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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions August 01, 2014

5/11/2011 10:31:00 PM
Column: Mexican heritage has deep roots in Arizona

J.J. Casserly

They stand each morning at the outpost of their existence - at the corner of Hillside and Walnut streets near Fry's. From one to two dozen. Between 20 and 40 years old. In worn, weathered clothes. Baseball caps. Eyes searching passing cars to see if anyone needs their labor. Mexicans - some illegal, some not. Others find full-time jobs, but they are often underpaid. Virtually all send their earnings home to poor families south of the border.

In the background are dilapidated shacks that sleep six to eight of them. They eat a lot of rice and beans. Water with meals. Sometimes a lone beer.

Some Prescottonians are offended by these poor, often lonely souls. Sometimes just scared kids. They are illegals, local folk snap. Undercutting American workers by taking jobs away from them. Why don't they go home where they belong?

The fact is that Mexicans have been farming and herding cattle on their own land in the territory that became Arizona since the 1600s.

Spanish padres built the renowned Mission of San Xavier del Bac near Tucson in the late 1700s. But it was the families of Mexican farmers and ranchers who kept the mission alive for years. In 1821, it became part of Mexico following the country's independence. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854 from Mexico, the U.S. gained territories in Arizona and New Mexico for $10 million.

The mission is now often referred to as the White Dove of the Desert. The edifice is laid out in the form of a Latin cross and frescoed throughout with many artistic statues. It has become a U.S. national historic landmark and is considered a remarkable relic of the Spanish and Mexican cultures. Americans thus inherited a valuable part of that civilization. Some 200,000 tourists from all parts of the world visit the mission each year.

Mexicans began coming to Arizona in numbers during the 1860s amid reports of gold and silver strikes. When riches were not found, some became local farmers and ranchers. With the real discovery of gold, silver and later copper, Mexicans poured into Jerome in the early 1900s. Jerome's tiny population soared to 20,000, mostly Mexicans but also Irish and Italian miners. They built a Catholic church, which still stands in mute testimony to their presence.

The first Hispanic church opened in Prescott in 1915. Separate Hispanic and English-language churches followed later. The two were combined when Claretian priests built the present Sacred Heart church in 1969.

Between 400 and 500 Mexicans attend a Spanish Mass each Sunday at Sacred Heart. The worshipful singing and fervor are perhaps more passionate than any other service at the church. Friends often attend the Spanish Mass. They describe the Mexicans as bursting with elation during the service.

The Claretian fathers help and protect the Mexicans. They are required to do so by the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. Sacred Heart is looked upon as a home or haven by the Mexican community. The parish and local Catholic charities help their fellow worshippers with needed funds and food as well as teaching English and assisting them in dealing with their legal status.

Prescott police report that Mexicans are not a crime problem in the city. Indeed, the two meet to exchange information and discuss other needs in the community.

The United Methodist church, Presbyterians and other Protestant houses of worship also help the Hispanics. A number of church and other groups have organized an Open Door policy to assist them: hot and box meals, showers, medical expenses, gas money and other needs.

Many of the illegals would remain in the U.S. if they could. However, few observers believe it would be fair if they were given precedence over those who have been in the legitimate entry line for a long time.

When someone attacks the Mexican illegals, it would be well to recall the long history of their culture and religious faith in Arizona as well as elsewhere in the Southwest. Note should also be taken of the fact that 1 million Americans reside in Mexico. While they are not illegal, they benefit from the welcome of the Mexican government and people.

We might also recall the racial struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If forced to choose between moral and civil rights, he said morality triumphs.

We are assailed on all sides today by new ideologies, beliefs, laws and new concepts of good and evil. The answers to issues are not always easy. We must, however, respect not only our inheritance but that of others as well. The briefest moment of truth is eternal.

J.J. Casserly is a longtime newsman and author

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Fair & Balanced?

Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas are made up of a majority of Hispanics, yes, but not the rest of the country. At one time Germans were the majority, so now, we have many nationalities. Doesn't mean we should bend the rules for one over the other. All nationalities need to work and pay taxes, and not separate one over the other. I don't like to hear dial #1 for English and #2 for Spanish.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Prescott observer

Three things:

1. Legal. No objection.

2. Illegal. They don't belong here.

3. Jillions of dollars with no income tax paid. This really hurts the US economy.

4. Jillions of dollars sent back to Mexico. This really hurts the US economy

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Van Helsing

I read a disturbing poll taken about 6 years. It asked U.S born Hispanics and Hispanics that were here illegally if the U.S were to go to war with another other than Mexico, which country would they fight for? The over whelming was America. But when asked if the U.S went to war with Mexico which side would they fight for. The overwhelming majority said Mexico.

I have two requests for anyone immigrating to the U.S.

1. That they come legally
2. That they learn the English language.

Posted: Friday, September 27, 2013
Article comment by: Vincent Perillo

Well, Ok here goes again: Respecting laws, eh. Where were you guys when for the last 75 yrs. our country won human and natural resources from most poor counties around the world. And, just because our military over rules any laws they might have had.
Might makes right. right?\ You closed minded one side thinking bully's. go back to the European countries you fathers came from and leave the land to the Indians you stole it from

Posted: Monday, May 30, 2011
Article comment by: Sixtus Beckmesser

Let's ignore the illegal immigration part for a moment.
This is a time of low job opportunities for taxpaying Americans, who spend their money locally.
I could not hire someone sending money out of the country, as JJ says they all do.
Those who hire these people, legal or illegal, are damaging our economy.
Every time you hire one of those guys instead of a local, you are not only hurting the local worker, but your money is not being spent locally, and no taxes are paid.

Posted: Monday, May 16, 2011
Article comment by: Attentive Researcher

Their banner reads "American Third Position: a political party for white Americans".

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck, folks. There is simply nothing more disgusting and evil than nazism.

Posted: Sunday, May 15, 2011
Article comment by: George Seaman

@ Veritas....I would encourage everyone to do a little research on the "American Third Position Party". While I am not assuming that you adhere to its principles, people do need to understand that this particular political party is anything but taking the international third postion in politics, and instead is a front for white nationalism. That's right, it is a neo-nazi organization which I assume most of the readers here would be unwilling to support. If you are a supporter, then I suppose that gives the rest of us a heads-up on your political perspective...if not, you ought to make that very clear to us.

Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2011
Article comment by: Veritas Semper

This sort of apologetics for illegal immigration is exactly the bleeding heart type of drivel that has caused so many problems with our Nation today. A Nation that will not defend it's borders is doomed to failure. All before us have. Research the problems that most Western European countires are having with their huge immigrant populations, both legal and illegal.
This attitude is why there has been an unprecidented rise in the American Third Position Party.
By the way honky...keep posting. Your inarticulate and sophomoric rants continue to remind me of what the "other side" consists of, and yes, we get it...Honky is a tough guy .

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011
Article comment by: Zig E.

Well Mr. Bomb - as soon as your opinion of my judgment matters to me I'll be sure to let you know. The point of my post was simply to to stand up against some small minded people out there who apparently can't see the value in opposing points of view. Like it or not the fact that we are participating in these ongoing discussions with each other says something about us. Silencing any of us is counter productive no matter how much we disagree.

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011
Article comment by: Mr. Bombastic

Poor donkey burro thinks anyone really cares if he stays or goes. Yeah, donkey, go on and flatter yourself. And like a good liberal, you feel the need to tell us how tough and steadfast you are. You're protesting a bit too much there, donkey. Now I have to doubt you just a little more than I already do. Besides, why would we trust the judgement of "the people that know" you? Their judgement is probably just as bad as your's...and zig's for that matter.

Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011
Article comment by: What a Heritage

The Mexican heritage being illustrated in the article is one that hasn't advanced since the 1700's. The illegals coming here don't want to be Americans, they want to reclaim our country as theirs. They want it to be like Mexico, they don't want to be a part of our culture. They want our money and they want us out of the way. That's the difference.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Zig E.

Right there with you Honky !

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: honky brujo

People that know me would laugh when it is suggested that you woosy Tea Party people could make me leave or shut up. Trust me I'm not a non-aggression type Liberal.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Law Abider

I'm with Me Too, honky brujo has to go!

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Tropical Breeze

The whole subject is crazy, South Americans think we are in HELL living here in the United States, running around in steal cages (vehicles) all the time, watching images on boxs (TV) verses living life, and list goes on. Why in world would anyone want more people to suffer the way we do? Honestly we lockup more people by far than any place in the world, are military spending is as much as the whole worlds combined, OUCH yep bankrupt and so far in debt to china and the rest of the world its beyond what can be understood. WAKEUP if like the people down south ( I do as much as I like anyone else), then do them favor and donít allow mass immigration.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Perspective !

Wait, is this the bleeding hearts club of the bankrupt US? Yes Europeans in the Americas displaced those there before them, and on and on down the list, until you realize the Native Americans fought and enslaved each other (either youíre eating the sandwich or you are the sandwich throughout time). Now the whole thing about giving away citizenship and further bankrupting the US is about ADDING TO THE VOTING POPULATION for their champion, who democrats are trying to act like.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Fly on the Wall

Jamie D: And where do you suppose Mexicans came from?
Say it again: Perhaps your frustrations should be directed at a welfare system that allows for so much abuse by our own citizens. Too often U.S. citizens take advantage of the freebies (foodstamps, healthcare, assisted living, day care) and shy away from the programs (free education) that would help them become self-dependent. I too am frustrated with the current system, but lets not claim the real burden on the system is illegals.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Me Too

I'll swap the illegals any day for Honky Brujo.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Marvin Gardens

Just look at the words of one "Not So Fast..." Such a strange thought process some people have. Quite the "Doo Dah" indeed. Suggesting that Prescott has any more of a problem with speeders is a completely ridiculous thing to say. Then of course comparing traffic speeding to illegal immigration is off-the-charts dumb. Then, to top it off, the great Doo Dah tells us that illegal immigrants don't "put other people at risk to die". Alright, posting rules at the Courier really prevent me from accurately describing someone who would say something like THAT. But suffice it to say what a massively ignorant statement it truly is. Not only do illegal immigrants put THEMSELVES "at risk to die"...hundreds die just trying to sneak in to our nation every year. But police records prove that tens of thousands of U.S. citizens have not just been put at risk to die at the hands of illegal aliens, but they HAVE DIED due to the criminal acts of illegal aliens. Just think, people like the great Doo Dah have the right to vote! They have no recognizeable ability to think clearly about important subjects, but they blab on in the newspaper and are able to vote for the leadership of this state and nation! God help us.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Go Figure

Very insightful article JJ, thanks. I am waiting for our country and all others to hold the Mexican government responsible for any problems in Mexico that their citizens are trying so hard to escape. They have a huge, fruitful nation full of many natural resources and a climate to grow crops almost year round. We need to hold the top small percentage there that has all the money (from those resources and money other countries, like us, give them) responsible for not sharing with their citizens. And the people there need to step up and hold those same people responsible. Then they would not have to leave their own country.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Jamie D

Seriously? Okay, you wanna go there, then the Mexicans need to get out and give the land back to the Native Americans that were here before them!

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Not So Fast Doo Dahs

To "Say It Again.."
Hey, we can't even follow the speed limits in this area so what does it matter if others break the rules? At least what they are doing won't put other people at risk to die!

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Dumb and Dumber

JJ: Two seperate issues:
1. Respect for the Mexican culture. No problem I respect it. I married a Mexican-American and our children have been exposed to both cultures.
2. An expectation that our laws be followed. My people came to this country legally, as did my wifes.

The idea that appreciating the Mexican culture requires me to support illegal immigration is just dumb. You're clearly not a deep thinker, at least on this subject. You're not alone.

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: Appreciate Compassion

What a well written piece! I appreciate the insight and history in the article, it gave a more of a human face to those people I see on the corner. Thank you!

Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011
Article comment by: honky brujo

I'd swap the Illegals for the Republicans anyday.

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