It was a beautiful November day in Miami. The temperature was a bright, cool 72 degrees. A light breeze blew across the park where several of my friends and I had gathered to celebrate a birthday. Someone had brought a foldout table, and four of us were enjoying a rowdy game of dominos when we were approached by a tall, older gentleman wearing a red sweater.
“Excuse me,” interrupted the gentleman.
We were all loudly laughing at the expense of one of our companions.
“Excuse me!” repeated the gentleman in a louder voice. “But if you insist on speaking Mexican, can you at least keep it down? My family and I are trying to have a nice picnic, and you are most certainly ruining it.”
All laughter immediately stopped.
“Mexican!?” demanded one of my friends. “Coooño, you’re kidding right? Another asshole telling me that I speak Mexican??”
“¡Hiiiijo puta! I’m Dominican, you ignorant prick,” said another.
“And I’m Cuban!” said the third.
“Sir, we speak Spanish here, not Mexican,” I added as the blood started to rise in my face. “And you’d better leave soon...”
I was unable finish my last word before the older gentleman had delivered the table a swift, powerful kick, sending dominos flying everywhere, and knocking two my friends onto their backs, unconscious. My other friend and I sat in our chairs, temporarily stunned by the unexpected violence that had just occurred.
“¡Soy José Emiliano Luarca de Vázquez!” cried the older gentleman as he planted himself squarely before us. “I am the former President of the Senate, former ambassador to the United Nations, former Foreign Secretary, and Historian Laureate de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?” asked my friend after he had regained some of his composure.
“¡Cáyate!” demanded Mr. de Vázquez as he slapped him across the face. “You shall listen and you shall learn!”
“I’m not about to take this from an insane old man,” I said as I started to rise from my chair.
“I said silence!” cried Mr. de Vázquez as he slapped me across the face.
I sat back down.
My friend opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it when he saw Mr. de Vázquez menacingly raise his open hand once more.
“You shall listen and you shall learn!” repeated Mr. de Vázquez, slowly lowering his hand. “It is because of fools like you that there is such rampant ignorance about what it truly means to be a Latino in this country. ¡Ven!”
He grabbed our respective earlobes in vice-like grips, dragged us tripping and stumbling some forty yards, and brusquely tossed us down on a picnic table.
“Sit down. Shut up. Educate yourselves,” said Mr. de Vázquez when he had planted himself before us once more. “You have no idea what it means to be Latinos because you are pitifully ignorant of the history of your people and your language. Since your parents and your education have failed you so spectacularly, I see that it is up to me to impart to you some basic understanding of your heritage.”
My friend and I shifted uncomfortably in the face of this verbal onslaught, but kept our mouths resolutely closed.
“Mexico is a strong country with a long and storied history,” began Mr. Vázquez.
“It has been ruled at one point or another by many different empires, seen the rise and fall of countless civilizations, and has incorporated aspects from a myriad of cultures to produce a truly rich, complex, and proud nation.”
“To understand its language and its culture, one must first understand its history.”
“The origins of the Mexican proto-language were first established with the migration of a group of invaders from the north. These were the Visigoths.”
“Whoa, wait, what?” interrupted my friend. “The Visigoths were a group of barbarians that marauded around Europe at the end of the Roman Empire. How could they possibly have gotten to North America…”
“Mira ‘qui m’hijo, this is the last time I’m going to tell you,” said Mr. Vázquez in a low, menacing voice. “Either you shut your mouth, or I will shut it for you.”
My friend shut his mouth.
“As I was saying, the Visigoths invaded from the north, and carved out a kingdom in what later became known as Mexico. They ruled this land for about two hundred years until another group of invaders arrived from the continent directly to the south. They were the Moors.”
“No. What? No! You’re completely wrong!” I adamantly interjected. “The Moors invaded Spain from Northern Africa. They didn’t invade Mexico from South America.”
Another slap from Mr. de Vázquez.
“No more interruptions! You have already wasted enough of my time with your incessant idiocies! Are you done?”
One more slap.
“¡No me hables!” cried Mr. de Vázquez. “If I ask you a question, you will not answer with words! ¿Entiendes?”
I nodded to the affirmative.
“Good! Now the Moors invaded the Visigoth kingdom of Mexico from their ancestral homeland in South America. They quickly smashed through all the armies arrayed against them, and pushed the remaining Visigoths into a few small enclaves pressed right against the Rio Grande. They would’ve continued their march into North America, perhaps even conquering the entire continent, but were stopped cold by the Americans at the great Battle of Amarillo, Texas.”
My friend and I gave each other a quick, worried glance, but deemed it prudent to remain silent.
“The Visigoth enclaves coalesced into several independent kingdoms. Over a period of centuries, these kingdoms slowly pushed south, reconquistando the country. They were led by the example of their greatest champion, the hero that captured the city of Veracruz from the Moors—Benito Júarez el Campeador.”
“After nearly 700 years of continuous warfare, the Visigoths united under two powerful states: the coastal kingdom of Tamaulipas and the rugged mountain kingdom of Zacatecas. Their respective sovereigns, la Reina Frida Khalo de Zapatecas y el Rey Pancho Villa de Tamaulipas combined their forces and their kingdoms through marriage, and together attacked and defeated Oaxaca—the southernmost and last Moorish stronghold in Mexico.”
“Following their victory over the Moors, and the unification of Mexico, la Reina Frida Kahlo y el Rey Pancho Villa sent their greatest explorer, Emiliano Zapata, east, across the Atlantic Ocean, to find a route to India and China.”
“However, unbeknownst to these rulers, the great, undiscovered continent of Europe lay between North America and Asia. After months at sea, Zapata inadvertently bumped into this New World, and claimed the entirety of the Iberian Peninsula for the Mexican crown.”
“The other great kingdoms of the day: the United States, Brazil, and Canada were quick to lay their own claims this continent. Eventually, the Brazilian and Mexican Empires’ competing claims even forced them to go to el Papa Óscar Romero to seek a workable resolution to their differences. In a stroke of genius, Pope Romero drew a line down the Iberian Peninsula, separating it into Brazilian and Mexican spheres of influence, therefore averting a truly catastrophic war between the two greatest powers of the day”
“Centuries passed, and the Mexican Empire grew increasingly larger and more wealthy. It almost effortlessly conquered what is now Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Bohemia almost all of Italy, and Austria. Furthermore, through a series of strategic marriages and wars with its neighbors, Mexico came to control the entirety of Central America, the Caribbean, and most of South America. With the addition of the Philippines and several West African territories, the phrase ‘the sun never sets of the Mexican Empire,’ became not just an axiom, but a reality.”
“Mexico suffered a gradual decline after the defeat of its Grand Armada at the hands of the Canadians off the coast of Halifax, but its place in history was forever solidified by the spread of Mexican culture and language to almost every corner of the globe.”
Mr. de Vázquez paused for effect.
“¿Lo entienden ahora? ¿Entienden su historia? ¿Entienden de donde viene su idoma y cultura?”
My friend and I silently nodded.
“Good. Now go out there and be good Mexicans.”