Posted by Zia Shah
A Muslim Times’ original Op-Ed
America is a nation of immigrants. That is one of the principle reasons that we have been able to develop a society that is envied and emulated the world over. The only people who can trace their roots to American soil are Native Americans. All others came here for various reasons from other places.
The origins of the people who are members of American society are in Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa and the Caribbean, for the most part. As Americans we celebrate our ancestral heritages during various parts of the year.
This is the season of celebration for those who trace their roots to Mexico, our giant neighbor to the south and economic trading partner. Trade between the United States and Mexico reached half a trillion dollars in 2011. One million U.S. citizens claim Mexico as their official place of residence.
Among the most important events in the life of Mexico and in the lives of those who consider it their ancestral home is Cinco de Mayo which celebrates the Mexican Army’s decisive defeat of invading French troops on May 5th, 1862 in the city of Puebla. At the time, the French, led by Napoleon, were considered the most powerful fighting machine on the face of the earth.
The defeat of the French at Puebla eventually led to a retreat from Mexico and ended their financial and military support of the Confederacy which had declared its independence from the United States.
Some historians cite the Mexican defeat of the French as being one of the reasons that the Union Army was able to crush the Confederates at the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. The history of the United States would have been vastly different if not for the success of the Mexican Army and the will of the Mexican people.
And while celebrations of Cinco de Mayo will produce participants who will sing and dance into the night in many of our nation’s cities, we must never forget the contributions that their ancestors made to this nation.
These contributions continue today in the form of trade, infrastructure projects, cultural exchanges, business transactions, job creation, and economic investment. Some economists estimate that there are six million U.S. based jobs that rely on trade with Mexico for their existence.
Many established and emerging political leaders in this country can trace their roots to Mexico. They contribute to the life and growth of our nation on a daily basis. They too, like all of us, will celebrate Cinco de Mayo, understand its rich meaning and appreciate the wonderful legacy that it represents.