Reconquista: A nativist creation

by Amaury Nora

A couple of years ago, I addressed the Reconquista myth because this myth was making it rounds among hard-core right-wing pundits. It seems the same conspiracy theory is once again making those rounds again. One of the approaches xenophobic conservative pundits use to stir up fear so people are willing to support tough immigration policies is race baiting. Given the history of race relations in the US, history has shown repeatedly that this nation is willingly to act aggressively in punishing minorities.

The same right-wing populist fears that fueled the Cold War anti-communism, rallied against the Civil Rights Movement and brought about the armed citizens militia movement in the 1990s have reappeared with an elaborate conspiracy theory about the reconquering of America – La Reconquista – the idea that Mexicans are invading America to reclaim it for Mexico.

Recently, Media Matters reported that G. Gordon Liddy, on his nationally syndicated radio show, stated that undocumented immigrants from Mexico “want to reconquer America.” From Liddy’s June 5 radio show:

LIDDY: Well, now, America’s a free country. And everyone who is here legally has the protections of the Constitution, and one of them is the right to gather together peacefully to petition government, you know, with respect to any grievance that you might have. Now, I don’t have any problem with that. What I have — the problem —

LIDDY: Now, wait a minute. Now, the problem that I have is with people who come over here and instead of wanting to become Americans, you know, fly the American flag, learn English, and so forth, they want to fly the Mexican flag, they want to speak Spanish, you know, and other varieties of illegal alien. And that’s — that is what distinguishes these people from the previous immigrants. Previous immigrants said, “Man, we can’t wait to get out of” — you know, whatever the country was they came from. “We can’t wait to get to the United States. We want to be Americans, we want to learn English, and, we want, you know, the best for our children,” and what have you. And they proudly displayed the American flag. Not so, especially these illegal aliens up from Mexico and what have you. They want to reconquer America, they say. They have this outfit called the Reconconquista [sic] or something of that sort, whatever it is in illegal alien.

The tone of the national debate over immigration is being set by organizations deeply rooted in hate. Too many people, from the media to community leaders, have stood aside with other hateful sources updating their tactics of Jim Crow for the more sophisticated media environment of the 21st century.

Millions of Americans are exposed to the conspiracy theories, either through television or through the Internet. The question is where did the “reconquering” idea originate? One possibility could be traced back to 1917 when Arthur Zimmermann sent his infamous telegram to Mexico’s President Venustiano Carranza, at the height of World War I, known as the Zimmermann Telegram. The telegram offered to form an alliance between Germany and Mexico, while trying to remain neutral with the US. However, if US were to enter the war, the Mexican government would agree to enter the war to support Germany, while trying to persuade the Japanese government to join the new alliance. Germany also promised to provide Mexico with financial assistance and the restoration of its former territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico. It was in this telegram that the word reconquer was used.

We intend to begin on the first of February, unrestricted submarine warfare. We shall endeavor in spite of this to keep the United States of America neutral. In the event of this not succeeding, we propose an alliance on the following basis: make war together, make peace together, generous financial support and an understanding on our part that Mexico is to reconquer the lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The settlement in detail is left to you. [emphasis mine]

You will inform the President [of Mexico] of the above most secretly as soon as the outbreak of war with the United States of America is certain and add the suggestion that he should, on his own initiative, invite Japan to immediate adherence and at the same time mediate between Japan and ourselves.

Please call the President’s attention to the fact that the ruthless employment of our submarines now offers the prospect of compelling England in a few months to make peace.

Most people assume that it was the sinking of the Lusitania that brought the United States into World War I. However, some will ague that was this message that helped draw the U.S. into the war. The military alliance’s main purpose was to keep the US out of the European conflict by convincing Mexico and Japan to attack the US.

The sentiment at the time, both anti-German and anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States was high – Americans where still angry over the loss of Americans lives in the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 by a German U-boat and because of Pancho Villa’s recent raids into US border towns. The idea that the part of United States would possibly go back to Mexico, had Mexico complied with offer, was not very popular with the American people and did not bode well for President Woodrow Wilson.

Maybe one possible explanation for the strains between Latinos and Whites, especially in the Southwest, could be that Carranza did consider Zimmerman’s offer. Carranza assigned a general to consider the realities of a Mexican takeover of their former provinces. The general concluded that it would not work because taking over the three states would definitely cause problems and possibly war with the US; Mexico would also be incapable of accommodating a large Anglo population within its borders; and Germany would not be able to supply the arms needed in the hostilities that would surely arise. On April 14, Carranza declined Zimmermann’s proposals, by which time the US had already declared war on Germany.

Currently, nativist pundits associate “reconquista” with El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, the manifesto that is considered to be founding document of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA). However, according to Jorge Tapia, MEChA has its founding based on a conference held in Santa Barbara, CA, El Plan de Santa Barbara, El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and ideas from other student organizations. In fact, “El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán” was not just instrumental in the founding of MEChA, but it also became the framework of the Chicano movement.

In the spirit of a new people that is conscious not only of its proud historical heritage but also of the brutal “gringo” invasion of our territories, we, the Chicano inhabitants and civilizers of the northern land of Aztlan from whence came our forefathers, reclaiming the land of their birth and consecrating the determination of our people of the sun, declare that the call of our blood is our power, our responsibility, and our inevitable destiny….With our heart in our hands and our hands in the soil, we declare the independence of our mestizo nation.

In reality, El Plan is a manifesto that appeals to nationalism as a way to achieve a self-awareness and self-esteem. El Plan never asked for the return of lost territories back to Mexico. So where did the idea of “Aztlán” come from? The concept of Aztlán began with the poet Alurista in a 1969 Denver Youth Conference that was organized by Corky Gonzales. He was one of the first poets to establish the concept of Aztlan in his writings. In an interview, Alurista said:

And while still calling California “occupied Mexico,” the poet disavows any lingering territorial claims. “People call California, Arizona, Nueva Mexico and Colorado Aztlán, but really, Aztlán is wherever we are. We don’t recognize borders. It’s more a matter of cultural/political identity. When I say this is our land, I don’t mean that we own it. Who owns anything?”

Aztlán was a spiritual concept, which was meant to unite all Chicanos/as. The reality is that Latinos are not a homogenous group and throughout the US one can find divisions within the same Latino sub-groups in the Southwest. There are considerable differences between Latinos in each State because each sub-group has their own history of discrimination and oppression. Because of this, there are consequences. Such as, Tejanos see themselves differently from those in New Mexico, Arizona and California. Maybe because Mexico lost Texas first, this probably explains why the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo is not celebrated in the state. Nuevo Mexicanos, in New Mexico also view themselves different from those in Arizona and California and vice versa, however these states have a common history, they were established from the Treaty. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
In other words, “Aztlán,” is a spiritual concept that we, as Latinos/as, have a spiritual homeland.

It is not just right-wing pundits who are fanning the flames of strife; there are prominent anti-immigrant activists such as Barbara Coe of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, John Vincent of the American Immigration Control Foundation, and Rick Oltman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform who are avid supporter of the reconquista conspiracy theory and are vehemently anti-Latino. The growing backlash against illegal immigration is creating an atmosphere of antagonism toward all Latinas/os. And many of these hate groups are eager to exploit mainstream fears.

When a society is undergoing change or turmoil, social movements can arise out of an idea that the idealized nation as being destroyed by foreign ideas. This can involve with the idea that the subversion is part of a conspiracy. In a healthy society, only a handful of people will actually consider conspiracy theories seriously. However, when conspiracy theories create a mass following, as a society, we should view this as a red flag because it is a clear indication that something is amiss in society.

Conspiracy theories about Mexico re-conquering lost territories have already seeped into conservative circles. It is just a matter of time it will make its way into progressive political circles. This not only is a waste of time and energy, but it undermines the struggle for human rights. It is important for people of all political stripes to denounce conspiracy theories as toxic to democracy.

28 replies »

  1. Excellent rundown – I had no idea how widespread this “reconquista” idiocy was when I saw the Liddy comment.

  2. Hugely infomative post. Gives us all the ammo we need to call up right-wing talk show hosts and rebut their “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexican are coming!” line.

    Even if, say, Texas were “reconquered” by Mexicans, it would probably be an improvement.

  3. Liddy is no more representative of the conservative ideals than Randi Rhodes is on the left. This reconquista theory that the leftist blogs have been accusing the right are another example of throwing a whole bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks.


  4. It’s not clear, Jeff, if you’re saying that the conservatives who are talking “reconquista” are throwing stuff on the wall, or if the liberals who are talking about the conservatives’ notion are the ones doing the throwing.

  5. Russ,

    I’m referring to the liberals doing the throwing. The “reconquista” discussion has garnered very little attention in the conservative arena. However, I’ve seen discussions about it all over the liberal blogsphere….that’s why I referred to “throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.” I realize that y’all hate us, and consider us to be uneducated, selfish, misinformed, illiterate peasants, but if you’re going to hate us….please do it for the right reasons.


  6. Actually, that was me, not Russ, but no worries.

    Misinformed and (often) selfish, absolutely. But illiterate or uneducated? Nope. And I don’t hate conservatives as a rule, unless an individual one has earned my hatred. Of course, I know better than to speak for all liberals on that, since there are certainly a number of liberals who hate all conservatives, just as it’s reverse is almost certainly true too.

  7. I think those mud-slinging liberals might be responding to comments and articles and books by these (self-described) conservatives:
    Michelle Malkin
    Lou Dobbs
    Glenn Beck
    Chris Matthews
    Pat Buchanan
    Mark Williams
    John Gibson
    G. Gordon Liddy

    In publications and on shows like these:
    The New York Post
    Fox News
    CNN Headline News
    MSNBC’s Tucker
    Lou Dobbs Tonight

    And of course, on patriotic websites like these:
    American Patrol Report
    The Patriot Post
    Jewish World Review

    From as early as 2005, right on up to yesterday.

    Frankly, the idea seems too silly to take seriously as a threat of any kind… maybe someone should tell at least those particular conservatives? Or whatever they are.

  8. Euphrosyne … lol … you beat me to it. I was just about to provide the same pundit list. What I find funny is how the conservative definition keeps changing. My conservative uncle once told me that Lou Dobbs was a liberal. I asked him what the hell he was smokin’.

    This is no different.

  9. Come on, E. It’s not like liberals/progressives aren’t doing the same thing. There are fringes and centers in each party, with the fringes thinking the centers aren’t real (insert political ideology here) and vice versa. Social conservatives think fiscal/libertarian conservatives aren’t real conservatives, the DNC and like-minded groups think the socialist wing of the Democratic Party aren’t real liberals.

    I know a lot of people who believe that McCain is a liberal, and that we’re about to have an election between a Democrat and a Democrat-wannabe. And if you’re a one-issue voter, or vote exclusively along a small subset of issues, then McCain is a liberal on those issues.

    Yet another example of why “liberal” and “conservative” are often useless labels. We need a Myers-Briggs for politics, something like the Political Compass, but with more gradations than just 2 axes…

  10. Fringe, schminge. Sure, those websites are primarily the creation of whackjobs, and frankly, I’d consider most of those so-called pundits unbalanced, too – or at least so irrational as to be worthless in any serious debate. However, what they say gets heard – my God, look at the countless minions of a Pat Buchanan or a John Hagee. Lunacy or not, they’re certainly not regarded as “fringe elements” by their own followers or by what is comically known as the mainstream media. I’m not watching them or listening to them, but a lot of people are.

    My point was that the source of this ridiculous scare tactic, and the only people who seem to take it at all seriously, are those self-same professed conservatives. Are they true conservatives? In the immortal words of Amy Poehler,”Bitch, I don’t know your life.” Tthe reason I keep using words like “professed” and “self-described” is precisely because they ARE one-issue voters, or screeching attention whores, or pseudo-religious nutjobs. I don’t know exactly what a true conservative is, but I know a jackass when I hear one.

    Jeff’s contention was that the non-issue of reconquista keeps being brought up by hyper-sensitive liberals (another term I don’t really grasp) for no good reason. My answer, which perhaps should have been made more clear, was that if jackasses are allowed to bray long and loudly in public, someone may eventually respond, if only to point out the lack of credibility of the donkeys in question.

    I think calling out willful ignorance is more than worth a post or two. I thought that’s what this post was about.

  11. Seems like the notion of a Reconquista rests on a large population of Mexicans/etc. diffusing into the U.S., and by force of numbers, overwhelming the anglo culture/’presence’. Which sounds a lot like the scare tactics offered up by Mark Steyn in “America Alone”, which paints a picture of an aggressive, Islamic demographic tide of immigration and high birthrates, overwhelming a naively-tolerant, complacent European elitism. There’s a demographic madness to this method–or vice versa.

    Which also seems to fit with the ‘no birth control’, barefoot and pregnant version of woman hood, underlying so much conservative ideology–which incidentally, also characterized the Nazi’s views of how good, German women were contributing to the reich.

    Oh the tangled webs.

    (sorry Jeff, I just call ’em like I see ’em–but for the record, I don’t hate the conservative, I hate the conservatism).

  12. An excellent read.

    I am:


    I am glad that we have socialists, liberals and democrats in the UK. Without them…we could have ended up a selfishly governed society that consisted only of conservative minded folk. The conservative in me fights for and defends my family first. And come a choice between ‘the other’ and those who are mine and entrusted to my personal care…I choose my own.

    By having different thinkers, evolved thinkers and conceptual thinkers a society that does not just reflect the aspirations and selfish drives of those trying to keep their nuclear and extended family in tact and unthreatened has been created. My country allows for the wider inclusion of single parent families, extended families, same sex civil partnerships, differing faiths and religions and ethnicities. Most are contributing positively (and not just via taxation through paid employment) into our evolved system which has worked for the majority. My conservative thinking is constantly challenged on anything and everything by that which is not hidebound by traditional thought – which is good.

    Thankfully, when the family falls apart through divorce or death people cared enough to strategise and put in place policies that support and help ‘the other’ – because it a good thing to do and because it can prevent cycles of deprivation and poverty. Our taxation system supports this but our politicians play football with OUR money so it should be constantly monitored and reviewed to ensure it is not abused (which it often is).

    I just wish the truly rich did not get away almost entirely from contributing properly to the system in place. Money looks after money, money attracts money. The rich have been protecting what they have from the beginning and still today they are the cream that floats on top of the milk.

    If the rich were killed off tomorrow…humanity would survive. Perhaps, we would go back to tilling and fishing again, listen to stories around camp fires and hunt for the pot once more. Wars would be fought for survival and land again. The dominant group with the brightest most loyal members would ensure the survival of its kinship group…loyalty to kith and kin over that of ‘the other’ being paramount. Once again primal conservatism would be seen in ugly, dominant action in order that the strongest group and its young survived.

    I am all for open borders if you can be housed, fed and contribute positively in the UK. If you just want a free lunch at the benefits table then please get in line behind our own home grown lazy do nothing/take everything Labour voting parasites.

  13. Schneb,

    What kind of conservatism do you hate…..surely, you don’t hate all kinds of conservatism:) On the other hand, do you love all kinds of liberalism? Is there any strain of liberalism that you dislike,or is all liberalism a form of Valhalla?

    As for myself, I’m a conservative in the William F. Buckley Jr. mold, with a dash of Goldwater thrown into the mix. There are certain types of groups that label themselves as conservatives that I vehemently disagree with such as the neo-cons, religious right, and a few other subsets.


    Your list, while far from complete, could invite a tit for tat reply, which I won’t waste anyone’s time, as you all know who’s on your side.
    You forgot Ann Coulter……even I think she’s out there:)


    Like you, I apppreciate diversity and am glad that there’s a mix of ideas out there. I celebrate the fact that people can disagree, and still have civil discourse. However, I disagree with you that the truly rich only look out for themselves(no more than any other group looks out for it’s members), as most rich people give a substantial portion of their net worth to charitable causes. Look at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for example. I know some really rich people who quietly and anonymously give away a fortune every year….in addition to the large dollar amount of taxes they pay. I also disagree with your point that the rich get away almost entirely from contributing to the system in place. In the USA, the top ten percent earners pay a disproportionate amount of taxes in this country. While some complain that a millionaire pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, he’s still paying a whole lot more cash to the treasury. I’m comfortable,and my taxes are killing me. I’d hate to be really, really rich, as the tax bill would probably cause me to have a stroke.
    I 100% share your dislike for people clamoring for a free lunch.



  14. Wow. The power of hearing what you want to hear and ignoring everything else – willful inanity at its most revealing. Depressing, but a useful reminder.

  15. I’ve been called every name in the book, but inane, that’s a new one….I salute your creativity.


  16. Jeff

    In the UK it is known that the super rich (the real cream) do not contribute their fair share in taxes. Few will go on telly admitting it … but one did and ADMITTED it was not equal. Compare the percentage paid in personal salary taxation (we have no hiding places, off shore bank accounts, little island tax havens for our pennies) by nurses, lawyers, doctors, office workers, teachers, cleaners, legal secretaries to that offered up by the elite personally. There is not just a gulf…there is existence on an entirely different planet taking place.

    In the UK the Government’s real source of income is taxation on ordinary people. Our services, institutions, our politicians…virtually EVERYTHING is paid for by us. It is not enough…so borrowing is the norm. Yet our two main parties seem to have been co-opted by monied businessmen who shape and direct policy which is annoying in the extreme

    Of course the elite contribute…the difference is they choose how, when, if and who for. They are shaping and influencing and have real clout regardless of our voting in one of the two main parties periodically.

    We are forced to pay a piper we elect who not only refuses to play our tune when in government but actively seeks out others to submit a play list. What happened to serving the meal we ordered as we are paying for it?

    I remain a conservative and anti wealth and land redistribution. I remain irritated with the fact that we employ teachers in the state (public) sector who fail to cope with the end result of their ‘level playing field’ social engineering policies (the kids from single parent families usually in deprived areas who no one can touch these days). These same social engineers can be found in parliament…still.


  17. Elaine,

    The offshore accounts and trusts mentioned in that article are available to people in other countries also. Here in my neighborhood in Florida, most of the real estate transactions have an offshore trust on one or both sides of the transaction. That being said, one can understand the desire for the rich, or anyone else, to minimize their tax bill. The rich can afford the luxury of employing people who’s job is to set up such trusts.
    In the US, most of the super rich derive a large percentage of their income from capital gains which is presently taxed at a lower rate than earned income.

    Taxes are always going to be more of a burden for lower income people…….always have, always will. It’s simple economics that 20% of $50,000 is going to have a greater impact on one’s lifestyle than 15% of $1,000,000. I do have problems with any government trying to punish success through excess taxation. That’s social engineering run amok. There is talk about hitting Exxon with windfall profits tax, because they happen to be making record profits. The government should be pleased that Exxon makes so much money, as it encourages investment, creates jobs, and returns dividends(which are taxable) to the shareholders. Perhaps the government should also set it’s sights on Microsoft and Starbucks, which operate with much higher profit margins than Exxon.

    When an economy is in contraction, or having a slowdown, it is not wise to raise taxes…..It certainly didn’t work in Michigan.

    Good point about the teachers…..we have many of the same here.

    Obama wants to double the capital gains tax to punish the rich, forgetting that 50% of the families earning $60,000 or less in 2006, reported capital gains income.

    I have some 14th amendment issues with the progressive tax rates in this country. I’m a flat tax kind of guy.


  18. Jeff


    Taken from the above link:

    “Taxes during 14th century were very progressive; The 1377 Poll tax noted that the tax on the Duke of Lancaster was 520 times the tax on the common peasant.

    Under the earliest taxing schemes an income tax was imposed on the wealthy, office holders, and the clergy. A tax on movable property was imposed on merchants. The poor paid little or no taxes.”

    If the shakers, decision makers and the hidden hands operating behind the democratic fronts want to have money for their military enterprises then THEY should go back to paying for their warring adventures.

    Leave the peasants alone.


  19. Elaine,

    Everyone should pay taxes… at the same rate. That’s only fair. There should be exemptions for nobody as far as taxes, along as everyone pays the same rate of tax. Success should not be punished by higher tax rates.

    You said,
    “If the shakers, decision makers and the hidden hands operating behind the democratic fronts want to have money for their military enterprises then THEY should go back to paying for their warring adventures.

    Leave the peasants alone.”

    Does leaving the peasants alone mean that welfare and benefits to the poor should go away? After all, what’s fair is fair, and nobody should get a free meal:)


  20. Jeff

    My meaning, obviously not clear, is that we, the peasants, now pay taxes which are being used/diverted for war efforts that we do not support.

    No, the poor should not pay tax.


  21. If the poor should not pay tax, what should they do to contribute to society? Do they get a free ride? Are you an advocate of some type of public service to discharge the debt?

    Do you include all the poor? What about the lazy people who are poor? Should one be exempt from taxation due to laziness? Should upper class people who lost great fortunes, and are now poor, pay taxes?

    Also, what is a definition of poor? Here in the USA, we have the richest poor in the world. Most have food, TV’s, bikes, a place to live, a cellphone, and clothes. If one can have possessions and a job, IMHO, they should pay taxes, even if it’s just a couple of dollars. If they are truly poor, like those in Calcutta, it would be folly to expect them to pay taxes.


  22. Jeff

    When I say poor I am not talking about the able bodied who are of sound mind but who CHOOSE to be what I call the lazy poor living off and in state care and thriving generation after generation because of the benefits culture.

    Anyone who is claiming benefits should be made to contribute. They should be made to work in some capacity in their community…or lose the money they receive via the taxpayer. The Conservative Party in the UK is proposing to do this. Whether they succeed is another matter. I hope they do.

    Mothers who have child after child ‘for the State’ and are given homes to house their various offspring that were conceived with any stray dog are making a mockery of both motherhood and womanhood.

    There is nothing more cynical than knowing that the State will provide for you if you have a child…so they choose to have the children. Meanwhile, unemployed boys and young men walk away time and time again from these girls having enjoyed open access for a few months. They do not earn regular money and so do not support and ultimately often lose contact with these babies. There are whole communities that operate like this…and they thrive because we let them.

    The truly poor do not usually vote, are often lethargic, no one motivates them or cares for them, they are often seriously handicapped socially because of poor or non existent parenting. They may have major health problems (whether mental, physical or both), fall prey to trolls and no one takes them in hand until it is too late. They are often not in a position to pay taxes.

    These poor cannot pay taxes. No one wants them. They often cannot hold down jobs even if they are willing to.


  23. === AZTLAN ===

    NUEVO MEXICO–New Mexico