BY MITT ROMNEY
A century and a half ago, on May 5, 1862, outmanned and undersupplied militiamen under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza won a great victory for Mexican freedom from the French. It is a testament to the ties that bind Mexico to the United States that today, a hundred and fifty years later, Americans from every background come together to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, the holiday commemorating that triumph.
The holiday is a day to enjoy. But it is also a moment to reflect on the shared history of Mexico and the United States. It is not often remembered that while Mexican troops were winning the Battle of Puebla, scores of Mexican American soldiers were fighting in the struggle to preserve our union. Those who fought for the North helped to ensure that this nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, would survive the Civil War.
That dedication continues today, with Mexican Americans and Hispanics of all backgrounds serving proudly in our armed forces, risking their lives in this century’s great battles for liberty in all the distant battlefields where we have been waging the war on terror.
Millions of Americans are of Mexican descent, and the traditions and culture of Mexico have spread to every corner of our country, enriching our own culture and our lives. My own father was born in Mexico to American parents who had settled there. After revolution erupted at the turn of the century, he and his family were caught up in the turmoil and like many who lived around them, they lost everything they had.
They returned to this country nearly penniless, struggling to start a new life. They came back to the United States with the same hope as many new immigrants, the hope that they could live the American Dream.
It is this similar dream of democracy, prosperity, and security that many Mexicans are working to deliver to their country as well. Mexico is a land on the threshold of a new era of progress and prosperity. It is a proud nation of hard-working people, of great resources and possibility, and, like the United States, Mexico has a history of fighting for a better future. As neighbor and friend, the United States is committed to seeing that that better future will arrive.
The United States and Mexico may have differences, yet our shared experiences and love of liberty bind us together. This is a moment to build upon the mutually beneficial trade relationship we have enjoyed for the last two decades. This is a moment for working together to overcome the economic hardships our countries face, securing good jobs for people on both sides of the border.
We should join forces to end the scourge of the drug cartels that have cost the lives of so many innocent Mexican civilians and law enforcement officers. We should reform our immigration system in a way that protects American security while promoting legal immigration of the kind that has served us so well throughout our history.
As we celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the victory in the struggle for freedom that it represents, let us focus on how we can work together for a future that is harmonious, prosperous, and secure.
MITT ROMNEY is a candidate for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination and a former Governor of Massachusetts.