Growing up in Mexico as a missionary kid gave me a different perspective on my native land. Whether always welcomed or not, I could not help but filter my own early sense of patriotism through the lenses of classmates. Their take on the United States was that of the colossus to the North that had stolen a huge section of their country in an illegitimate war and given it a new name—Texas.
When Fidel Castro and his revolutionary compatriots seized control of Cuba on January 1, 1959, I was 14. In Torreón, the city in northern Mexico where my family lived during my junior and senior high school years (except for 11th grade in 1960-1961 when I attended Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth) spontaneous street celebrations broke out. It would take me a good while longer to understand better why Mexicans took such glee in the triumph of the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and the other bearded firebrands on a Caribbean island most of them never dreamed of visiting.
What the crowds in Torreón and countless other cities and towns throughout Latin America were cheering was that an apparently rag-tag bunch of indigenous dreamers had run off a military dictator put in power by the United States of America. (This brings to mind another bit of hubris that we U.S. citizens tend to have, that of referring to the USA as “America” as though we owned the entire continent. My school friends, by the way, liked to make the point that the formal name of their country is the “United States of Mexico.”) Read more ›