Mexicans Reclaim Lands That America Once Annexed

According to this op-ed article from Mexico's La Jornada, since the 1840s, Washington has tried and failed to hinder Mexicans and Latin Americans from entering what was once Mexican territory. Today Hispanics are regaining control - through the ballot box.

Miguel León-Portilla*  
Translated By Carly Gatzert

May 2, 2006
Mexico - La Jornada - Original Article (Spanish)

Map Showing Result of the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848

[RealVideoMexican-American War]


Mexico was not very populated when it gained its independence in 1821. Only 6 million inhabitants resided within its territory of over 4 million square kilometers [1,544,408.63 square miles]. Mexico's northern neighbor, [the U.S.] then of a similar size, had a population twice that of Mexico. Thanks to the reports provided to President Thomas Jefferson by Baron Alexander Von Humboldt during his stay in Washington, the Americans were well informed of the situation in the northern regions of New Spain. Despite their great natural resources, these immense territories, encompassing Texas, New Mexico and California, and lands as far north as the 42nd parallel, were nearly unpopulated. Only indigenous groups and close to 40,000 mestizos and descendants of the Spaniards lived there.

[Editor's Notes: Mestizos are people of mixed European and indigenous - Indian - ancestry. Baron Alexander Von Humboldt RealVideo was a German scientist who was stranded in Mexico when his ship ran aground].

Joel R. Poinsett, the first American ambassador to newly independent Mexico, made an offer to purchase these northern regions. The response of the Minister of Foreign Relations, Lucas Alaman, was that Mexico was not for sale. Alaman also succeeded in getting the United States to ratify the Treaty of Limits that Mexico had signed with Spain in 1819. This was achieved in 1833. However, this didn't end the ambition of the Americans. Anglo-Saxon colonists, many of whom had settled in Texas, sought to separate themselves from Mexico until they achieved their real goal: the annexation [of this territory] to the United States in 1845.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, First
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

[RealVideoJoel Roberts Poinsett]

Two years later, this country began a war of conquest against Mexico. A new Treaty of Limits followed that war. Mexico lost half of its territory, one of the largest takeovers in world history.

[Editor's Note: The most important consequence of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) was the resulting "sale" of the Mexican territories of California and New Mexico to the U.S. and recognition of the annexation of Republic of Texas. RealVideo].

Certainly it is true that Mexico had not been able to populate this enormous territory. But history often surprises us. What didn't happen then, in fact, happened much later. Just as in other countries, Mexico experienced a baby boom after the 1940's. Before that, the United States, thanks to the immigration of millions of Europeans and, on a smaller scale, Asians, had managed to populate its enormous territory. Soon, thousands of Mexicans were also attracted, hoping to take a stab at the American Dream. As time went on, this attraction grew to an extent that could no longer be contained.

To the millions of Mexicans that were entering, most of them undocumented, were joined many immigrants from other Latin American countries. Currently, they [the Americans] claim that the Hispanic population of the United States exceeds 40 million. Of these 40 million, 30 million are of Mexican origin. And these numbers probably fall a bit short.

Some Anglos, like Mr. Samuel Huntington RealVideo, have made their complaints loud and clear. The Mexicans don't assimilate: they speak Spanish, they are mostly Catholic, and, for the most part, they resemble the indigenous India population more than Europeans. For quite some time now, the U.S. has tried to impede this immigration. But despite every obstacle - the construction of border walls, the use of helicopters and the increase in border patrols - the influx does not just continue, but it increases in a torrent.

Mexicans, much like other Hispanics, have become aware of the strength that their numbers grant, not to mention the service they render the country in which they have established themselves. Monday [May 1], millions of people marched and celebrated, in dozens of major U.S. cities, to make their voices heard. Hispanics make up the largest minority in this country.

Protest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 1,
Against What Latinos Percieve to Be
Harsh Immigration Reform Plans.


Mexicans have melded with the Anglo-American citizens, and today constitute 35% of the population in California and Texas. They also make up nearly half of New Mexico's population and 30% of Arizona's, that is, in the border states. Their presence, and that of Hispanics in general, is also quite large in Nevada, Colorado, and Florida, (appropriately, all Spanish names,) and also in Chicago in various parts of the Northeast, such as New York and New Jersey.

Will the demands of these millions be heard? Will they be granted U.S. citizenship? Will their considerable contributions to the U.S. economy, as well as to the defense of this country, since thousands of Hispanics have participated in various wars, be recognized?

What is the destiny of these millions that live and work in the U.S.? It is fitting to mention that for Mexicans, it is natural for them to be there. In America's "southwest" which was once part of Mexico, there are many names that remind us of this history: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Fresno, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio. Furthermore, Mexicans have many relatives living there and their language, Spanish, is spoken from "coast to coast," from Florida to California.

What is the Hispanics' destiny and what will be the destiny of this all-powerful country, which has embarked upon so many immoral wars of conquest? Even if answering this question is difficult, it is clear that the U.S. will soon have the largest number of Spanish speakers of any country, after Mexico. These speakers are already raising their voices. And what is also extremely significant is the fact that with their votes, Hispanics will increasingly influence the electoral process. Today, the mayor of Los Angeles is of Mexican origin, as is the governor of New Mexico on his mother's side.

*Miguel León-Portilla is an anthropologist and historian. RealVideo]