PORT ISABEL, Texas – The Rio Grande Guardian’s longtime Tejano history writer, José Antonio López, is thrilled we are hosting a one-day conference in December to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of the U.S-Mexico War of 1846-48.
To help promote the conference, Joe has recommended we re-run two of his columns. This we are happy to do. The first, titled Texas Down Under, was re-published last week. Click here to read it. The second is published below. It first appeared in our international news service on March 3, 2019.
Click here to read an overview of the conference.
“In truth, the conference topic is a most timely issue, given today’s toxic environment.Folks need to know the truth and I’m hoping the conference sheds some light toward that dark corner of Texas history,” López said.
López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He lives in Universal City, Texas, and is the author of four books. His latest book is “Preserving Early Texas History.” It is published by Xlibris and is available through Amazon.com. Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and www.tejanosunidos.org, a website dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books. He can be reached by email via: [email protected]
Here is his column:
López: The U.S.-Mexico War of 1846-48 (A Pre-planned Ploy)
For most of the last three years, the immigration topic has taken the lion’s share of the news. There’s one primary reason: anti-immigration border wall coverage on TV is constant.
Certain politicians and news personalities even used it as their tool of choice during the 2018 mid-term elections. By maintaining the assault, they stoke a volatile fearmongering firestorm they created precisely for political purposes.
As lateral targets, U.S. citizens of Mexican-descent suffer, as well. They are increasingly becoming objects of bigotry just because they exercise their First Amendment right to speak Spanish. For example, as two vacationing Mexican-descent women experienced in Montana last year. Sadly, such incidents are on the rise.
Not surprisingly, mainstream society is just as misinformed about immigration as they are about early (pre-1836) Texas history. Remarkably, the two issues are related.
For example, maintaining a rigid intolerant stance, self-described white nativists are quick to employ two primary themes in condemning today’s immigrants: (l) “Respect U.S. national borders” and (2) “U.S. sovereignty is sacred”.
While the response is predictable, the truth is that violating borders and disrespecting sovereignty of other countries are actually main features of our national make-up. Said another way, the U.S. violated those two noble principles by seizing over half of Mexican sovereign territory. Hard to believe, but it is true.
Clearly, by invading Mexico, the U.S. placed the present U.S.-Mexico border in the middle of Old Mexico; single-handedly producing the current dilemma on our southern border. How?
The answer is that the U.S. looks like it does today, simply due to President James K. Polk’s pre-planned ploy called the 1846-48 U.S.-Mexico war. Extracting harsh terms for ending the war, the U.S. unilaterally moved Texas’ southern border from the Nueces River to the Rio Grande; separating Texas and South Texas (then the northern part of the state of Tamaulipas) from Mexico, but also subsuming present-day New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, parts of Utah and Nevada, and the surrounding region all the way to the Canadian border.
Incidentally, 50 years later in 1898, the U.S. again violated another country’s sovereignty by invading the Hawaiian Islands. Unfairly consuming the islands and adding them to its empire, the U.S. deposed Queen Lili’uokalani, the sovereign head of Hawaii. To this day, her descendants and Native Hawaiians oppose the U.S. occupation of their land.
As to the current debate over our border with Mexico, consider the following situation. (It’s a novel story. Nonetheless, it’s a simple assessment of what happened.)
Imagine you live in a home you built on a large tract of land that’s been in your family for many years. For some time now, you’ve noticed your next-door neighbor disregarding the fence boundary. You also notice that he, his family, and their friends make themselves at home in your backyard. You wait, hoping that your neighbors come to their senses and realize they’re trespassing. Instead, you are surprised when your neighbor knocks on your door and demands that you move your back fence closer to your house. Of course, you protest and are compelled to fight back. Sadly, the neighbor is better armed than you are and you lose the fight. Worse, under duress you are forced to give the invader over half of your land.
In his book, “The Mexican – American War of 1846-1848 (A Deceitful Smoke Screen)”, author Humberto Garza presents a well-researched account of the deliberate steps that U.S. President Polk took to fulfill his expansionist ambitions. Specifically, sending the military and armed agents to bully Mexico into a shooting war.
By the way, what does mainstream U.S. history say about this violent encounter? Well, first they insist that it was all Mexico’s fault. That may be why mainstream historians tend to sometimes refer to the U.S.-Mexico War as the “Mexican” War, thereby disowning any U.S. responsibility.
Second, in winning the war, the U.S. version of history has an Anglo Saxon narrative. That’s because conventional U.S. historians have traditionally hidden the heavy-handedness of the “Colossus of the North” in its adverse acquisition of Mexico’s sovereign land.
According to President Polk, the U.S. was defending itself because Mexican soldiers killed U.S. soldiers on U.S. soil (in Texas). That’s in reference to an incident where a U.S. military unit crossed the Nueces River into the state of Tamaulipas. Warned to leave Mexico, the Anglo trespassers refused. They were then defeated in battle.
Expectedly, it was this incident that President Polk (a) had planned, (b) was waiting for, and (c) used to his advantage. Using the ruse to agitate his pro-war supporters, Congress expansionists quickly approved funds to conduct Polk’s war of aggression.
Sadly, although Mexican troops honorably and heroically defended their sovereign soil (Los Niños Heroes), they were overwhelmed by the U.S. invaders.
In reconsidering the events, not only is the starting point for the war flawed, but the entire foundation was built within a fog of lies. For one thing, President Polk’s staged clash was geographically untrue. The incident took place in northern Tamaulipas, not Texas.
Interestingly, not all national leaders supported President Polk’s Mexican land grab. Speaking for integrity, U.S. Congressman Abraham Lincoln helped write an amendment to a house resolution declaring the war with Mexico was “…a war unnecessarily and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States.”
Lincoln also challenged President Polk to provide not only convincing proof of the serious charges, but also the exact location where the incident had taken place. Following is Congressman Lincoln’s assessment:
“… But, if he (Polk) cannot or will not do this (prove the Texas claim to the Rio Grande border) – if on any pretense or no pretense he shall refuse or omit it – then I shall be fully convinced of what I more than suspect already – that he is deeply conscious of being in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of Abel, is crying to heaven against him…”
Despite Lincoln’s astute appeal, the president refused to budge. That’s because President Polk was obsessed with delivering his major campaign promise to his base: U.S. expansion to the Pacific Ocean at the expense of the sovereign Republic of Mexico.
President Polk had long planned to provoke Mexico by (l) admitting Texas into the union as a slave state; (2) taking advantage of Mexico’s chaotic political instability; (3) supporting a small group of Anglo immigrants’ revolt in California; and (4) plotted with other expansionists to coerce Mexico into selling New Mexico to the U.S. History records that his devious plan of deception worked.
In summary, knowledge feeds understanding; intolerance breeds ignorance. My sincere expectation is that this article serves to counteract today’s narrow-minded argument regarding U.S. borders and sovereignty.
In that regard, it is fitting to end with the words of General Ulysses S. Grant, (18thPresident of the United States). He wrote them to explain his regret for being involved in the war, and expose U.S. contempt for Mexico’s borders and sovereignty:
“… For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day, regard the war with Mexico, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”
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