Mexican Independence and New World Ideals


By HENRY A. WALLACE, Vice-President of the United States

Approximate English translation of address delivered in Spanish on the occasion of the celebration of Mexico's Independence Day at Los Angeles, Cal., September 16, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 740

TODAY we are gathered here in California to celebrate the anniversary of the independence of our neighbor country, Mexico. One hundred thirty-two years ago, this day, in the little church at Dolores—70 miles north of Mexico City—Father Hidalgo with his famous Grito de Dolores raised the cry of liberty which has been Mexico's undying birthright. The people responded to this cry in the most spontaneous and overwhelming mass movement which has yet been seen in any country in this hemisphere. Without arms to fight and moved only by the burning passion in their souls, the people rose at once by the tens of thousands. When Father Hidalgo fell, Father Morelos carried on. Father Morelos, who had in his veins white, Negro and Indian blood, won brilliant victories and established a constitution which abolished slavery and recognized the equality of the races. Thus Father Morelos became the first to give definite political recognition to the reality of genetic democracy.

Such was the dramatic and inspiring birth of the Mexican republic. Today this inspiring birth is being commemorated by Mexicans everywhere, and we in the United States are proud to honor it with our warmest tribute.

As we seek to understand Mexican history, and the significance of this anniversary day, it is worth while to note the part which religion played in the Mexican revolution. Father Hidalgo and Father Morelos went beyond the letter of the Bible into the very spirit of its transforming power, and in their own way reached out toward God, the Creator and Father of all the races.

Hidalgo and Morelos were killed, but their intense love of liberty forever will inspire the Mexican nation. The people whom they led charged against cannon with bare hands. They finally won, not because of equipment, but because of their bravery.

Many years later, in the 1860's, the spirits of Hidalgo and Morelos marched in the person of Benito Juarez, the Indian lawyer. Juarez, in his struggle against Maximilian, had more experience with fighting European invasion than anyone else in this hemisphere has had in the past 100 years.

Then, beginning in 1910, the spirits of Hidalgo, Morelos and Juarez all marched—marched with the battle cry of Emiliano Zapata, "Land and liberty!" Confusion reigned. Men died fighting passionately for their beliefs, but through all the blood and sorrow the vision of land, liberty and schools grew ever clearer.

No one should falsely conclude that the Mexican people liked bloodshed, that they enjoyed throwing their lives away recklessly. It was not that the Mexicans despised life, but rather the exceedingly high esteem they placed on liberty andland and the education which they felt to be the basis of liberty. They fought for what they knew deep down in their hearts to be the right.

And now, just as on the Fourth of July we in the United States recall the deeds of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and all of our immortal dead, so also in Mexico, on September 16, Hidalgo, Morelos, Juarez and Zapata revivify the people's minds and hearts. For them, as for us, the memory of the heroes of the past is a torch that lights the pathway of the future.

We can all be glad to see the increasing cordiality in relations between our two countries. On our own holiday, last July 4, Mexico paid tribute to us in a special celebration. It is fitting that today we likewise should express most warmly the high esteem which we have for our neighbor to the south. This terrible world war, in which we both are now engaged on the same side, is not without its compensations in the form of a new appreciation for each other. I learned this for myself in December of 1940, when, after several conferences with President Avila Camacho, I discovered the wise statesmanship which has since been demonstrated to the whole world.

The Mexican people are showing that whatever misunderstanding may have existed in the past is disappearing, and that a solid friendship based on mutual respect and understanding is taking its place. Nowhere is this friendship more strikingly demonstrated than right here in California, where several hundred thousand persons of Mexican ancestry are American citizens. Mexico and California have the same heritage, the same ancient tradition. The acquisition of California as territory of the United States was a part of the frontier history of both countries. The present offers a unique case, here in California, of what might have been a sore spot—an "Irredenta"—but which actually has become instead a fusion ground for two cultures. Hitler could never understand that.

Mexico and California have a special kinship at the present time because of the bonds of a common peril. Both have an extensive western coast line facing the enemy in the Pacific. President Avila Camacho began in December of 1940 to take steps to protect Mexico's western coast. California also was forehanded. I have been informed by Governor Olson that California worked out a complete job of civil defense earlier than any other state in the Union. This state's aircraft warning system, with 1,500 observation posts manned by 80,000 volunteer observers maintaining a 24-hour watch, helps to protect our shores against invasion by our foes.

I like to look into the future when our common bonds will be of a more tangible nature than at any time in the past, when Californians will find it possible to drive from Nogales to Guadalajara and thence to Mexico City and Acapulco. I like to think of ten times as many Californians speaking Spanish as are able to do so today. I like to think of them enjoying the Mexican music, understanding the words of the Mexican songs when they hear them. I like to think of Californians investing money in Mexico, not on a coyote basis, as Mexicans would say, but on a fair and decent basis.

Dollar diplomacy died ten years ago. Coyote investments also will die, and so will all other forms of imperialism, direct or indirect.

Mexico is of great service in our united war effort by producing to the limit of steel, mercury, copper, tungsten, strontium, zinc, lead and all the other metals with which she is so richly endowed and which are needed, so badly by the war industries of our own country. She is sending us valuable mahogany lumber, a variety of fibers, and many vital drugs. As President Avila Camacho has stated, it may be that Mexico's role will not be fighting on foreign battlefields, but the operating of industries, farms, mines and forests. The demand of our airplane and tank factories for raw materials is insatiable.

This mutual war effort is giving our two countries an opportunity to cooperate in countless ways. Take the matter of the living standards of war workers. The governments of both countries are interested in protecting these standards, and so it is of great significance that the contracts under which the United States is getting materials in Mexico contain labor provisions which comply with the progressive labor laws of Mexico.

Or take the reciprocal arrangements on rubber, Mexico is sending us all she can of rubber produced from the shrub, guayule, which will be needed for mixing with the synthetic product. Mexico also is giving up 30 per cent of the output of her tire factories to supply deficiency areas elsewhere. We in turn are sending Mexico a certain amount of tree rubber and are helping in the development of new plantations of rubber trees.

Or take the measures being carried out jointly by our two governments to conserve and develop the resources of Mexico—such as the conservation of her petroleum and the survey of her railroad system with a view to adapting it to her industrial needs.

Or take the cooperative arrangement by which Mexican workers will come into the United States to help harvest our crops and do other war work—not on the basis of low-wage competition as in the past, but with the whole-hearted assistance and protection of the two governments. Just as dollar diplomacy has become a thing of the past, so also let us hope that the arrangements entered into by our two governments will definitely end exploitation of and discrimination against Mexican labor.

Mexico is doing a splendid job in the construction of a difficult and costly link in the Inter-American highway. As you all know, the stretch from Laredo to Mexico City is completed and doubtless many of you have had the opportunity to travel over this beautiful and scenic road. Right now Mexico is working on the uncompleted link in the southern part of the country. This, along with one or two other links on which work is now in progress, will open up a land route from the United States to Panama, and bind more closely together the nine countries of Central and North America.

These various instances of cooperation thus far attained are merely an indication of what can be worked out betweenthe two countries in the future. I feel that, as time goes on, the number of mutually beneficial projects can and should be greatly increased. The significant fact is that Mexico is helping the United States and the United States is helping Mexico. We are next-door neighbors, and good neighbors, and we have joined hands in the great fight of the United Nations to keep the world free.

The Mexican people have a profound belief in the Four Freedoms as enunciated by President Roosevelt—freedom of speech and religion, freedom from want and fear. But if I understand their history and feelings correctly, they would add three more freedoms—first, the freedom to buy land at a reasonable price; second, the freedom to borrow money at a reasonable rate of interest; and third, the freedom to establish schools which teach the realities of life. Farmers and workers of Mexico are standing shoulder to shoulder with their brothers on our own side of the border. The Mexican people know that the Nazis have a hatred and disdain for those who do not have what the Nazis choose to call "Aryan" blood. The Mexican people know that the establishment of Nazism anywhere in this hemisphere would mean the eventual destruction of all the seven freedoms in which they so passionately believe.

A Nazi or a Jap victory would spell the death of liberty everywhere in the Western Hemisphere. And something else would die—an intangible something which has been taking shape gradually over the years, as the peoples of the New World have been groping for a special destiny all their own.

About three weeks from now, on October 12, the people of Mexico, like the other Spanish-speaking peoples of the Western Hemisphere, will celebrate what they call "the day of the race," meaning the Spanish-speaking race. We in the North call it "Columbus Day." I hope the time will come when we shall refer to it as "New World Day," and shall make it stand for liberty and true democracy throughout the hemisphere. Mexico and the United States have each in their own way made a special contribution towards bringing liberty to all the peoples of the world. We are fighting in this war for the privilege of rendering that contribution really significant and secure.

Here in the United States we speak the English language, but our people are descendants of those who represented every culture in Europe. South of our border, the prevailing language is Spanish, but the people represent not merely the Spanish and other Mediterranean cultures but the native Indian as well. In Mexico there is a justifiable pride in the great contribution to the national entity made by the Aztec, Tarascan and Mayan cultures. Thus there has come into being, here in the New World, something which is neither English nor Spanish nor Portuguese, but has an identity of its own, an identity that is uniquely American.

It is to preserve this New World identity, this New World love of liberty, this New World love of peace, this New World love of education and the dignity of the common man, that Mexico and the United States and other New World countries have joined in the great struggle of the United Nations. We are fighting against the monsters of tyranny and savage force, wherever on the earth they must be fought.

We do not turn our backs on the Old World. We know that freedom cannot be safe in the New World unless it is secure in the entire world. We know that our devotion to New World ideals and our utter willingness to sacrifice our all in their defense give the millions in the Old World the courage to fight on.

It is because President Avila Camacho and President Roosevelt typify these New World ideals that our two nations have placed them in positions of supreme leadership.

These two great leaders will not be satisfied with anything less than a complete victory. President Roosevelt has made it clear in his September speeches that we intend to take the offensive, that we shall hit the enemy where it hurts, that we shall wake up the people of Japan and Germany to the enormity of the crimes of their leaders.

And when the victory on the battlefield is won, our New World ideals will be needed all the more, as we confront the job of building a wise and enduring peace for the entire world. That fight for the right kind of peace will not be won in a day. That fight will go on down the years. It will be fought in California and in Texas and in every one of our 48 states. It will be fought not only in the United States  but in Mexico and in every one of our United Nations. It will be fought over the entire world, wherever men and women and children live and love and make their homes. It is a fight that never will be completely won, but it will always be the fight most worth the winning. This is the fight that we in the New World have pledged ourselves to make. We shall not forsake that pledge.