Arizona’s southern Sonora Desert is like a war zone, bodies falling by the hundreds, leaving families back home to mourn missing loved ones. The dying part, however, is all one-sided—ironically, by those struggling to participate in the American dream, which itself is fast becoming more myth than reality.
Yes, they’re breaking the law, but should that involve a death penalty for so many? Delusional Donald would have us dismiss these lost souls with “good riddance.”
In 2018 through mid-December, 50 migrant deaths at our southern border were people drowned while trying to cross river borders. Another 27 deaths were skeletal remains discovered by American authorities.
The greatest cause of death was exposure to heat. A total of 281 known deaths were counted during the 2018 budget year ending Sept. 30, another 32 between then and the Dec. 15 report.
The government report, uncovered by ABC, states the vast majority of deaths in the recent budget year, 117, were migrants from Mexico. Another 116 people were “unknown.” It notes 41 people who died in 2018 were from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Reuters news service reported on Oct. 4, 2018, that the bodies of nearly 3,000 migrants had been recovered in southern Arizona since 2000, according to the Pima County medical examiner’s office. Some 1,100 of those remain unidentified, nameless in history.
Aid group Humane Borders, which sets up water stations along migrant trails, said that may be only a fraction of the total death toll; most bodies are never recovered.
So, of thousands of desperate people, many have been buried in anonymous graves or their undiscovered bones left to be ravaged by weather and wildlife—because of their desire for a better life in a land once colonized in part by their forefathers.
“We cannot continue to be a land, a country that was created on the idea that we accept everybody here. We have broken the number one rule of what America is all about,” says Alvaro Encisco, a member of Human Borders who constructs and erects crosses in the desert at spots where migrants were discovered to have died.
Alvaro’s name suggests Hispanic heritage, but that makes him no less American than I. My ancestors came to what is now the United States as early as 1620. His were possibly part of the Spanish exploration north of our existing southern border as early 1540 or so.
Our present southern border states were partially colonized by Mexico before they were absorbed by the imperialism of U.S. “manifest destiny,” the widely held belief in this new post-Revolutionary young nation that its settlers were divinely destined to expand across North America from sea to sea.
Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, even Louisiana had Spanish missions, forts, minor communities and scattered settlement before eventually being scooped up in final fashion by results of the U.S.-Mexican War that ended in 1848.
Take Texas, long a loosely settled province of Mexico. In 1824 Mexico encouraged settlement by allowing organized immigration from the U.S.—including my wife’s great, great, great grandfather who established a cotton plantation complete with slaves. Within a decade, 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas and only 7,800 Mexicans. Soon came the Texas Revolution, the Mexican War—and total white supremacy.
Arizona was a part of the Mexican state of Sonora from 1822 and on into the 1840s, acquired by the U.S. largely via the Mexican War and the Gadsden Purchase that also scooped up much of New Mexico.
The Spanish colonial period of California followed the Portola exploration expedition of 1769-70 when missionaries began establishing 21 missions on or near the coast north of the current border, beginning with San Diego de Alcala, plus several forts (presidios), such as the one in San Francisco where I served in 1951-52, and several small towns. After Mexico won independence in 1821, California fell under the jurisdiction of the First Mexican Empire. After the Mexican War, Mexico was forced to cede California to the U.S. in 1848, and the gold rush of 1848-49 also drew hundreds of thousands of Anglos from the rest of the U.S.
The upshot of it all is that Hispanics these days are finding it downright deadly trying to return to portions of the land of their forefathers.
DID YOU KNOW? Spanish sailing expeditions long preceded those by Europeans such as Vancouver along the Pacific coast as far north as Alaska. Port Townsend sits on Quimper Peninsula, named for a Mexican naval officer. There was an early Spanish settlement at Neah Bay, of which only fading signs remain.