By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Dear Mexican: I'm curious as to the meaning of the term "Viva la Raza" that I have often heard expressed by my friends and family. I know what it translates to, but I don't know why we say it. I happen to be what some call a "half-breed," and therein lies my dilemma. "Viva La Raza" implies that the person who says this saying or their audience is of a certain "race." My mother's family is from the state of Georgia and of French, Scottish and English descent, whereas my father's family hails from New Mexico and has been in the northern part of that great state since 1627; if you count my indio ancestors, my family has been in the Santa Fe area prior to European settlement in the Americas. This makes me and my father's people mestizos. In addition, my family may also be Jewish. It has come to light that many of the old Hispanic families of Northern New Mexico are descendants of the "hidden" Sephardim Jews who pretended to be Catholic and moved to the New World in order to escape the Spanish Inquisition. In addition, aren't most Hispanos (that hail from north of the border) and Mexicans (from south of the border) mestizos, and didn't most of the Indians get killed by the Spaniards and Anglos? If so, "raza" or "race" seems to be artificial and really doesn't mean anything. Furthermore, I think this is true the world over with all of the so-called "races." It seems to me that we are all half-breeds.
With this in mind, shouldn't we do away with "Viva La Raza" and come up with something new ... perhaps "Viva La Herencia!" or "Viva La Gente!"? NuMexiHillbilly
Dear Wab: So many questions, so little time! I'll just concentrate on the viva part, since the rest of your pregunta rumbles along like a Big Jim chile in a gabacho's panza. No one is going to rally under slogans that translate as "Long live the heritage" or "Up with people" — they're too fresa. And while I'm with you on the whole chinga tu madre toward racial classifications, "Viva la Raza" will never be dropped, nor should it. It ties anyone who says it back to the Chicano Movement, from where the term originated. The raza part connects the slogan to the idea of la raza cósmica — the Cosmic Race, the idea put forth by Vasconcelos of a day when humanity trumps the antiquated razas of the Enlightenment. The viva part is a direct descendant of the Grito de Dolores, the proclamation issued by Miguel Hidalgo ushering in Mexico's War of Independence. It might seem strange to have non-Mexis shout "Viva la Raza!" in this egalitarian society, but Mexicans don't find it racist or exclusionary, because it isn't.