It was a clear and cool November day in West Miami. A light breeze blew through Tropical Park, where several of my friends and I had gathered to celebrate a birthday. Someone brought a foldout table, and four of us were enjoying a rowdy game of dominos. Laughter, bravado, and intricately layered bilingual taunts filled the grove of banyan trees we had claimed for ourselves. I had just made one of my opponents pass his turn when a tall, older gentleman wearing a red sweater approached us.
“Pardon me,” interrupted the gentleman in a soft yet purposeful voice.
Our raucous merriment drowned out his words.
“Excuse me!” said the gentleman more loudly.
The game was begrudgingly paused while we turned to face the interloper.
Though well over seventy, he stood impeccably erect with both hands clasped tightly at the waist. He had a long, thin face, which was framed by an immaculately groomed ivory beard and coiffure. His demeanor was that of a professor calmly waiting for his students to identify an obvious answer.
“If you insist on speaking Mexican, could you at least keep it down?” continued the gentleman. “My family and I are trying to have a pleasant afternoon, and you are most certainly ruining it.”
Any residual mirth immediately fled our faces.
“Mexican?” asked one of my friends as the blood rose in his cheeks, “Coño man, you’re kidding me, right? Don’t you know what city you’re in?”
“Tremendo comemierda,” said another, his eyes narrowing. “I’m Dominican, you asshole.”
“Get out of here!” demanded the third with dismissive wave of his hand. “We’re not Mexican.”
“Oye compadre, we speak castellano, not Mexican,” I added, making sure to linger upon the Spanish words. “And you’d better leave soon…”
I was unable finish my sentence before the gentleman delivered a powerful kick to the bottom of the table, sending dominos flying and knocking two my comrades onto their backs, unconscious. My third friend and I sat in our chairs, temporarily stunned by the unexpected violence we had just witnessed.
“¡Yo soy José Emiliano Vázquez de Varona!” cried the gentleman, planting himself squarely before us. “I am the former President of the Senate, former Ambassador to the United Nations, former Foreign Secretary, and Historian Laureate de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked my remaining associate upon regaining his composure.
“¡Cállate!” demanded Mr. de Varona with a swift slap across my friend’s face. “You shall listen and you shall learn!”
“I’m not going to take this from a crazy old man,” I said, rising from my chair.
“I said silence!” cried Mr. de Varona, delivering me another slap.
I sat back down.
My friend opened his mouth to speak, but quickly recanted when he saw Mr. de Varona menacingly raise his open palm a third time.
“You shall listen and you shall learn!” repeated Mr. de Varona, slowly lowering his hand. “It is because of fools like you that there is such rampant ignorance about what it really means to be a Latino in this country. ¡Vengan!”
He grabbed our respective earlobes in vice-like grips, dragged us tripping and stumbling some forty yards, and brusquely tossed us onto a picnic table.
“Siéntense. Cállense. Edúquense,” commanded Mr. de Varona when he planted himself before us once more. “You have no idea what it means to be Latinos because you are pitifully ignorant of the history of your people and your mother tongue. Since your parents and schooling have failed you so spectacularly, I see it has come to me to impart some basic understanding of your heritage.”
We shifted uncomfortably in the face of this verbal onslaught, but remained silent.
“Mexico is a proud country with a long and storied history,” began Mr. de Varona. “It has been ruled by many empires, seen the rise and fall of countless civilizations, and incorporated aspects from myriad peoples to produce a truly rich and complex nation. But, to understand its language and culture, one must first understand its history.
“The Mexican proto-language’s origins lie with a group of invaders that migrated from the northeast. These were the Visigoths.”
“Whoa, wait, what?” interrupted my companion, “The Visigoths were barbarians that marauded around Europe at the end of the Roman Empire. How could they’ve possibly gotten to North America…”
“Mira ‘qui m’ijo, this is the last time I’m going to tell you,” said Mr. Varona in a low, menacing voice. “Either you shut your mouth, or I will shut it for you.”
He shut his mouth.
“As I was saying, the Visigoths crossed the Sierra Madre Oriental and carved out a kingdom in what later became known as Mexico. They ruled this land for two hundred years until another group of attackers arrived from the continent directly to the south. These were the Moors.”
“No. What? No! You’re wrong!” I interjected. “The Moors entered Spain from North Africa. They never came to Mexico or South America!”
Another slap from Mr. de Varona.
“No more interruptions! You’ve wasted enough of my time with your incessant idiocies! Are you done?”
One more slap.
“¡No me hables!” cried Mr. de Varona. “You have already proven yourself incapable of forming cogent statements, and have therefore forfeited your right to speak. If I ask you a question, you will answer with your body, not your words! ¿Entendido?”
I nodded to the affirmative.
“Good! Now, the Moors invaded the Visigoth kingdom of Mexico from their ancestral homeland in South America. They quickly smashed through all armies arrayed against them and pushed the remaining Visigoths into a few small enclaves pressed against the Rio Grande. They would’ve continued their march into North America, perhaps even conquering the entire continent, but were stopped cold by the gringos at the Battle of Amarillo, Texas.”
My friend and I gave each other quick, worried glances, but deemed it prudent to remain silent.
“The Visigoth enclaves coalesced into several independent kingdoms. Over a period of centuries, these polities slowly pushed south, reconquistando the country. They were led by the example of their most famous champion, the hero who captured the coastal city of Veracruz from the Moors—Benito Júarez el Campeador.
“After nearly 700 years of continuous warfare, the Visigoths united under two powerful states: the littoral kingdom of Tamaulipas and the rugged mountain kingdom of Zacatecas. Their respective sovereigns, la Reina Frida Khalo de Zapatecas y el Rey Pancho Villa de Tamaulipas combined their forces and crowns through marriage, and together attacked and defeated Oaxaca—the southernmost and last Moorish stronghold in Mexico.
“Following their victory over the Moors, and the unification of Mexico, la Reina Frida Kahlo y el Rey Pancho Villa sent their greatest explorer, Emiliano Zapata, east, across the Atlantic Ocean, to find a route to India and China.
“However, unbeknownst to absolutely anyone on the planet, the massive, undiscovered continent of Europe lay between the Americas and Asia. After months at sea, Zapata inadvertently bumped into this New World, and claimed the entirety of the Iberian Peninsula for the Mexican crown.
“The other major powers of the day: the gringos, brasileiros, and canadienses were quick to lay their own claims to this continent. Eventually, the Brazilian and Mexican Empires’ competing declarations forced them to approach el Papa Óscar Romero to seek a workable resolution to their differences. In a stroke of genius, el Papa Romero drew a line down the Iberian Peninsula, separating it into Brazilian and Mexican spheres of influence, therefore averting a truly calamitous war.
“The Mexican Empire then began a breathtaking period of expansion. Taking advantage of the catastrophic effect Latino diseases had on indigenous central and northern European populations, Mexico quickly conquered what is now Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Bohemia, and Austria. Furthermore, through a series of strategic marriages and wars with its neighbors, it came to control much of Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. With the addition of the Philippines and several West African territories, the phrase ‘the sun never sets of the Mexican Empire,’ became not just an axiom, but a reality.
“Centuries passed, and the Mexican Empire grew rich on the backs of the northern and central Europeans who were forced to export their continent’s precious metals, jewels, and agricultural products across the Atlantic Ocean to Mexico City. Terrible atrocities were committed as entire peoples were wiped out by illness, summary execution, and overwork. To this very day, it is practically impossible to come across a European with pure Liechtensteiner or Luxembourgian heritage.
“As the native northern and central European population declined, Mexico sought out new sources of forced labor. It partnered with large, powerful African empires such as Mali, Kaabu, Benin, Kongo, Luba, Mutapa, Bonoman, Ashanti, and Oyo to scour the previously unexplored and uncivilized southern Mediterranean coast for slaves. Millions of Italians, Greeks, and Frenchmen were forced onto over-crowded boats and shipped to Mexico’s northern European haciendas. Though eventually freed when Mexico’s colonies declared their independence, Europeans continue to face tremendous adversity given the inherent unattractiveness of their blanched, pallid skin tones. Moreover, they are still typified as uncultured and backwards, though that can be understood, since no great civilization ever emerged in southern Europe before the arrival of the Latinos and Africans.
“The end of the Mexican Empire cannot be boiled down to a single day or event. Rather, it suffered a gradual decline over many generations after the defeat of its Armada Invencible at the hands of the canadienses off the coast of Halifax. However, its place in history has been forever solidified by the spread of Mexican language and culture to almost every corner of the globe.”
Mr. de Varona paused for effect.
“Al fin, ¿entienden la importancia de su historia? ¿Entienden de donde viene su idoma y su cultura?”
My friend and I silently nodded.
“Me alegro. Now go out there and be good Mexicans.”
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