U.S. Separatism: A Mexican Case Study
The US has not faced any legitimate separatist crisis since the end of the Civil War in the 1860s, however, certain contemporary developments have once more resurrected this faint risk, thus allowing observers to speculate on certain possibilities for its revival. Specifically, the demographic surge of Hispanics, especially those forming population majorities or near majorities in the areas near the Mexican border, has raised the spectre of a future ‘Reconquista’. Although such a scenario does not seem likely to succeed for some time, it indicates that ethnic/regional separatism on a macro scale may one day emerge as a threat to American territorial integrity.
To begin with, the US acquired the current western portion of their country from Mexico as a result of the Mexican-American War of 1848. The region was largely unsettled and sparsely populated at the time, and the amount of Hispanics there were of no primary concern for the US. As globalization and the liberal economic model began to prevail in North America during the 1980s-1990s, the amount of Hispanic (primarily Mexican) immigration (substantial amounts of it illegal) to the US skyrocketed. This demographic tidal wave has had starting implications for the demographics of the Western and Southwest portions of the country.
Many counties straddling the Mexican border are now either majority or near-majority Hispanic, and the effect of the Hispanic immigration wave of the past three decades has been seen in all aspects of American social life in these regions. From neighbourhoods where Spanish is the lingua Americana, to schools whose student body are majority Hispanic, the influence is prevalent and explicit. In order to illustrate the impact of the aforementioned migration, the following is a list of the Hispanic population proportion for select states:
As can be seen, the states abutting the Mexican border have the largest percentage of Hispanic populations throughout the entire United States. Two major political and economic consequences can immediately be discerned from this data.
Firstly, California is the world’s ninth-largest economy, and an approaching Hispanic majority (which the New York Times predicts to be in effect by 2020) would mean that a global economy of such strength and influence (both in the world and in the US) will be managed by a majority Hispanic population. Of course, the social significance of this development would send reverberations throughout the country, the hemisphere, and the world. The US would likely have to come to terms with the fact that a region of such economic strength as California is no longer fully controlled by the slipping national demographic majority, Caucasians, and is instead under the increasing influence of the nation’s largest minority group, Hispanics.
Speaking about the slipping dominance of Caucasians in the US, the Census Bureau has already proven that when it comes to children under the age of 5 years old, ethnic and racial minorities now constitute a majority of births over children of Caucasian descent. This will further contribute to the bureau’s own prediction that by 2043, the white (Caucasian) population will no longer be a majority in the US. Considering the fact that the previously mentioned statistics about child births and minority groups’ ascendancy to the demographic majority are strongly influenced by the Hispanic population and its steady growth factors, it is safe to say that Hispanics will begin to take on more important roles and responsibilities within the US and its governing institutions.
By 2043 (and quite possibly earlier), this demographic watershed event will have historically changed the ethnic fabric of the US, thereby unleashing a Pandora’s box of unintended after-effects. It may be that California and the states of the Southwest may become Hispanic strongholds projecting their culture, language, and political ideas outwards throughout the rest of the US. As the US’ centre of population is now shifting west and south (largely influenced by the [Hispanic] demographic boom), it is probable to infer that this will be the case. Therefore, the US will have to contend with having a majority (former minority) demographic group in a contiguous position to its ethnic brethren across the border.
Such a development could lead to a few specific unintended consequences. Firstly, Hispanics (prior to the watershed event) may agitate for increased rights and privileges, especially if there is a feeling (whether legitimate or not) that widespread discrimination and/or intimidation is occurring on the part of the declining white population. Social unrest could thus develop, and mass movement (Hispanic) protests become the future norm at this period of ethnic transition. Should any violence, either on the part of the protesters or the police, become associated with these demonstrations, they have the possibility of evolving into a national crisis of identity over America’s changing demographic nature, and the resultant after effects will become completely unpredictable.
Secondly, Hispanics in the West and Southwest, upon reaching positions of political and economic influence en masse, may opt to increase relations with Mexico, as it is obvious that some of them may feel strong emotions of affiliation with their historical homeland. If the geopolitical situation unexpectedly changes and for whatever reason the US government is no longer as cozy with Mexico as it currently is, this could become a conflict of interests for America.
Finally, if Hispanics ironically utilize the same NGO strategies and campaigning that the US has employed in the former Soviet sphere to initiate Colour Revolutions and social change, then the distinct possibility exists that certain demographic (and by extension, geographic) areas of the US may come under the indirect influence of a foreign state. As it is expected that Hispanics will become the majority in the West and the Southwest at some point of time, this would mean that the stage could be set for a North American replay of the Kosovo scenario (‘Reconquista’), especially if organized criminal groups continue to traffic in guns, drugs, and people across the border. The US could very well lose control over part of its own sovereignty within its borders.
In conclusion, it is an evident fact that the US is on the cusp of a dramatic demographic transformation, the entire effects of which are currently unknown and impossible to accurately predict. What is definitively known is that Hispanics will soon occupy positions of immense political, economic, and social influence within the US, and that eventually, this influence will manifest itself on the international stage. Outside observers can, however, use the templates of history and statistics in order to draw certain inferences about which scenarios may be more likely to occur than others within the US itself. As unlikely as it may sound in 2014, by 2033, it may be that separatism in the US turned out to be more predictable than separatism in the USSR was in 1990.
Hispanic Demographics in the US:
Center of Population: