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On C-Span, Victor Hanson gave an important and candid account of his book Mexifornia. He teaches classics and California State University at Fresno. His description of the situation there would apply to universities and colleges throughout California. He was especially critical of Chicano Studies departments for several reasons. They promote the aggressive segregation of chicanos. When he was discussing Roman history, a student would say "As a chicano, I think..." This is almost of the level of the now forgotten "black mathematics". There is a special chicano graduation ceremony. The chicanos distort history. We have discussed the cult of Pancho Villa in Mexico. In California history there is a comparable individual, Joaquin Murrieta, a bandit born c. 1830 whose gang robbed and killed hundreds during the gold rush. In 1853, a special force of rangers led by Captain Harry S.Love killed him.
The chicanos have made Murrieta their hero, and so he appears in some books. The chicanos likewise distort the history of Mesico, damning Cortes but promoting an idealized picture of Aztec society, which was in reality very cruel. One result is that chicanos can be arrogant and rude. Hanson told how he was testifying in Congress when a chicano assistant of Representative Pelosi interrupted the meeting, gave a harangue denouncing him as a racist and stormed out. Hanson is not a racist, but a thoughtful and quiet man. University administrators are afraid to speak up on the subject. Far from being the victims of discrimination, chicanos are sought after by the graduate schools of major universities such as Harvard, and a number of chicano students from Fresno have benefited from this.
I write with some feeling since we have faced this situation at Stanford. I certainly know Mexico and its culture far better than most chicanos. Years ago I wrote an article in which I mentioned the pathetic state of the University of Morelia, which has been taken over by anarchist students. There was at Stanford a chicano non student who had installed himself in Zapata House, proclaimed himself artist in residence, and painted murals ridiculing the Fellows of the Hoover Institution. To debate with them rationally would have been excellent, but this crude propaganda was unacademic. He then descended on the Spanish Department, with which he had no connection,and got the chicano instructors to sign a letter published in the Stanford Daily denouncing me as a McCarthyite because of my remarks about the University of Morelia. The anglo head of the department and the university administration were too frightened to do anything. I broke all ties with the department. I entered Hispanic studies at Oxford, where I had great mentors such as Salvador de Madariaga. To think that Hispanic studies have descended to their present level!
There is something crazy about our universities, which promote chicano studies and the teaching of elementary Spanish while they abolish geography departments on the grounds that geography is not a university subject, to use the expression of Harvard University President James Conant, a chemist, who was trying to excuse the abolition of its geography department following a sex scandal. The geography department was abolished at Stanford, but we have two anthropology departments! Anthropologists are involved in this idealization of pre-Colombian cultures. They tell us not to be judgmental. I have before me a letter from John L. Kessel thanking me for my favorable review of his book Spain in the Southwest, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. It had been harshly reviewed by an anthropologist on trivial grounds. Some of our universities may be on the cutting edge of research, but they seem to have lost part of their senses.
Ronald Hilton - 09.28.03