Why they hate America
By Gaither Stewart
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 6, 2007, 00:54

Empire and Revolution
John Mason Hart
University of California Press
ISBN 0 - 520 - 22324 - 1 [cloth: alk. Paper]

John Mason Hart�s monumental Empire and Revolution answers with courage the question many modern Americans are asking: �Why do they hate us so much?� At the outset Professor Hart aptly quotes a passage from Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes� masterpiece, The Death of Artemio Cruz, the gist of which is that one cannot commit what North Americans [and the Mexican elite] have committed against Mexico and expect to be loved.

Hart�s answer is 677 pages long, including a flowing narrative text, extensive notes and a delicious 40-page index, a delight for students of U.S.-Mexican relations and for the general public alike. The author sees the historical attitudes of the United States toward its southern neighbor as the model for America�s drive for world hegemony and its urge to control other peoples.

Mexico was the first of the economically weak nations that Americans encountered after the Civil War. It was there that the historic compulsion of certain American elites toward external wealth and global power was first expressed. Hart, Professor of History at the University of Houston, walks a tight wire in a balancing act to show that relations between the two nations from 1865 until today have been marked by intervention from the north and revolution against it on one hand, and, on the other, by accommodation and cooperation.

The history of the last 137 years offers valuable insights for those who want to understand how the United States became a global empire.

Professor Hart in his introduction:

�From the beginnings of the nineteenth century until the present era, the citizens of the United States attempted to export their unique �American dream� to Mexico. Their vision incorporated social mobility, Protestant values, a capitalist free market, a consumer culture, and a democracy of elected representation.�


�The evolving pattern of American behavior in Mexico have reflected and usually anticipated the interactions of U.S. citizens in other Latin American and Third World societies.�

The American crossing the border at Laredo for the first time enters another world, a world beyond his conceptions; he cannot help but be astonished that the narrow Rio Grande can still divide two such distinct life styles after these 137 years.

But the border crossing is different depending on the direction and on whether you are Mexican or North American. Many Americans cross the International Bridge in their huge SUVs; many Mexicans, or wetbacks, wade through the water at night, at great risk and expense, for the privilege of working on Dallas skyscrapers or in California orchards at below the minimum wage and facing all sorts of discrimination.

While America has often treated Mexico�s people as children, Americans who have lived in Mexico understand that the Mexican people are and have always been the nation�s greatest wealth, one of the chief reasons Americans love Mexico. But they are also familiar with the love-hate relationship Mexicans have with their overpowering and crude neighbor to the north.

In the first half of Empire and Revolution, Hart traces from its origins the role of America�s economic - financial elite in Mexico, for whom annexation has been the traditional goal. Many Americans have favored outright political annexation of parts or of all of Mexico. Many have considered it just a question of time.

If one is amazed by the number of Mexicans immigrating to the United States today, Professor Hart reminds us of the mass immigrations of Americans to Mexico. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Americans purchased large tracts of land in Mexico and immigrated there in increasing numbers. By 1910, 40,000 Americans had swarmed into the new frontier territories -- 12, 000 in Mexico City itself -- where rich Americans settled in the plush Las Lomas quarter of the capital.

Foreigners came to own approximately 35 percent of Mexico. In the early times, many foreigners chose to open bars and nightclubs, dance halls, bordellos and casinos -- as later in Cuba -- rather than investing in agriculture and industry. Thus, many became early on exploiters of the common people.

Hart documents how the privatization and foreign investment policies of the regime of Porfirio Diaz in Mexico City, from the latter part of the nineteenth century up to the Revolution in 1910, enriched the oligarchy but left nothing for the Mexican people. The Mexican elite and the North American capitalists took all. Foreigners had the benefits and the power.

At the same time, American financiers and industrialists, successfully established in Mexico, were gaining influence in Central America and the Caribbean, and began participating as associates with their British partners in South America, Africa and Asia. Thus, when the Mexican Revolution exploded, the people�s ire was directed against both the Diaz regime and foreign capitalists -- chiefly Americans.

Their shouts of �Long Live Mexico� and �Death to the Yankees� are echoed today in protests ringing out from Afghanistan to Africa to the Middle East. Mexican rioters attacked Americans and American targets, as do Islamic militants today.

Hart recalls that when the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in south Mexico proclaimed that the rich of Mexico City treated their horses better than the people, he attracted poor peasants all over Mexico. The government has never ceased to fear the Zapatistas, as the movement for �tierra y libertad� is still called today, and who periodically march on the capital to demand their rights.

In his conclusions, Professor Hart writes: �Although the postindustrial West, led by the United States, controls vast amounts of capital and levels of technology unimagined in Mexico, it has failed to benefit Mexico in the sense of making it a better place to live.�

Empire and Revolution shows how American-Mexican relations anticipated the issue of globalism that emerged in the 1990s. Now globalization, the division of wealth and the economic disparity between the United States and the Third World are sharpening the conflictual relationship between the rich and the poor worlds.

Gaither Stewart grew up in Asheville, North Carolina. After studies at the University of California at Berkeley and other American universities, he settled first in Germany, then in Italy. Following a career in journalism as Italian correspondent for the Rotterdam daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad and contributor to the press in several European countries, he began writing fiction full-time five years ago. Since then he has authored three novels and two short-story collections. He has resided in Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, France, Russia and Mexico. Today he lives with his wife, Milena, in the hills of north Rome.

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