The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo transferred the northern half of Mexico to US control.* It is a central document in US history, as well as in Mexican history. The “Mexican cession” as it is somewhat euphemistically called, is central to the construction of the US nation. Forgetting the cession is central to the White supremacist project of defining the US as an Anglo-White nation, while remembering the cession is central to a Mexican American identity that says the Mexican people are indigenous to this country and have a claim on an American identity that is grounded in deeper right than that of the White majority who descend from European immigrants. Interpreting the meaning of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican cession are on the table in today’s debates about Mexican immigration and also about the Spanish language. In the Anglo-White narrative, the Mexican-American war (which historians agree was intentionally instigated by the US so it could take territory) has somehow managed to be turned into a story about Mexican aggression (“Remember the Alamo”) and is seen as an inevitable part of Manifest Destiny and the God-sanctioned White control of North America.
In a standard Mexican-American history, the Treaty is cited not only as transferring territorial control (“we did not cross the border, the border crossed us”) but as guaranteeing the full rights of citizenship for Mexicans in the Untied States, including the right to speak Spanish.
The Treaty, with its guarantees of citizenship and property rights, is also tied to the longstanding practice of defining at least some Mexican Americans as White and to the “other White” political strategy that dominated Mexican American politics until the 1960s, as well as to the ongoing questions about racial classifications of Mexicans.
When I read something that said the Treaty did NOT guarantee the right to speak Spanish, I dug around to find the treaty itself. It turns out, the Treaty does NOT mention Spanish at all one way or the other, although at the time the right of citizenship was interpreted as implying the right to conduct public business in a language you understand. The language debates came later; more about that below.
I also discovered that the Treaty tells us other things about the history of the United States, especially about American Indians and the multi-lateral nature of history in what is now the South Western US. You can read the text of the treaty on a government documents site here and it is also copied in a somewhat more readable form on a blog site here, along with another map.
Here is my short summary of what the treaty says**:
- Mexicans in the territory previously belonging to Mexico can stay where they are or they can move to Mexico but still retain their property.
- Those who remain can be Mexican citizens or US citizens but have to choose within a year; the default is US citizenship.
- Property rights dating from before the treaty are “inviolably respected.” [In case you don’t know, enforcement of this provision varied by region, and many Mexicans lost their land and/or were driven out of the territory by violent White mobs in some areas, while Mexicans remained landholding elites in others.]
- Those who do not choose Mexican citizenship will have the full rights of US citizenship including “free enjoyment of their liberty and property, and secured in the free exercise of their religion without restriction.”
- The US agrees to prevent incursions into Mexico of “savage tribes” in US territory with the same diligence as the US is protected. [NOTE: I found this allusion to the ongoing Indian wars to be a reminder of the multi-lateral character of history.]
- It is illegal to purchase “any Mexican, or any foreigner residing in Mexico, who may have been captured by Indians” or any property stolen by Indians. The US promises to try to rescue any people or property captured by Indians. [Again, multi-lateral history.]
- Lots of sections on the rules of warfare if war breaks out.
- Lots of sections on ending the war, removing troops, defining boundaries, guaranteeing free transport through waterways and border areas.
Well, what about the Spanish language? The Treaty does not mention language at all. In practice, everyone interpreted the treaty as implying that public business would be conducted in Spanish as needed. Official documents in the ceded territory were printed in both Spanish and English for the first 10-30 years after annexation. The 1849 Constitution of California stated that all bills would be printed in both Spanish and English.
English dominance happens later. The short version is that the Anglo immigrants poured in and took over and as part of their dominance, re-defined the original inhabitants as foreigners. Language policy advocate James Crawford provides an instructive copy of the debates at the 1878 convention to revise the California constitution. This convention had no Spanish-speaking delegate and was dominated by a nativist Workingman’s party that was hostile to Chinese, among others. It not only eliminated the 1849 guarantee of bilingual documents, but required that official proceedings in California be printed ONLY in English, the first “English only” rule in the US that lasted until 1966. This is a state that had almost no English-speakers until the 1848 Gold Rush. Spanish-speakers had been dominant, and many people spoke indigenous American languages. (Neither the Spanish-speakers nor the English-speakers discussed Indigenous languages and Indigenous citizenship rights in this convention.) Opponents of the English-only provision in the 1878 debate argued that the Treaty’s guarantee of citizenship required being able to read the laws and participate in judicial proceedings in a language one could understand. English-only advocates called Spanish-speakers “foreigners.” Opponents of English-only said: “Do you call the native population of this state foreigners?” They called attention to Michigan, where laws were printed in English and German and to Wisconsin, where laws were printed in English, Germany and Norwegian. They lost.
* The transfer of land occurred in several phases. First, slave-owning Anglo-American immigrants to Texas in alliance with elite Tejanos seceded from Mexico in 1836 because Mexico was trying to enforce its anti-slavery laws and sought to prohibit immigration of more Anglo-Americans into the area. The US annexed Texas in 1845 with the approval of Anglo-Texans largely to block the expansion of Texas as a separate power to the West. The US instigated border dispute over the land west of Texas claimed by both Mexico and the US/Texas as a pretext for a war with Mexico in 1848. Although Mexico was completely defeated militarily and US marines occupied Mexico City, the US (in a controversial move) declined to take over all of Mexico, and settled for the northern half, basically because they thought trying to govern a densely-populated Spanish-speaking area would be difficult. The Gadsen purchase was made in 1853 to obtain terrain that would be more favorable for the trans-continental railroad. It is interesting in itself to see the different versions of maps that are drawn to sketch this history.
** Figuring out exactly what the treaty says is complicated by the fact that Congress deleted parts of the treaty before approval and there was a follow-up Protocol of Querétaro that clarified the consequences of these excisions. A site that contains both the full text of the treaty and the portions deleted is here. You can read the text of the treaty on a government documents site here and it is also copied in a somewhat more readable form on a blog site here, along with another map. If you want to see a digital facsimile there is one here although watch out, the big “download” button is an ad, not the treaty. There is also a nice map plus a link to a mildly funny clip about the Gadsen purchase and other treaties here.
The lack of comments here illustrates the ignorance and apathy of Americans in knowing their own history as it pertains to the present situation in the USA — a thing which King Idiot-in-Chief Trump and his mindless followers exploit to a most atrocious degree in their odious quest to portray the Anglo-Europeans as the defining racial group in America.
I think mostly the lack of comments is due to people not commenting on blogs any more. But I appreciate your comment.
Outstanding article. The victors in the struggles between nations usually find a way to rewrite or reinterpret facts. History, with the long view, usually discovers the truth.
Most successful ethnic groups now in the US have been resented at some point. The Irish, Chinese and Italians are all examples. A key difference in the case of Mexican Americans is that their presence predated Manifest Destiny and the arrival of Americans.
In addition, of course, the original Indigenous Americans predated the European Americans who call themselves just “Americans.” And African American descendants of slavery are also in a different position, as their ancestors generally arrived before the ancestors of the majority of European-descent Americans and their forcible relocation puts them in a somewhat different moral category.
I think that our children need to start learning the REAL REAL TRUTH why the first WHITE MAN really came to this country and how the INDIANS GAVE them some land and how the WHITE MAN went about TAKING IT ALL from the INDIANS AND THE SPANISH AND how they brought the BLACK MAN and the REAL TRUTH about that and what they did to them and their wives. They need to start teaching the REAL TRUTH so are children can GROW UP being KIND TO EACH OTHER so FIGHTING can FINALLY STOP and EVERONE can have RESPECT and SHARE WITH EACH OTHER. I’m in my 70’s and I have SEEN ENOUGH !!!
This CRUELTY and HATE needs to STOP!!
Don’t forget that the Spanish violently and without mercy invaded, colonized, murdered, and raped the indigenous people in North America, Central America, and South America. Incidentally, Spaniards are considered to be white. [[NOTE: See Oliver’s reply below: Mexicans are not Spanish, they are predominantly Indigenous.]
You do realize, don’t you, that Mexicans are not Spanish Europeans? Estimates are that 90% of Mexican people are of Indigenous descent (including mixed) and a third of Mexican people are purely Indigenous (comparable to Native Americans in the US). At most 10% of Mexicans are solely of European descent, and they are not as a rule the folks trying to enter the US without papers. In fact, “we are the people of the rape,” acknowledging the mixture of Indigenous and Spanish ancestry, is part of Mexican national ideology. Most migrants from Mexico and Central America are from Indigenous or predominantly-Indigenous communities, due to the economic patterns that lead them to be economically more desperate. It amazes me that people try to describe Mexicans as White Spaniards as part of trying to justify their exclusion, even as Mexican people are racialized and discriminated against in the US because of their indigenous origins.
EDIT: I decided not to allow most of your comment, even though it is merely hostile and not racist. Writing that my post is about BLM and is the equivalent of murdering Jews in the Holocaust is a little over the top. You responded only to the first sentence, not to the whole post. You seem to object to my assumption that there is a White supremacist project, even though the post itself discusses the competing claims about history. I really don’t feel like putting up with rants like this.
The one part of your comment that is germane is this part:
“That’s odd, because by the time of the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty and cession that you allege the “White Supremacy” movement would like to forget but Mexicans prefer to remember, the Mexican population to which you refer was a mixture of Spanish and indigenous, i.e., descended from both European and indigenous populations. It is thus somewhat unclear how–other than for the purposes of stirringly inaccurate blog writing in keeping with au courant themes–“the Mexican people” who are descended from Spaniards and were forced into adopting Spanish have a greater “non-European” claim on American soil than anyone else has.”
MY (PO) RESPONSE: You argue that Mexicans who have both White/Spanish ancestry and Indigenous ancestry are basically the equivalents to Whites descended from European immigrants with no Indigenous ancestry. That is a highly-motivated claim that simultaneously ignores the reality of racial classifications in the US; the lack of Indigenous ancestry among most White/European North Americans, the fact that the Mexicans and Central Americans migrating to the US are disproportionately Indigenous, not White, in culture and physical appearance; and the fact that denying the ongoing existence of Indigenous people is the culmination of the 19th Century genocidal project within the boundaries of the US.
My students were very surprised to learn that the “Spanish from Europe” look totally different from what students call “Spanish” today…they thought about it and finally put 2 and 2 together and realized they were conquered/colonized by SPAIN and indigenous groups intermarried and maintained certain labels.
The Texas War for Independence is known by documented communications and records of commerce to have started over taxes. The new citizens were shipping cotton through New Orleans. The Mexican government sought to take money by force. Nothing to do with slavery except for help growing cotton. It’s all preserved in letters and documents. (Editor’s note: I allowed this comment and responded.)
Approving your comment because it is fact-based. It led me to do a little research. It is true that slavery was legal in Mexico at the time Santa Ana led an army into Texas and that there was a general dispute over federalism. However, to say that slavery had “nothing” to do with Texas independence is clearly wrong. Anglo settlers moved into Texas with slaves to do slave-intensive cotton-farming. Mexican presidents had previously banned slavery, although there were indentured servitude work-arounds and other presidents had reversed the ban on slavery. The situation as regards protection of slavery in the Mexican government was clearly unstable. The constitution Texans wrote in 1836 made sure slavery was protected and made it impossible to free an enslaved person or for a free Black person to live in Texas without consent of the Texas congress. My sources: (1) importance of slavery https://www.texasmonthly.com/being-texan/how-leaders-texas-revolution-fought-preserve-slavery/ (2) timeline arguing slavery was legal in Mexico in 1836 https://www.texashistorytrust.org/texas-history-news-and-opinion/slavery-texas-revolution-teazn
Thank you for your work.
AND YES – people are out of touch with commenting on blogs. I appreciate you know that and responded the way you did…
It is almost 5 o’clock and I am a 62 year old teacher researching my assignment from last year…as I always do. I always try to expand my knowledge of what I am teaching for the 30th time to show students I am growing each year and am still a life-long learner. I had no clue about the language issues and how it changed over time. So tomorrow, yet again, I will say “Last night as I was researching to know more about this topic, I learned that…”
I didn’t approve this comment and am now editing it because it is using hostile rhetoric against other people coupled with wildly incorrect facts. Sorry, but I’m not willing to allow this kind of rhetoric on this blog.
Mojave Brennan, well said. The Majority of Americans is exactly what you said. They need to go back to history classes in my opinion, but then again they as always right so I guess that will not happen.
Actually, this history is not taught in American History classes with the possible exception of upper level college courses.
What happened to Mexicans in the annexed territory is one of the many otrosities committed by federal, state and local governments to preserve the white race.
This was taught in my 8th grade history class and throughout history countries have gained territory and forced them to learn another language and I’m not saying what they did was ok but it wasn’t to preserve the white race. (Side note when they say the Mexican American war portrays Mexican aggression citing the Alamo the writer does not understand that the Mexican American war and Texas war for independence in the Mexican American war the Americans picked on the littler guys however in the Texas war for independence Texas was fighting a stronger force and won.
Texas independence is separate from the Mexican American War, yes. Texas was part of Mexico. Anglo-Americans moved into Texas to set up slave plantations and when Mexico abolished slavery, the Texans didn’t want to follow Mexican law, they wanted to keep their slaves. Which is why they declared independence. I myself do not see slave owners defending slavery as having the moral high ground. This is not to say that Mexican generals were saints. Whether Mexico or Texas was stronger militarily at that point is debatable; it is certainly true that Mexico was not able to the territory and also true that the US implicitly backed Texas.
When you write about the history surrounding the insurrection that took place in regards to the Alamo, you should do so within the context of that time, and not refer to Texas as “Texas” but rather “Tejas.” Tejas was still a part of Mexico before it won its independence and became a Republic. The other issue I have with your history is that it is incredibly biased.
First, the “defenders of the Alamo” were not truly “defenders” per se, they were guilty of insurrection against their own government, that is the Mexican government.
The defenders of the Alamo were all Mexican citizens at that point. They were not Americans and they were most certainly not living in American at that time.
Secondly, they swore an oath to the country and government of Mexico, and the rebellion should’ve been an internal matter, that is, the government of Mexico vs it’s own citizenry, in this case, citizenry that partook in an act of rebellion.
Whatever History book (s) you’ve been reading should be tossed away, and I recommend a better scholarly work that treats the subject with the utmost respect.
You people know less about your own history as Americans know about theirs. Your comments reek with racism
It is true I read a history channel blip about the treaty; I’m starting to think rather than ignorance it’s actually a desire to hide the past. The Americans did not honor the treaty. They would not let Mexicans Americans vote and the stole their lands from them. The Americans never honoured it.
The US did not honor the treaty in whole but the history is somewhat more complicated, as some Mexican Americans were treated as citizens.
There was lost of murdering going on before and during the transfer of Texas. What followed after the territorial exchange was whole extermination and land grab from the Mexican population, which gave birth to the Texas Rangers to ensure all would be lost and taken away from the Mexicans that resided on this side of the sale.
Who history class?
Mexicans were treated as citizens is a fact that has not just come to truth as I can assure you that as per my personal experience as a 4th Generation American born and educated in the USA having served in the military, been a public servant for +30 years, and having been born over a half century ago with relatives who served as far back as the Korean, Vietnam, the Golf war and the Global war on Terrorism I am still called a wet back, referred to as Mexican when any African Americans or European are never told to return to their country as we are daily, jumped for promotions, harassed out of positions and quiet Frankly even been beaten for walking in my native land being an invader and in racial riots at schools.
So say again how magnificently we are and have been treated by our Native Land.
Pleeeease have some respect for we are not blind, nor stupid.
I fully agree
Americans DO NOT like to admit to war crimes… ever. Murders are excused with very lame excuses and no apologizes or reparations.
Many Mexicans lost their land with the help of the brutal Texas Rangers (pinché rinches) who would lynch the male landowner. Or white men would marry the daughter of a Mexican landowner & assume the land through deceit. My ancestors owned the majority of land in southwest Texas before cessation. It’s funny but it’s not how ignorant Americans are about history but that’s because our education system has been setup that way. Our indigenous history has been whitewashed to make sure white Americans can continue treating us as foreigners.
Not to worry: in 2052, Spanish Speakers become a majority in the US. If you want your children to integrate into the New American economic future,, mejor que estudien hablar Español .
Given that Latinx immigrants are all learning English, this seems highly unlikely in most of the US. Perhaps along the Mexican border, Spanish may become domiant.
Yes emigrants arrive as educated bilinguals from grammar school in this last decade and natives retained their spanish, so we are bilingual which makes it a choice trough out the whole nation entirely visible to the naked eye even in my native MidWest region.
and when people say first, second or third college graduate we mean in this country as the education level is higher in Mexico any day having free Universities and plenty willing to used them unfortunately the white American Establishment rebukes Diplomas earn in Mexican Universities to the Mexicans but admire Mexican Educated White Dr’s who studied there.
When that same establishment recognizes all European Universities Diplomas unequally.
I am sorry Pamela but i think you are in a pickle here are you in your 70’s I imagine base in your train of thought.
You should read Petras’s Legacy. She married crooked Miflin Kennedy. You speak of the the pinche texas rangers (they deserve no upper case letters), My tata welo Inez Villarreal had a brother n law named Sylvester DeLeon, he would be my uncle in modern day i guess. Anyhow he was murdered by the Piece Of Shit TEXAS RANGERS specifically the dickhead redneck MF Mabry Grey “mustang” and the other POS John “coffee” Jack Hays….thieves, fortune seekers and liars.
Worry not Senora, for we serve a mighty God. The beauty behind the turmoil is the abundance of crumbs the ignorant has foolishly left as beacon…..lol
That’s exactly right, sadly.
Generations of people that didn’t have anything to do with that war were taught what they were taught. IMO Indians were the ones that had their land stolen. Revisionist history is happening right now! History is being reported And re- written. Some good, some overblown. As a society we need to learn to live together. Accept the fact our blood is the same color. Hate groups need to called out for what they are! Divisionist! Tearing us apart. And our law enforcement needs restructuring. Fast!
I am an old white woman who has finally had her eyes opened, helped by the events ov this 2020 year. I am just now (Goid God) learning about the concentration camps our T. Hitler has on the boulders with Mexico. In an effort to learn more (ignorance is not bliss anymore) I am reading about this area of white supremacy that has always happened along this bourses. It is atrocious. I am ashamed. I wish I had a clue what I could do about it! It’s not enough but I apologize to all races (I believe we whites have abused just about everyone?) onto which we have inflicted our white supremacy onto, in demonic, murderous ways. I’m in shock and will continue to study what my people have done. I am choking while writing this. You stated it yourselves, we are not taught any of these atrocities in our schools. I never attended collage, maybe the books are there. If not for whe Internet I would still be foolishly ignorant of ‘our history’. Please continues to write and post about America’s true history—I’ll be reading and trying to teach others.
Gracias Señora! If only more people were like you! You are 100% correct ignorance is no longer bliss. History has been told from one perspective that of the oppressor. That narrative has done exactly what it was intended to do, Divide & Conquer!
Greatly appreciated and worry not because God can separated men and women within any race because there are evil oppressors always even amongst each race as there are those you defend the oppressed with no racial distinction of any kind and I assume that is the group to which you may be part of based in your words and emotions.
God curse the US for stealing the land from the Mexican Indians America open your eyes
Trump admin recently removed the term “Native” American from the recording of foster children in the US which is another example which sets individuals up for a life of lost identity. Removing requirements from the child welfare reporting system to identify tribal children is an attempt by the state to extinguish the identity and history of the original people. This is dangerous ‘identity politics’. Any person of white eauropean decent who questions ‘social justice’ movements must ask themselves, “Who would I be if my family had been repeatedly dismantled and victimized through racist policies and child removal tactics aimed at erasing your family history?”
Very well articulated – Couldn’t have said it better myself, thank you.
And then came an American president
That called Mexicans
Rapist, murderers and thieves
You may find this interesting: as a result of Trump, my husband and I are actively engaged and following political historian Heather Cox Richardson. She is a Professor of American History in Maine, and expounds greatly on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and subsequent US Treaties. She is a great Defender of Democracy. She has an enormous following. There is a huge awakening happening, and huge GOP pressure to mock and squelch it.
Yes, I’ve been also following HCR. My post was never meant to be the definitive word on the treaty.
[[I don’t allow personal insults on the blog ]]
[[This comment is not offensive but it is also utterly irrelevant to the topic of this blog to invoke the American revolution against England and generic patriotic language. It adds nothing at all to the discussion at hand. PO]] What all of this missed, America is not the geographical land. America is the representative government that evolved after individual settlers united to stand against England. They fought, died, and endured to create legal rights for all the citizens. Rights that limit and prohibit government from tyranny. Could those documents be waved around and solve all problems?? The underlying theme has always been the protection of the individual. Was it perfect, no. Did it evolve as intended for all individuals, yes.
[[I’m not approving this comment because it adds nothing to the discussion to assert that anybody who disagrees with you should leave the country, presumably because only people like you deserve to be in it. Another comment in the vein that bad things happened elsewhere (this one is going on about slavery) so nothing negative should ever be said about the US. People are welcome to say want they want elsewhere, but not on this blog. PO]]
Hi my name is Kim and just want to let you know that the only reason I’m just now commenting is because in doing some googling and browsing and whatnot with everything going on I just now ran across this. A shame to say I’ve had no idea for years that I didn’t know my history. I’m finding this righteous condescending attitude that’s actually existed in my country as far as I can remember to be much more repulsive to me the more I learn. My heart goes out to any and all people who have suffered in the world and wanted to tell you your article was very enlightening and I appreciate it.
Thank you for writing. My essay is very superficial. There is a lot more we can all learn.
It’s amazing that every article these days finds a way to plug white supremacy in its articles. This was life back then. You lived it or you died. The rulers in Africa that were selling slaves were very powerful and rich elites in their part of the world. The Mexican American War was another unjust war that was brought about by the rich elite. Being Anglo or Mexican or Many of the other national elites that wanted these wars for profit. The Native Americans are the only ones that have a right to cry foul. Yet as I live and breathe me and my ancestors have let go of the old ways. And built casinos to take the white and every other color man’s money. Haha. He who laughs last laughs last. I suppose my point is we can’t change history from anyone’s perspective. But we can change the future for all to have a better life. Have you seen the state of this world. It’s going to hell in a hand basket.
Well there are Indigenous Mexicans, and I’m not sure it is fair to say that the African people who were enslaved have not “right to cry foul.” And only a small fraction of Indigenous Americans have benefitted significantly from casino money, most have not.
I am doing a research paper for a United States History class. I have always enjoyed history and as I got older realized how much misinformation is taught. However, in this class, was surprised to see how much had changed or better yet how much truth was written about the annihilation of the indigenous people and gross maltreatment of African Americans. Similarly, to my past history classes did not see information about my own people. Thus, comes the research paper about where were my people in the history of the United States. My initial research I still did not find much until this article here! I am so glad I came across this because it allowed me to answer simply, we were always here!
Dude, give us some time. This article was posted less than a year ago and is on a topic most people don’t think about that much. But it’s a good contribution to the immigration debate and should stimulate more thoughts.
And BTW, I voted for Trump and I am not anti-immigrant and am not in favor of building a wall between the US and Mexico.
You didn’t learn about this in school?
Hi, I always thought this treaty allowed free access for Mexicans into the US. Is that a part that was deleted or did I mis-remember that? History was never my strongest subject. Thx
The treaty says nothing about free access. However, in practice, the border was not patrolled and no documents were required to cross the border in either direction until the 1930s.
No, it made those on the Norte Side of the Treaty American Citizens with the right to retain their lands. They became American. It did not have a inter border policy in the Treaty. That is a misnomer used as a gateway to the open border agenda as is the espoused theft of land, that was in fact remained in the hands of the propety owners, per the treay
As with the other comment, approving because it is sincere and not racist, even though I disagree with it.
I think you should submit this to the NYPost, Time, CNN…. Get it out there!!!!!
I find this blog analysis of the treaty well done. To me I feel that key to the treaty was choice to return to Mexico or remain and become a US citizen. Nowhere does it infer that the countries were conjoined. I had a college professor that was adamant that the Treaty established bilingual languages and prohibited forcing Mexicans from speaking our language. It appears that was untrue, just a wishful interpretation.
In regard to immigration, I love the Mexican people but strongly believe we need a secure border. Legal immigration is good for our country. Illegal immigrantion, regardless from where, is bad.
Thanks for your comment, approved because it is sincere. The treaty implied bilingual protections at least for the people who were already Spanish speakers in 1848, which would imply supporting Spanish at least through 1920. You should research the history immigration laws, as that would help you realize that “illegal” immigration is entirely a product of changing immigration laws and laws were passed that explicitly illegalized what had been legal and regular flows of workers back and forth across the US/Mexico border. Also you may wish to research language supports as non-English speaking European immigrants were accommodated in the US through the early 1900s with, for example, German newspapers, schools, churches. Symbolically, there are many people who don’t think the European settlers had any more right to what is now the US than the indigenous people of the Americas, which most Mexicans and Central Americans are. These interpretations of the meanings of history are not readily resolved just by reading the treaty, but knowing what the treaty actually says is still important.
As far as I know, all German, Hungarian, Frisian, whatever …language publication and activities were private. If you can show me ballots or other government publications written in a non-English, non-Spanish European language before 1970, I’ll take that back. Even today the only European language I ever see produced by a government, other than Spanish, is Russian, and that’s pretty rare.
Bilingual schools were common in the 19th Century, even as there was an English-only movement opposing them, and there were US-born children being reared speaking German in rural areas of the US in the late 1800s. Official documents were published in English and Spanish in the Southwest after the Treaty; the original California state constitution required that all official documents be published in both languages. I have been trying to check the ballot question.
While I agree with the majority of your comments that I have read, I have to take issue with a portion of one. You stated: ” ‘illegal’ immigration is entirely a product of changing immigration laws and laws were passed that explicitly illegalized what had been legal”.
Well, yes… I would find it extremely difficult to cite an example of ANY law to which that statement DOESN’T apply.
You are correct. That is the point. Drinking alcohol became a problem of illegal alcohol consumption only with prohibition. There is a huge debate about whether marijuana should be illegal and about whether criminalization of other drugs helps or hurts addiction problems. Migration back and forth across the Mexican and Canadian borders with the US became a problem of “illegal immigration” only when the US made it a problem by changing its immigration laws. The point is that you need to debate what the immigration laws ought to be, what is a sane immigration policy, and not get into the trap of saying that “illegal” immigration is wrong just because it breaks the immigration laws. A major change in the immigration law in 1965 caused a lot of the current problem, as did the creation of ICE in 2004.
Odd how an illegal immigration question led you to mention drugs… hmmmmmm, they do go hand in hand across our borders daily and yes, illegally. No wall jumper wants asylum or they’d go through a port where asylum awaits them. San Francisco and San Diego are beautiful examples of illegal immigrants ruling over state and federal laws. Thank you for your time and patience.
I mentioned alcohol and marijuana. They are classic examples of things that don’t have to be illegal, you can choose how to regulate them. It is hard to imagine anybody reading the news this year who could think that asylum seekers are being treated well by the US.
I just found this because of a lively Facebook discussion about immigration and Christianity’s obligations to welcome alien residents. I agree with the commenter who said please try to get this great research and maps ‘out there’, as part of the conversation. Thank you Pamela Oliver! ~ Stacy
I was wondering why this particular post was getting so many hits. Is the FB discussion public?
Thank you for sharing this information. I found it very helpful. Particularly because I study the Xicanx movement, an evolution from the Chicano movement of the 1960’s which recognizes their indigenous roots and aims to get in touch with mother earth. It is important for Xicanxs however, to be aware of how some of us oppressed indigenous peoples in the southwest by accepting proximity to whiteness at their expense.
Yes, there are some good books about this complex history of the Southwest US. But I’m afraid I need to dig around to find the references and can’t just cite them here.
Very good, but I feel in a effort to push “that” agenda you have definitely failed to square the picture. First off the elite texans as you say, were mexican and the mexican government, at that said time, although liberated from Spain, was still Through Santa Ana as well as rich Spanish oligarchs. Also a total failure to mention why those Anglo types were there. They were invited there on behest of The Mexican Government, in hope to bring economic prosperity as well as in an effort to fight the commanche and indians of the pueblo. Initially it had squat to do with the United States. As Jackson wanted nothing to do with it despite that he was an evil expansionist and all.
I like that you also made mention that the squabble had to do with anti slavery, when in fact it was about limiting expansion and Santa Ana and the oligarchs set up armed outposts and made declaration to stop Anglo immigration into the area, because the hope was more mexican people’s would go into the area, but anglos that were invited to come now out numbered the Mexican 1.5/2 to 1. It was these groupings of whites and Mexicans that were fighting against the government for 20 years and requesting help from tge US, not just Anglo invaders…….wow
After Polk became President he sent soldiers to inspect the disputed border areas, and they were attacked. That is when the war began, which many Americans at the time opposed. Those are the truths you failed to mention and that, that land was Mexicos through Spanish Occupation, also an encroachment on Native American Tribal Land and Territory.
Also the points you make concerning language are really a mute point to what the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo did. Which was land grants and citizenship to The Mexican land owners on the norte side of the Treaty, who retained their agricultural lands and became American Citizens. Aztland is a myth, those that were on this side of the Norte kept their lands, America removed itself from Mexico City, after 9 months, after The Treaty was signed…..was it expansionism through war. Yes, was the land The Mexican were on Expansion through Spanish conquest, Yes.
Is there heated debate about who started it, and was there debate among the minds at the time about weather it was handled right, sure. Its just like now, but all that land was conquered as is all land. To say one people’s are imperialists, when in fact their gain was through the same imperialism is in fact revisionism and to tell one part and leaving many other mitigations and factual stones, unturned is the essence of rhetoric through half truths.
Lets us not forget the revichism used in Germany after the Treaty of Versailles. Let us not forget, the lack of rights to the average citizens under Santa Ana, and the rich poor divide. One sided history is easy to hold on to, but I implore others to check it out, read the totality of circumstances not just an agenda based blog. You know maybe its my 3/4 Anglo, or my 1/4 native American, that takes offense. Maybe its that ideological political science is a cancer and everyone wants something they think they were deprived of, when they were also deprivers, or perhaps its just division that rules the day and we all have to bleed because we cannot love.
Approving because the comment is sincere and not spam or racist, although I disagree with parts. The main thing to say is that the interpretations of history are always contested and people interpret the meaning of past events in light of their current interests. I don’t think there is much dispute among historians that the US wanted to gain control of the land west of Texas nor that the US essentially provoked a war with Mexico to get the land. That the war was controversial in its own time for a variety of reasons everybody who knows any history agrees. As my blog post indicates, there was dispute even at the time of the treaty about exactly what it did and did not mean, partly because the US Congress did not ratify all of it and partly just because people read into it what they wanted to see. Whether you think conquest gives you rights usually depends on whether you are on the winning or losing side of the war. But if you are going to justify current borders based on who won a war regardless of the morality of that war, then you can hardly complain if other people decide to violate those borders and see if they can move things around tho their own benefit.
Aho brother! Well stated.
Yes and the Gadsden purchase was really a purchase not an act of extortion and a threat to violate the actual treaty of Guadalupe. Right? (Sarcasm) As for your audacity to mention that Polk’s soldiers were attacked, well that speaks volumes of your bias and deception. We all know the intention by Polk was always to take virtually all of Mexico. Furthermore the difference between Mestizo settlers living in the southwest in a territory loosely occupied by Spain for 150 to 200 years prior to Mexican independence is that the dominant Mestizo and Spanish Indian population that lived in the area emerged from within the cultural spaces produced by the Spanish conquest and those cultural spaces were invaded in what everyone knows was an unjust war. Yes Native Nations take priority over Mexican Mestizo cultural spaces in terms of who was first, but Mexican Mestizo cultural spaces emerged as
transformed Native Nations which were conquered and hybridized and to make these hybrid cultural spaces illegitimate for the purpose of justifying Anglo invasions is simply intellectual dishonesty and outright self deception.
Mexican American land rights were absolutely violated over and over, that is undisputedable. Secondly, once you understand the influx of Anglos into Texas, (which had been proposed from US soul by people like Moses Austin since at least the 1820s and promoted by people like agent Zebulon Pike before him) within the context of the “filibuster” movement that had been going on well before the Texas event, it’s clear to see similarities between these manifest destiny-driven “expansions”. “Filibuster” of course, being a politically-correct term we’re all taught which is just a cover for illegal incursion invasion of Latin American lands by Anglos. The refusal of those naturalized Mexican-Anglos to end their slave-owning practices was central to the Mexican government’s decision. Mexico has outlawed slavery in 1823, well before any Anglos settled in Tejas. This was truly the original Civil War, except in this case, the slaveowners won. The obvious guilt of the United States, as the offending party, was evidenced by the public protest on the part of some contemporary high-profile Americans like HD Thoreau and Lincoln, and it is noted as being the first American war that experience internal antiwar protests. The revision of history actually occurred 150 years ago is now just being corrected , with truth. Think about it, there were no great weapon factories amongst the Anglo-Mexican communities (btw, they had sworn allegiance to their adoptive country and so they were committing treason) at a scale to support such a revolt, so who would be supplying the weaponry to/for these people, that were supposedly just good-hearted, simple farmers with a few guns? Also, for additional invasion motivation, you may want to understand that many Latin Americans had been mining places like California long before 1849, and for these extremely experienced miners to completely miss an abundance of gold is highly unlikely, could American agents’ word of billions of dollars of gold mines in Mexican California have reached the United States before the Mexican American war?
Ill like to meet a fellow Tex/Mex with a massive oil right ownership in Texas but witha quick search of Texas Oil Rich Families you get :
H. Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Sid W. Richardson, and Clint Murchison were the four most influential businessmen during this era. These men became among the wealthiest and most politically powerful in the state and the nation and ZERO Mexicans and let me tell you we can dig.
Thanks for a good article Pam. I am curious about how the land held by Mexicans who became American citizens was lost. If they had control of their land, how did they lose it?
Second question, why should America not defend its claim? The land was disputed instead of solidly decided. Would you back down from a challenge on this blog? (I don’t want to start an argument, but just want to make the point that we stand for what we think is right.)
Thanks for the article and replies.
Thanks for the comment. (1) Lost land. Short answer is violent White people. Some White settlers squatted on Mexican land and wouldn’t leave, it took years of court cases to defend the claims if they could but often lacked documents from the days of Spanish/Mexican rule. And lots of White violent mobs literally forced Mexicans out of their homes and drove them South across the border. Also in California, the White men who showed up in the gold rush mostly soon realized they were not going to get gold and within a few years turned to violently removing both Spanish/Mexican and American Indian people from the Northern California area, so they could have land to farm. Southern California was a desert and stayed majority Mexican until after 1900. US history is very violent.
(2) I’m not sure how to respond to your second point. If I decide I want your wallet, then your wallet is disputed. Why shouldn’t I try to get what I want? Obviously in this history, the different sides had different ideas about what the rules or laws were about who should control the land. I think all reputable historians agree that the dominant US ideology saw a “manifest destiny” that the White settler nation was destined by God to take the whole continent, basically because they were either morally or racially or biologically superior. This justified the genocide of American Indians, as well as the conquest of Nortern Mexico. As my original post mentioned, thinking of it in US vs Mexico terms leaves out the indigenous Americans who had the prior claim over both of the colonial governments. When we teach, we try to help students understand what the different points of view were. From the Mexican point of view, the land belonged to them, and the US claim was illegitimate. I’m not an expert in this history (which is why I had to look up the treaty!) but here are some Internet links to sources giving Mexican points of view. http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/prelude/md_a_mexican_viewpoint.html and a comparison of US and Mexican textbook summaries http://pinzler.com/ushistory/viewmexwarsupp.html and this source (set up for teaching) https://college.cengage.com/history/world/bulliet/earth_peoples/2e/students/primary/mexicanwar.htm .
“In California, the White men who showed up in the gold rush mostly soon realized they were not going to get gold and within a few years turned to violently removing both Spanish/Mexican and American Indian people from the Northern California area, so they could have land to farm. Southern California was a desert and stayed majority Mexican until after 1900. US history is very violent.”
I’d call this a gross mischaracterization. California was very much a mixed society from the Spanish colonization, before Mexico as a nation came to the scene. Consider that of the 22 adult founders of Los Angeles included exactly *one* individual was of Peninsular Spanish blood, one of Creole Spanish birth, and the remainder a rag-tag mix of mestizo, maroon, negro, and indios birth. Yet essentially all their families ended up as landowners of vast swaths of Southern California. Rather little of the population of California immigrated from Mexico during the period it was under Mexican rule, most of the population increase came from the expanding families of “Spanish” settlers and new immigrants from places as varied as the United States, the UK, France, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark and even Peru….all of whom traded with this frontier region. They thought of themselves as Californios…..and resented (and obstructed) officials that Mexico City sent their way.
While you are correct that the small population of Californios (natives of the region prior to 1848) were politically swamped by the immigration that came with the Gold Rush… Those Californios still played a critical role in drafting the State Constitution in 1849, making sure that the State entered as a free state, and that their rights were protected by such laws as the School Law of 1852, which required a purely *non-sectarian* education in public schools, protecting Catholics from the sort of discrimination occurring elsewhere in the US. Their dispossession from the vast tracts of Spanish and Mexican land grants had more to do with events of the 1860-80 period, where the new immigrant’s government funded itself the way most American state and local governments did. With taxes on real property. Which put the Californios in the same unenviable position of much of the European aristocracy, land-rich and cash-poor. And most followed the same route to keeping their financial head above water…selling off parcels of land to cover taxes for increases in government.
Approving because the comment is historical and factual. Nothing you say here disputes the claim that in Northern California there was genocide against the Native Americans and that Californios were generally driven out of the North. Standard Chicano history says that the South remained predominantly Californio into the 20th Century. The original post states that California guaranteed Spanish language rights in its original constitution and specifically states that the English only movement happened in the 1870s.
American treaties are paper thin. Ask the native Americans. My family settled western Arizona. I recently found my great grandfather’s tombstone. They were originally from Spain. Like the Anglos, they killed Indians and stole their land. History is nothing but a recording of bad escrow closings. All of this is justified by calling their victims savages. If not for slavery and genocide, would America be America?
Not everything in history is bad, but it is true that Spaniards were also colonists and that slavery and genocide were key elements of US history that shaped it as a majority-European nation.
In 1838-9 President Andrew Jackson forcibly removed well over 50,000 indigenous peoples off their customary lands in and around Tennessee– including African slaves who were already forcible removed from their ancestral lands– into an area that is now Oklahoma. What is not not widely considered in this genocidal history is that they were actually moved to Mexico–out of the US, and not as history claims, into “reservations.” The Treaty of Guadalupe that ended the Mexican-American war was signed in 1848, which is when that territory was ceded to the U.S.
Hmmm. I had not thought of that point. I’m not quite sure where New Spain’s territorial claim was relative to New France.
1) There are still plenty of Mexican heritage land holdings in California. White folks acquired land legally from many Mexicans (a lot of whom didn’t consider themselves Mexican, btw — but Spanish or Californio). In my county there are both families, with land, who descend from Spanish/Mexican grantees and families who descend from people who bought land from Mexicans.
2) The vast majority of ‘Mexican-Americans’ are descended from people who crossed the border long after the Yankees took over and made the Southwest prosperous. There were, for example, only 3000 Spanish speakers in California before 1850, and mass immigration from Mexico really didn’t start until the 1900s, with the start of political turmoil in that country.
I don’t know what county you are in, but the historical record of violent removal of Mexicans (and indigenous Americans) from their land by Anglo Whites in many areas of the annexed territory is well established. Standard Chicano histories talk about the maintenance of land in the hands of Spanish/Mexicans in Southern California, parts of Texas, New Mexico. That does not erase the violent removals that also happened elsewhere. It is true that most of the “Mexican American” people today are descended from people who migrated after 1900. That does not erase the claims that are made about indigenous ancestry and ancestral homelands.
What claim does someone have to California because they are descended from indigenous people that lived hundreds of miles away in central or sothern Mexico? The indigenous people of California have their own history, languages and cultures. Do indigenous people from Alaska have a right to live in Mexico since they are indigenous to North America?
What possible claim do White people have on California? Should we let any White person from any where in Europe come to California just because some Anglo Americans massacred people? If your ancestors were still in Europe in 1848, as most White people’s ancestor were, why should they be allowed into California? They didn’t commit the massacres, so why should they benefit from it more than the people whose ancestors were in the Americans before 1848? The only way White Anglo Americans can try to claim the moral high ground is either to erase history entirely and pretend it never happened or to claim that violence deserves to be rewarded, that might makes right. “It was my ancestors, not me” does not cut it, because you are still trying to stake a claim in the present based on what happened in the past. Does this mean that anytime you are not getting what you want, you should just start killing people? If this claim did not benefit you, would you ever make the claim? I don’t mean this personally, I mean it to call attention that there are competing moral claims. Any claim about the sanctity of US boundaries is morally suspect. A claim about realpolitik and nation states in the modern world can be advanced, but not a moral claim. In my opinion. In any event, I see no more weight to European American claims to have a right to keep other people out than to Mexican and Central American claims to be able to migrate away from violence or toward economic opportunity.
I was planning a road trip between Cancun to Mexico City…didn’t realize how BIG Mexico actually is! so I got intrigued on how much bigger it was prior to US taking over the land. This article is very educational and key to understanding the immigration issue now days.
Excellent Blog. However we can go back to the Spanish conquest of South America in the Columbian era and ask the same
Question. Violent Spaniards conquered indigenous and continentally established hierarchies and created a new Spanish empire using the same violent techniques in the conquest of Mexico by the US. Where do we stop?
Everybody who writes about Chicano history makes this point, it is nothing new, and creates no particular conundrum for people who are seriously engaging these issues. The ongoing impacts of European colonialism are everywhere in the Americas. The idea of the mixing of the conquerors and the conquered is a big part of Mexican identity. There is a lot of interesting historical work about the layers of history in what is now the Southwest US. The moral lessons people draw from the realities of history tend as a rule to be self-serving. There are those, for example, who say that we all migrated out of Africa and the indigenous Americans migrated to the Americas, and it really does not matter that they got here at least 12,000 years before the Europeans, they are really no different. I can say that it does not matter that I stole your wallet, all that matters is that I have it now, and can back up that claim by pointing out that there was a time at which you didn’t have the wallet. I personally do take moral and political positions on these issues as any human being must, but I am able as an academic to see the process by which all of us construct our justifications from our points of view from the facts of history (or our distortions of the facts of history.) The claim many Mexican American activists make is the (generally correct one) that Mexican migrants are primarily of indigenous American stock, not Spanish stock, and so should be understood as indigenous Americans moving around on “their” land, not as immigrants.
Very true. Since most of these families are of the indigenous stock they were not the Hispanics that were the conquerors they were the conquered converted Indians or Genízaros . Why many in New Mexicans kept their dominance vs California and Texas is because they were of the European Spanish stock. New Mexico had a higher number of whites Hispanics. Usually when u hear of the Hispanics that were mistreated and lynched , stolen from were of the genízaro Hispanic or mostly visually Native American stock. Also would like to mention that is why white Mexican males could vote in California but Indian or mostly Indian male Hispanics couldn’t. In New Mexico the white Hispano elite were able to secure a high number of voters by adapting to Anglo institutions. And remaining politically important. Thus even the more Indian Hispanics families were able to vote but were sometime victims of squatters. In order to understand the American and Mexican war one needs to understand the races of Mexico and Hispanics America in general the laws of both countries the conflicting ones more importantly.
The elite Hispanics were key to Anglo immigration and also aided in ceding from Mexico in Texas. So many people can’t understand the war or the story that follows when they think of Hispanic of one people when in fact are also Indian whites or blacks just with less define lines between the races. With the huge immigration after the war came huge waves of mainly Indian Hispanics stock. The Hispanics of mainly European or Spanish heritage never became victims under American rule. Only the heavily mixed Hispanics got that stick.
I loved finding this blog!
The European tyranny spread throughout all of the Americas, Africa and has returned to its unfinished business in the middle east, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and threatens Iran anew.
The treaty of Hidalgo es one of the main fragile and dubious tools of oppression and exaltation of their existence over, and at the expense of us natives and targeted peoples deemed lesser by their creeds.
Not even closely similar
Phil we never stop,if we accept territorial expansion by war as a natural human phenonemem then maybe one day will look back at the reacquiring of lost territory by the Mexicans immigrants.The fact is Americans were land hungry and even tried to take Canada at one stage. Usually more advanced or ambitious societies take over the less advanced or primitive ones,which in the main is better for humankind. Also at the time morally wrong. A good example is the British colonization of Australia ,a beautiful almost empty continent.Now a wonderful modern country. Of course territory won by war or force of arms can only succeed by settlers or immigrants populating the conquered lands. It’s like evolution of the human species.However more than a few of us wish that some Mexican “settlers”/immigrants re- acquire something of what Mexico lost to Anglo settlers and gold rushers. A little bit of tit for tat!
Australia was not “empty.” The indigenous Aboriginal Australians lived there. They also suffered death from disease when Europeans arrived and were subject to genocidal policies. It is a peculiar definition of “advanced” that links it to killing people. Aboriginal Australians do not celebrate the arrival or dominance of Europeans in their country.
Interesting article. I remember reading a lot about this in the 70s. My mom Joy Hintz edited Mexican Aerican Athology II (I think it is on line at academic libraries for free.)pp 150-199 is “Our History and Identity” talks briefly about the treaty of Guadalupe and its meaning for cultural and property rights.
Interesting article. I remember reading a lot about this in the 70s. My mom Joy Hintz edited Mexican American Anthology II (I think it is on line at academic libraries for free.)pp 150-199 is “Our History and Identity” talks briefly about the treaty of Guadalupe and its meaning for cultural and property rights.
I am not letting this comment through even though it is not racist or defamatory because it is an off-topic derailment. The fact that many Whites are/were not Anglo is irrelevant to this topic, as is the fact that many Whites were lower class. Also irrelevant is the internment of German and Italian nationals who were as individuals deemed to be national security risks during World War II. This type of derailment is called “whataboutism.” The initial topic of this post was simply what the Treaty actually says, with references to its importance and how some people cite the treaty in making claims. I’ve permitted non-racist comments that verge into the terrain of debating the significance of this history for modern immigration policy, but I’m not going to let this thread open up to random White-centric thoughts about race. –PO
Hi, excellent article. The language component especially, serendipidous information to discover. I was aware of the stipulations regarding US obligation to control raiding of hostile tribes, as Commanche, Navajo, and particularly Apache components, who continued to raid as far south as Zacatecas. What I was looking for was further stipulation as to US obligation to prevent and prosecute white filibusters, I thought I remembered, ala Mexican concern over William Walker and others over time, so we agreed to “crack heads” on those individuals with equal fervor as Indians. Thanks.
Below is factual timelines available to anyone who want to do some research. Modern Mexico lost any rights to U.S. Land do to their own greed, aka Santa Ana. Aside from that, the real people of that region were not Mexican and Spainish was not the true language. Spainish people proper to not speak spainish, they speak proper Castillian.
For three centuries Mexico was part of the Spanish Empire, whose legacy is a country with a Spanish-speaking, Catholic and largely Western culture. After a protracted struggle (1810–21) for independence, New Spain became the sovereign nation of Mexico, with the signing of the Treaty of Córdoba.
• 1519 – Hernan Cortez arrives in Tenochtitlan. Montezuma II is killed.
• 1521 – Cortez defeats the Aztecs and claims the land for Spain. Mexico City will be built on the same spot as Tenochtitlan.
• 1600s – Spain conquers the rest of Mexico and Spanish settlers arrive. Mexico is part of the colony of New Spain.
• 1810 – The Mexican War of Independence begins led by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo.
• 1811 – Miguel Hidalgo is executed by the Spanish.
• 1821 – The War of Independence ends and Mexico declares its independence on September 27th.
• 1822 – Agustin de Iturbide is declared the first Emperor of Mexico.
• 1824 – Guadalupe Victoria takes office as the first President of Mexico. Mexico becomes a republic.
• 1833 – Santa Anna becomes president for the first time.
• 1835 – The Texas Revolution begins.
• 1836 – The Mexican army led by Santa Anna is defeated by the Texans led by Sam Houston at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas declares its independence from Mexico as the Republic of Texas.
• 1846 – The Mexican-American War begins.
• 1847 – The United States Army occupies Mexico City.
• 1848 – The Mexican-American War ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The U.S. gains territory including California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.
• 1853 – Mexico sells portions of New Mexico and Arizona to the United States as part of the Gasden Purchase.
• 1857 – Santa Anna is exiled from Mexico.
• 1861 – The French invade Mexico and install Maximilian of Austria as president in 1864.
• 1867 – Benito Jaurez expels the French and becomes president.
• 1910 – The Mexican Revolution begins led by Emiliano Zapata.
• 1911 – President Porfirio Diaz, who ruled as dictator for 35 years, is overthrown and replaced with revolutionary Francisco Madero.
• 1917 – The Mexican Constitution is adopted.
• 1923 – Revolutionary hero and military leader Poncho Villa is assassinated.
• 1929 – The National Mexican Party is formed. It will later be named the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI will rule the Mexican government until the year 2000.
The following is exerpt from Nicolas del Castillo, Great Neck, NY. NAHUATL: THE INFLUENCE OF SPANISH ON THE LANGUAGE OF THE AZTECS
he Spanish Conquest of Mexico in the 16th century was responsible for a cultural diffusion in the realm of linguistics. The contact of the conquistadors from the Iberian Peninsula with the indigenous people of what is now Mexico set conditions for the exchange of customs and traditions. One area of culture that served to shape cultural contact is in the field of language. The Spanish came into contact with Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Dalby a writer of the Aztecs, gives a brief background explaining the origin of the Aztecs. He states (436) that Aztec intruders were in the Valley of Mexico in 1256. They founded Tenochtitlan in 1325, and began to expand their empire in the 15th century. Nahuatl was essential to Spanish conquerors and “Nahuatl continued to spread while some other languages died away” (Dalby, 436). Cultural exchanges between Spanish and Nahuatl speakers left neither language unaffected and speakers exchanged portions of their language with each other. An essential fact is that “[n]o distinction between the colonial language and that of today is more immediately apparent than the influence of Spanish” (Karttunen & Lockhart, xi). Groundbreaking examples of this are seen in the extensive usage of loanwords in Nahuatl, the syntactic structure of the language and other key linguistic patterns that can be traced back to the Conquest. Spanish brought by the conquistadors served as a catalyst for Nahuatl to undergo a major transformation like no other factor. Evidence of contact from other indigenous languages did not have nearly as much of influence as Spanish had on Nahuatl. Many elements of the Spanish language would radically transform Nahuatl. This is proven in the great gap between classical and modern Nahuatl early errors in recording keeping, and an inaccurate linguistic account of classical Nahuatl. The greatest factor responsible for the changes in the Nahuatl language throughout the colonial and into the modern era is the influence of Spanish.
I’m approving this due to the useful timeline. It is interpretive opinion and a matter of standpoint and identification, not fact, whether Santa Ana’s “greed” had anything to do with Mexico losing the war to the US. The historical consensus is that the US purposely went to war because it wanted the territory west of Texas; whether that was moral or immoral, justified or unjustified, is also a matter of interpretation and standpoint. I’m not quite sure what you think you are demonstrating about language. Nobody in the world who knows anything about Spanish thinks that Mexican Spanish and Castilian are the same dialect, but that is just as irrelevant as pointing out that Americans do not speak the King’s English. That there were empires and wars among indigenous Americans before the Spanish arrived and that opposition to the Aztecs by the people they had conquered contributed to the Spanish victory is also well-known among educated people and is as relevant or irrelevant to interpreting the meaning of history as pointing out that the British colonized India and Ireland and treated both countries very badly, not to mention their behavior toward indigenous Americans. The Mexican national identity is generally built on the idea of “the rape,” the merger of Spanish conquerors and indigenous people, and at least 90% of Mexicans are indigenous. It is also true that indigenous people who refused Hispanization and whose first language is not Spanish remain a significant fraction (roughly a third) of the residents/citizens of Mexico and a substantial fraction of the people who have migrated from Mexico (or Central America) into the US.
I found this very helpful since I knew the CA Constitution had both Spanish and English versions, and did not realize it had been superseded by the 1878 Convention. I am working on my doctoral studies at this point on English exclusion as it affects dual immersion in CA and found this helpful background. Thank you!
By the way, my uncle’s family (Miramontes) had a Spanish land grant that was taken away in Northern CA.
This was a poorly constructed article that would fail the muster of a rudimentary course in Mexican-American History at a community college. First—
[[PO: What follows are claims that Mexico was a European nation that was a dictatorship, that Spanish-Mexicans sided with the Anglos, that European-Spanish Mexicans were genocidal toward Native people, and that I am an idiot. The comment is blurring Texas history and the later war of 1848. I have redacted the specific language as it is arguing against claims I did not make and I don’t feel like hosting those remarks.]]
NOTE from Pamela Oliver:This comment from Julio Chavazmontes is too long for a blog comment so I have pasted the full comment into a Google doc. I neither endorse nor reject the claims made by the author, that the annexation of Northern Mexico by the US was illegal, but the claims are relevant to the topic of this blog. Click here for the link to the full comment.
Here are the first few paragraphs of the comment:
On the 4th of July, 1848, President James Polk appeared before the United States Congress to initiate the procedures necessary to elevate the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to the rank of federal law, a process that culminated in 1850 when the U.S. Senate ratified it thus elevating it to the statute of a federal law of the United States under the Supremacy Clause (Art VI, clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution) as 9 Stat. 922.
In so doing, he unknowingly and unwillingly ensured that Guadalupe Hidalgo should remain actively in force until it would be either repealed or annulled.
Neither has happened hitherto.
Throughout 170 years, the old treaty has been invoked by plaintiffs in hundreds of lawsuits before U.S. tribunals, but no one has used it to defend Mexicans’ rights of residence and the right to return against governmental migratory policies and actions, which are contrary to article XXI of Guadalupe Hidalgo as well as contrary to International Law.
Some American analysts and authors sustain that there is nothing to be done about the United States’ conquest of California, New Mexico and Texas, “because that was the way thing were done in those days”; thus, they confirm and endorse “the right of the strongest”.
Others have said that Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican-American War are “a thing of the past”.
Both claims are wrong.
The American Conquest of California, New Mexico and Texas, falls under the “Jus Cogens” overriding rule whereby actions and treaties whose terms conflict with peremptory norms and principles of general International Law, are null and void.
In our case, nearly 40 million Mexicans currently endure the result of the American aggression and the ensuing violent conquest of California, New Mexico and Texas.
American presence in California, New Mexico and Texas is the direct result of a long planned aggressive war of conquest that culminated with the imposition of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to “legitimize” the robbery.
Mexicans currently residing in California, New Mexico and Texas are not illegal aliens but a people under foreign military occupation; Mexicans who have traveled further north in pursuit of the livelihood that the American invasion took away from us, are not illegal but forced migrants according to the definitions of International Law; they are displaced persons.
This book is not merely a historic exposition of long forgotten facts, but a legal argument about Mexico’s actual sovereignty over California, New Mexico and Texas based on applicable International Law (Jus Cogens), and on Guadalupe Hidalgo as a U.S. Federal Law, sustained by irrefutable documentary evidence.
Mexicans need no foreign visas to travel across Mexican territory.
The United States only title over those Mexican territories remains “the right of the strongest” (as denounced by Senator Thomas Corwin and confessed by President Polk himself).
Click here for the link to the full comment with the rest of the argument..
. . .
We must not allow this to continue happening anywhere; we must follow President Clinton’s doctrine by confronting and as best we can, righting the terrible injustice of the past, because in fact, history has no statute of limitations. This is the only way we can truly put an end to the ongoing consequences of the American War on Mexico.
This is the only way to heal the open wound.
The Comeback River (ISBN 978-3-00-055991-4)
Great article and a lot of other interesting facts and opinions. I have read that the treaty of Hidalgo was reviewed for its legal validity and it was found to be valid. Since it was “acquired” though violence and the threat of future violence if a treaty was not signed, how is that valid under international law?
Treaties often end wars, which are forms of violence, so in that sense the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is not unusual.
History always repeats it self and Nature always finds it’s way. I really feel that in the future Maybe hundred years or less maybe fifty years, some territories stolen by force because it was a forced treaty at gun point not very different when a thieve takes something from someone by force. economical and demographic chances combines with antes eldery american society and and american births decreasing Will make this change happen es economies changes mexico Will inebitably expand and the USA Will then agree un a new treaty but this time hopefully un good terms not war. just as Rivers find it’s way to the rivera banks México Will also do eventually find it’s way back to it’s original history and eventually reshaped as it once was the great república as once was called la gran repunlica.
Mexican Americans are not indigenous to the Southwest. As a nation they colonized California and greater Southwest territories, land that belonged to the Native American nation’s North of the Rio Grande. They are only indigenous to the specific territories their indigenous ancestors occupied and most Mexican Americans at that time period were detribalised Espanoles and Mestizos that would of been highly insulted to be referred to as “Indigenous”! These are the same people that brutalized and enslaved the Kumeyaay, Mojave, Yuma, Tongva, Chumash, Eselen, Salinas, Jauneno, Ohlone, Apache, Hopi, Zuni and Navajo Indians. The California Natives were enslaved into the Mission System so that the Mexican Colonists could dispossess the Natives from their lands, and are the reason why most of the a Californian tribes along the coast cannot get federally recognized to this very day. To come and say that Mexican Americans are indigenous to the lands of California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah is to disregard the full colonization and dispossession of these lands by Mexican Colonists, that belonged to the Native Americans for thousands of years before that. It’s revisionist history. Mexican American is not a race of people, it’s a nationality made up of European, Asian, African and Native people in different percentages. They are not Native Americans in a sense like the Mayan, Yaqui, or Seri people who are native to a certain territory in Mexico. The fact of the matter is that after the Native Americans like the Chumash, Tongva, Pima, or Ohlone, the Mexicans have a better claim to the American Southwest than the latecoming European American Immigrant hordes that invaded the Southwest from the East!
That there were lots of Native peoples who occupied different spaces over time and fought against each other is true. Also true that relations among these peoples got way more complicated after Europeans arrived. Also true that within the region that is now the Southwestern US the indigenous people often intermarried with the Spanish-speaking European colonizers and became a “Mexican” people who often then fought against indigenous people who retained a separate identify. But nothing in that pre-Columbian system had anything to do with what from that perspective would be the artificial US-Mexico border. This comment seems full of erudition but sort of irrelevant to debates about US immigration policies. I don’t see how the White genocide of the California Indians somehow reduces the claims of people whose ancestors were indigenous to what is now Mexico before the Europeans arrived. The fact that different indigenous people lived in different places and were at times at war with each other does not elevate European claims, which your comment recognizes. But saying that the only people who have rights are the ones who were largely killed off by the Anglo-American invaders after 1848 seems basically to be supporting Anglo-European-Americans over Mexicans as having a right to migrate to the area, which I don’t agree with.
This is so well done! Thank you for all of the work!
History always repeats it self and Nature always finds it’s way. I really feel that in the future Maybe hundred years or less maybe fifty years, some territories stolen by force because it was a forced treaty at gun point not very different when a thieve takes something from someone by force. economical and demographic chances combines with antes eldery american society and and american births decreasing Will make this change happen es economies changes mexico Will inebitably expand and the USA Will then agree un a new treaty but this time hopefully un good terms not war. just as Rivers find it’s way to the rivera banks México Will also do eventually find it’s way back to it’s original history and eventually reshaped as it once was the great república as once was called la gran repunlica.
In fact it can be said yo be valid under certain circuntances but i’m a way is not valid it all depends tbe use you want to get from it. It is a case that can be brought to internacional court for review if México choses to but ay the time is inconvenient because México benefits greatly from the usa as things are i’m the present and usa benefits from migrants and doing something like this would create regional instability chsos and economic disgrace and other tragic events for mexicana in the nation also a possible conflicto of catastrophic consequences si i think is just not the time for that and it can be something un the future but i’m the present it’s inconvenient for both countries since things have worked out good diplomatically
If we can learn something from History is that if we as Mexican Americans don’t realize that the future belongs to us we are a lost cause. Let me explain my self just a bit more…in 30 year we are going to be the majority in the Southwest Region of this Nation, but if we don’t educate our kids not to be teachers or policemen but to teach them how to be business owners, we will be an ignorant majority. In Texas more and more Mexicans are buying rural land and slowly but surely we are going to do what we have done in the big cities come and conquer…but really we are just taking back was stolen from our ancestors. [[EDIT. I have deleted part of your comment because it is relatively inflammatory and I don’t think this is the right forum for discussions of how Mexicans should relate to White people. I left in the parts of your comment that address history, as that is what this post is about. –PO]]
Thank you for such a interesting and insightful article. My family goes back to 1691 New Mexico just outside of Hatch. They were given the land through a Spanish Grant. But after the Mexican-American war they were kicked off their land and listed under the New Mexico census in 1860 as laborers. Great Grand parents moved up to about 100 years ago. We were always told that we were native American more so than Spaniard but didn’t realize how much until after the DNA tests came back. DNA shows 53% Native American with very little Spaniard for my father. Not sure how they received a Spanish Grant. I will keep a lookout for more of your articles future. New Mexico (I’m sure the whole SW)was a crazy and violet place in 1800’s and not a lot was written about it’s history.
Thanks for writing. There is actually a lot written about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Mexican-American War. I was just trying to add an interesting footnote. But the Mexican history of what is now the Southwest US is definitely interesting and has lots of elements before the White Americans arrived. There is a whole history of the conflict between the Indigenous and the Spanish.
I think that Americans are the most ungrateful and abusive people that exist, the United States is what it is today, thanks to their arbitrary abuses in taking away the lands that were from Mexico.
Just wanted to say thank you for laying out and contextualizing the history here clearly.
I have never seen a more thoughtfully moderated post. Your protocol for furthering discussion is worth study.
Off topic, but ancillary.
Do have any research regarding the destinations and outcomes of former Africans (manumitted or free) who were moved to Mexico and/or Oklahoma? My late grandmother claimed we had generations that migrate(d) between Louisiana and Oklahoma, and most black ownership in Oklahoma fell victim to redoubled efforts of white settler expansion removing the few black homesteads even those of mixed ancestry with the displaced indigenous nations. Some treaties codified forcible removal from indigenous tribes, making them stateless.
Thanks for the comment. Sorry, I’ve heard about Black people moving to or escaping to Mexico but don’t really know a lot about it. Similarly, I know that the Indigenous groups that were relocated to what became Oklahoma all owned some Afro-descent slaves that there are ongoing issues about the descendants of these people, especially a relatively recent controversy about the Cherokee dis-enrolling descendants of the “Cherokee freedmen” but I don’t have enough knowledge to sort out the details or know the specific issues of things like you are talking about.
Thank you, Ms. Oliver, for a very thoughtful and thought-provoking read. I also appreciated the way you moderated the comments.
The issue I see your historical interpretation completely missing is that the revolt of the state of Coahuila y Tejas was part of a much wider set of revolts against the then conservative Mexican central government’s overthrow of the liberal Republican constitution of 1824, imposing a federalist constitution subservient to the desires of the ex-Spanish oligarchs of central Mexico. It was not just the Anglos who revolted in Tejas….the revolt was widely popular among everyone other than officials of Santa Anna regime and those with close blood ties to them. Until the Mexican Army invaded Tejas and laid siege to their capital at Bexar, Stephen F. Austin had been urged negotiation with the Mexican government and a return to the 1824 constitution, rather than independence or joining the United States. While slavery certainly was *an* issue, it was far from the only issue, even with the Anglo population.
I’d also observe that Mexico’s inherited claim to places ceded in 1848 outside Texas were more than somewhat dubious. They *never* effectively governed most of those regions. The portions of Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming they claimed were entirely controlled by Native Americans with essentially no settlement. Ditto for most of Arizona, outside of a few Southern armed outposts. Ditto for California outside a 100 mile wide coastal strip from just above San Francisco Bay down to Baja California. The Russians had a better claim to Northern California, and John Sutter’s New Helvitia controlled California’s Central Valley with little more than a roll of the eyes to the pronouncements of whomever was in charge in Mexico City. In fact, Mexico’s occasional appointed governors for frontier California never successfully sent back taxes, or gained any real control over the native Californios. New Mexico, while giving lip-service to Mexico City’s politics, was effectively a conservative feudal society run along racialist lines. Add to which, both California and New Mexico’s primary trading partners were not interior Mexico…..but the United States.
Approving because the comment is historical and factual. It is focused on disputing Mexico’s claim to North America because it had not successfully conquered the Native people. The post argues against some claims the original blog post never made. In particular the post did say that Tejanos allied with Anglos in the Texas independence. It is also true that Anglos violently displaced Spanish-speakers in many places and imposed Anglo dominance. It remains true that the war of 1848 set the border and it remains true that there are disputes about who rightfully can claim the land. You are advancing an alternate set of claims. If I follow the moral logic correctly, it is “The Mexican elites were bad, so it is OK that Anglos dispossessed Spanish-speakers of their lands and took over a genocidal war against the Native people.” In any event, my interest in the original post was in tracking down what the Treaty had actually said, and I did not claim to be providing the definitive history of that era, but to point to the importance of the treaty in US moral claims to the land. You are engaging that debate.
[[It always fascinates me when “they were bad too” becomes the justification for US policies. Stating the basic facts about history, like the Texas secession from Mexico was about defending slavery is ignored. The original post specifically called attention to the battles against Indigenous people on both sides of the border.]] Remember that time when Mexico gave all that territory back to the “Indians” after they kicked the Spanish out? Yeah… Me either.
[[You are entitled to your opinion that this blog is anti-White, but I don’t have to approve your comment on my blog. That your own position affects your view of history is one of the points.]]
Very interesting article and comments. While we cannot change history we can learn from it. The better we can educate our children and ourselves the better we can move forward with compassion and empathy for each other and come up with better solutions to our problems. Education is the key. Ignorance is the enemy.
Thank you for educating me.
I left Ashbourne, England, 30 years ago, moving to Phoenix Arizona. This is my country OF CHOICE. But my society is less shaped by the current US/Mexico border and more about the Mississippi. If you must build a wall, build it down the East side of the Mississippi 🙂
A country defined just by an arbitrary line on a map, is poorly defined. It is the people who define a country. People are wonderfully weird and different. I don’t tolerate diversity – I cherish diversity.
When some young adult me “Oh wow, I love your accent; where are you from ?” – I may have been in Arizona, longer than they have been alive – I tell them in a very broad English accent ‘soy de aquí’. They don’t think I’m serious. But I am.
The one thing this seems to forget is that Mexico only became a country because white Spaniards colonized it. The Spanish language and Mexican culture are little more native to the Americas than English language and Anglo culture is. Countries the world over have lost wars and been forced to assimilate into the conquering culture since the dawn of time. Does that make what happened right or fair? No. I believe Mexican heritage plays an important part in the Southwest today and should be honored and remembered. However, the Mexican nation was not a group of helpless natives that the US army rolled over; it was a nation of cultural colonizers, same as the US, that lost a war.
This is an odd argument. What do you think happened to the Indigenous inhabitants of what is now Mexico and Central America? Estimates are that 90% of the Mexican population are of at least partial Inidgenous descent and about 30% of the population are members of Indigenous cultural groups whose first language is not Spanish. Most of the migrants from Central America and Mexico are Indigenous, possibly a majority culturally and nearly all by descent. The Mexican people are not Spanish. Unlike the US, the European colonizers did not successfully kill the large majority of the local people.
Even more history that wasn’t being taught. I have to apologize for my ignorance. Being a black/African American man I was born in the USA. I didn’t know anything about slavery until the 11th grade in american history. Only now do I understand the Mexican/US war. I cried out about getting legal citizenship. Not aware that in before this war Mexican territory expanded all the way to California? Now I understand the phrase; “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us”? Native American Indians and Mexicans had these lands. This has definitely changed my perspective. It’s true that history like this isn’t taught. America is far from perfect let’s be honest. Still I believe it’s the best country for any person to live in. America has a responsibility to tell its whole history good and bad. Yes anger, grudges and animosity will be raised up. Still, the final message should be; yes American did these wrongs. Now here’s what we’re doing to atone for those wrongs.
I’m doing research on the Mexican American War and John Fremont’s role in California. That is how I came across this article from several years ago. You cover much of what I am finding regarding the Treaty; however, what I find interesting…and disturbing is the ethics, or lack thereof, of people such as Fremont. There was not a large population of Mexican nationals in either Texas, California, or the rest of northern Mexico.
Spain had succeeded in crushing the warriors of several different cultures (Myans, Aztecs, etc.) and expanded their conquest up into ‘northern Mexico’ (southwestern U.S.) but even after a century, these areas were inhabited primarily by First Nations tribes.
When Spain was defeated and withdrew from the Americas, it was not achieved by an organized Mexican army, but by the nagging insurgencies of prior defeated remnants of ancient cultures. This coupled with Spain’s problems with France at home forced them to turn the land over to a newly created Mexico that was in no position to govern all the territory they had been given, let alone fight a significant war.
Mexico did realize that it needed to occupy the areas in Tejas (Texas) and the rest of the new northern Mexico but as the new Mexicans moved into northern Mexico they created a conflict with the First Nations people that had occupied the land for many centuries.
So the First Nations people occupied northern Mexico and yet, Mexico, according to world standards of the time, had the legal right to claim the land, but the U.S. ignored both and decided to take northern Mexico by force.
John Fremont’s 3rd expedition was secretly designed to become a military operation assuming the U.S. was successful in instigating a war with Mexico. It is apparent that the multiple massacres by Fremont and his group of Native American men, women, and children who were not loyal to, nor part of Mexico’s military presence, were simply to clear the way for American settlers.
Fremont, nor the United States were not there to help U.S. citizens to gain independence as some historians propose, but rather to eliminate Mexico’s fledgling legal occupation and the First Peoples who held a better claim to the land than either the U.S. or Mexico.
Thanks for the info. I am not in a position to confirm what you say about Fremont specifically, but the arguments about First Peoples being the main in habitants of the area fit with other things I have read.
Ne Nahua Cuawhnawak!
2 Indigenous haplogroups
(Maternal A2j/Paternal Q-BZ1717)
Pre-1492 Big-Y Tested motherefers
We are still here , this will always be indigenous land. It (earth) will get the last laugh. Get ready Anglo.