Tales from Aztlantis

Episode 3: New Mexico has a hispano White Nationalism Problem

April 06, 2021 Kurly Tlapoyawa and Ruben Arellano Tlakatekatl Season 1 Episode 3
Tales from Aztlantis
Episode 3: New Mexico has a hispano White Nationalism Problem
Show Notes Transcript

When you hear the phrase “white nationalist” the sad image of an angry young skinhead toting a nazi flag and snapping out the fascist salute may come to mind. But here in New Mexico, we have a brand of white nationalism rooted in “hispano” identity. And while the people promoting this ideology may look very different from the angry skinhead, their objectives are no less dangerous.

So, what is a hispano white nationalist you might ask?


Works Mentioned in this Episode:


Your hosts:

Kurly Tlapoyawa is an archaeologist, ethnohistorian, and filmmaker. His research covers Mesoamerica, the American Southwest, and the historical connections between the two regions. He is the author of numerous books and has presented lectures at the University of New Mexico, Yale University, San Diego State University, and numerous others. He is currently a professor of Chicano Studies at the Colegio Chicano del Pueblo, a free online educational institution.

Ruben Arellano Tlakatekatl is a scholar, activist, and professor of history. His research explores Chicana/Chicano indigeneity, Mexican indigenist nationalism, and Coahuiltecan identity resurgence. Other areas of research include Aztlan (US Southwest), Anawak (Mesoamerica), and Native North America. He has presented and published widely on these topics and has taught courses at various institutions. He currently teaches history at Dallas College – Mountain View Campus.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/hcarchy)

When you hear the phrase “white nationalist” the sad image of an angry young skinhead toting a nazi flag and snapping out the fascist salute may come to mind. But here in New Mexico, we have a brand of white nationalism rooted in “hispano” identity. And while the people promoting this ideology may look very different from the angry skinhead, their objectives are no less dangerous.

So, what is a hispano white nationalist you might ask?

The ideology that drives hispano white nationalism is rooted in the (false) historical narrative that New Mexicans are directly descended from Spanish conquistadors and that New Mexico has a unique, distinctly “Spanish” (NOT Mexican) cultural inheritance. Those that promote this confused ideology will recoil in disgust at the very idea of being called a “Mexican,” and will be quick to respond to such an accusation with “I’m not a Mexican! I am Spanish!”

Of course, this is ridiculous. But ideologies based on racial fantasy seldom make sense.

You see, New Mexico’s hispanos view themselves as white Spaniards who just so happened to mix a little bit with Indigenous people, not as a mixed-blood Indigenous people who maintain cultural practices rooted on this continent for thousands of years. The distinction is important, as hispano identity is firmly rooted in whiteness, while Chicano identity is an open declaration of Indigenous pride. In other words, one identity prioritizes a European worldview, while the other celebrates an Indigenous cultural inheritance.

While hispanos may pay lip service to this Indigenous ancestry by claiming to be “mestizo” (mixed-blood), it always comes from the perspective of whiteness, and almost always as an excuse for their racism against New Mexico’s Indigenous people. “How can I be racist? My great grandmother was a Pueblo Indian!”

A perfect example of this twisted ideology can be found in the following facebook post:

gross…

hispanos position themselves as white Spaniards first and foremost and see the brutal conquest of Mesoamerica and the American Southwest as completely justified. (“Sure, the Spanish raped, enslaved, and murdered people. But hey, now you have wine!”) Some will even go so far as to deny that the Spanish committed any atrocities against Indigenous people at all, and that such claims are lies meant to disparage their ancestors. The stark similarities to holocaust denial should not sit well with anyone.

Recently two prominent statues of Juan de Oñate, a Spaniard who was found guilty of acts of brutality against the Acoma people, were taken down after much protest. This enraged New Mexico’s hispano community, who saw this as a direct assault on their European heritage. And while a final decision has yet to be made regarding the fate of these statues, hispanos are demanding that they are erected once again.

So, how did New Mexico get to this point? What prompted NuevoMexicanos to reject their mixed-blood Indigenous heritage and embrace an identity based on a European self-image?

The answer lies in a racial fantasy concocted shortly after the Mexican-American war.

When the United States forcefully acquired the modern southwest from Mexico, the newly taken land came with the people who lived on it. Lots of them. Overnight, Mexican citizens of mixed Indigenous blood along with Pueblo and Plains people who had lived in the Southwest for millennia were placed in a state of limbo. America now had a “Mexican problem.”

In the years following the war, Mexican Americans were commonly referred to as “half-breeds” and “mongrels” by an Anglo-operated press that viewed them as the enemy. As historian Mark Reisler has pointed out, the perception of Mexican Americans in the American mindset stressed a dual theme: “the Mexican’s Indian blood would pollute the nation’s genetic purity, and his biologically determined degenerate character traits would sap the country’s moral fiber and corrupt its institutions.”

In an attempt to overcome their status as “half-breed Indians,” NuevoMexicanos rejected their Indigenous heritage outright, and the image of the “noble” Spanish explorer was elevated as the source of their identity. By glorifying Spanish colonialism and adopting a “Spanish-American” (white European) view of themselves, New Mexico’s mixed-blood Indigenous inhabitants were allowed to “redeem” their ethnicity by recasting themselves from dirty, disreputable Mexican Indians into noble Spanish explorers. This transformation from racially inferior “half-breed Indians” to “Spanish elites” helped assuage Anglo hostility towards New Mexico’s mixed-blood character, and New Mexico was eventually granted statehood in 1912.

As historian Charles Montgomery observed:

“Spanish-American” took root in New Mexico only because of the territory’s unusual balance of power. The term became embedded in everyday conversation only because it served the interests of both Anglo and Spanish-speaking leaders to propagate it, to spread it from newspaper editorials to party conventions to political meetings of the smallest towns. What made the term so popular was its malleability. In the eyes of Spanish-speaking politicians and newspaper editors, “Spanish-American” evoked both a proud Spanish colonial past and an elusive American future, a future in which they might still realize the promise of equality amid Anglo intolerance.”
— Charles Montgomery

Of course, this did not completely eliminate Anglos perceptions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans as an Indigenous threat to the American way of life. While discussing the “Mexican problem” for the journal Foreign Affairs, nativist author Glenn Hoover said the following: “More Indians have crossed the southern border in one year than lived in the entire territory of New England at the time of the Plymouth settlement. This movement is the greatest Indian migration of all time.”

Such attitudes prompted the freshly minted “hispanos” of New Mexico to deny their Indigenous blood even more vigorously and to demand that they be viewed as white. At a rally held in the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico in response to a newspaper article, poet Eusabio Chacon declared “The sense of said article is that we Spanish-Americans are a dirty, ignorant and degraded people, a mix of Indians and Spaniards…. I am a Spanish-American like the rest of you who listen to me. No blood runs through my veins other than the one Don Juan de Oñate brought, and the one later brought by the illustrious ancestors of my name.” This level of self-hatred and erasure of one’s own Indigenous past in exchange for white privilege is both heartbreaking and tragic. Especially when you consider that Oñate’s wife was of Aztec (Mexica) nobility, and his son was the great-great-grandson of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.

This call for a white “hispano” identity was echoed by politician Antonio Lucero, who in 1915 declared the following “Spanish-Americans belong to the Caucasian race. If there is a trace of the Indian among us, it is so slight and so rare as to prove the exception rather than the rule. We are not only Caucasians but we belong to that branch of the white race, the Aryan, which, more than all the other, has made the history of the world. Ours is a past that can take its place in that grand procession of greatness that is no more — a past to be admired, honored, and reverenced.”

Sadly, in their struggle to be viewed as equals by Anglo newcomers, the “hispanos” of New Mexico were robbed of their true ancestry. A rich heritage of Pueblo, Plains, and Mesoamerican cultural inheritance was wiped clean (even if in name only) and replaced by a racial fantasy deeply ingrained in the minds of many NuevoMexicanos and reinforced through years of pseudohistorical indoctrination.

It’s time to do away with this harmful, hateful racial myth.