In honor of the new year – and the beginning of what so many people are convinced is a modern Era of Good Feelings – I’m going to unleash a positive story on you. It strays a bit from my focus on the Hispanic experience in America, but Mexicans are involved and it’s uplifting and everything, so I thought we could afford it.
Here’s the story.
It was the early days of World War II (for readers of the Millenial generation, that was the one with the Germans). A Mexican diplomat named Gilberto Bosques Saldívar was stationed in France.
In his position, Bosques Saldívar issued visas to refugees to help them escape persecution. He did more than this, however, and at great personal risk. He also provided the refugees with housing and chartered ships that would take them to Latin America.
Bosques Saldívar saved an estimated 40,000 Jews and other refugees from the concentration camps. There is some speculation that his efforts lead to the establishment of whole Jewish communities that endure to this day in parts of Latin America.
For his trouble, the Nazis arrested Bosques Saldívar and his family, holding them for about a year. The Mexican government won his release, and he returned to his country to continue a long diplomatic career.
His efforts earned him recognition as “the Mexican Schindler,” which sounds like the punchline to a joke about Hispanics and/or Jews but is actually quite the compliment. The guy lived to be 103 (!). But unfortunately, his work has only been recognized posthumously.
Recently, the Anti-Defamation League presented his heirs with an award on his behalf. The organization said Bosques Saldívar was “a shining example of human decency, moral courage and conviction, and his actions highlight the less well-known initiatives of Latin Americans who helped to save Jews during the Holocaust.”
It goes to show that, regardless of where you live and what your background is and what others may think of you, a Latino just may be your best bet for help.
Happy New Year.