Today is the Cinco De Mayo celebration, which commemorates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle Of Puebla in 1862. Mexican President Benito Juarez stopped making interest payments to countries Mexico owed money to. They were being soaked, and he wanted no part. Enter, the French army, among others. They swarmed the country, and for a while, it looked like they might be successful at occupation.
The Mexican forces, under the leadership of Zaragoza Seguin, were able the drive the French out at the Battle of Puebla. They won that battle, but not the war. A year later . . . the French took over, declaring Maximilian I Emperor of Mexico.
The United States, stalwart friend to Mexico, joined forces and eventually drove the French out. President Benito Juarez deposed Maximilian, who was later executed. The United states has always been Mexico’s strongest ally. Mexico and its people have continued to be critical partners, and signs of this are everywhere in Chicago, my stomping grounds. I see brains and creativity from the Hispanic community on display throughout our urban sprawl, and I treat a significant number of Hispanic patients, a significantly growing population.
As a resident physician ten years ago, these laborers were quite invisible, their numbers were under ten percent in Chicago. Today, those numbers stand at thirteen percent and growing. Hispanic numbers have recently surpassed those of African-Americans in Chicago and throughout the United States.
As these numbers grow, one thing that I’m deeply concerned about is the increasing numbers of Hispanic deaths in the workplace. Despite The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reporting that the workplace is safer than it’s ever been, the numbers of deaths reported to Hispanic laborers is on the increase. OSHA has stepped up response to this growing tragedy. They work with employers, employees, trade and professional organizations, unions, and community and faith-based groups to reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths among Spanish-speaking workers.
When seeking causes for the high rate of fatalities among Hispanic workers, a few specific problems can be isolated: marginal job conditions with a minimal safety focus, language and education issues and employer indifference. As immigrant laborers, many Hispanic workers are compelled to accept jobs and working conditions that others can walk away from, jobs that are critical to our manufacturing and service economy.
As we celebrate Cinco de Mayo with food, fun, parades, and plenty of cerveza or tequila, let’s also pay tribute to the strength and many victories of the Hispanic people in their fight for freedom and justice, now and forever.
Dr. Dan Ivankovich (@ReverendDoctorD)