PORT ISABEL, Texas – This year is the 175th anniversary of a war that shaped the destiny of both the United States and Mexico.

The U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-48 started in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and for this reason the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service is hosting a conference about the war, titled, “To Conquer. To Defend.”

The one-day conference takes place on Thursday, December 9, 2021, and will comprise both an in-person component, taking place at the Port Isabel Event and Cultural Center, and an online component, thus allowing people to virtually attend from across the United States, Mexico and the world.

Presenters will speak about the the lead up to the war, the war itself and the impact it had on the different paths the U.S. and Mexico took afterwards. These presentations, made by experts in their fields, will take place during the morning and noon sessions. After lunch attendees will have the opportunity to go on guided tours of U.S-Mexico War battlefield sites in Brownsville.

“The U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-48 basically changed the destiny of both countries,” said Salomon Torres, Director of Event Initiatives for the Rio Grande Guardian and co-founder of the conference.

“For the U.S. it gained the entire southwest as new territory, to finally solidify the geographical lines that the U.S. wanted for many decades. For Mexico it was tragic in that they lost one-third of their geography, including the northern Mexican provinces of Alta California (present-day California) and New Mexico, which itself later got partitioned into several U.S. states including Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and portions of Wyoming and Colorado.”

By the time the war started, the region Mexico called Tejas had been taken from the state of Coahuila-Tejas and turned into a fledging republic.

Torres said the disputed border region we now call the Rio Grande Valley played a key part in the U.S.-Mexico War. 

“War began in May 1846 after a group of General Zachary Taylor’s troops were killed or taken prisoner by the Mexican cavalry at a site on Military Highway south of La Feria – about three miles from the house I grew up in,” Torres explained. “A cannon facing south on Military Highway now commemorates that incident.”

That incident became known as the Thornton Skirmish, after an American commander who was taken to Matamoros as a prisoner.

“In the Valley we have, in Port Isabel and Brownsville, the location of the first military battles between the Mexican army and the U.S. army and it would be almost a crime not to recognize this year, the anniversary of the launch of this war between these two countries,” Torres said.

“So, what we are going to do is have a dedicated day on December 9 to commemorate that war, to have presentations explaining the war, the background and the outcomes of the war. We are also going to allow attendees to attend battlefield tours in Brownsville as part of the event.”

Torres pointed out that many major leaders of U.S. history from the presidency to the Civil War, such as General Grant, General Lee, and President Taylor, were all either officers or generals in the U.S.-Mexico War and they all fought together against Mexico, only years later to fight against each other, when they were representing either the North or the South in the Civil War.

“For Mexico, as a young independent nation – it was only 25 years old in 1846 – it was a way to put their unity to test to see if they could defend their territory and sovereignty,” Torres said.

“We want the people of the Rio Grande Valley and, viewers from other parts of the state and the U.S. and Mexico to get a good overview of this war, which was monumental in the history of both countries.”

The guided tours include visits to the Palo Alto National Battlefield site, which was the site of the Battle of Palo Alto, and the site of the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, both sites that are now managed by the National Park Service. Event organizers plan to request permission from Texas Southmost College in Brownsville to visit the Memorial Golf Course on its property that lies near the Rio Grande River. The site still holds a portion of Fort Brown, a fortification built quickly by General Zachary Taylor’s army opposite Matamoros to protect what the U.S. now claimed as U.S. territory upon Texas being annexed in 1845.

“The presenters will be varied. We will have Dr. Irving Levinson, of UTRGV, who has written a book on the U.S.-Mexico War. We will also have architect and local historian Manuel Hinojosa, who is the from the Rio Grande Valley and is the owner of a significant collection of artifacts from the U.S.-Mexico War, many of which are on exhibit at the Port Isabel Museum.”

A presentation will also be made by Daniel Ibarra, Chief of Interpretation of the Palo Alto Battlefield for the National Park Service. There will also be a presentation with a Mexican perspective from historian and long-time Matamoros municipal archivist Ing. Clemente Rendon de la Garza. 

Rio Grande Guardian Publisher Steve Taylor explained why the international news service was hosting the conference.

“The Rio Grande Guardian has always supported cultural literacy and so we thought this anniversary was a great event to focus on,” Taylor said.

“Some people might think the Valley was always Texas or always the U.S. This is a way to challenge people to dig deeper into their roots, to look at how the two countries were formed and to compare how the two countries engaged with each other in the 19th century, as compared to today.”

Taylor added: “We want to spread the word about the rich history of the Rio Grande Valley, which we are commemorating through this event. We want more residents and youth to visit the sites that are HERE. And, we want more visitors to visit us and spend a few days exploring and learning our fascinating stories and cultural legacy.”

Editor’s Note: Click here to learn more about the conference and to register.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about sponsorship opportunities call Salomon Torres at 956-320-7072 or email him at: [email protected]

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