23 Aug

Listening To: “History is Falling for Science” – This Day & Age, …Always Leave the Ground

Today was the first day of classes for the CEMAL fall semester (CEMAL is the Spanish acronym for the Center for Global Education, the program I am on..translated, CGE becomes Centro para la Educación Mundial). Among about a thousand other things, we had a two hour crash course in Mexican political history from Antonio Ortega, the professor for my Women, Gender, and Social Change in Latin America class, a historian, and also the man who leaves condoms all over Cuernavaca as a way to call attention to AIDS and the need for sexual education. I was kind of dreading it, because who really wants to sit through two hours of political history after a long day of classes and an even longer day of homework ahead of them? But it ended up being one completely fascinating, and in the two hours that Antonio lectured, I took seven and a half pages of notes. Learning about Mexican political history from a Mexican, it turns out, is really cool. And nothing even a little bit like learning about Mexican history in history classes in the US. So, here is my mini-lesson on things I learned today about Mexico from a Mexican, some of which many of you might already know, but most of which you probably never learned or already forgot. Enjoy!

  • The Conquistadores, who I always imagined as fancy men with gold plates on their shins and feathers in their hats (although I’m sure I should have known better as I must have learned this sometime during my history education), were actually the convicts of Spain, sent to MesoAmerica because it didn’t matter if they died along the way. No wonder terrible things happened when they got to the Americas, its not like they had a good record beforehand.
  • The Spaniards originally called the land they conquered “New Spain” which makes me wonder if anyone was ever original when they were conquering.
  • When Mexico became free from Spain the Spaniards disapproved of the name choice and wanted them to spell it Mejico instead, which begs the question, why in the world did the Spaniards think they had any say in how Mexico spelled their new, independent-from-Spain, name?
  • In 1848, the Mexicans suffered from something they call the “American Invasion”…a little something that we here in the United States learn to be called the “Mexican-American War”. Invasion…war…same thing, right? 
  • The reason that the United States did not claim more of Mexico after the invasion (they had made it all the way down to Mexico City, placing a USA flag on top of the capitol) was because of racial discrimination — The United States government wanted more land, but not the “type” of people who were living in Mexico — namely, people of mixed race and Catholics.
  • Cinco de Mayo is the celebration of defeating the French (during the French Invasion from 1862-1867) on May the 5th. However, Mexico lost the war, and the French Emperors Maximillion and Charlotte were executed and went insane, respectively.
  • The Mexican Constitution of 1917 calls for “no reeleccion,” meaning that a president cannot hold the office more than once, although presidents in Mexico have 6-year terms.
  • In 2009, a law was passed in Mexico City that allows transgendered inviduals to change the name on their birth certificate to their chosen name of the opposite gender.
  • Also in 2009, Mexico City granted “100% Marriage” which sounds awesome, but is only kind of awesome. Same sex couples are able to get a marriage certificate in Mexico City, but they are not granted any of the rights that normally come with marriage (so no Social Security with their partner, no ability to adopt)…so basically this means nothing (well, I guess it’s better than nothing).



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