“[But] to understand how big of a deal, where that hostility really came from, and why it took so long to end, you’ve got to go back… way back!”
Shoutout to Vox for condensing the history of U.S.-Cuba relations into a six-minute video.
As the the video points out, the relationship between both countries goes back to the 1850s, when southern states wanted to take over Cuba — by purchase or by force — to expand its agricultural-based economy. American economic interest in Cuba didn’t stop there, and it didn’t change until the rise of communism.
So why should you care? Because the history of the U.S. relations with Cuba is pretty much a stand-in for the history of American interest in other Latin American countries, like Guatemala and Nicaragua. Also, because learning something know won’t kill you, you philistine!
Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.
And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.
The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.
Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.
In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.
According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.
Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.
And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.
With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.
Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.
Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.
Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.
“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”
New reports show that President Donald Trump tried to register his trademark in Cuba in 2008. The revelation shows another contradiction from President Trump who promised not to do business in Cuba until the island was a free democracy. The news comes just one week into Hispanic Heritage Month and has left some on social media questioning President Trump’s commitment to Cuban-Americans.
A new Miami Herald story is shining a light on Trump’s attempted business dealings in Cuba.
The story highlights President Trump’s hypocrisy and frequent contradictions throughout his life. The president’s attempted business dealings in Cuba came after he told the Cuban American National Foundation that he would not. During a 1999 speech, President Trump promised that he would not do business in Cuba until the island and the people were free.
For some, the revelation comes as a reminder of President Trump’s record with the Latino community. Latinos have been a constant target for Trump’s attacks since he called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals when announcing his candidacy in 2015.
The news has angered Latinos who see the gesture as a sign of betrayal.
“I’ve had a lot of offers and, sadly, it’s all be very recently, to go into Cuba on deals. Business deals, real estate, and other deals,” Trump said at the 1999 speech in front of the Cuban American National Foundation. “I’ve rejected them on the basis that I will go when Cuba is free.”
Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, Republican political pundit and outspoken Trump critic, did not hold back.
Navarro-Cárdenas is one Republican who has long stood up against President Trump. Her tweets highlighted the fact that President Trump didn’t try to do business in Cuba just once. There are several instances that show that the president tried to make business happen in Cuba.
“Putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,” Trump told the audience in 1999. “It goes into the pockets of Fidel Castro.”
People are not completely shocked by the news.
The Trump administration has also been tied to the Cuban government. Earlier this year, news surfaced that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, met with “Castro’s son” in Cuba. The meeting happened in 2017 just days before the inauguration. Emails show Manafort trying to relay information from “Castro’s son” to Kathleen T. McFarland, who would go on to be the Deputy National Security Advisor for the Trump administration.
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