Hispanics and the Bataan Death March

Some years back I was a regular visitor to Santa Fe, N.M.  One of the things I saw there was the Bataan Memorial, commemorating the Bataan Death March of 1942.  U.S. forces in the Philippines were besieged by the Japanese forces on the Bataan Peninsula until they were starved out. When they finally surrendered, they were marched 65 miles in scorching heat without food or water, and many died.

About 1,800 members of the 12,000 U.S. troops were members of the New Mexico National Guard, who had been called up in 1941, prior to the outbreak of the war, to reinforce U.S. forces in the Philippines. Evidently the top brass thought that the predominantly Hispanic membership of the New Mexico guard could relate well to the Spanish-speaking population of the Philippines.

On Memorial Day, we honor all Americans who sacrificed their lives while serving in the armed forces of our country. With all the recent controversy over Arizona and its immigration law, it is worth remembering that Mexican-Americans and others of Hispanic heritage are part of that heritage. They are not interlopers.

I would agree that none of this proves anything one way or the other about the merits of the Arizona law. My own view is that while in theory there should not be any objection to enforcing the federal immigration law,  in practice the result of the law will be (1) a great deal of harassment of American citizens of Mexican descent and of legal immigrants and resident aliens and (2) not much dent in the illegal immigrant population.

However, the point I am trying to make is a different one, which is to point out that the majority of Americans of Hispanic heritage are as patriotic as Americans of any other background. If there is a fear that Mexican immigrants in the Southwest will become some sort of secessionist or separatist force, having them targeted by police is something that will make this more likely rather than less likely.

Click on this and this and this for accounts of survivors of the Bataan Death March.
Click on this for a history of the New Mexico National Guard.

Click on this for a history of Hispanic contributions to America’s defense.

I have found a claim on various Internet sites that Hispanics or Mexican-Americans produced the highest proportion of U.S. winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor or of military decorations for valor.   Click on this for an example. I don’t know whether this is true, but no one can deny the contribution made Mexican-Americans and other Hispanics to the defense of our country.

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One Response to “Hispanics and the Bataan Death March”

  1. Anne Tanner Says:

    I’ve had the same misgiving about the Arizona law. In my mind, I picture a person of Hispanic descent whose ancestors came to Arizona before the turn of the 20th century, being harassed by persons who arrived in the past five years for the sole reason of brown skin. This isn’t just a flight of fancy, either–a lot of the signs being waved by Arizona whites as the law was being signed backed up this theory. I do hope I’m wrong.


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