May 28, 2004

Mexico on the Moon — of Flags and Astronauts

By Jorge Mújica

I don’t mean to confuse the reader with the title of this column. I don’t mean to indicate that Mexico is located somewhere near the moon, nor do I intend to write about some of the Mexican president’s recent proposals, which sometimes seem to be written from orbit.

This column is about an invasion, but not the one that Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington says that us Mexicans are completing here in the United States, nor the gringo invasion of Texas some 150 years ago. And, I have to say, it doesn’t even have to do with the 25 millions of Mexicans who live here in the United States as inhabitants of México del Norte.

Actually, it’s about the michoacanos, Mexicans from the state of Michoacán, who apparently are now to become the brave protagonists of the next phase of this so-called Mexican invasion.

What has happened is that a michoacano who is from the town of La Piedad, an engineer named Jose Hernández, was named as a candidate to become an astronaut by NASA, the U.S. space agency.

Showing their P.R. savvy, as soon as they found out about this achievement, the city council members of La Piedad, headed by Mayor Jaime Mares, met to discuss the situation.

Jose Hernández, 41, who came to the United States as a child is a hero today in his hometown, just as his parents are, because all the Mexicans living in the United States are heroes; Jose’s parents came years ago to work in U.S. fields as undocumented workers. Hernández will become part of the team of space travelers that NASA may be preparing for eventual space colonies on the moon and Mars. He is the first full-time astronaut of Mexican origin at NASA, where he also has a gig as an engineer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Now, the municipal authorities of La Piedad want to ask Jose to take the city’s flag to the moon.

“It’s a historic situation for the municipality and the people of La Piedad would be pleased if a figure so distinguished, a person who is in NASA, would take the colors of La Piedad to the moon,” says Daniel Vázquez, municipal secretary, who says he is confident that the astronaut will accept the town’s request.

“He would take the colors of La Piedad on the flag and place it next to the flags of the United States and Mexico.” At least, those are the plans of La Piedad’s city hall. “Who knows, maybe NASA will not authorize the gesture,” says Vázquez. “But that is the intention, that he take a flag from La Piedad, from our state, that would represent local pride.”

The La Piedad flag is in blue and yellow, the city’s colors, with a shield emblem divided in three parts, including a Mexican shawl and a pheasant in the center, the symbols of La Piedad, and two elephants, an allusion to the wisdom and the strength of the townspeople.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for recognizing, for honoring the astronaut. Thanks to the media, we are informed about his career, and the entire municipality of La Piedad feels proud,” says Vázquez.

All that needs to happen now is for the plans not to hit any obstacles on the way to the moon.

Things could always happen on the moon. Law enforcement officers that lurk next to the moon’s highways to harass migrants for driving expensive vehicles could rob the astronaut’s flag or Hernández could be asked for extra documents to get his consular I.D. card from a mobile consulate.

We should urge our countrymen from La Piedad to think their proposition through, before getting us all into problems. If Jose the astronaut goes to the moon with the flag, the debates over “triple citizenship” will begin: there’ll be demands for Mexicans to be allowed to vote from the moon, there will be discussions over lunar remittances, people will complain about the lack of consulates and mobile consulates on the moon, and in the moon’s case they would have to be hovering consulates, but these are likely to remain grounded because the Mexican legislature will delay and delay before approving the funds, and then we’ll have the arguments over whether Mexico is a satellite state of the United States or the moon, whether or not we should send troops to reinforce the astronaut’s task, some will surely say that La Piedad should be subject to an economic blockade for its meddling in U.S.-lunar affairs.

And finally, Samuel Huntington, the political scientist, will say that he was right, and then we’ll have to write about México de la luna, Mexico on the Moon.

For further information on Jose Hernandez visit this web site: Multimedia Presentation on NASA Astronaut Class 2004 (http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/Astro_class/Astro_class_main.html).

Translated by Marcelo Ballvé

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