What You Don't Know About Mexicoby
Maggie Van Ostrand
been awhile since the U.S. media has said anything about Mexico except the low-down
on drug cartels, illegal immigration, and kidnappings. Negativity sells newspapers
and sends traffic to media websites because nobody reads a publication that headlines
"Plane Lands Safely." Common sense tells the intelligent reader that there must
be another side to the story of what Mexicans are like. You're right. Here are
a few true stories to help balance media negativity.|
storm of California wildfires, over 2,000 of them, have been especially ferocious
this year. On and on our brave firefighters fought against nearly impossible odds,
with new infernos continually blazing, unusually high temperatures in the bone-dry
State, and the most savage enemy of the firefighter: wind.
continued, exhausted, without sleep or rest, to protect our citizens and our resources.
More than 870,000 acres, or 1, 350 square miles, have been consumed making the
crisis the largest in the State's history. One hundred structures were destroyed,
one person perished.
What hasn't received much publicity is Mexico's help
in combating the blazes. Even before those from Australia, Greece, and New Zealand,
Mexican firefighters arrived to relieve exhausted men on the front lines.
neighbors help one another.
was a time in history when Mexico was accused by a U.S. NAFTA-opposed politician
of making "giant sucking sounds." Well, folks, the giant noises that came from
Mexico during the Katrina tragedy were not giant sucking sounds, they were giant
rumbling sounds, and they came from a Mexican Army convoy driving north to help
the U.S. in its time of crisis.
As water rose over the rooftops of New
Orleans, the Mexican Army prepared to do battle on our behalf. For the first time
since 1846, Mexican military units operated on U.S. soil, as Mexican Army trucks
and tractor trailers convoyed north, with Mexican flags taped to the roof tops
of the 45 vehicles.
These vehicles, manned by 200 soldiers, officers and
specialists, carried water treatment plants, mobile kitchens and supplies to feed
the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The convoy included military engineers,
doctors, nurses, two mobile kitchens that could feed 7,000 people each per day,
three flatbed trucks carrying mobile water treatment plants, and 15 trailers of
bottled water, blankets and applesauce. Burritos on the side.
Mexican troops were on U.S. soil (1846), they advanced north of the Rio Grande
in Texas (which had recently joined the United States).
Mexico, however, did not
then recognize the Rio Grande as the U.S. border. There are those who say it still
In 1916, Pancho Villa led a group of fighters in a brief raid
into Columbus, New Mexico, in what is considered the last battle against foreign
forces on U.S. soil. Apparently, nobody is counting Taliban terrorist cells in
Mexico planned a second 12-vehicle aid convoy together with a
Mexican navy ship steaming toward the Mississippi coast with rescue vehicles and
The Mexicans set up consular offices in trailers around the
disaster zone to help their estimated 140,000 countrymen living in the region,
10,000 of them in New Orleans. In addition, help was offered by a search-and-rescue
group called "topos" - (moles) - organized by youths who dug through collapsed
buildings after Mexico City's 1985 earthquake.
"This is the first time
that the United States has accepted a military mission from Mexico" for such work,
said Javier Ibarrola, a newspaper columnist who covers military affairs in Mexico.
"This is something that's never happened before."
Then-President Fox of
Mexico had not waited for Senate approval to help us. In an act of solidarity
between our two nations, he was strong enough to give an order without wading
through red tape.
In the words of the New Orleans flood survivor who was
helping reunite lost children with their parents, "When you help someone else
out, you help the world."
ace flier is defined as a fighter pilot who has destroyed five or more enemy aircraft.
Charlie Foster was a World War
II ace with the 201st Fighter Squadron. What's more, Charlie's heroism beyond
the call of duty netted him a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Yet no one
made a movie about Charlie Foster, the way they did about Audie Murphy, a famed
Medal of Honor-winning World War II hero, in To Hell and Back. No HBO miniseries
about Charlie was made by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg the way they made Band
of Brothers, the one about WW
II's 101st Airborne Division's Easy Company. No Hollywood studio made an Oscar
winning film about the 201st, as they did about the Civil War's first all-black
volunteer company in 1989's Glory. But in its way, Charlie's tale is as special
as those famous stories of heroic actions.
makes Charlie's story unique is that his real name isn't Charlie Foster, it's
Carlos Faustinos, a Mexican citizen. Carlos fought beside American airmen in the
Pacific Theater and was a member of the elite Esquadron Aereo de Caza 201, also
known as the Fighting 201st. |
did this information surprise me, but so did the fact that Mexico
declared war on the Axis powers on June 11, 1942. Imagine that. Can't you just
see kind, agricultural Mexico
declaring war on the Big Bad Wolves Hirohito, Mussolini and Hitler? But Mexico
did indeed declare war, and they put their men where their collective mouth was.
It was at that time Mexico
organized the 201st Fighter Squadron, a select group of Mexican pilots, including
Carlos Faustinos'. Thirty-five officers and 300 enlisted men were trained in Mexico,
then given additional flight training as P-47 fighter squadron at Pocatello Army
Air Base in Idaho, and were then attached to the 58th Fighter Group in the Philippines
where they began combat operations. They wiped out machine gun nests, dropped
181 tons of bombs and fired 153,000 rounds of ammunition, acquitting themselves
well and bravely. Seven of their pilots were killed in action.
201st wasn't the only heroic group of Mexicans. In a town called Silvis, just
west of Chicago, runs a street once named Second Street. It's not much of a street,
not even two blocks long, muddy in spring, icy in winter, dusty in summer. On
this single street, 105 men participated in World
War II, Korea and Vietnam. It's the street where Joe Gómez, Peter Macías,
Johnny Muños, Tony Pompa, Claro Solíz, and Frank, Joseph, and William Sandoval
grew up together. They worked for the railroad, like their fathers who had emigrated
from Mexico. These young
men, raised to revere freedom, went to war without hesitation.
Sandoval families alone sent thirteen; six from one family; seven from the other.
According to the U.S. Defense Department, this little street contributed more
men to military service than any other place of comparable size in the United
States, standing alone in American military history.
In a letter to Frank
Sandoval, Claro Solíz described Second Street as ". . . Really not much, just
mud and ruts, but right now to me it is the greatest street in the world." He
never saw it again. Not one of these boys came home alive.
In honor of
their supreme sacrifice, a monument listing the name of each man now stands in
Second Street has been officially renamed Hero Street USA. Next time you're in
the mid West, you might want to visit this street of heroes just to say thank
Maybe these stories weren't sensational enough to be covered by the
media, but they happened just the same.
Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In
17, 2008 column