"Are you going to celebrate Mexican Independence Day this year?" I asked Uncle Spud as we ate chimichangas and listened to Slim Whitman sing Mexicali Rose on a scratchy old 45-rpm record.
"Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day," Spud answered as he wiped guacamole from his whiskers. "The fifth of May celebrates the battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexican militia beat a much larger and better equipped French army on that day."
"No kidding," I answered. "What was the French army doing in Mexico?"
"The Mexicans stopped making payments on a whole bunch of money they owed France, so France sent an army to take over Mexico."
"The Frenchmen were stopped at the battle of Puebla?"
"No, they took over the whole country. France ran Mexico from 1862 until 1867. After they got their money back, the Frenchmen went home."
"Gee, I didn't learn that in school," I had to admit.
"Most Mexicans didn't either," Spud smiled. "Cinco de Mayo is not a big deal in Mexico. Only the state of Puebla celebrates it as a holiday. The rest of Mexico pretty well ignores it."
"Why is it such a big deal in the United States?" I asked.
"In the United States it has become Mexican Independence Day," Spud smiled. "Don't you see? Mexicans in the U.S. are independent of Mexico. Here they can find a job and have a future. That's why they come here by the millions, most of them illegally. Cinco de Mayo is not about the battle of Puebla anymore. It's a celebration of Mexican culture outside of Mexico. It's like St. Patrick's Day for the Irish, Octoberfest for the Germans, or Columbus Day for the Italians."
"That's great," I said. "It's nice that people remember their ancestry."
"In this case it might be too nice," Spud pontificated. "Mexicans have a strong cultural identity and most don't want to assimilate. They are happy to be Mexicans in America instead of becoming Americans. That's why we have to press 1 to speak English."
"Most of them come here to find a better life," I offered. "I have compassion for them. Mexico is a third-world narco state with corrupt officials and politicians. Only a handful of families own everything. Poverty is everywhere. I visited Hermosillo last year. Every window in town is covered with iron bars. Crime is so bad it's like living in a war zone and people are more afraid of the cops than the criminals. Our Mexican guide had to bribe policemen two or three times in the four days we were there."
"It's sad, but a lot of that crime is crossing the border with the illegals," Spud said. "All you have to do is watch the nightly news from Salt Lake to see who is being arrested, and for what. In border states illegal aliens make up 30-percent or more of prison populations, and a great many alien criminals are deported rather than imprisoned, so it's hard to calculate their true impact on the crime rate in our country."
"They say Mexicans take only the jobs Americans don't want," I offered.
"That might have been true in the 1940s," Spud said. "Today, check out any construction crew and see who's working. Construction and manufacturing jobs have always been the best paying blue-collar jobs in the country. I suspect there are a few million Americans who would like to have those jobs, especially with unemployment in the 10 to 12-percent range. Illegals work cheap and we allow people to hire them by the millions, even though it's against the law. Illegal workers are shamefully exploited by our politicians, who allow it, and by our corporations, unions, and whole industries that benefit from cheap labor, non-vesting union dues, and a silent and compliant working class who often labor in substandard conditions. It's a form of political and economic servitude we should never allow to happen."
"The cost of this invasion of illegal workers and criminals is astronomical. Beyond the crime, drug smuggling and potential terrorist risks through our open borders, there are the issues of lost American jobs, welfare, medical care, education and social services for non-citizens who are here illegally. American taxpayers foot the bill and suffer the consequences."
"The federal government has had 40 years to fix the problem but both political parties refuse to do it. Our government is broken. That's why Arizona passed their new and controversial state immigration law. The only way to stop this madness is for citizens to rebel, quietly and non-violently, the way Arizona is doing."
"I think Utah should join with Arizona in passing our own illegal alien law. If 20 or 30 states will join, we might be able to bypass the feds, fix the problem and take back our constitutionally guaranteed state's rights at the same time."
Spud thought for a moment more.
"Or, I suppose we could do like the 1862 Frenchmen and send an army into Mexico to help solve their internal problems so their citizens will stay home. On second thought, I guess we should clean our own house first. Vote the bums out in November. Until then, happy Cinco de Mayo, aye?"