I became an American citizen by naturalization many years ago. I was born across the border from Calexico, California. Back in those days, the relations between the country of my birth and the US were cordial and good neighborly.
I grew up listening to stories of my grandfather fighting corruption and abuse to the masses through his editorials and newspaper articles, listening to my elders speak of the democracy lived and breathed by our neighbors up North. I grew up with stories of John Wayne and Davy Crockett, as well as, of Benito Juarez and Morelos.
There were other stories I heard from more distant relatives too. One of them was born in Salerno, Italy. She was only eight years old when the Allies finally entered Italy at the end of World War Two. She recounted how together with her family she had learned to run for the hills when regiments of different armies had invaded their Italian peninsula during the war. The British, the French, even the Germans, supposedly their allies, had thundered through her city stealing art, gold, and raping women. They had had much suffering during the years of the war. It was not surprising then, that when the rumbling of war tanks and strong regiments of American soldiers were heard in her city, and loudspeakers invited them to come down from the hills, they would be apprehensive and mistrusting at first. After awhile, the townsfolk descended from the hills. The soldiers were preceded by the American Red Cross, which was handing out food, and medical care to the people.
Matilde, my relative, remembered how the soldiers at the same time were handing out Hershey bars to the children. Till the day she died, she equated those dignity restoring regiments of soldiers and the American Red Cross treating her people with kindness and respect, in spite of being their conquerors, and the sweetness of that chocolate, to the greatness of America and the goodness of her people.
To be continued...