So Who Was This Pablo de la Guerra, Anyway?

By Tom Prezelski

Re-Blogged from Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.

I try to make a point not to read the Arizona Republic for a variety of reasons, but David Safier’s post over here prompted me to check out yesterday’s eloquent op-ed by Senator Alfredo Gutierrez.

Because I am a masochist, I checked out the comments and found them
to be mostly positive. The exception would be a thread started by former
State Senator Jack Harper, who disparaged Gutierrez as a “race baiter,”
though his own record as a demagogue gives him little room to criticize
anybody, particularly given that Gutierrez has far more to show for his
legislative career than the clownish Harper does. Predictably, this
prompted a number of comments citing the same out-of-context quote that
always gets repeated by his detractors whenever Gutierrez makes a public
appearance these days. Of course, this all helps prove Gutierrez’s
point.

Senator Gutierrez mostly discusses his personal experience growing up
in Miami (not Globe), one of the central Arizona Copper camps that
birthed so much of the state’s Mexican-American political leadership
from the 1970s to the 1990s. Along the way, he makes a passing reference
to a “wealthy Californio” of the 19th century named Pablo de la Guerra.
Though de la Guerra is tangential to the story that Gutierrez is
telling, some elaboration is called for.

Pablo_de_la_Guerra-252x300Pablo
de la Guerra was not just another Californian. He was a Delegate to the
California Constitutional Convention, was a member of the State Senate,
and served a term as Lieutenant Governor. While some would argue that
this somehow mitigates the discrimination that he faced and would make
his a story of triumph over adversity, his accomplishments really make
the situation even more absurd. Despite a long record of public service,
his status as an American was constantly being questioned for no reason
other than his Spanish last name.

Because he had been outspoken in his opposition to the discrimination
faced by his fellow Mexican-Americans, de la Guerra found his
patriotism questioned during the years of the Civil War, often by people
whose own Union loyalties were shaky. This was in spite of his vocal
and substantial support for the effort against the Rebellion, and the
fact that several members of his family served in the Federal Army. Much
of this was demagoguery from opponents who resented his political power
and influence.

All of this still sounds horribly familiar. Mexican-Americans as
accomplished as Senator Gutierrez still have to constantly fight to
prove they are entitled to a seat at the table as Americans despite
their contributions, and there are still those who argue that it is
somehow unpatriotic, or at least rude, to speak out against
discrimination. Fortunately, this may be changing for the better, but,
as the comments to Gutierrez’s editorial prove, these sentiments are
certainly still out there, and are still current in some prominent quarters of the Republican Party and the Movement Conservative Establishment.

Gutierrez’s book, To Sin Against Hope: How America Has Failed Its Immigrants: A Personal History, comes out from Verso Books later this week.

0 responses to “So Who Was This Pablo de la Guerra, Anyway?

  1. Jana Happel

    The Republic comments calling Sen. Gutierrez a “race baiter” are disgraceful. Racism is alive and well in the U.S., although any day now Justice Scalia will tell us that racism is all in the past. In Arizona it stares us in the face every day. Unfortunately, the majority of Pima Dems don’t seem too bothered about it. Thanks Dave and Tom for spotlighting this story and the ugly truth about what happens to people like Sen. Gutierrez and Pablo de la Guerra (what an appropriate name) who speak truth to power. Their bravery should inspire us.