Seoul gives voice to Mexican veterans, Korean War’s forgotten souls
By Andres Sanchez Braun
Seoul, Jun 29 (EFE).- An exhibition in Seoul that honors the participation of the 100,000 Mexican and Mexican-American soldiers in the Korean War (1950-1953) has allowed veterans of the conflict to share experiences almost unknown to the South Korean public until now.
“There was snow everywhere. Everything was white; a horrible thing,” Alberto Fernandez Almada, 92, told EFE about a battle he had to fight during the United Nations command’s counter-offensive at the beginning of 1951.
For many, such a landscape is synonymous with beauty and even fun; for him it is associated with horror and the episode in which he was about to die.
“War gives you a constant, perennial pain that doesn’t go away. You’re constantly in fear. Day and night. Suddenly you think ‘I wish it could dawn,'” he said.
Like many of his classmates, Fernandez Almada (born in Texas, but raised in the state of Sonora, from where he returned to the United States to complete his education) was recruited at 18 with a desire for adventure and seeing the world.
Enlisting in the United States Marine Corps promised all of that, plus a salary and, for those born south of the Rio Grande, an excellent chance at citizenship.
This was the case of Antonio Lozano, who was born Mexican, raised from the age of 10 in Northern California and volunteered at 19 to go to Korea, where he arrived in 1953 and stayed three years.
“The strongest thing I remember is the suffering of the people. And the cold, which was sometimes the worst enemy,” the 87 years old said.
Mexicans and Mexican-Americans accounted for more than 10 percent of all US casualties in the conflict and have so far been the great forgotten of this war.
But the tables began to turn in April of last year, when the Association of Mexican Veterans of the Korean War was founded with Jose Villareal Villareal as president.
Villareal died just days after the appointment and his family said he did so with the happiness of having made visible some experiences compiled in his autobiography “Memories of a Mexican in Korea.”
He said the most dangerous missions were reserved for Mexican soldiers and those of Mexican or Hispanic origin, adding that they were treated as “cannon fodder.”
His memories, as well as personal objects donated by his family, are in the exhibition that these days houses the War Memorial in Seoul and that also includes the legacy of eight other veterans, five of whom have already passed away. EFE