Broken Treaties, Crimes of History

root - Posted on 28 June 2009

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo deconstructed

by Wendy M. Fong/Race, Poverty, Media Justice Intern

White smoke rises to the metal ceiling like lost ghosts from their
cement graves, the cleansing smell of burning sage, dancing to the
beat of three drums. Echo, echo, echo. It vibrates, calling the
ancestors in Re-union. I scanned a 180 around the shadowy, wide,
square room. I heard my heart beating with the heart beats of other
Xicanos/as from every generation as they filled the room-- elders,
teenagers, adults, children-- bowing their heads, raising their hands,
and absorbing the spirits of mother earth. Echo, echo, echo. My brown
eyes slowly began to swell with tears. This was a ceremony of apology
to the lands, as people of all ages danced in sync and rhythm. An
apology of lands stolen, it was an intoxication of the elements,
flowing like waterfalls flooding the room with lost stories.

I am Chinese-American and have never experienced this before, taking
my first baby steps into the history of California. I was born and
raised in California and was not aware of how deep the culture was
rooted here. I began to think about stories my mother and father used
to tell me when I was younger. I come from a family of migrants. My
grandparents migrated from China to Burma during WW2 for survival, as
the Japanese invaded their land. I remember my father telling me how
my grandparents and his two brothers swam across the river as they ran
away from raining bullets and the Japanese. They were not immigrants,
who have the luxury of moving from land to land, but migrants chased
out of their native homes in hopes to live and have a better life.

Echo, echo, echo, they were dressed in the rainbow colors of mother
earth-- blue feathers, brown leather, red clay-- they danced to the
beats and the souls of the Rasa ancestors that once lived on this
land, Xicanos/as joined together in Re-union. Not only was there
Re-membrance, but there was celebration, celebrating their history and
the unity in their struggle. Delicious aromas of pollo taquitos,
Spanish rice, crisp vegetables, constant spoken word flows, laughter
and vibrating instruments filled the room in honor. Live Californian
history lessons unveiled before me like tulips opening to the warm
rays of the sun, hungry for more. "Mother, father, I whispered, "Tell
me more of your stories of China and Burma." I was curious to know
more about the heritage, the history, like those of my ancestors.

"Do you eat food from the Bay?" Jose Luis, an educator and activist,
asks at the "Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Xicana Reunion" event at the
East Side Arts Alliance in Oakland, CA. It was an "education concert"
that took place on Saturday, February 7, 2009 at four o' clock in the

As Luis continues, he explains that contrary to general knowledge, for
hundreds of thousands of years; indigenous peoples sustained
themselves from the Bay and all its resources. The Spanish enslaved
the native peoples on plantains. They were military generals by the
names of Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Rafael, and San Francisco, to name
a few. The rich Spanish families like Castro and Valencia were offered
power by the U.S. in exchange for land. Even the famous General Santa
Ana purposely did not send enough troops to defend the land during the
Alamo of Texas to keep this exchange. In 1848, the U.S. government
violently occupied North Mexico, also known today as Sonoma County,
and they signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, turning over the land
to the U.S.

The treaty states that there shall be guaranteed citizenship in both
U.S. and Mexico, the freedom to move across borders between California
and Mexico, the retention of Spanish language and culture, and land
grants given to families that held land under their control.

But the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was soon to be broken: The land
was stolen. The land grants were disregarded. During the Gold Rush,
only Anglo Saxons were allowed to mine for gold, and people who lived
there for centuries were denied access to their own lands. "The 49ers
(aka gold miners) discriminated against them. It is like calling a
football team the KKK or the Nazis," says Luis.

The UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, Article 10 states,
"Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or
territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior
and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after
agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the
option of return." I never met my grandparents, but I imagine them
sometimes, how they looked and smiled when they were still alive. My
grandfather, short, dark skinned, thin black hair swept to the side.
His eyes were wide and droopy, with a tired look on his face as he
wore khakis, a cotton t-shirt, burgundy wool sweater vest and sandals.
My grandmother, shorter, fair skinned with a Chinese perm that was
subtle with big curls. She didn't smile very often, holding a frown on
her face. I remember her wearing a jade bracelet and black floral
print shirt. It's hard to remember their stories sometimes.

A community as far as Richmond to San Francisco, Oakland to Santa Ana,
gathered together to commemorate the broken Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo. There was a workshop about terms that I never knew about, as
was the general attitude of several other attendees at the event. They
spoke about immigrant versus migrant, stipulated removal, schedule
departure, return to sender, and tent city*. "We have to be prepared
and know our rights," says Cinthya Munoz-Reyes and Sagnicthe Salaza,
two of the workshop facilitators.

Vida Reyes, a student and poet from San Jose, California, spoke it
best, "I want to be remembered as a human before law." I wish I were
taught this in school so I could remember the echo sounds
reverberating in my body from that night in Oakland. Remember how the
U.S. dishonored the treaty with Mexico and stole the lands from the
indigenous peoples. I wish my mother and father would keep telling me
stories about my ancestors, so I could Re-member their struggle too.

To get more information on how to educate and terms, email wendizz at

*Terms taught during the workshop:

Immigrant: A person who migrates to another country, usually for
permanent residence.

Migrant: A person who moves from place to place for work, food, or survival.

Stipulated Removal: Non-citizens are removed from the U.S. without
hearings before immigration judges. It has resulted in the removal of
over 96,000 non-citizens since its interception. Immigrants who sign
waive their to hearings and agree to have a removal order entered
again them, regardless of whether they are eligible too remain in the
U.S. This has been in place since 199 and is ON GOING.

Schedule Departure: This program pressures immigrants who are subject
to judicial order to leave the U.S. and who do not have a criminal
record to turn themselves in voluntarily and be allowed to wrap up
their departure in an order fashion. The program targets over 457,000
immigrants with no criminal records. The cost of the program (mainly
advertising) is said to have been around $41,000. It has been in place
since August 2008 and is GOING.

Return to Sender: A massive sweep of illegal immigrants by the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The campaign has
focused on individuals "deemed to be the most dangerous," including
convicted felons and gang members, particularly those of the Mara
Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang. As of late April 2007, over 23,000 illegal
immigrants have been arrested. Half of those detained and deported
have actually had prior criminal records. This has been ON GOING since

Tent City: Due to overcrowding in the Maricopa County Jail in Arizona,
the fourth largest jail system in the world, and to save costs on
building a new facility, Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered a Tent City to be
constructed utilizing inmate labor. The inmates were chained at the
feet, wore handcuffs while carrying bags of personal belongings, and
forced to walk to the segregated Tent City. Arpaio has failed to
submit a detailed budget-cutting proposal despite a request made by
the country's office of management. It started in 1993 and is GOING.


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