America is at a crossroads in its history, and the 2016 presidential elections are the surest sign that the direction the American people choose this coming November will shape generations to come. The Latino community has been on edge given the racist statements made by Donald Trump, and have been unnerved by the anti-immigrant stances of two children of immigrants, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
But this article is not yet another rehash of how these two politicians have seemed to turn their backs on their own community, it is not about how their stances contradict their personal histories, instead this article is about the contribution that these men would bring to U.S.-Latino relations if they were to become president. These two men represent an opportunity that has received absolutely no attention, but which could help them reconnect with Latino voters.
Latino culture has already made a huge impact on U.S. culture. In every town across this great land, love for one of Mexico’s most beloved foods, the taco, is universal. In the southwest, it is not surprising to see people of all backgrounds enjoying mariachi music. In Florida, no self-respecting native has a bad thing to say about Cuban bread. Beyond food, most states have at least one town with a Spanish name (in my home of Colorado alone there is La Junta, Salida, and Pueblo, among others). Spanish words have greatly influenced American English. Countless pop stars, actors, musicians, and politicians are Latino. Yet perhaps the aspect of Latino culture that has eluded the United States is also the one that unites practically every Latin American country. It is a cultural trait that has a profound impact on Latino voting patterns, migration, and political leanings, yet it is also the trait that prevents Latinos from fully understanding and connecting with Americans. The trait I am referring to is, of course, Latino right-wing dictatorships. Such a distinct form of authoritarianism has long seemed like an impossibility in this country, since the idea of a Latino president is akin to wanting a colony on the moon. It could happen in the future, but no one knows when that might be.
That is, until now.
I know many readers might object to this assertion that the U.S. has no history of authoritarianism, particularly leftists who believe that Dick Cheney, albeit a vice president, behaved much like a dictator, and Nixon was unabashedly dictatorial. I would reply to such readers that neither of those men committed their most heinous atrocities against their own people, and what’s more, they weren’t Latino. A Latino provides a particular type of authoritarianism in a way that white people are only capable of inflicting upon brown populations. This obstacle would no longer exist since Latinos already are brown, and as brown people, are afflicted with the pressure of a society that says if they are to be successful, it has to be ten times more successful than their white counterpart. Such a mentality would open the door to a Latino president to inflict harm upon constituencies that previous presidents could only imagine oppressing.
Cruz and Rubio are staunch nationalists who believe in the superiority of American might. They promote any random thought that comes into the mind of a military leader, no matter how brutal or unethical, because America’s actions are always right.
Cruz and Rubio are staunch nationalists who believe in the superiority of American might. They promote any random thought that comes into the mind of a military leader, no matter how brutal or unethical, because America’s actions are always right. Yet the American military has never done to its own population what the armies of Pinochet, Trujillo, Cabrera, Ríos Montt, and the military juntas of Brazil and Argentina have done, and this is a major mark against American exceptionalism. How can you profess that no other nation has accomplished more than you, when you have never disappeared a large percentage of your population? How can you express indomitable strength when leftists, gays, union leaders, feminists, student activists, black nationalists, and their ilk continue living out their days under zero threat of finding their loved ones having been chopped up and their remains strewn throughout their neighborhood, or being tortured for weeks on end, only to have their spouses raped in front of them prior to being released from their underground dungeon? America might be feared abroad, but at home, our excessive military spending and extensive special ops training is going to waist on an increasingly opinionated populace.
A Rubio and Cruz presidency would undoubtedly see this sad state of affairs and realize that America is being outdone by such second-tier leaders as Pinochet, who turned Santiago’s International Football Stadium into a site of mass executions. Being the God-fearing, military-loving strongmen that they claim to be, they have far too much pride to be outdone by some Chilean. America doesn’t just have one football stadium, it has 32, plus several dozen baseball, hockey, and event arenas to utilize. In all, the United States has at least 100 such buildings where public executions could be performed around the clock, and unlike Pinochet’s third world operation, we can televise AND live stream the murders for public consumption, and this being America, you know someone, or many people, would find a way to profit from it. They would be the most impressive, elaborate, extensive, and brutal executions in human history.
But that would not be enough to make America exceptional again. President Cruz or Rubio would have to use our expansive coastline to dwarf the Argentinian’s operation that saw countless enemies of the state thrown from planes and helicopters to their watery deaths. America has four times the coast of Argentina and could dump so many dissidents in the sea the shoreline would be bathed in blood for months.
Then there are the death squads, acting as roaming law enforcement permitted to do whatever is necessary to squash dissent. And nothing shows strength and resolve quite like mass graves of ACLU lawyers and Muslims. Not to mention land grabbing by corporations (and this being America, we would not have to rely on foreign companies controlling us like poor countries do) and manufactured famines that starve out indigenous populations in a way that would put the Guatemalans to shame.
Nothing would please me so much as to see waves of American refugees fleeing death squads be detained by Mexican authorities and deported back into the arms of the very people trying to kill them.
Gina Ferrer, a Honduran civil rights activist, says that a Latino right wing dictatorship in the United States would be her dream come true, “Nothing would please me so much as to see waves of American refugees fleeing death squads be detained by Mexican authorities and deported back into the arms of the very people trying to kill them.”
Ferrer is quick to note that she means no malice by this statement. “I have spoken to many Latino leaders who say that their biggest obstacle to feeling at home in this country is the fact that no white person knows what it is like to be hunted down by armed militias, or see their family murdered before their eyes, or lose a child to starvation. Americans are such a weak, pampered people, and their lack of suffering is severely alienating to Latinos.”
Julio Carretero, an immigration rights attorney, agreed with Ferrer, “The trauma of such a presidency would be the greatest way of finding common ground between Latinos and the American people. So often, when we tell our stories, white people respond with pitying glances and condescending encouragement. But after this experience, when we are all sitting around a warm fire, enjoying hot cocoa and tamales, and I share my story of how a death squad raped my daughter and burned my brother alive in front of me, the white people to my left and right can relate how President Cruz’s forces tortured their loved ones, and only then will we feel the true unity of being Americans.”
Jonathan Marcantoni is the author of three novels and a regular contributor for Latino Rebels and Across the Margin. He is a professor of writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. For more of his work, visit jonathanmarcantoni.com. @Marcantoni1984