The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Living Document
Welcome to an Arizona State Museum podcast. This podcast is one of five recordings from a symposium held in conjunction with the display of the original pages of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the Arizona State Museum during February 2011. The treaty pages were on loan from the National Archives. Arizona State Museum extends thanks to Amistades Inc., the Vice President for Research at the University of Arizona, and the University's American Indian Studies department for support of the exhibition and the symposium. For more Arizona State Museum podcasts, go to www.statemuseum.arizona.edu/podcast, or go to iTunes, keyword: Arizona State Museum.
Dr. Michael Brescia
As Lisa mentioned, she invited me to provide some concluding remarks to today's public symposium and my remarks will address both contemporary and historical issues. First I must say,… I guess my first remark that I'd like to make pushes me to think, and hopefully all of us to think, about the recent political attacks on Mexican American studies. Think about this. When you look at high schools and universities throughout the United States you have Mexican American studies, Native American studies, African American studies, and more recently Asian American studies. These are constituent parts that inform the whole and that’s why they are key to learning.
The history of the United States, the history of Mexico—and that's my specialty, Mexico—is less appealing pedagogically when they are seen as isolated parts rather than an integrated whole. So again the history of our country or the history of Mexico is best understood in a comprehensive integrated fashion that is inclusive rather than exclusive. This symposium, I hope, is providing you with the tools to see that whole. Okay.that's one point I want to make.
Second point: we've had a lot of speakers up here providing the indigenous perspective. The indigenous view of what we think we know about the past—in other words, ninety-nine percent of us in this room growing up thinking, "Well I have a sense of how U.S. history was," or, "I have a sense of how border history was," or “Mexico history,” right—puts aside, elides, the indigenous view. So the indigenous view, although it’s varied and multiple, it still forces all of us to confront some very painful and messy realities of the history of a nation-state or nation-states.
When we discuss 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, we talk about Mexico and we talk about the United States and often indigenous societies are pushed aside. How do you find out about indigenous societies? By taking an indigenous studies course, a Native American studies course, a Mexican American studies course, whether it’s in high school or in a college.
Now yes, when I offer Mexican history I try to present an exclusive view of that. But why? Because my understanding has been informed by these great groups such as Mexican American studies, or Native American studies, African American studies. Again the constituent parts inform the whole and that’s important.
And finally, to keep in mind, we are part of the West, the Western tradition. It’s not the only tradition, but certainly the tradition that governs political and legal frameworks. So those larger Western frameworks of law and politics were imposed on Native American societies. Imposed by whom? By those with demography and the use of force on their side. That is messy and that is complicated, and yes, it should be painful, but that is a historical reality of both—well, just as the continent, the North American continent.
Now a little bit more of a historical view: multilingualism—the ability of one area to have many languages. Being multilingual is nothing new to this continent, North America. It predates 1492. In the context, though, of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, it did bring one language into the forefront, in other words, a non-English language, and that is Spanish, not to the detriment of Native American languages. From the political perspective it brought Spanish into the political forefront of this emerging United States.
So multilingualism was nothing new, but now we have large numbers of people speaking Spanish. My friend, Dr. Garcia, referred to some of these numbers. Between 1845 and 1854, there's an estimate between 75 and 95 thousand folks now living north of the newly created border speaking Spanish. The legacy is that 163 years later we still have not gotten a handle on being a multilingual society.
And often I remember Dr. Grindell, in the last symposium we had, talking about fear as a driving factor of those wanting to feel they need to unite around one language. When you take a step back, and the pause that refreshes, we say, "Well, from a pure pragmatic standpoint we can't print every government document in every single language that is spoken in United States." But there should be a larger intellectual understanding that learning more than one language points you into a direction of cultural enrichment and even being global savvy citizens. Something to keep in mind.
Another historical point, the "Anglo" population—I'm putting Anglo in quotes because it's a very wide meaning term—the “Anglo” population in the mid-19th century grew exponentially. Iin fact, in a place like Texas, it quadrupled between 1836 and 1846. So in ten years there went from being about 30 thousand Anglos to 140 thousand Anglos. That's important. In other parts of the Southwest it also grew large. What did that mean?
That population increase meant United States expanding westward fulfilling so-called Manifest Destiny at the expense of, say, indigenous peoples and Mexicans. But with that population increase came U.S. law and U.S. bureaucratic institutions, not to mention diversity of religious practices.
The frontier kept moving westward because of this population growth. And with population movement came the movement of capital—investment capital, investing money. And that of course was followed by the military that engaged—and I'm putting in quotes—"recalcitrant indigenous communities," who did not want to conform to this new model being imposed on them. So always keep in mind, population and money moved hand in hand with military force behind it. Again this is part of history, not something with an ideological agenda— this is part of history.
Another change took place after 1848. The U.S.—what became the U.S. Southwest—made a transition that's very important. It transitioned from a subsistence economy to a more market-based production economy. That meant that the old elites, both Mexican and Native American, were now going to be replaced or displaced—depending on what verb you like—by these newcomers arriving with commercial capital. So the old subsistence economy was taken over or transformed into a market economy. What did that mean in the bigger picture?
The growth of the United States meant regional markets were ballooning and global markets became important. Cattle, and copper, and citrus all now are being in great demand in the global economy. So cattle, copper and cotton.
Now that transition took place differently. In New Mexico it took a little longer than, say, Texas or California. Arizona a little bit longer too. So, from the U.S.—part of the U.S. history—that's important. Capitalism is making transformations along the way as the United States goes from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast.
That transformation led to civil war, because it also brought the institution of slavery. Remember the United States fought a bloody, bitter civil war for four years. It’s not often taught, or at least it's not often presented in history books, that it’s a consequence of this clash between economic systems and cultural systems that are taking place. The United States was still not sure of itself as a country. It had an idea where it wanted to go, at least an elitist idea of where it wanted to go, but it also faced many obstacles and many hurdles.
So that's the U.S. side. But as a historian of Mexico, I do want to bring in the Mexican side also. Several of the speakers, Dr. Garcia in particular, did a wonderful job of bringing out all the different variables here. So—little bit repetitive—but I want to say a few things about it.
In 1848, when the treaty was signed, it is fair to say Mexico was in disarray. Disunity ruled Mexico. Political turmoil followed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, as conservatives and liberals in Mexico pointed fingers of blame. Who was to blame for the loss of half of the territory? Obviously, Santa Anna was an easy figure, but conservatives and liberals were hashing it out.
What happened after 1848? A series of indigenous rebellions break out throughout Mexico. In north Mexico, north-central Mexico, on the Gulf Coast, Vera Cruz, and in the Yucatán Peninsula. Now the Yucatán presents an interesting case for us to consider, as one of the legacies of the Treaty. Wealthy land owners in the Yucatán Peninsula were trying to imitate their Texas brethren. Of what Texan landowners had done in 1836, 12 years earlier. And what was that?
Texan landowners of course, as their numbers are growing, they want to pull Texas away from the Mexican economic orbit and anchor it firmly into a North American, and eventually a global economy. The Yucatecan landowners want to imitate that. So they want to break away from Mexico and integrate it into a larger North American, and eventually, a global economy.
When they start that process, trying to break away from Mexico, they turn upside down the indigenous social order. So the indigenous peoples then rebel against that effort and you have a caste war that breaks out in 1848, and really lasts into the 20th century. So that's very important. It's another legacy of this Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Our friends from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe mention the deportations to the Yucatán. Those deportations are linked explicitly to the mechanization of agriculture on the American Great Plains and the Canadian prairies. You need, in order to tie bundles of wheat and corn, you need rope. Right? You need twine. Where does that twine come from? From sisal from henequen grown in the Yucatán Peninsula.
So the connection between deporting Yaquis from their rich agricultural lands to work in labor-poor markets in the south, in the Yucatán Peninsula, is linked to the growth of the United States. Again, to see the history of the United States as isolated is not appealing pedagogically. As I tell my students, nothing makes sense when seen in isolation.
So the Maya peasants rebel against their landlords. The Mexican government then is forced to spend money on the Mexican military to put down those rebellions in the Yucatán. How are they going to do that? With what money? Well, the money they got from the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but that was squandered, because of Santa Anna. So then they had the Gadsden Purchase,in 1854, an additional $10,000,000. With that money, they are able to put down the rebellions in the Yucatán Peninsula, and to stop the secessionist movement. But Mexico wasn't done. Mexico slid into a civil war for three years, basically around the same time the United States fought its civil war. A three year war known as... well, the Three Year War, 1858 to 1861. And that was followed by yet another invasion, which was alluded to. The French invasion of 1862.
It should be noted that their first attempt to take over Mexico failed, in the famous Cinco de Mayo battle. Now a year later Napoleon III, the French emperor, redoubled his efforts and was successful. But as I mentioned at the opening of the Treaty exhibit last week, though, the seeds of Mexican self-esteem and Mexican confidence are planted in that initial victory over the French. That's important.
And then eventually once the United States finished its civil war in 1865, it turned its attention to Mexico. And that international border that was created as a result of U.S invasion and occupation now becomes the place where American arms and ammunition, and volunteers, cross over to help the indigenous president of Mexico, Benito Juarez, and his liberal army to overthrow and kick out the French. That's important.
In short, both invasions, the U.S invasion and then the French invasion, provided a certain stimulus to Mexico's political framework after decades of uncertainty and unrest. But that stimulus did bring—quote, unquote—“modernization” to Mexico under the dictator, Porfirio Díaz, but modernization with very steep costs for the indigenous population and the working poor. And of course, hence, the Mexican Revolution. Two other quick comments. One: the loss of Texas, the loss of New Mexico, the loss of Arizona, California, deprived Mexico of immense natural resources. The Gold Rush of 1848-1849 helped fuel the Industrial Revolution in the United States. In fact, within 20 years of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the lost area, meaning what is now the Southwest, was producing more mineral wealth than all of the silver mines in Mexico. And Mexico was the largest producer of silver at the time. That's incredible.
By 1900, by the turn of the 20th century, the mineral output of all the territories that had been lost, Arizona, New Mexico and California, the mineral output amounted to more than Mexico's national income. That’s incredible. So the Mexican economy, half as productive as that of the United States in 1800, was only one-eighth as productive by the turn of the century. And you can only imagine the impoverishment of indigenous communities as a result of those statistics.
I want to wrap up my concluding remarks here. I figure, "What's a nice way to end this?" And I say, well let's bring in, whether you like his novels or not, I want to bring in Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican author, here. He wrote a book called The Crystal Frontier—that's the translation. And one of the main characters is Dionisio, in his book.
So the character Dionisio in Carlos Fuentes's novel The Crystal Frontier, from my perspective encapsulates how many Mexicans perceive of what happened in 1848. I'm quoting here, "For the record, Dionisio said he wasn't anti-Yankee. Even though every child born in Mexico knew that in 1848 the Gringos had stripped us of half our territory, the Gringos didn't even remember the war much less its unfairness. Dionisio spoke of the United States of Amnesia.”
“Now, now, we are on the way”—and this is what I think leads to the fear that I remember Dr. Grindell speaking about in the symposium in the fall, about fear—“We, (meaning the Mexicans), are well on the way of recovering those lands, thanks to what can be termed Mexico's ‘chromosomal imperialism’." [audience laughter ] “And since…” (now, I’m going to suavizar my translation) “Since the Gringos screwed Mexico in 1848 with their Manifest Destiny, so now Mexico would give them a dose of their own medicine, recovering the territories with the most Mexican of weapons: language, culture, and food.”
Thank you everyone.
[applause and laughter]
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