the new Emperor arrived and the Church had done a pretty terrible job at catechizing the people (not an uncommon problem, then or now).

Emperor Maximilian incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church by refusing to restore the vast properties Juarez had previously taken from then and for his insistence that religious freedom be upheld in his empire. Of course, he restored Catholicism as the official state Church but he would not punish people for not adhering to it. The Church could not have known (though they perhaps should have looked at the state of the world and been a bit more farsighted) that this was the best “deal” they were ever going to get in Mexico. Had Maximilian succeeded and the Mexican Empire survived, the religiosity of the country would certainly have been different than how things actually unfolded. For one thing, among the large volunteer corps sent over from Austria-Hungary, single, solidly Catholic men from across the Hapsburg realms were preferred in the hope that they would settle in Mexico after the war, marry and raise families, increasing the ethnic diversity of the country but strengthening its Catholic character at the same time. The fight between the monarchists and republicans in Mexico was, even if not everyone realized it at the time, the real pivotal clash between the clerical and the anti-clerical over domination of the country.

Anti-clerical = national hero
When Juarez emerged victorious, his anti-Church measures came back into effect and his successors were no better. His immediate successor, Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, upheld the anti-clerical laws and even expelled the Sisters of Charity from Mexico. He was later overthrown by General Porfirio Diaz (who had gained fame fighting for Juarez during the second empire). A dictator, Diaz did bring about a period of law and order for the first time most Mexicans could remember. He took a somewhat more pragmatic stance with the Church and did not enforce the most repressive laws against them but neither would he repeal them. If any Church official displeased him, he could always invoke the law to take action. Diaz came down in “the” Mexican Revolution (the one most people think of though there have been many) and after a long period of chaos and civil war a very anti-Christian and Marxist faction seized power, establishing what would become the decades long tyranny of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (who actually regained the presidency in the last Mexican elections). Their leaders made Juarez look like an altar boy. Priests were killed, Churches were closed (or turned into anything from garages to brothels) and the persecution became so intense that Catholics in Mexico began waging a guerilla war against the government, which the hierarchy eventually stopped. Even the most revered holy relic in Mexican history, the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, had to be smuggled out of the country to prevent it from being destroyed.

The wholesale slaughter was stopped but the Church remained extremely restricted in Mexico until fairly recently. Politicians could not attend public services, priests and religious could not wear their habits in public and foreign religious were not allowed in the country at all. Even to this day the Church is treated with suspicion by the Mexican government. This is why it is amazing to me that so many still view Mexico as a solidly Catholic country full of nothing but devoutly religious people. Again, many people are, but obviously many more have been very far from that. It is all the more amazing considering that the United States was, during the worst period of persecution, inundated by Mexican Catholic refugees fleeing the anti-Christian barbarity of their own fellow countrymen. And, as I mentioned, those persecutions were carried out by the party whose candidate the Mexican people just elected to the presidency. Mexico is no more strongly Catholic than the United States is strongly Protestant and actually probably less so as the United States has never had anything close to the level of religious persecution seen south of the border. But, let’s face it, one fifth of Americans no longer identify themselves with any religion at all and the number of people who “used to be” Christians outnumber those who actually are and then there is a whole host of people who are “spiritual” but not “religious” and the “I believe in something but don’t really go to Church” crowd.

pious emperor = national villain
If Mexico was a strongly, overwhelmingly Catholic country it would not be in the state it is now. If the United States was a strongly Christian country of any sort it would not have just reelected Barack Hussein Obama (and probably wouldn’t have nominated someone like Mitless Romney either). The fate of Mexico was sealed that tragic day on the Hill of Bells at Queretaro when Emperor Maximilian and Generals Miramon and Mejia (who should probably have a cause for his canonization if politics truly never entered into those decisions) were executed. From that time on the rulers have done all in their power to beat the Catholicism out of the people and after more than a hundred years it would be foolish to think they have had no impact. Of course, there is always the hope that the Mexican people can be fully reunited with their Catholic roots but I doubt that will happen in the United States but should be done in Mexico which at least had, for quite some time, a Catholic culture.

The bottom line is that no group of people who would (by such a wide margin) vote for the author of the HHS mandate, support gay “marriage” and who is the most pro-abortion president in American history is simply not a “strongly Catholic” or “inherently conservative” group of people. An amnesty bill will not win them over with the media, education system and Hollywood all having drummed it into their heads for decades that the political right is the land of bigots and racists. Now, if the Republicans embraced amnesty, open borders, more social welfare programs, more government spending and a cradle-to-grave nanny state they might win them over, along with many other groups, but then they would just be Democrats wouldn’t they? And if you want to see what happens to conservatives who try to be liberal-lite just take a look at the deplorable numbers of the Tory Party in Britain under Cameron and the growing support for alternative voices like UKIP. Policy changes are not the answer and a more dynamic political leader is not the answer. I will have to agree on this point with Patrick J. Buchanan. America doesn’t need another politician, America needs a Saint Paul.

To reiterate the point, I hope no one takes this as a tirade against Mexico or Hispanics in general (though undoubtedly some will). You cannot grow up and live where I do and have attitudes like that. Probably 8 out of 10 people I have known my whole life are Mexican-Americans, in this area Texas and Mexico really overlap. The vast majority of kids I grew up with, went to school with and, yes, go to church with, are Mexican-Americans. They are my friends, in some cases my family. My point is that many people seem to have a very narrow and misguided view of the population as a whole. Republicans eager to ride back to political victory on the backs of faithful Hispanic Catholics will be in for a big let-down. Hispanics are no more inherently religious than any other group of people and for nearly the last hundred years they have grown up in and come from a country in which Christianity was persecuted and which was under one party socialist rule. Sadly, the majority of the people have not turned their backs on that and, if voting records are to be the standard of judgment, have even turned towards it again. If what Republicans are assuming about the Mexican population was true, Benito Juarez would not be a celebrated national hero in Mexico to this day and Emperor Maximilian still considered a villain. I wish the reverse were true, but sadly, it is not.


  1. It seems the best conservatives are to be found in Hungary, Poland and the Baltic states- strongly nationalistic, Christian and despises the Left.

    What do you make of all these secession petitions? Can we dismiss them or could there be rumblings of something?

  2. Hello there. Wonderful blog. I thought this article by the British philosopher and social commentator John Gray might appeal to you. 'Monarchy is the Key to our Liberty'

  3. I don't know who the heck you are, but as a Mexican (living in Mexico and a devout lover of history) you are erily accurate in your assesment of the religious and historical situation in Mexico. Needless to say, I am quite impressed. Do you have facebook? I have many things to ask you, as I see you are quite bright and delight in that which is so uncommon; common sense.

    1. I do have a page on Facebook but I don't "talk" on it. The best place to get in touch with me is right here.


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