FRESNO-- 2006 will go down in history as the year America discovered Mexicans. 1492: Columbus discovers America. 2006: America discovers Mexicans. "Whoa, this place is crawling with 'em!" Well yeahyou only just noticed? Where have you people been?
It's like you put on special glasses last week that made Mexicans visible for the first time, like Roddy Piper in They Live (one of the best fight scenes ever, by the way). Didn't you see them before? Who do you think was dishing out your nachos on the graveyard shift at 7-11, some New Hampshire Anglo?
It's weird that nobody on either side of the immigration mess seems to know anything about Mexican military history. Weird, how even serious war buffs know more about the military history of Iraq or England than about the glorious story of the Mexican-American wars.
You'll notice I say "wars," as in lots of'em. You may know a little about what we call "the" Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, but actually that wasn't the only war between us and the Mexicans, it was just the best-publicized.
So for the past few weeks, while everybody's been getting hysterical because Drudge says there was a "gun-fight" at a North Carolina Waffle House between Gueros and Beaners, I've been researching the history of US-Mexican warfare. And I'm here to tell you that the Waffle House "gunfight" has brought shame on all of us. One lousy shot fired from a car, one broken window at an IHOP, one injurya loser who got a bloody arm from glass shards. That's supposed to be enough to make us torch every Chevy with a Virgin Mary on the dashboard?
If you really want stories to get your Yankee blood up, make your lynchin' fingers itch, read about when an entire American townColumbus, New Mexicowas raided and burned to the ground by Mexican bandits. Read about US military expeditions deep into Mexican territorynot in 1846 but in Woodrow Wilson's time. Read about US Navy ships bombarding a major Mexican port, or Mexican bandit/guerrilla cavalry hauling 17 Texans off a train and shooting them by the tracks.
Back then, one huge battle between rival Mexican armies, one of them using US equipment, may have been the fourtti-or fifth-bloodiest battle in this hemisphere's history, worthy of the best midsize fights from our own Civil War.
By now the few of you who know your history will realize I'm talking about the military events in Mexico between 1910 and 1917, the mess that ended up with Pershing's march across the Rio Grande in pursuit of Pancho Villa.
You won't believe the cast of characters. Like a young officer by the name of George S. Pattonsound familiar? Patton made his bones hunting Villa in the deserts of Northern Mexico.
Or the expedition's commander, Black Jack Pershing himself, who you may remember as the only man ever to hold the rank "General of the Armies," the guy who led US troops in WW I and made the historic decision to maintain our troops under separate command.
The only reason Pershing (who was nicknamed "Black Jack" because he started out in command of the 10th Cav, a black unit) got that command was that he'd directed the Villa expedition. He didn't do a very good job of hunting Villa, but Woodrow Wilson's noticed he was the only serving US general who'd seen anything like combat before WWI. So it was Mexico that gave Pershing the chance to command at Belleau Wood.
On the Mexican side, some of these charactersObregon, Zapata, Villaare so incredible no scriptwriter could make them up, and nobody, not even Brando, could play them. (Brando tried, starring in a movie about one of them, Viva Zapata. Capsule review: sucks, don't waste your Netflix creds.)
And the greatest of these Mexican war-stars was Pancho Villa. Everything about him was a legend, including date of birth (1877? 1879?) and his name. The poor bastard was christened Doroteo Arango, born into a poor peasant family in Durango. He didn't like being a peasantnot many people doso he decided early on to joined a gang of bandidos. This is where his story starts becoming multiple choice.