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Struggles Through Time In New Mexico
Arranged By C. W. Barnum
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Struggles through Time In New Mexico

U.S. ~ Mexico border region is inhabited by many Native American groups who have lived in the area for centuries. The U.S.~ Mexico border covers 2,000 miles, encompassing four U.S. and six Mexican states. But the area has changed quite a bit over the years. In the pre-Columbian era, the land was inhabited by Native Americans who did not draw border lines.

Hernan Cortes Arrives in Mexico

It is spring, 1519. A Spanish expedition consisting of 11 ships is setting sail westward in hopes of expanding the Empire. News had reached Velasquez, the governor of Cuba, that some of his men had found land past the oceanic horizon where the sun sets. Velasquez appointed Hernan Cortes as Captain-General of the Armada and sent him off to follow the rumor.

Cortes may not have been the most qualified to lead the expedition. Though he was experienced and renowned for his courage, another reason for his appointment was his promise to help finance the expedition. Cortes emptied his personal wealth and poured it into the trip. He mortgaged his lands. He called on friends to both help prepare for the trip and to join his small army.

508 soldiers sailed from Cuba with Cortes in search of new wealth. What had motivated these men to leave Spain in search of rumors? Many of them were Spaniards who had arrived at the end of the Cuban "land grab". The first Spaniards to arrive in Cuba were given land and Taino Indians to use as slave labor. Latecomers, however, found little bounty left for them. Some of them lived in poor and overpopulated regions of Spain, and wished to find breathing room. They had learned their lesson: they now set sail with Cortes to be the first Spaniards to reap the wealth that new lands brought.

The first land Cortes and his crew spotted was the coast of Yucatan, at one time the central nervous system of the Mayan empire. Although never a fully unified empire, distinct groups of Mayans occupied these areas, all sharing cultural characteristics such as a highly developed calendar, a complex writing system, and sophisticated mathematics. Even today, the Maya occupy some of these same lands and heartily preserve their significant cultures and languages.

Meanwhile, General Alvarado, one of Cortes' men who had traveled ahead, attacked a Maya temple. Cortes reprimanded the general: it was impetuous aggression like this that could bring their expedition to a disastrous and quick end. At Punta Catoche, Cortes came across Aguilar, a man who had survived a shipwreck and spent nine years as a slave to a warlord. Cortes enlisted the man; his knowledge of Maya would be invaluable to the explorer.

At Champoton, the first shots were fired against the Tabasco natives. The natives quickly surrendered to Cortes' superior military power and supplied the Spaniards with goods and, more importantly, an interpreter named Doña Malintzin. They then settled the city of Santa Maria de la Victoria and departed Yucatan towards San Juan de Ulúa.

Cortes was unaware of the spiritual implications that surrounded his expedition. His arrival in the Americas coincided perfectly with the predicted return of the Plumed Serpent named Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs main god, credited with creating Man and teaching the use of metals and the cultivation of the land.

The expectation among the Aztecs about the return of Quetzalcoatl was considerable. Cortes’ armada arrived at Veracruz on Holy Thursday of 1519. Moctezuma Xocoyotzin II contemplated how to approach the strangers, one of whom could be Quetzalcoatl. Ruling Tenochtitlan from 1502 to 1520, Moctezuma was devoutly religious and well-read in the ancient doctrines.

Moctezuma sent envoys to greet the newcomers, and the Spaniard fired shots to intimidate the greeting party. Reports went back to Moctezuma, saying: "The noise weakened one, dizzied one. Something like a stone came out of their weapons in a shower of fire and sparks. The smoke was foul; it had a sickening, fetid smell." Another message characterized the visitors as people with "very light skin, much lighter than ours. They all have long beards, and their hair comes only to their ears"

The envoys also described the visitors, who traveled on horseback, as beasts with "two heads and six legs". Montezuma decided to meet Cortés, who ultimately, aware of his superiority, conquered Tenochtitlán. In comparison to the British colonization that occurred later in the north, the Spaniards wanted to colonize the entire continent. The British inhabited the continent more slowly and less ambitiously. Cortes viewed the death of Indians as a tragedy, considering they could help the Spanish crown tap the resources of the land. The British, on the other hand, interpreted the death of Indians as divine help to further the English cause.

The Spanish regarded Indians as subjects of the Crown. When possible, they were converted to Christianity and taught useful crafts in order to ensure their contribution to the Spanish colonization efforts. The British viewed the Indians as aliens and made no attempt to accept them into their colonization plans, with the notable exception of colonists William Penn and Roger Williams, two populists who championed religious tolerance, a liberal government and the fair treatment of Indians.

Spain exerted strict control of immigration into their new land. They excluded heretics, attempted to uphold the purity of the Spanish ruling stock and fervently guarded the resources of the newly conquered lands. As a result, the Spanish colonization of North America promoted a mainly Spanish and Indian culture in the southern portion.

The British, on the other hand, were more liberal in regards to who entered the New World. "Come one, come all" described their philosophy. They had come to create a New World and populate it with whomever was willing to contribute. Since the Indians in Mexico had been forced to submit to their conquerors, the British accepted the Spanish as simply another ruler. The Indians to the north never accepted the new government of the British.

The Adams-Onis Treaty
Also called the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty was one of the critical events that defined the U.S.-Mexico border. The border between the then-Spanish lands and American territory was a source of heated international debate. In Europe, Spain was in the midst of serious internal problems and its colonies out west were on the brink of revolution.

Facing the grim fact that he must negotiate with the United States or possibly lose Florida without any compensation, Spanish foreign minister Onis signed a treaty with Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Similar to the Louisiana Purchase statutes, the United States agreed to pay its citizens’ claims against Spain up to $5 Million. The treaty drew a definite border between Spanish land and the Louisiana Territory.

In the provisions, the United States ceded to Spain its claims to Texas west of the Sabine River. Spain retained possession not only of Texas, but also California and the vast region of New Mexico. At the time, these two territories included all of present-day California and New Mexico along with modern Nevada, Utah, Arizona and sections of Wyoming and Colorado.

The treaty -- which was not ratified by the United States and the new republic of Mexico until 1831 -- also mandated that Spain relinquish its claims to the country of Oregon north of the 42 degrees parallel (the northern border of California). Later, in 1824, Russia would also abandon its claim to Oregon south of 54’40,’ (the southern border of Alaska.) 1819
The Adams-Onis Treaty

Also called the Transcontinental Treaty of 1819, the Adams-Onis Treaty was one of the critical events that defined the U.S.-Mexico border. The border between the then-Spanish lands and American territory was a source of heated international debate. In Europe, Spain was in the midst of serious internal problems and its colonies out west were on the brink of revolution.

Facing the grim fact that he must negotiate with the United States or possibly lose Florida without any compensation, Spanish foreign minister Onis signed a treaty with Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Similar to the Louisiana Purchase statutes, the United States agreed to pay its citizens’ claims against Spain up to $5 Million. The treaty drew a definite border between Spanish land and the Louisiana Territory.

In the provisions, the United States ceded to Spain its claims to Texas west of the Sabine River. Spain retained possession not only of Texas, but also California and the vast region of New Mexico. At the time, these two territories included all of present-day California and New Mexico along with modern Nevada, Utah, Arizona and sections of Wyoming and Colorado.

The treaty -- which was not ratified by the United States and the new republic of Mexico until 1831 -- also mandated that Spain relinquish its claims to the country of Oregon north of the 42 degrees parallel (the northern border of California). Later, in 1824, Russia would also abandon its claim to Oregon south of 54’40,’ (the southern border of Alaska.)

Mexican Independence from Spain
Near the close of the 18th century, the people of New Spain began to rebel against their government. The Creoles (Spaniards born in the new world) resented the Spanish control of high offices and monopolies. They also disliked the political and economic reforms initiated by Spain to modernize the colony. Moreover, the Creoles wanted to be the custodians of the Spanish monarchy during the French takeover of Spain and were against the oppression of the Indian population. They were also alarmed by the liberal ideas coming from the United States and France.

In 1810, the Creoles, supported by the Indians and mestizos (people of Indian and Spanish blood), started a revolution for independence similar to America’s a few decades earlier. It would be fought until its successful conclusion in 1821.

A few hours before sunrise on September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Creole who was a Catholic priest in the village of Dolores, Guanajuato, ordered the arrest of the Spaniards who lived in Dolores. He then rang the church bell, which customarily called the townspeople to mass. With the townspeople present, Hidalgo shouted his call to arms against Spain. That famous cry, known as "El Grito," is re-enacted all over present-day Mexico on the night of September 15th. Mexicans celebrate their independence on two consecutive days, the 15th and 16th of September.

The independence movement started in earnest the moment Napoleon III, through political sleight-of-hand, proclaimed his brother Joseph Bonapart King of Spain. Guided by a group of intellectuals opposed to King Joseph’s rule, the Creoles urged their counterparts in the army to renounce their allegiance to the Spaniards. They were warned about the plot by army Creoles who refused to join the insurgents -- Hidalgo among them -- and were on their way to arrest them when Hidalgo called the people to arms, an act which is the subject of some debate among historians.

No one really knows what Hidalgo actually told the people. Many respected historians believe he said, "¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!" "Death to bad government.!" "Death to the gachupines!" (Gachupines is a derisive term for Spaniards.) Because the term "Mexico" at the time meant Mexico City, Hidalgo probably did not say "¡Viva Mexico!"

The involvement of the Indians and the mestizos in the war of independence turned what had been a political maneuver into a class struggle. Hidalgo was captured and executed by the Spaniards before Mexico gained its independence.

The U.S. Mexican War
The status of Texas was in limbo—the United States government was undecided whether or not to grant the Republic statehood. To complicate matters, Mexico never formally recognized Texas’ independence. The Mexican government simply viewed Texas as a rebellious territory that they would eventually reconquer.

Meanwhile, President James Polk looked farther west for areas to expand the young nation. In 1845, Polk sent a diplomat to Mexico with an offer to purchase New Mexico and California from the Mexican government. He also wanted Mexico to agree to establish the Rio Grande river as the border between the two countries, which would make Texas part of the United States. As payment, the United States would relinquish legal claims against Mexico, an amount totaling more than $3 million.

The people of Mexico were still angered by the issue of Texas’ independence, however, and public sentiment forced the Mexican government to refuse any deal with the United States. The Mexican government still considered Texas part of their republic. Polk was outraged, and sent military forces, under the direction of Zachary Taylor, to the Rio Grande river. Skirmishes immediately broke out. One of these battles took place just north of the Rio Grande, in disputed territory. Polk interpreted this as an act of aggression against the United States and asked Congress to declare war on Mexico, which it did.

During this time, Taylor’s army was winning battles with regularity in the Rio Grande area. Taylor pushed into Northern Mexico while to the west Americans were infiltrating northern California. Soon, a rebellion against Mexican rule in California was underway. By mid-1846, California was known as the Bear-Flag Republic, which had a brief life span of 19 days. The U.S. military occupied the Los Angeles area and declared authority over the whole republic. Control of California was the heart of Polk’s Manifest Destiny doctrine, the belief that providence had willed the Americans a moral mission to conquer adjacent lands.

Although victory in California and New Mexico had been gained with relative ease, there were a few battles of note, including the Battle of San Pasqual, the only one in which the Americans were defeated by the Californios, people of Spanish, Indian and Mexican blood who ruled California before the American takeover.

On Dec. 6, 1846, Mexican troops under the command of Major Andrés Pico encountered U.S. forces -- led by Brigadier General Stephen W. Kearny -- at San Pasqual, in the northeastern area of what is now the County of San Diego in Southern California. The Californios inflicted heavy casualties on the Americans, who, having lost the battle, retreated to San Diego. The Americans would later defeat Pico’s forces in several battles throughout the state and Pico eventually surrendered in January, 1847, signing the Cahuenga Capitulaton that ended hostilities in California.

In New Mexico, Gov. Bent and others sympathetic to the American takeover were killed on Jan. 19, 1847 by a group of Spanish descendants, Indians and Mexicans. It was the start of what became known as the Taos Revolt. The New Mexicans were opposed to the occupation of their territory by U.S. forces. Col. Sterling Price and his troops retaliated, defeating the rebels at Santa Cruz, and later at Taos, where Price’s forces decisively beat the insurgents in a final battle that took place at the Taos Pueblo Church.

Feeling secure with California and New Mexico under U.S. control, Polk sent peace offerings to Mexico, which continually failed. Polk continued his effort at peace, however, and asked Congress for $2 million to buy the cherished western lands of New Mexico and California and end the war. The Senate agreed, but the House denied the motion. Their denial was largely due to the Wilmot Proviso that was added to the motion. In the Wilmot Proviso, Polk attempted to have Congress mandate that no slavery would be allowed in any territory acquired as a product of the Mexican War.

Discouraged, Polk started on another strategy to end the war. No significant progress was made in peace accords, however, until the Army seized Mexico City. Shortly after the New Year of 1848, the peace Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was completed and the war ended.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo  
In 1848, at the conclusion of the U.S.- Mexican War, the two countries signed the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The treaty called for Mexico to give up almost half of its territory, which included modern-day California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and parts of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. In return, the U.S. paid $15 million in compensation for war-related damage to Mexican land.

Among the notable aspects of the treaty, it set the Texas border at the Rio Grande; it provided for the protection of the property and civil rights of Mexican nationals who would now be living on U.S. soil; the United States agreed to police its side of the border; and both countries agreed to compulsory arbitration of future disputes. However, when the United States Senate ratified the treaty, it erased Article 10, which guaranteed the protection of Mexican land grants; Article 9, which deals with citizenship rights, was also weakened. This in turn created an anti-Mexican atmosphere that spurred the violation of their civil rights. In Texas, Mexicans were restricted from voting. In New Mexico, Mexicans were the victims of violence, while in California, laws against them were passed.

At the time of the treaty, approximately 80,000 Mexicans lived in the ceded territory, which comprised only about 4 percent of Mexico’s population. Only a few people chose to remain Mexican citizens compared to the many that became United States citizens. Most of the 80,000 residents continued to live in the Southwest, believing in the guarantee that their property and civil rights would be protected. Sadly, this would not always be the case. By the end of the 19th century, most Mexicans had lost their land, either through force or fraud.

In the Chicano movement in the late 1960s, New Mexico land rights leader Reies Lopez Tijerina and his Alianza movement cited the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in their fight to regain American-seized Mexican land. In 1972, the Brown Berets youth organization also cited the treaty in their takeover of Catalina Island.

In terms of property ownership, many property rights existing under Spanish and Mexican land grants were not recognized by the United States. In California, approximately 27 percent of land grant claims were rejected; in the territory of New Mexico, some 76 percent of such claims were rejected.

California Land Claims Act
After the Mexican American War, Mexican American land owners in United States territory began to lose their land at a disheartening pace. Either through fraud or force, Mexicans living in United States regions were often stripped of their rights to their land.

Looking for a hero, Mexicans Americans believed they found one in William McKendree Gwin, who sympathized with their land claims. In 1851, the United States Senate passed Gwin’s Act to Ascertain the Land Claims in California. The Act mandated that three members appointed by the President rule on land claims. The proceedings were formal, and either side could appeal to the U.S. District Court and to the U.S. Supreme Court.

While intended to secure fair treatment of Mexicans’ land claims, the bill actually worked in the reverse. Since either side could appeal a court decision, the process of protecting one’s land became very expensive. In essence, only the wealthy ranchers could afford the lengthy legal process. Many of the people with legitimate claims to land went bankrupt under the tremendous legal costs. Often, the land fell into the hands of the claimants’ lawyers who acquired the land as payment for their fees. Mexicans’ hopes of equality under the California Land Claims Act were squashed. Moreover, landowners became the victims of American squatters who would take their lands piece by piece through violent means.

Famous "Bandits" or Freedom Fighters
The California Land Claims Act of 1851 was one of the major events that forced many Mexican Americans from their land. As a result, many Mexicans who fought against this forced expulsion were alternately called "bandits" by some and "freedom fighters" by others.

Joaquin Murrieta
It is a mystery as to whether or not Joaquin Murrieta truly existed. It was the name describing an infamous bandit during the California gold rush around 1850. To Spanish-speaking people he became a hero who stood in the face of the Foreign Miners Act.

In July of 1853, California rangers killed two Mexicans, one of whom was sketchily identified as Joaquin Murrieta. The legend of Murrieta achieved grand status after John Rollin Ridge published the book Joaquin Murrieta, The Celebrated California Bandit in 1854. In the book, Ridge describes Murrieta as a peaceful miner who turned into an outlaw after white Americans stole his claim and attacked his family. Chilean poet Pablo Neruda would later write a poem about Murrieta.

Tiburcio Vasquez
Tiburcio Vasquez was another Mexican American who took the law into his own hands when the U.S. government failed to protect his people from aggression.

Kingston, Arizona in 1873 was the equivalent of a modern truck stop. It had the only store for hundreds of miles and was a destination on the stage line that ran from San Francisco to Memphis, Tennessee. Vasquez had a plan to raid and sack Kingston which was known to be prosperous. On Christmas Eve, 1873, Vasquez and his supporters appeared in this sleepy little town.

According to records, he and his group of 15 men rode into town and robbed the first two men they encountered in a hotel, tied them up, eventually skipped town. While they were robbing the men, however, the hotel cook fled out the back door and quickly spread the word of the crime occurring. The townspeople armed themselves with rifles and quickly attacked Vasquez. Vasquez and his men were chased out of town.

As a result of this and Vasquez’s other alleged crimes, California organized a posse that eventually captured Vasquez in Southern California. In March of 1874, Vasquez was hanged for his crimes.

The Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo

In 1862, the United States was in the middle of a civil war. All the South needed was a strong exterior ally and its strengthened cause might have permanently split the United States. A possible exterior ally was closer than Abraham Lincoln liked, as the French Army under Gen. Laurencez was making its way through Mexico.

The French Army was considered the greatest military force on the globe. For nearly 50 years—since the defeat of Napoleon I’s army at the hands of allied forces at Waterloo, Belgium in 1815—it had not known defeat and had recently won victories in Europe and Asia. In 1862, the French landed in Veracruz along with forces from Queen Isabella II of Spain and Queen Victoria of Great Britain. They had come to collect the debt owed to them by Mexico—debts that Mexican President Benito Juarez had officially suspended because the country was essentially bankrupt.

Refusing Juarez’ proposed compromise to repay the debts two years later, the collaboration of the three countries’ militaries seized the custom house at Veracruz. They intended to intercept the customs payments in exchange for their debt. After some time, the diplomats for Spain and Great Britain reached an agreement with Juarez and the armies from those two countries departed from Mexico. The French, on the other hand, stayed and headed for Mexico City.

France had significant interest in halting the growth of the United States. The North American country’s rate of expansion and power was threatening to the other world powers. If Napoleon was successful in conquering Mexico, the possibility of marching north to aid the Confederates in dividing the United States into two less powerful and less threatening countries was real.

The United States was a major cause of France’s attack on Mexico. The war America recently won over Mexico leveled the Mexican treasury and led to financial disaster. Thus, Juarez suspended payment to France and incited Napoleon III, ruler of France, to act. Lincoln and the United States were dependent on Mexico staving off the French troops until the Confederacy could be defeated and Lincoln could deploy troops south to aid Juarez.

Early on May 5, 1862, General Laurencez led 6,000 French troops toward Puebla, Mexico, just 100 miles from Mexico City. Expecting the attack was General Ignacio Zaragoza, a Texas-born Mexican who was ordered to defend Juarez with a force of 4,000 troops, many of them agricultural workers armed with antiquated rifles and machetes. The battle would take place in a muddy, uneven field.

To show his contempt for the Mexicans, Gen. Laurencez ordered his troops to attack through the middle of the foes’ defenses, their strongest position. The French cavalry went through ditches, over adobe ruins and toward the slope of Guadalupe Hill. By then, the cavalry, exhausted and nearly disbanded, failed to achieve its goal. The Mexican army stood its ground. Gen. Zaragoza, who had no experience in military tactics but was a veteran in guerrilla warfare, ordered his troops to go after the French, who fled to Orizaba, where Zaragoza attacked the French again, forcing them to flee to the coast. 

Mexicans Laboring on the Railroad
El Paso became the hub of massive recruitment efforts of Mexican workers as American railway companies found themselves short on labor. Asian immigrants had done most of the work on the first transcontinental railroad, but the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped immigration from China.

U.S. railroad companies, which had previously conducted much work in Mexico, supported the immigration. Southern Pacific, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads hired the bulk of Mexicans, offering them six-month contracts to lay track in California. One estimate shows 16,000 Mexicans were working on the railroad in the West by 1908; the mass of Mexicans hired for railroad work hit its zenith between 1910 and 1912.

Corridos are essentially ballads, a centuries-old form of narrative song that flourished along the border. The roots of the art form are buried under the memory lapse of time. It is known, however, that minstrels composed ballads for the feudal higher-ups and troubadours sang them for the commoners.

The songs mainly memorialize actual events with embellishments for dramatic effect. Because of their artistic take on real-life events, corridos serve a special duality of function, somewhere between oral history and societal myth.

The corrido traces back to a similar form of music—the Spanish romance. Corridos were musical stories of ordinary people who chose their own path, either through heroic acts of courage or by giving in to unchecked emotion and passion.

The lyrics of corridos are characteristically brief and straight-forward. During the Mexican Revolution, corridos were composed to honor such famed rebels as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa. North of the border, corridos were adopted to hail Cesar Chavez for his ordeals in establishing a farm workers’ union.

Mexican Revolution and Immigration 
In 1910, the Mexican Revolution began. It was the 20th Century’s first modern social revolution, destined to change Mexico’s society and economy. It would result in a flood of Mexican immigrants into the United States. The choices were simple for Mexicans who opposed the fighting: hide away or leave the country. Many of the Mexican citizens chose to head north, immigrating to the United States. The turmoil of the war, the danger, the economic catastrophe and social chaos surrounding the revolution pushed Mexican natives north. Some revolutionaries and federals fled to the United States in order to plot further incursions into Mexico.

More than 890,000 legal Mexican immigrants came to the United States for refuge between 1910 and 1920. The Revolution had created a state of turmoil to the south, and Mexicans sought the peace of the north. The railroads hired a bulk of the Mexicans for construction and maintenance.

U.S. immigration officials noted that the poor and the sick constituted most of the Mexicans fleeing north. In 1914, during the strongest flurry of fighting in the revolution, the upper class of Mexico began to immigrate in big numbers as well.

The Tampico Affair and the Speech from Woodrow Wilson to the American People 
Trying to protect Mexican landowners known as hacendados and old army officers from Mexican President Francisco I. Madero’s reforms, and fearing that Madero would seize all land held by foreign business, General Victoriano Huerta led a coup that seized power and murdered Madero. The American capitalists supported Huerta, but President Woodrow Wilson did not. In April 1914, nine American soldiers were arrested for allegedly entering a prohibited zone in Tampico. With this action, Wilson had an excuse to invade Mexico.

Wilson sent marines to Veracruz, a Mexican port, and the force overthrew Huerta. Mexicans responded with anti-American riots, and the European press denounced the American intervention.

But before sending his troops to Mexico, Wilson gave a speech to his countrymen to justify his actions. He explained that sailors from the crew of the U.S.S. Dolphin had been detained without reason by the members of the Mexican army under Huerta. He said the sailors had been set free a while later and that Huerta’s government had issued an apology.

However, Wilson said, "The incident cannot be regarded as a trivial one, especially as two of the men arrested were taken from the boat itself -- that is to say, from the territory of the United States...."

This, he continued, "might have been attributed to the ignorance or arrogance of a single officer (the one who ordered the sailors detained). Unfortunately, it was not an isolated case." Wilson then talked about a similar incident that took place just a few days before the Tampico incident, adding: "The manifest danger of such a situation (is) that such offenses might grow from bad to worse until something happened of so gross and intolerable a sort as to lead directly and inevitably to armed conflict."

Wilson insisted that his anger was not directed at the Mexican people, for whom, he said, the Americans felt "...deep and genuine friendship," but at Huerta "and those who adhere to him." Huerta, he said, refuses to conduct a ceremony to salute the American flag, as an official apology, refusal which could be attributed to the fact his administration did not have the support of the U.S. government.

Finally, Wilson said, " I, therefore, come to ask your approval that I should use the armed forces of the United States... to obtain from General Huerta and his adherents the fullest recognition of the rights and dignity of the United States..." Soon thereafter, Huerta fled from the Mexican capital, but the scandal brought about by the presence of American troops in Veracruz hurt the relations between the two countries.

General John J. Pershing leads 10,000 American soldiers into Mexican territory in retaliation for a raid on Columbus, New Mexico by General Francisco "Pancho" Villa. After 11 months, Pershing is forced to return to the U.S. without ever catching sight of Villa. U.S.-Mexican relations suffer because of the action.

In spite of President Wilson’s veto, an Immigration Act that mandates a literacy test for immigrants is passed.

Immigration Act of 1924 halts the flow of other immigrant groups, border stations are established to formally admit Mexican workers, and a tax is collected on each person entering.

Mexican American parents successfully sue the school board in Lemon Grove, California to prevent the segregation of their children from Anglo children.

President Roosevelt’s "Good Neighbor Policy" starts, which opposes armed intervention by any foreign power in the Western Hemisphere.

Eleuterio Escobar 
Born in Laredo, Texas in 1894, Eleuterio Escobar’s educational experience was common among Mexican American children at the time. In his autobiography, he relays how inferior educational facilities, and the social expectation to become a manual laborer, caused most Mexican Americans to leave the educational arena at an early age.

Escobar’s own formal education stopped at the third grade and, upon the death of his father when Escobar was 13, he became the head of his household. He later worked as a traveling salesman, a profession that allowed him to witness the omnipresent poverty among Mexican Americans. He believed that the inadequate education of Mexican Americans was a systematic method of maintaining the status quo. He fought a lifelong battle against educational inequality.

His organization, La Liga Pro-Defensa Escolar (The School Improvement League) became one of the top advocates for Mexican American children. La Liga searched for ways to increase their effectiveness at a time when politicians were becoming sensitive to Mexican Americans as a political group. La Liga initiated a bill to reduce the term of a school board member from six years to two years in an attempt to make school board members more sensitive to Mexican Americans’ demands. The Senate called for hearings on the bill, and during the hearings the president of the San Antonio School Board ceded the case of La Liga. The president agreed to construct 2 new schools, to add 50 classrooms, to purchase additional playground area, and to hire the additional teachers for the west-side.

In 1958, a junior high school was named after Escobar in appreciation of his contribution to the welfare of Mexican American children. Always a champion of youth, Escobar donated both property and sporting goods in order to improve athletics for Mexican American boys.

Novelist John Steinbeck publishes Tortilla Flat, a novel about Mexican American life in the United States.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) protests discrimination by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which refuses to provide skilled apprenticeships to Mexican Americans.

Josefina Niggli
Born on July 13, 1910 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Josefina Niggli would become a literary voice from the middle ground between Mexican and Anglo heritage. Her father was an Anglo manager of a cement plant that employed most of the people in her village. Sent to school in San Antonio at age 15, she felt isolated and longed for the people of her Mexican homeland. Her first book of poetry, Mexican Silhouettes, drew vignettes of her cherished Mexican village.

At the college of the Incarnate Word, she became a writer, receiving her degree in philosophy and history. She later worked in theatre and became a "stable writer" for Twentieth Century Fox and Metro-Golden-Mayer. Being a stable writer was an unglamorous life, one in which writers received money instead of fame for their anonymous work. She worked on such movies as The Mark of Zorro and Sombrero (a movie based on her book Mexican Village). Mexican Village was a series of short stories that described her experience of being part of both Anglo and Mexican culture.

Following a dream to teach, she quit her job in Hollywood and moved to Chapel Hill where she joined the faculty of Western Carolina University. She wrote for radio and television in Carolina, including such shows as Twilight Zone and Have Gun Will Travel.

Her oscillating identity between Anglo and Mexican heritage is evident in the evolution of her own name. Her birth certificate spells her name "Josephine," but she published her early books under the more Latina tag of "Josephina Niggli." In her later works, she had successfully switched the spelling to "Josefina."

Josephina Niggli publishes Mexican Village, consisting of ten stories exploring her identity as part Mexican, part Anglo.

Backed by LULAC, a suit by Gonzalo Mendez against many California school districts causes the Federal District Court to rule that segregation in schools is unconstitutional. This sets the judicial precedent for the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which repeals the "separate but equal" concept. 

Harry S. Truman becomes the first president to visit Mexico City, laying a wreath at the foot of the U.S.-Mexican war monument to the Niños Heroes.

American G.I. Forum 
In 1948, Dr. Hector P. Garcia was quarreling with the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas which refused to accept sick World War II veterans who were Latino. After this effort, Garcia founded the American G.I. Forum. While many veterans advocacy groups were already in operation, very few allowed Latinos membership, and none actively fought for Latino veterans’ rights. The 500,000 Latinos who honorably served in World War II now had a leader in Garcia, and within months of inception, the American G.I. Forum was opening branches across the nation.

Garcia today remains a central figure of the Latino civil rights movement, due to his refusal to stand idle while Mexican Americans were being dehumanized in the post-World War II society.

Garcia returned a young veteran from the fighting arena of Europe in 1946, and established a small medical practice in Corpus Christi. With Garcia at the helm, the American G.I. Forum called for the removal of poll taxes while simultaneously holding fund-raisers to help pay poll taxes to register more Mexican Americans to vote.

García organized back-to-school drives for Mexican American children. He launched case after case against Texas school systems for being illegal, and won many of his efforts. He and others instigated court cases to sue for the right of Mexican Americans to serve on juries (winning one such case in the Supreme Court). He established schools to teach veterans how to access the benefits under the new G.I. Bill, and advocated for the welfare of Mexican Americans everywhere, especially in areas of health care. While making him heroically revered among the Latino culture, these actions also made him the most hated man in Texas by discriminating parts of society.

In 1948, an incident known as "The Felix Longoria Affair" boosted the American G.I. Forum into the national spotlight. Three years after the conclusion of the war, the remains of Private Longoria, a native of Three Rivers, Texas, killed in duty during a volunteer mission in the Pacific, were being returned home for final burial. The owner of the town's sole funeral parlor would not allow a Mexican American to have chapel services there because "the Anglo people would not stand for it." Longoria's widow approached García for assistance.

The deceased Private Longoria quickly became a symbol of racism in Texas. Latinos were outraged that an American soldier, after giving the supreme sacrifice of his life to his country, was not even allowed to be buried in his hometown. The national media huddled around the story. Walter Winchell, a journalist, said on the air, "The great state of Texas, which looms so large on the map, looks mighty small tonight."

Soon after, the citizens of Three Rivers, in an attempt to defend their good name and dispel protests that racism was rampant in the town, gave a hero’s welcome to Longoria’s remains. Most of America viewed this action as too little, too late. As if this act of racism wasn’t enough, during the ordeal García's wife and daughters were denied service at a local restaurant because they were Mexicans.

Ultimately, Longoria was interred at Arlington National Cemetery with the sponsorship of U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson. The story of Longoria made him a martyr for the dignity of Mexican Americans everywhere. The story also gave the fledgling American G.I. Forum respect and national media focus. Lastly, it was the beginning of a long, powerful association between García and Johnson.

In the 1960s, García negotiated a resolution to the Chamizal dispute between the United States and Mexico. In 1968, García was ambassador to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations under President Johnson.

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan presented García with the Presidential Medal of Freedom—America’s highest civilian honor. The American G.I. Forum, now centered in Austin, Texas, remains an active veteran's organization and continues its advocacy in a medley of fields.

Salt of the Earth 
In 1956, during the hysteria and "Americanism" of the Cold War and McCarthyism, blacklisted filmmakers united to create the impressively controversial labor film Salt of the Earth, despite severe pressure from McCarthy and the U.S. government.

Salt of the Earth depicts an emotionally moving portrait of human tenacity and courage that was echoed in real life by the struggles of its creators. The movie is based on a 1950 strike by zinc miners in Silver City, New Mexico. Amidst an environment of social injustice, a family drama is played out by the characters of Ramon and Esperanza Quintero, a Mexican American miner and his wife.

In the evolution of the strike, Ramon and Esperanza go through a severe role reversal: an injunction against the male strikers forces the women to take over the picket line, leaving the men to handle the domestic duties. The female characters evolve from men's inferiors into their allies and equals.

The movie received the Karlovy Vary and The Grand Prix de Acadamie du Cinema de Paris. The film was chosen by The Library of Congress as one of 100 American films to be preserved for posterity.

César Chávez organizes the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in Delano, California.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 
After 3 years of difficult negotiations, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into affect on January 1, 1994 . Inextricably tied to the maquiladora program, the Agreement attempted to bolster trade relationships between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The Agreement will completely eliminate tariffs over the years to come and will dissolve many other trade barriers such as quotas. On the day of its advent, NAFTA immediately affected approximately half of the agricultural trade between the U.S. and Mexico. "Import sensitive" items—such as Mexico's corn and beans and the United States' orange juice and sugar—are planned to be free of tariffs over the next 15 years.

The Agreement stimulated border-region industrial growth, which brought on many environmental problems. Thus, NAFTA established two institutions to help deal with the vast environmental concerns along the U.S.-Mexican border. The Border Environment Cooperation Commission (BECC) is a binational organization which attempts to help develop environmental infrastructure projects related to wastewater treatment, the prevention of water pollution, and the management of municipal solid waste.

The NADBank was also set up to work in conjunction with the BECC, guaranteeing loans for projects certified by the environmental commission. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments supply the funds to the bank. The difficulties facing this financial organization are developing institutional capacity in the target communities.

In essence, NAFTA has fueled the population growth of the border region, focusing the attention of the both the U.S. and Mexican governments on the environmental, social, and political dilemmas in the region.

New Century begins
New Mexico is considered one of the best places to live in the United States, attracting movie stars and millionaires to our state.

This material was arranged from records in public domain.