A story of Americans in political self-exile in Mexico
By Diana Anhalt Original Print Publication: April, 2007
Diana Anhalt was eight years old when her parents moved the family to Mexico from New York. Active in many left-wing political organizations, they were fleeing the anti-communist persecution that swept the United States in eh 1940s and 50s. In Mexico City, they joined a rag-tag community of like-minded Americans living in political self-exile. Anhalt tells the story of her family and this community in her book, A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965. This is an excerpt:
Mexico City horsemen cantered down Paseo de la Reforma during the 1950s. Here, the avenue is pictured in journalist Joe Nash's 1954 book, Paseo de la Reforma, A Guide.
Ironically, many of these expatriates shared our same sense of dislocation at having to adapt to life in a foreign country. But, generally speaking, this would not draw us together. On the contrary: in time, we would discover we had run straight into the arms of the very people we were running away from: white, middle class, conservative Republicans. Although they lived in Mexico, they continued to inhabit their own little Americas, Americas far less diversified than the ones we had fled, bringing with them their gift for turning everything they touched into everywhere, USA. No matter that we shared a common language and a national identity. Our politics set us apart.
Because of our politics, our whereabouts were routinely recorded, our passports withdrawn without notice, and subpoenas delivered to our doorsteps. The local and foreign press publicized our names and political histories, and some of us lost jobs when pressure was placed upon our employers. Deportations, though less common, also occurred, along with the occasional detention. Such dangers were real and deprived us of the security that planning for the future brings. Indeed, we had little sense of the future, forced as we were to live from one day to the next.
At the beginning, those were the things we shared, and sharing gave us the security of belonging. It drew us together, defreakifying the "I" and making us part of a 'we," an extended family. What we had in common kept us from standing alone. We could be a part of something, and that masked the pain and isolation. Freaks stand alone, but we didn't. Ergo, we weren't freaks.