Donald Trump is quoted by various news outlets as arguing that the American Civil War could have been averted through negotiations. Although I highly doubt it because of the central issue to the war, Trump has the right to opine his opinion about a historical event. All history could have been drastically changed by one change in the many dynamics that propels historical events. For example, México could have won the war with the United States had Santa Ana not played a central role in the fiasco. Granted, that is one thing that may, or may not have made a difference. The point is that we will never know because history has happened and we live its impact today.

However, history is in the eye of the beholder. Generally, it is the victor that writes the history books. But like all issues, there are many driving forces that generates the facts. History is taught in schools based on political necessities. From there it becomes part of the narrative through the fabric of each culture. This is true for all countries and the United States does not stand alone on this.

I learned a long time ago that history books and teachers teach from a biased position. For that reason it is not sufficient to read or depend on one version, but to look at all versions of the historical record to gain an understanding of the events. Even original source materials cannot be counted on without putting the context of who produced them and for what reason.

Many of us may disagree with Trump’s assessment that the American Civil War did not have to happen but it his opinion nonetheless.

What got me to write about this today is something that happened to me many years ago and it bothers me to this day. It bothers me because I was naive and carried deep inside of me the psyche of defeatism that is part of my Mexican culture. Mexicans, by our nature, look at the world through the eyes of a defeated attitude. Many of us do not realize it or are unwilling to accept it but if we are honest we see it in how we react to different things.

It took me years to understand this and I’m still fighting the tendencies today.

Many years ago, I was attending a class in the United States where the topic of the Civil War arose. I had learned a rudimentary history about the American Civil War in México and by no means was I, or am I an expert or even well-versed on the topic. The bias of the classroom setting was that the students were all taught about the civil war through the U.S. educational system. I was aware about different versions of historical events in the U.S. school systems because I had a previous heated debate about Pancho Villa in this same classroom.

But I assume it was the point of view issue from which side of the border the observer was looking at any event.

What I was not prepared for was the revisionist history that I did not understand at the time.

The professor still had not gotten over our debate about Pancho Villa and the Texas rebellion and thus he typically asked me pointed questions about the topics at hand.

I was asked if I understood the cause of the American Civil War. Of course I did, I retorted pointing out that the cause was slavery – the North did not want it and the South depended on it economically.

I still believe that everyone laughed at my response, although it was probably one, or two laughing at the face the professor made. The professor immediately jumped into a soliloquy about how the American Civil War was about the rights of the states. Of course the lack of an educational system in México was thrown into the mix.

At first I was taken aback second guessing my initial answer because of the defeatism attitude that I carried deep within me. It is likely that I would not have bothered to argue back had there not been a comment about the Mexican educational system. I may carry the defeatist attitude within me, but that does not mean that I’m not a proud Mexican.

I stood my ground and argued that the rights of the states may have been part of the different issues that people were fighting for, but the root cause was slavery.

I lost the argument because no one wanted to discuss slavery as the central issue, instead focusing on the rights of the states to make their own determination. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make my point.

I frequently think about this event in my life and I firmly believe that I am correct. I also remember it was one of the many times that I thought about how difficult it was to move people away from a biased look at something.

Forget all the hundreds of thousands of words written about the subject and focus on one fact.

The issue of whether slavery is legal in the United States was settled after the American Civil War.

As for state’s rights, there are still ongoing debates about the rights of states in the United States. Look at the issue of legalized marihuana. Federally you can be charged with possession, even though some states legally allow it. Clearly, the debate has yet to be settled.

To this day, I get puzzled looks from people when I remind them that it was the Republicans that opposed slavery in the United States. I’ve had people argue that it isn’t true or that the Republicans of that era are not today’s Republicans. That doesn’t negate the fact that it was the Republicans, but I guess it allows the false narrative to play out for certain people.

As is frequent on my blog, I like to connect the dots. The reason that I read books about the American Civil War is that México played roles in the event. Some of you, likely not many, know of some of the issues but most of you will be surprised to learn that the American Civil War played a big part in México as well.

The impetus that led to the loss of almost half of México’s territory was the issue of slavery. In 1829, México outlawed slavery across the country. México had opened its borders to U.S. immigrants to settle in Texas. When slavery was abolished, the immigrants complained about how their livelihoods were being changed. The Mexican government, concerned about the fact that Anglos outnumbered Mexicans, imposed restrictions on further immigrants, imposed new taxes and reaffirmed no slavery in México.

Revisionist history tells you that the Texans were oppressed by the Mexican government and thus they rebelled. The politically correct narrative is that taxes and other laws imposed upon them by Santa Ana was the issue. But the underlining cause was that many of the Texan settlers brought with them slaves.

Now, let me blow your mind.

Many of you reading this today believe that Barack Obama was the first black president of North America. North America, for those who are not clear about it, includes Canada, México and the United States. Obama was, however, not the first black president in North America. It was Vicente Guerrero, México’s second president and the president who outlawed slavery in México. Many, even in México do not know this.

Guerrero was one of many black Mexican citizens that can be found even today. I’ll have more on him in a later post because Vicente Guerrero played a very important part in Mexican history.

Let us get back to the American Civil War and how it impacted México.

It is very appropriate that I write about this today because on Friday is Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated extensively in the United States while in México it is a civic day, much like Flag Day in the United States. Many celebrating Cinco de Mayo correctly know that it is not México’s Independence Day, but rather it is about The Battle of Puebla. Some readers even understand that it involved the French.

I’ll be posting two articles about the Cinco de Mayo celebrations later this week. On Thursday, I’ll share with you the story about the Battle for Puebla. Some of you may be surprised at what we celebrate that day. Hint, it wasn’t the decisive victory over the French. On Friday, I’ll share with you the real story behind the Cinco de Mayo holiday. It is very appropriate considering Donald Trump and the false narratives about México.

For now, let’s get back to how the American Civil War dovetails into Mexican history. For many of you, Abraham Lincoln saved the union from itself. What many of you may not know is that Abraham Lincoln is revered in México as well. There is even a statue of him in Juárez. Benito Juárez and Abraham Lincoln shared a friendship. Benito Juárez, the City of Juárez and Abraham Lincoln are central to the Battle for Puebla which is the genesis for the Cinco de Mayo holiday.

You see, France would not have felt comfortable invading México for the second time were it not for the American Civil War. Lincoln was distracted in keeping the union together and thus France felt it could ignore the Monroe Doctrine.

There would not have been a Cinco de Mayo celebration were it not for the American Civil War and more importantly, many of you reading this today would not by U.S. citizens were it not for the issue of slavery that led to México losing almost half of its territory.

The reason I keep writing about México, Donald Trump and border politics is that many people, including Donald Trump make the mistake of taking historical events in a vacuum without realizing how the event affected other things that seem to be unrelated.

Those in El Paso today tend to forget that El Paso became El Paso because of the second intervention by France in México. It led to Cinco de Mayo. El Paso del Norte, a significant city in México, was renamed Juárez in honor of Benito Juárez giving the opportunity for Franklin to adopt the name El Paso.

As you prepare to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, know that there are many connecting dots between its genesis, El Paso and even what Trump thinks of México today. I’ll be sharing those thoughts with on Thursday and Friday.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...

6 replies on “Donald Trump, the Civil War a Black President and Cinco de Mayo”

  1. The more fundamental issue was the industrialists in the North wanted to bankrupt the plantation owners in South so they could own the raw materials. Ending slavery abruptly was the fastest way to do that. The state’s rights issue was the rejection of the political influence exerted by those industrialists. Lincoln didn’t make a final decision about ending slavery until the end of the war and most of the folks fighting for the South didn’t own slaves. Additionally some slaves made a choice to fight for the South voluntarily. My ancestors fought for the South and my opinions are based on a mix of what I wa taught in school, what my older relatives told me about our history and what I’ve studied independently to better understand the conflict. I love it when folks with a minimal knowledge of history know the reasons for the Civil War.

  2. As usual, Marteenager got it wrong. The Civil War was all about TAXES, not slavery. If anyone saw the move Hillary’s America by Dinesh D’Souza they would be educated on this subject. So we see our little left-wing hack needs to get educated on REAL history.

  3. To “Anglocentric” and “el gringo salado”:

    As expected the historical revisionists have chimed in. So let make the record clear:

    1. The March 11, 1861 Constitution of the Confederate States clearly states that:

    “In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”

    2. South Carolina, the first to secede from the country stated in its “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induced and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union” the reasons they were leaving the country. The state argued that “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” was its driving reason.

    3. Mississippi clearly laid it out: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery—the greatest material interest of the world…Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.”

    4. Likewise, Georgia: “Our Northern confederates, after a full and calm hearing of all the facts, after a fair warning of our purpose not to submit to the rule of the authors of all these wrongs and injuries, have by a large majority committed the Government of the United States into their hands. The people of Georgia, after an equally full and fair and deliberate hearing of the case, have declared with equal firmness that they shall not rule over them. A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the Federal Government has been committed will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state. The question of slavery was the great difficulty in the way of the formation of the Constitution.”

    5. Texas, in addition to complaining about slavery, also wanted the federal government to do something about Mexican immigrants. Obviously, nothing has changed.

    From the Declaration of Causes: February 2, 1861, A declaration of the causes which impel the State of Texas to secede from the Federal Union:

    a. “The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico”

    b. “The States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, by solemn legislative enactments, have deliberately, directly or indirectly violated the 3rd clause of the 2nd section of the 4th article of the federal constitution, and laws passed in pursuance thereof; thereby annulling a material provision of the compact, designed by its framers to perpetuate amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holdings States in their domestic institutions…”

    And, finally:

    6. “Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson writes that, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, seven slave states in the deep South seceded and formed a new nation, the Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries.” – credit The Civil War Trust

    But don’t let facts get in the way of the little narrative both of you are trying to perpetuate. I guess the U.S. education system has failed you in properly educating you about the American Civil War. You also probably vote for Trump!

    It takes a Mexican to school you in your own history!

  4. Martin You proved not point! Your bending the facts to meet your own narrative. Mexico is great, Trump and America bad. We get it!

  5. Martin
    If you claim the Civil war was not a fight over states right you’re the one trying to fly revisionary history, The argument was over the rights of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce over the rights of the states. Oh the federal government does plays this very same game today with the states on the grounds of interstate commerce.
    Also if you are claiming most people in the south owned slaves once again you are talking non-sense and nothing more than revisionary history. In fact there were blacks who owned slaves and many native American Tribes had slave owners also.
    Oh Martin your connect the dots is non-sense and is proof of your blind spot. The human brain by it’s own nature will connect dots when there is no connection. Martin you may wish to go be checked you see a lot of dots every where! ;O)
    We get this picture in our head of Martin in a room with a map of North America and Trump’s pictures pinned to the map with strings running all over the the map with a banner above the map with the words connect the dots and all you see of Martin is what looks like a tangled ball of string, in a chair, with two blinking eyes.

  6. Martin, nothing in what you have cited disproves what I have stated. The Industrialists in the North wanted to bankrupt the South and own the cotton. Ending slavery was the path to that because it would change the labor cost dynamics. We try to protray the end of slavery as some noble humanitarian cause it wasn’t. Yet the bulk of the Confederate soldiers fighting didn’t own slaves. The reason they did fight was because of their belief that the Federal government was exceeding its powers. The South was populated with a lot of Scottish and Irish settlers who hated taxation without representation and government overreach. The tax element was there too. Succession would have succeeded without a shot being fired if the Confederacy had agreed to compensate the federal government for its bases in the South plus pay taxes. Revisionist history is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone who writes a history book or teaches does so without an agenda. As I mentioned, I’m looking at not only from what I’ve studied, but from family stories handed down from the members of my family who actually fought in that war and presentations in ancestry associations that spend a lot of time pulling information from written narratives from the time. I don’t try to correct you on Mexico history because I realize that even if I studied it, my version would still lack the context that a Mexican who had the benefit of family discussions of those events would have. I realize from your last post you are too self absorbed to consider extending the same courtesy.

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