Friday, April 12, 2024

Absorbing half of Mexico altered American culture

  Proponents of America’s system of immigration controls lament what they say are “invaders” crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and entering the United States. Many of them say that this “invasion” is a conspiracy to alter the culture of the United States in a Hispanic direction.

  Ironically, very few, if any, of these anti-invaders ever condemn what the U.S. government did with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. That treaty did more to change the culture of the United States in a Mexican direction than immigrant “invaders” could ever hope to do.

  With the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States succeeded in stealing and absorbing the entire northern half of Mexico. Yes, you read that right — the entire northern half of Mexico, a country that had been part of the Spanish Empire for centuries before acquiring its independence in 1821.

  Imagine if the United States were today to steal and absorb the entire northern half of what remains Mexico. Would that significantly alter the culture of the United States. I’d say, yes!

  The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo settled the Mexican War of 1846-1848. Prior to the war, the U.S. government had offered to purchase the northern half of Mexico, which consisted of what became known after the absorption of the states of New Mexico (Yes, NEW Mexico), Arizona, California, and parts of Colorado, Utah, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

  Texas was a Mexican province in the northern half of the country. On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico. On April 21, 1836, the Mexican army under Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was defeated by Sam Houston’s army at the Battle of San Jacinto. The Mexican Congress, however, never acceded to Texas’s secession.

  In 1845, Texas became a state within the United States. The United States claimed that the Rio Grande was the southern border of Texas. Mexico claimed that the southern border was the Nueces River, which lies more than 100 miles north of the Rio Grande. The land in between the Rio Grande and the Nueces River was known as the Nueces Strip.

  Mexico, not surprisingly, declined the U.S. offer to purchase the northern half of Mexico. Therefore, U.S. President James K. Polk decided that the United States would simply steal the northern half of the country. Knowing that the United States would easily defeat Mexico in a war, Polk intentionally provoked an incident that he knew would bring about a war, which would enable him to effect the stealing in a peace treaty.

  Polk sent U.S. troops down to Brownsville, Texas, which was located within the Nueces Strip and part of what Mexico considered its country. Mexican troops, not surprisingly, attacked the invading army. Polk went to Congress and exclaimed that Mexico had attacked the United States and secured a declaration of war. (This was during the time that U.S. presidents were still complying with the constitutional provision requiring a congressional declaration of war.)

  The outcome of the war was never in doubt. U.S. forces went all the way to Mexico City and won the war. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the U.S. government acquired the part of Mexico that Mexico had refused to sell.

  Think about that again: The entire northern half of Mexico! It would be difficult to imagine a more drastic change in U.S. culture than acquiring and absorbing the entire half of a foreign country, especially one that was based on an entirely different language, culture, laws, heritage, history, and customs.

  What about all the Mexican citizens living in the newly-absorbed land? Around 100,000 Mexican citizens automatically became U.S. citizens. Yes, you read that right. No test. No study of the Constitution. No oath of allegiance. No proficiency in English. Just automatic U.S. citizens. Imagine that!

  Even today, 175 years later, the drastic change in American culture coming from the absorption of the northern half of Mexico continues to play a major role in American life, including Mexican immigrants who continue to cross the border to enter what had once been their country. Why, even the ardent rightwing proponents of “English only!” continue to refer to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and El Paso rather than St. Francis, The Angels, and The Pass.

  In my hometown of Laredo, which is located on the U.S.-Mexico border, many of the street signs are named after Mexican and Spanish heroes. I’d estimate that at least 95 percent of Laredoans are of Mexican descent. When I was practicing law in Laredo in the 1970s and 1980s, around 20-25 percent of the people summoned for jury duty couldn’t speak or write English and were disqualified from serving on the jury. (No one considered it to be any big deal.) The signs in retail stores today are both in English and Spanish. Many of the everyday conversations are carried out in Spanish. Many Laredoans pay more attention to politics and sports in Mexico than in the United States. I suspect that Laredo culture is not what rightwing proponents of immigration controls say is being destroyed by Mexican immigrants.

  I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the new border between the United States and Mexico remained open for many decades after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Mexican citizens were free to continue crossing the new border and traveling in what had been their country for centuries. By the same token, American citizens were free to cross the new border into the half of Mexico that had not been stolen and absorbed into the United States.

  I sometimes wonder why proponents of immigration controls who lament the supposed conspiracy to change the culture of America with Hispanic immigrants don’t condemn the U.S. government’s absorption of the entire northern half of Mexico into the United States, which significantly altered American culture. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder why they don’t advocate giving the land and its Hispanic inhabitants back to Mexico to restore the pristine Anglo culture of the United States.

  About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is the founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

  This article was published by The Future of Freedom Foundation. 

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