The Student Quest and the Media Blitz

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 3:50 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham)
Teresa Van Hoy, St. Mary's University
Teresa Van Hoy presents the students’ quest to acquaint the people of Illinois with Lincoln’s career-long defense of Mexico's sovereignty. Because the history of Lincoln’s support of Mexico, and Mexican Americans’ support of Lincoln, figures in none of the official historical sites in Springfield, the students came to share that history with the public. They traveled by bus from San Antonio, Texas, non-stop to Springfield, Illinois, to erect in front of the State Capitol a traditional “Day of the Dead" altar to honor Abraham Lincoln. They also sought repatriation of the prosthetic leg of Santa Anna, the prized exhibit of the Illinois State Military Museum, on grounds that it was incongruous to treasure such a bizarre trophy of the Mexican War in the self-proclaimed “Land of Lincoln” given that Lincoln was among the most outspoken critics of that war. Of the 25 students, 80% are Latino, several are veterans, 25% are first-year students, and some are undocumented. A student mobilization associating Latinos with Lincoln and advocating the repatriation of Santa Anna’s leg got broad coverage, from the front page of the Wall Street Journal to the McAllen Monitor. The press coverage in turn created opportunities to institutionalize this counterhegemonic history of race and nation that dared redefine the key historical icons of nineteenth century, Santa Anna and Lincoln.