I have several friends and family in California. Around the holidays, when families and friends join together to give thanks for all their blessings, often I push the immigration conversation. Well, less I push and more I respond to comments such as “the Mexicans are taking all our jobs/bringing down the area/ increasing crime.” Those darn Mexican invaders!
But, then I remember something called the “Mexican War” (Apr. 25, 1846 – Feb. 2, 1848). Mexicans sometimes call this the War of North American Invasion. It should be clear who won this war by the name of the war — those dirty Mexicans starting wars with us innocent Americans.
Here are the main historical perspectives as to what started this war.
- A dictatorial Centralist government in Mexico began the war because of the U.S. annexation (1845) of Texas, which Mexico continued to claim despite the establishment of the independent republic of Texas 10 years before.
- The United States provoked the war by annexing Texas and, more deliberately, by stationing an army at the mouth of the Rio Grande.
- The administration of U.S. President James K. Polk forced Mexico to war in order to seize California and the Southwest.
- The war arose simply out of Mexico’s failure to pay claims for losses sustained by U.S. citizens during the Mexican War of Independence.
So it isn’t clear who started it. But I know it takes two to tango, especially with war. If it was just about war, then the US would have stopped at the Texas issue. But they didn’t. They took all of California to boot. And let’s not forget about the Manifest Destiny of the time.
Let’s go back a decade. Texas stated its independence from Mexico in 1835. They made this declaration mainly because of the dictatorship of Santa Anna. Interestingly, the declaration was based on the US Declaration of Independence from the British. Many a high school students know of this period with the Battle of the Alamo, in which several hundred US whites (including Davey Crockett), blacks, and Tejanos held off the Mexican Army of 6,500 for 13 days.
While the Republic of Texas stated its independence and had such battles, Mexico still did not recognize its declaration. Enter the US — the Republic of Texas approved annexation by the US in 1844. But the US Senate didn’t approve it at first. It wasn’t until early 1846 that the US Senate approved annexation and but by a narrow margin. This prompted Mexico to attack (remember, they still viewed it as their property). So much for an US isolationist policy.
So, let’s review. Mexico had rightful, internationally recognized claims to the land. Some of this land declared independence. The US then, seeing this as an opportunity to expand its empire to the Pacific ocean, eagerly annexes the property upon request. Mexico declares war. Mexico loses.
In the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the US got not only Texas, but as well as the whole southwest including all of California. Mexico lost 55% of its pre-war territory for $15M (about $313M in 2006 dollars), and the US wiped clean $3.25M in debt from the 1821 Mexican War of Independence from Spain. Wars, wars, wars!
So, do Californians have a right to complain about illegal immigration? I’m not so sure. Wars were fought, treaties were signed, monies exchanged, and lands assigned. In the end, Mexico forfeited the area because they lost the war. I guess this is just another situation of where might equals right.
But let’s not forget who first “owned” this land: Mexico had controlled the area in question for about 25 years since it had seceded from the Spanish Empire in 1821 in the Mexican War of Independence (which the US kindly loaned some cash, and later forced the money back). The Spanish had conquered the area from the Native American tribes over the preceding three centuries. Geez, back to those Native Americans again. Won’t they ever just go away?
Disclaimer: I suppose I take this a bit personal because my parents are legal immigrants. I feel I should say “legal”, but only because of communism (my father received citizenship because those dirty Communists invaded Hungary, and my mom met him in the US while on a work visa).