Even though U.S.-Mexican relations during the mid-nineteenth century make up a tiny sliver of American history, they point to deeply racist attitudes towards Mexicans (and Hispanic people in general) that are still salient in the United States today. These attitudes came as a result of racist assumptions and rhetoric in our early government institutions, remained because of the construction of racist language in laws and treaties, and worsened as lawmakers and law-enforcement carried out written policy in real-life, letting their own racist attitudes creep into the real-life application of the laws. Today, we are in danger of perpetuating this process. Revisiting Trump’s comments about Mexicans from his 2016 presidential campaign, it’s easy to see parallels to the very sentiments that U.S.-Mexican relations were founded upon, and they beg the question: Has U.S. policy evolved? The answer to that is beyond the scope of this essay, but looking at Calhoun’s and Trump’s comments side-by-side, there’s clearly room for pessimism.

Author information: Jessica DellAquila graduated from Boston University in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish and a Master’s degree in Hispanic Language and Literature. She will be teaching English in Madrid for the 2017-2018 academic year.



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