CORRESPONDENCErnLetter FromrnCaliforniarnby Roger D. McGrathrnThe Reconquista of CaliforniarnOn February 6, 1998, the Mexican consulrngeneral in California, Jose AngelrnPescador Osuna, spoke at the SouthwesternrnSchool of Law in Los Angeles as partrnof a symposium on the 1848 Treaty ofrnGuadalupe Hidalgo, which gave thernSouthwest to the United States. Osunarnproclaimed, “And even though I am sayingrnthis part serious, part joking, I thinkrnwe are practicing La Reconquista in California.”rnIt was an astonishing admissionrnfor a career diplomat to make. But hernwas only admitting what has been a policyrnof the Mexican government for morernthan three decades: Surplus people arernencouraged to immigrate, legally or illegally,rnto the United States, California inrnparticular, and to maintain their Mexicanrnidentity and loyalty.rnErnesto Zedillo, then president ofrnMexico, admitted as much when hernspoke before the National Council of LarnRaza in Chicago on July 23, 1997. SaidrnZedillo, “I have proudly proclaimed thatrnthe Mexican nation extends beyond thernterritory enclosed by its borders and thatrnMexican migrants are an important, arnvery important part of it.”rnThat the Mexican nation extends beyondrnthe territory’ enclosed by its bordersrnhas been clear to anyone living in SouthernrnCalifornia during the past ?0 years.rnThe Hispanicization of the population,rnschools, and culture has been dramaticrnand stunning. The process was well describedrnby Carlos Loret de Mola in thernMexico City newspaper Excelsior. WroternMola:rnA peaceful mass of people, hardworking,rncarries out slowly and patientiyrnan unstoppable invasion, thernmost important in human history.rnYou cannot give me a similar examplernof such a large migrator,’rnwave by an ant-like multitude.rnStubborn, unarmed, and carried onrnin the face of the most powerfulrnand best-armed nation on earth.rnThe result of this migration is to returnrnthe land to the jurisdiction ofrnMexico without the firing of a singlernshot.rnThese are not the words of the hatedrngringo but of a Mexican journalist, arnMexican president, and a Mexican consulrngeneral. If an old-stock American hadrnsaid any of these things, the media wouldrnhave branded him a paranoid, xenophobicrnbigot. Am I such, because I take thesernmen at their word? I believe El PresidenternErnesto Zedillo was earnest whenrnhe proudly proclaimed tiiat the Mexicanrnnation extends beyond the territory enclosedrnby its borders.rnFew people realize tiiat California wasrnonly ver)’ sparsely populated by Mexicansrnwhen it was annexed by the UnitedrnStates, and that most of the Mexicans inrnCalifornia had little or no love for Mexico.rnThe Mexican population of Californiarnin 1845 —on the eve of the Americanrnconquest—was only 7,000. In 1845, SanrnFrancisco was a small village called YerbarnBuena, containing fewer than 200rnsouls. Again and again, local Californiansrnran Mexican governors out of the territoryrnand established a quasi-independentrnstate. Those in the upper class ofrnsociety called themselves Califomios andrnconsidered themselves Spaniards. Theyrnspoke pure Castilian Spanish, sent theirrnsons off to Spain to be educated, and imitatedrnthe manners and fashions of thernSpanish court. They wanted little to dornwith Mexico and conspired with thernUnited States for protection should theyrnattempt to establish a fully independentrnstate. Mexico, meanwhile, exercised almostrnno control over California and hadrnlittle influence on the people.rnToday, 7,000 Mexicans come acrossrnthe border illegally eery month. Nowherernare the effects of this invasionrnmore apparent than in the publicrnschools. Between 1984 and 1997, whiternenrollment in California’s public schoolsrnincreased by less than 4,000, while Hispanicrnenrollment increased by morernthan a million.rnThe terms “white” and “Hispanic” arerncommonly used today in school enrollmentrndata as they are in the U.S. Census.rnWhen I was growing up in California, allrnthe Mexican-American schoolchildrenrnwere classified as white, as indeed manyrnof them were. Most people today use thernterm “Mexican” to mean “mestizo,”rnsomeone of mixed Spanish and American-rnIndian descent. This is not entirelyrnmisguided: The great majority of Mexicansrnare mestizo, although a substantialrnminorit}- are of pure or nearly pure Spanish,rnor other European, ancestry. Socialrnclass in Mexico is generally color-coded,rnwith the mostly European Mexicans atrnthe top and the mostly Indian Mexicansrnat the bottom. The society is highly stratified.rnIn California, Mexicans are allrnlumped together as Hispanic.rnCalifornia’s largest school district, thernLos Angeles Unified School Districtrn(LAUSD), is now 70 percent Hispanic.rnEnglish is a second language in most ofrnthe elementan,’ schools. Wliites accountrnfor only ten percent of the district’s students.rnThis is a dramatic reversal of conditionsrnthat prevailed until the 1970’s. Inrn1965, for example, whites constituted 60rnpercent of the district; Hispanics, 16 percent.rnThe raw numbers are shocking: Inrn1965 there were some 350,000 whites inrnthe dishict and 100,000 Hispanics; now,rnthere are only 70,000 whites and morernthan 500,000 Hispanics. The number ofrnwhite students in the district has thus declinedrnb- a factor of five while the numberrnof Hispanic children has increased byrna factor of five. That Los Angeles schoolsrnshould have so many Hispanics is not surprising.rnLos Angeles has a Mexican populationrnsecond only to Mexico Cit’.rnMany schools in the LAUSD are virtuallyrnall-Hispanic. This is true even for thernhigh schools, which tend to be morernracially diverse because their attendancernareas are much larger than those of thernelementary or junior high schools.rnGarfield, Roosevelt, and South Gaternhigh schools are 99 percent Hispanic;rnHuntington Park and Bell are 98 percent;rnSan Fernando is 97 percent. Thousandsrnof illegal-immigrant children arrive everyrnyear, and thousands more are born to illegalrnaliens. The influx has forced therndistrict to put nearly half of its elementar)’rnschools on a year-round schedule. Arnquarter of the high schools also operatern34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn