Things That Matter

Here’s The Story Of Anthony C. Acevedo, The First Mexican-American Recognized As A Holocaust Survivor

When people think of those that survived or died in the Holocaust, Mexican-Americans are not the first that come to mind. In fact, they might not come to mind at all. However, there’s are millions of non-Jewish people that were victims of Hitler’s regime. There are 11 million people, including gay people, priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters, whodied in World War II. Like Jewish people, the non-Jewish community were seen as “undesirables.” One of those undesirables was Anthony C. Acevedo, a military medic for the United States. He documented life and death at a Nazi concentration camp.

Anthony C. Acevedo, a World War II veteran and survivor of a Nazi camp, died at the age of 93.

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While Acevedo died on Feb. 11,  his family buried him on March 8 in Riverside, California.

“If I can describe my father with one word, it would be heart,” Acevedo’s daughter, Rebeca Acevedo-Carlin, said at an earlier memorial service, according to CNN.

What an incredible, genuine man he was,” Fernando Acevedo, his son, said according to CNN. “He would always say have faith, care for others and, more importantly, love one another. I saw my father act with love toward everyone.”

Acevedo joined the U.S. Army as a medic in 1944.

U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project. The University of Austin Texas.

Acevedo’s father was an engineer who worked for the U.S. government despite not having proper documentation. Acevedo’s mother died while he was a baby. In 1937, during the Great Depression, Acevedo’s father — like many Mexicans during that time — was deported to Mexico.

While Acevedo was born in San Bernardino, California, he went to Mexico to be with his dad.

In 2009, Acevedo said in an interview with The Press Enterprise that when he was interrogated by a German officer in 1945, the man knew all the details about his life.

“He pointed at me with his baton,” Acevedo said in 2009. “He knew everything about me. He knew about my family. He talked to me in Spanish and English. He said, ‘You were born in San Bernardino and raised in Pasadena. Your parents were kicked out of the United States. That’s what the Americans do.'”

On Jan. 6, 1945, Acevedo and 350 U.S. soldiers were captured during the Battle of the Bulge and sent to a Nazi prison and labor camp.

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“The Germans were getting closer and closer,” Acevedo said, according to U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project. “We ran out of ammunition until, finally, we were caught.”

For the next several months, Acevedo had to help his fellow soldiers since he was a medic, but he was also trying to survive. They all faced torture and illness from brutal beatings and barely any food, the Washington Post reports.

“At the time, you would eat anything to try and survive,” Acevedo said, according to U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project.

When he arrived at the camp, Acevedo weighed 149 pounds, and after he was released he weighed only 87 pounds.

While at the prison camp, Acevedo risked his own life by keeping a journal and documenting every death he witnessed.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Anthony Acevedo

Here’s an example of one entry that the Washington Post reprinted.

April 2, 1945

Two more of our men died today + one last night makes 3 + 16 — makes 19; living in unsanitary conditions; water must be boiled before it is drinkened. No latrines. Deaths are increasing in great number.

When asked by the Holocaust Memorial Museum why he kept a journal and risked his life by doing so, he said: “It was my moral obligation to do so.”

“Prisoners were being murdered and tortured by the Nazis,” Acevedo told CNN in 2008. “Many of our men died, and I tried keeping track of who they were and how they died. I’m glad I did it.”

On April 23, 1945 the war ended and out of the 350 soldiers captured only 120 survived including Acevedo.

Acevedo spent the last two decades of his life volunteering at the veterans hospital where he passed away.

“They saluted my dad all the way up and down the hallway as we were walking. Four floors like that,” his son Fernando told CNN. “Nurses, doctors, patients who were able to stand — everyone was standing at attention saluting my dad. I tell you, that was really heavy.”

In 2010, Acevedo was the first Mexican-American to register as a Holocaust survivor at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum .

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Kyra Schuster, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum curator told CNN: “He was this man who, despite the odds against him, despite what he was going through and experiencing, it was still important for him to take care of others, to document what was happening, to make sure the world knew what had happened to them. That’s why he spoke out later in life. He was always putting other people ahead of himself. That’s how I see him, and that is so admirable.”


READ: A New Exhibition Tells The Stories Of Mexicans And Mexican-Americans Who Were Illegally Deported In The ’20s And ’30s

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Mexico Wins International Award For $100 Peso Note Featuring 17th-Century Nun Sor Juana

Culture

Mexico Wins International Award For $100 Peso Note Featuring 17th-Century Nun Sor Juana

Over the last few years, Mexico has been updated its currency to make it more secure from counterfeiters and to highlight the country’s diverse history. One of the country’s newest bills is a $100 peso note featuring a 17th-Century female historical figure and it’s winning major international awards for its design and history.

Mexico’s $100-peso bill has been named banknote of the year for 2020 by the International Bank Note Society (IBNS). As printer and issuer of the note, the Bank of México beat 24 other nominees to the award, and the Sor Juana bill led the way from the start of the voting process.

The note features national heroine Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, with the monarch butterfly biosphere reserve on its reverse.

In its announcement the IBNS wrote: “Mexico’s award-winning entry may provide a template as other countries reconsider how they design and promote new banknotes.  The successful design in eye-pleasing red combines Hispanic architecture, a famous female Hispanic literary figure and a tribute to the world’s fragile ecosystem.”

Past bank note of the year recipients include Aruba, Canada, Uganda, the Faroe Islands, two time winner Switzerland and three time winner Kazakhstan, among others.

So who was Sor Juana and why was she important to Mexico?

Born in 1651, Sor Juana was a self-educated nun and intellectual renowned for her poetry, writing and political activism, who criticized the misogyny of colonial Mexico.

Beginning her studies at a young age, Sor Juana was fluent in Latin and also wrote in Nahuatl, and became known for her philosophy in her teens. Sor Juana educated herself in her own library, which was mostly inherited from her grandfather. After joining a nunnery in 1667, Sor Juana began writing poetry and prose dealing with such topics as love, feminism, and religion.

Mexico was up against 24 other countries in the nomination process.

In second place was Kate Cranston who appears on the Bank of Scotland’s 20 pound note. The businesswoman appears on the obverse and she is recognized for being the owner of the famous tea rooms inaugurated in 1903 and that today are a tourist attraction.

In third place there was a triple tie between the 20 pound note of the Ulster Bank of Northern Ireland whose design features flora and buskers. The one from the Bahamas of 5 dollars with the image of the junkanoo dancer, and the one of 50 dollars from Fiji.

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Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Things That Matter

Mexico City Could Soon Change Its Name To Better Embrace Its Indigenous Identity

Mexico City is the oldest surviving capital city in all of the Americas. It also is one of only two that actually served as capitals of their Indigenous communities – the other being Quito, Ecuador. But much of that incredible history is washed over in history books, tourism advertisements, and the everyday hustle and bustle of a city of 21 million people.

Recently, city residents voted on a non-binding resolution that could see the city’s name changed back to it’s pre-Hispanic origin to help shine a light on its rich Indigenous history.

Mexico City could soon be renamed in honor of its pre-Hispanic identity.

A recent poll shows that 54% of chilangos (as residents of Mexico City are called) are in favor of changing the city’s official name from Ciudad de México to México-Tenochtitlán. In contrast, 42% of respondents said they didn’t support a name change while 4% said they they didn’t know.

Conducted earlier this month as Mexico City gears up to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of the Aztec empire capital with a series of cultural events, the poll also asked respondents if they identified more as Mexicas, as Aztec people were also known, Spanish or mestizo (mixed indigenous and Spanish blood).

Mestizo was the most popular response, with 55% of respondents saying they identified as such while 37% saw themselves more as Mexicas. Only 4% identified as Spaniards and the same percentage said they didn’t know with whom they identified most.

The poll also touched on the city’s history.

The ancient city of Tenochtitlán.

The same poll also asked people if they thought that the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlán by Spanish conquistadoresshould be commemorated or forgotten, 80% chose the former option while just 16% opted for the latter.

Three-quarters of respondents said they preferred areas of the the capital where colonial-era architecture predominates, such as the historic center, while 24% said that they favored zones with modern architecture.

There are also numerous examples of pre-Hispanic architecture in Mexico City including the Templo Mayor, Tlatelolco and Cuicuilco archaeological sites.

Tenochtitlán was one of the world’s most advanced cities when the Spanish arrived.

Tenochtitlán, which means “place where prickly pears abound” in Náhuatl, was founded by the Mexica people in 1325 on an island located on Lake Texcoco. The legend goes that they decided to build a city on the island because they saw the omen they were seeking: an eagle devouring a snake while perched on a nopal.

At its peak, it was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It subsequently became a cabecera of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Today, the ruins of Tenochtitlán are in the historic center of the Mexican capital. The World Heritage Site of Xochimilco contains what remains of the geography (water, boats, floating gardens) of the Mexica capital.

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