How the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Changed the World Map
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in 1848. It marked the official ending of the war between Mexico and the United States of America. This turn of events was key in defining the national borders as we know them today. With this treaty, Mexico yielded 55% of its territory and the neighboring nations established the border at the Río Grande.
Let’s travel back to the late 1800s to revisit the background, important characters, and fascinating history of how the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo changed the world map.
Roots of the Mexican-American War
Two main causes led to the war between Mexico and the United States and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
1. The immigration policy that Mexico had established in Texas and the expansionist eagerness of the United States.
2. Mexico was going through severe political and financial instability as a consequence of its war for independence from Spain.
Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, but 11 years of war took its toll on the country’s finances. Industry was at risk, and agriculture less productive. A power struggle existed between Mexican elites and other sectors of society. The United States, on the other hand, had a flourishing economy and was on its way to becoming more powerful.
The Fight for Texas
California, New Mexico, and Texas were part of Mexico when they were sparsely populated. This led to the first independent governments of Mexico selling portions of land at a low cost, and offering any foreigner (mostly Americans) tax-free land in exchange for living in Mexico and adopting the nationality, religion, and language. This led to a massive influx of US immigrants and in 1829 the population of people from the U.S. outnumbered the Mexicans.
The United States’ intention to control these territories became more and more evident. While the U.S. turned their eye to Texas, they began creating economic relationships with their national population established inside Mexican territory, who continuously expressed a desire to become independent.
In the late 1820s, the relationship between Mexicans and Americans within Texas continued to decline. The Mexican government proposed the opportunity for Europeans to buy land and establish customs inside Texas and allowed forced labor from Mexican inmates. Texas was against the promotion of slavery and rejected the efforts from the Mexican government.
The situation grew worse with Mexico’s ongoing military dictatorship under the command of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. The clash led to a battle in 1836 between Texans fighting for independence and Santa Anna’s forces. You know this historic event as the fight for the Alamo.
The Texans ultimately defeated Santa Anna in Houston and incarcerated him, forcing him to sign the independence of Texas from Mexico. Even though the territory was declared independent by the Americans, the Mexican government refused to accept an agreement signed by a prisoner of war.
The War between Mexico and the United States
The Mexicans saw Texas as a rebellious province they would reconquer in the future. However, in 1845, the United States Congress voted to annex Texas and sent troops led by General Zacahary Taylor to the Río Grande, at the time still considered Mexican territory, in hopes of protecting their border.
The battles between Mexican and American troops led to a formal declaration of war by the United States Congress in 1846. Mexico followed by doing the same 10 days later.
Hostilities between both countries continued to grow for two years. American forces made it to Monterrey, New Mexico, Chihuahua, and California. Ultimately, American troops led by General Winfield Scott marched from Veracruz to Puebla and captured Mexico City in August 1847.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
With the capital under American control, Mexico became desperate and began discussions for a peace treaty. The long and complicated talks led to the establishment of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The name of this declaration came from the villa in which the agreement was signed, near Mexico City.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848. The first people to sign were Nicolas Tirst, representative of US President James Polk; and Mexico’s three representatives: Luis G. Cuevas, Miguel Atristain, and Bernardo Cuoto.
After receiving approval from both countries, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo became effective on May 30, 1848.
The major consequence of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was the large portion of Mexican territory that became part of the United States. The border was redefined, and Mexico gave up 2.37 million square kilometers, making about 100,000 Mexicans foreigners in what was once their land.
Alta California became part of the United States, leading to the establishment of California’s border from the Río Nueces to the Río Bravo. Mexico gave up more than half of its territory to the United States.
These former Mexican lands are now part of the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
The United States had to pay Mexico $15 million dollars in compensation for war-related damage to Mexican property. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also guaranteed that the United States would defend the rights of the Mexicans who remained inside their borders and offered them the opportunity to remain Mexican or access American citizenship.
The almost doubled size of the United States sparked a debate over what to do with the newly acquired land and changed the practice of slavery within the country.
Disputes about whether to make the new territories free or slave states contributed to tensions between the northern and southern United States, ultimately leading to the US Civil War.
Were the Mexicans Happy?
Absolutely not! The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo underwent modifications for a long period of time and commitments made by the United States weren’t honored completely.
The U.S. committed to controlling former Mexican indigenous tribes within their new territory and promised not to exchange, buy, or trade prisoners, cattle, or stolen items in Mexico and to rescue and repatriate any indigenous people of Mexican citizenship. But many of them became slaves.
Mexico’s economic crisis continued, as did border clashes between the two countries. They lost access to productive lands full of minerals, natural gas, oil, and coal.
Mexicans inside the United States became a minority, and their rights were not respected. This attitude continues to feed current immigration policy, nearly 200 years later.
The Impact is Still Visible
The background, development, and consequences the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought for both countries are of major importance to modern history.
It’s essential for people to understand that the roots of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas are hispanic and indigenous, especially because of the current political climate and unfortunate events that have led to xenophobia and exclusion of Mexican-Americans and other minorities.
Share Your Thoughts!
Were you familiar with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo? Do you think the agreement between Mexico and the U.S. was fair? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings after learning this interesting history. Leave me a comment below and let’s start a conversation!
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