We sat down with Professor Mario Salas of San Antonio’s NW Vista College and talked with him about the history of Black-Brown unity here in the United States and in Mexico.
Salas who is mixed Black and Mexican and a former member of SNCC gave us a serious lesson that touched upon slavery, colonialism and the back drop behind some of the famous wars along the border of Mexico and Texas.
Salas started out by talking about the history between the Black Panthers and Brown Berets who are still active in San Antonio. He talked about how recently the Berets came to the aid of the African American community and helped them get a community radio station. he explained that the two groups were always able to work together because the Panthers didn’t employ cultural nationalist politics. Both groups had a revolutionary philosophy which allowed for coalitions to form.
Salas talked about the original Rainbow Coalition which was conceived by Chairman Fred Hampton who headed up the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers. This was years before Jesse Jackson came along. The basic premise was for groups to unite around principles. One could and should have cultural pride but not at the expense of dissing or excluding other groups.
In our conversation we talked at length about immigration and how that issue has been framed and narrow-casted to only have a Brown face. Today when we say immigration we think of Mexicans trying to come to the United States and forget that there are dozens of African ethnic groups facing similar challenges in other parts of the country. Most notable are Haitians.
Salas gives us an insightful history into immigration history along the border which includes shedding light on Poncho Villa who he explained was half Black and commanded a Black army. Salas talked about how Buffalo soldiers deserted their position in the US Army and went to fight for Poncho Villa. He also talked about an army of made up of African women who came from Mexico. Salas also talked about the Afro-Mexican population in Vera Cruz. He also talked about the African influence on ‘mexican’ culture including the song La Bamba which was made famous by singer Richie Valens. He explained the song and word are African in origin.
During our interview we talked about language and how both Africans and Mexicans who were originally indigenous. Professor Salas talked about how the Spaniards literally beat the native languages out of Indigenous peoples and forced them to speak Spanish. he talked about how people were beaten in the streets of Mexico City until they spoke Spanish. This was similar to what happened with African slaves brought over to the US were beaten until they stopped using their native tongue and spoke English. With regards to Mexicans people crossing the border were beaten until they stopped speaking Spanish and started speaking English. I’m not sure people realize the level of brutality that was imposed upon slaves and native peoples by those who colonized these lands. Salas went on to add in great detail about the origins of Mexican identity and how this led to the erasing the history of indigenous people’s tribes and cultural heritage.
We spoke about the Battle of Alamo where Professor Salas explained that it was essentially a ‘slave owner rebellion’ that centered around Mexico’s President at the time whowas Afro-Mexican banning slavery. He gives the full history of this and talks about General Santa Ana who is immortalized in the break beat song ‘The Mexican’ by Babe Ruth
We talked at length about the caste system in Mexico which was imposed by the Spaniards who brought over 300 thousand African slaves and forced to breed and marry to lighten up the race. Salas explained that certain last names were given to people to indicate that they were African vs Native. Names like Moreno and Grito are two of the many.
We concluded into our conversation by talking about the challenge both Blacks and Browns have in the US. They include buying into White Supremacy, Sharing Power and avoiding Divide and Conquer tactics. Salas said it was important that we support those who share the same goals and principles and not just a Brown or Black face. he talked about the miscalculation it was for some Black organizations to support Clarence Thomas and for some Mexican organizations to support Alberto Gonzalez. Salas noted that we should all strive to have a global perspective, be fully engaged and aware of policies we have toward Latin America and to connect the dots where ever possible.
We also talked about the opportunity and role that President Obamahas in enhancing Black-Brown unity. We talked about regional differences and how Black Brown unity has different faces and challenges in various parts of the country. Texas has a unique history which is different then what takes place in California which is different than what takes place in New York or Miami. He noted in Texas the history may even be different in various parts of the state. For example, in east texas, the culture is more Southern. In other parts Texas is much more Southwestern.
Professor Salas suggested we read books like ‘Black and Brown’ by Gerald Horne which is filled with historical facts and highlights points of unity. He said we should also read Texis Devils by Michael Collardwhich focuses on the history of ther Texas Rangers who were essentially a Ku Klux Klan force that terroized the Mexican population in Texas.
Below is a video which gives a short exceprt of our conversation.. T o hear the entire entire peep our Breakdown FM podcast
Black and Brown Unity pt2-the Immigration Debate
We spoke with popular Washington DC based blogger Carlos Quiroz from
Washinton DC about Black-Brown Unity and Immigration reform.. During the Immigration Panel at Netroots Convention the topic of Black-Brown unity came up and generated a lot of discussion both within and outside of the panel…
The main concerns that were raised was the types of prejudices and disdain being expressed on the left as opposed to the right side of the political spectrum. The question was raised as to whether or not in cities where there are Black/Brown tensions like Los Angeles, if there would be a manipulation of rage in the same vein that fear was manipulated during the Healthcare debates. Expressed was the concern that ‘spokespersons’ for our respective communities would be handpicked by corporate media outlets so they could go on various shows and espouse inflammatory remarks. Thats definitely been happening in LA.
In this discussion we cover a lot of ground. We dwell into those questions and more. Carlos who is Peruvian drops keen insight into how colonialism has impacted the way people view race in many parts of Latin America. He talks about the opportunity to build coalitions and how that is happening in some places.
Also featured is our comrad Faviana Rodriguez, a popular artis/paintert out of Oakland. We build with her on this topic as well. We talk to her about the role art and cultural expression play in politicizing people and moving folks to action..
Adding to this discussion is the interview I did I for Carlos’ blog here are the links to that…