In 1519, twenty-seven years after Columbus’ first expedition to the “New World”, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish fortune seeker living on the Spanish-occupied island of Cuba, undertook his own expedition of what is now mainland Mexico. The astonishing event that unfolded as the Conquest of Mexico is perhaps the most dramatic single episode in world history, in which a major civilization was conquered by a relatively small battalion of men armed with superior weapons and horses and carrying deadly new diseases.
The Western Hemisphere lives in the wake of Cortes perhaps more even than that of Columbus, as it was Cortes who demonstrated the extent to which the numerous Native people of the Americas were extraordinarily vulnerable to conquest by relatively few Europeans. From Cortes onward, Europeans sought mainly to conquer, not integrate with, Native Americans. The world we now live in is largely the result of this dynamic.
While Cortes came to Mexico to conquer, our family is currently spending our annual summer travel by enjoying the many facets of this extraordinary country: its lovely climate, incredible cuisine, historic sites, great architecture, stunningly cheap prices, and especially its kind and industrious people. From our time in Mexico City, the massive capital (once known as Tenochtitlan) of the Aztecs (the Mexica), to a week in San Miguel de Allende, the dazzling Spanish colonial gem and a center of Mexico’s post-colonial Independence movement, we have experienced only geniality and care from everyone we have met.
The Conquest of Mexico literally brought two previously separate cultures together almost overnight, in a jarring and violent collision that continues to reverberate throughout Mexican cultural, political, economic, and social life. One of the most impressive works of art that we have seen on this trip is a huge modern painting at the National Museum of History (housed in the Chapultepec Castle in the Bosque, Mexico City’s Central Park) in which an Aztec warrior and Spanish Conquistador simultaneously impale each other with spear and sword, becoming culturally one through a violent death embrace. And so it is in the people we see and meet here: faces and complexions that often appear Native, while speaking a Romance language from Europe. The result is a culture – food, architecture, art, religion, traditions, way of life, etc. – that is uniquely, beautifully, and extraordinarily Mexican. And while Americans like (or at least used to like) thinking of their country as a melting pot, it could be argued that Mexico truly represents the ideal of separate cultures mixing to create a stronger whole.
Growing up in Houston, I can recall that we visited Mexico only once, to Acapulco for vacation. Instead, Mexico came to us. In my earliest years, Houston was primarily a white city with an African-American minority. But in the late 1970’s, the city began to change as Mexican and Central American immigrants, both legal and illegal, arrived.
Why did they come? As the following table of recent statistics indicates, the United States has a higher standard of living and is less crowded than either Mexico or Central America, and that is why all organisms from the beginning of time have always moved to another place: to do better in a less crowded place. They also came because violence and warfare visited their countries from the Cold War conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.
|GDP / capita||Population density|
These immigrants have vastly transformed my city for the better. My family’s industrial manufacturing business employed them – indeed, was completely reliant upon them for their labor. My city’s 1980’s oil-busted housing stock was occupied by and made productive again by them. My city’s residential and commercial real estate has been built by and maintained by them. My city’s residents have been cared for by them in hospitals, restaurants, businesses, streets, homes, schools, and more. Most everyone in Houston knows very well that the city would shut down immediately without these people. The same genial care that our family is experiencing right now in Mexico, we have experienced for decades right in Houston.
Unlike when my own ancestors arrived in the United States from Eastern Europe and were immediately granted citizenship, these people – Mexicans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans – have not been treated the same. Relatively few offers of legal guest worker status have been made by our government, much less of citizenship, despite the evident need for these people for the booming economies of Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, and elsewhere (Florida, Colorado, etc.).
Notably, the first four of these states were once part of sovereign Mexican territory. The first, my home of Texas, was taken from Mexico in war by Texan settlers who had been legally granted land to settle on by the Mexican government. The next three were taken from Mexico in a war of aggression by the United States – Mexico was forced to cede virtually the entire American Southwest and sue for peace after the United States military occupied and raised its flag over both the National Palace and the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. In my view, it is exceedingly difficult to argue that Mexicans should not at least have access to a legal guest worker pass in the United States. And yet, they have had no such access.
While Mexico constitutes a relatively small portion of New Capital’s global equity portfolios, I could not be happier for that, and based in part on our visit I believe that Mexico has a very bright future and represents an excellent place to invest. I know that Americans and Mexicans are much stronger together than they are apart, because I have experienced that pooled strength throughout my entire life. I am delighted to bring my own strengths – my family, my finances, and my friendship – back to Mexico this month, after Mexico has given so much to me.
Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!