When all Latinx immigrants become “Mexicans”

Professor David Hernández analyzes the meaning behind the increasingly blurred line between Mexicans and other Latinx immigrants.

By Keely Sexton

Mexicans have long been the scapegoats of anti-immigrationists in the United States. But shifts in immigration rhetoric have led to the conflation of all Latinx identities with Mexicans — and the result is both policy and public discourse grounded in racism and xenophobia, wrote David Hernández in an article for the Radical History Review’s Abusable Past Forum. 

In the post, Hernández, associate professor of Latina/o studies at Mount Holyoke College, cited the infamous March 2019 Fox News blunder, when “Trump cuts aid to 3 Mexican countries” was the onscreen caption for a report about the Trump Administration’s decision to cut aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. While it may have been a mistake, the caption belied some deeper truths about the history of what “Mexican” means in the United States. 

“The concept of ‘3 Mexican countries’ both flows from and inspires the sweeping racial statements and actions of the president and his followers,” wrote Hernández. “Recall that although the El Paso mass shooter sought to stem the ‘Hispanic invasion of Texas,’ he also told police he traveled to El Paso to shoot ‘Mexicans’ explicitly.” 

The intentional and unintentional (though revealing) blurring of Latinx identities into a single monolithic “Mexican” community, despite major shifts in Latinx migration in the last decade, is a “repeated tool of anti-immigrant policymakers,” wrote Hernández. 

“Sweeping, undifferentiated racial categories — which have a long presence in immigration history… — are the abusive tools of marketers, media hucksters, politicians, and mass shooters.”

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