Refugees: a Mexican story

The Mexican people are very welcoming to foreigners from all over the world, generally from Latin America, and it has an interesting story with the refugees.

My personal favorite happened involved the refugees of the Spanish Civil war between 1936 to 1939. At almost the end of this political conflict, Franco followers were linked with Hitler and Mussolini, and were winning the war because as they used it as practice for the future WWII; the Spaniards’ lives were in danger. Nowhere to go in Europe (Vichy´s government in France was sending the Spanish republicans to concentration camps), they looked for help in a country they, ironically, once conquered, Mexico.

Back in Mexico, the president Lázaro Cárdenas made a treaty with Franco in order to save thousands of refugees; however, the Spanish dictator refused to send so many people. Cárdenas still opened the borders to anyone who would come to the country.

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(Cárdenas and the Spanish refugees)

Finally, when the last republican president of Spain, Manuel Azaña, died in France in a little hotel in Montauban protected by mexican flags, the Vichy government forbade him to bury his coffin with the republican flag, and the Monitor of Montauban ordered to cover his coffin with Franco´s flag.

Immediately the mexican chancellor in Spain, Luis I. Rodriguez ,insulted by the French Monitor´s  reaction, wrote him a letter that concluded with the following phrase: “Está bien. Lo cubrirá la bandera de México; para nosotros será un privilegio; para los republicanos,  una esperanza;  y para ustedes una dolorosa lección”.. (“Fine. The Mexican Flag will cover him; for us it will be an honor; for the republicans, a sign of hope; and for you a painful lesson”..)

And that’s how it ended, Manuel Azaña, was buried (and still is) with the mexican flag covering his coffin.

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                                               (Manuel Azaña)                                                           (Luis I. Rodriguez)

Spanish refugees continue to thank our country for the help provided in the moment of distress.

Now, talking about a nowadays conflict, it breaks the hearts of the Mexican people to see how the Syrian refugees are facing so many obstacles on their way to finding a new home. Nevertheless, we understand the countries that create these barriers; is not easy to just open your doors and help so many families economically and socially. Also, there’s the issue of having a definition and difference between an illegal immigrant and a refugee, because each person’s case is unique. My personal definition would be that a refugee finds the option of leaving their home the only way to save his or her life. An illegal immigrant generally travels looking for an improvement of their live’s qualities, but they aren’t in immediate danger in their native country. These definitions raise an important issue for Mexico; can the illegal immigrants that cross the American border be considered as refugees? In the end, many of them reach United States hoping to find a better life and escape the insecurity of their homes.

Our hearts and minds are with the Syrian people that run from their homes in order to save their families and of course their own lives, and we hope the best for them.

by Helena VC.