- Parent Category: Treaty of Gudalaupe Hidalgo
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- Written by Vernellia Randall
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The New Mexico Constitution
and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Dr. Guillermo Lux
Professor of New Mexican History
New Mexico Highlands University
Las Vegas, NM 87701
guaranteed to the people of New Mexico, the guarantee is for the benefit of the Mexican citizens who resided in New Mexico in 1848. There are other sections in the Constitution that likewise reflect this uniqueness and the multi-cultural facets of New Mexican history.
Nevertheless, the comprehensive coverage afforded United States citizens under the federal constitution and the broad protection extended to all New Mexicans under the proposed state constitution, why was it considered to be necessary by the state founding fathers in 1910 to include these additional guarantees in the state constitution?
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, like the state constitution, served several purposes: it ended the war between the United States and Mexico; it also incorporated into the United States the northern states of Mexico and the citizens residing there. For those citizens of Mexico, the treaty became a document (much like those drawn between the United States government and native Americans) which was intended to establish relationships between people, in this case between the conquerors and the conquered. In a sense, through this extralegal tactic by the Mexican commissioners who helped draft the treaty, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo became an interim bill of rights for the Mexican people now residing in the United States and now an incorporated part of the United States citizenry. What then were the provisions of the treaty that were so significant that they had to be reiterated in the 1910 state constitution?
Concerning the circumstances surrounding the drafting of the treaty, Mexico, by January of 1848, was a nation prostrate at the feet of the victorious army of the north. In such a precarious position, she could hardly have been expected to make demands upon the victors. Mexico was being absorbed into the United States with only where the boundary would be drawn to be determined. Uncertain, as to exactly just what geography would be demanded and transferred, the Mexican commissioners could be certain about the presumed fate of the 100,000 or more Mexican citizens that were in New Mexico, and they demanded a Bill of Rights for these people. The Mexican commissioners did not want those Mexican citizens, although a conquered people, to be demeaned to the position of blacks in the United States, which had been outlawed since the beginning of the Mexican Republic.
Articles VIII, IX and X were the basic three articles which expressed the intent of Mexico to protect, to the best of her compromised ability, her alienated children. (Had all three of the articles been acceptable to the United States Congress, it is possible that 20th century politico-economic history might have been different.) Article VIII asserted that the Mexicans residing in the territories previously belonging to Mexico might continue to reside there retaining their property, or return to Mexico with their property. They might elect to continue their Mexican citizenship or become United States citizens. Their property of every kind was to be "inviolably respected" as if the same belonged to citizens of the United States." In either case they should be treated with equal respect and be given full property and civil rights afforded the citizens of the United States.
Article VIII was accepted, but articles IX and X were not. Article IX was even more explicit on the citizenship question. It demanded statehood (and hence full participation in the democratic process) as soon as possible. Article X dealt with land grants and was also expunged, setting into motion decades of ambiguity for New Mexico which resulted in land fraud and political corruption which, ironically enough, became excuses for Congress not granting statehood.
There was another point of view regarding the Mexican citizens now a pert of the United States that many shared. N. C. Brooks, who wrote and published a history of the war in 1849, explains this Anglo-American position from the vantage point of the conqueror:
The United States Congress and others concurred with Brooks. They recalled that only months earlier, Indian and Hispano New Mexicans had murdered at Taos the first Governor under United States Rule. Congress was not so sure about quick admission for New Mexico to full citizenship status. And accordingly, the change "shall be admitted at the proper time…" was inserted. Congress further substituted "as soon as Congress shall determine…" And when did Congress determine? In 1912, after New Mexico was kept out of the United States longer than any other petitioning territory and in violation of the intent of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The deletions and emendations in Article IX and X only served to further heighten the apprehensions of the Mexican Congress which feared Mexicans would become second class citizens. And the New Mexican now temporized over ratifying the treaty. The Secretary of State, James Buchanan (who had a reputation for being a wily politician), however, according to Robert W. Larson, "…gave full assurance to his counterpart in Mexico by pledging that congress will never turn a deaf ear to a people anxious to enjoy the privilege of self-government."
How did Mexicans in New Mexico fare between 1848 and 1912 when statehood (and full citizenship) status was finally achieved? The former citizens of Mexico and their descendants became the adopted children of the United States. It was a paternalistic relationship as the Great Seal of New Mexico graphically portrayed in a publication by the Territorial Bureau of Immigration:
In 1882, taking the Ritch description, there was an article in the Daily New Mexican, which reiterated this association between the peoples of New Mexico.
Furthermore, there is a curious paradox here in that the treaty guarantees served to retard progress toward achieving statehood, which was also promised under the treaty. For example, there were congressional reports, which attacked New Mexicans because of their lack of English. As the historian Robert Larsen has written on this subject, a report which accompanied the Territory’s 1893 petition for statehood "attacked the contention that statehood should be withheld until every inhabitant had learned to read and write the English language, because this was contrary to the understanding which had existed among those who signed the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo."
There were other problems as well: the powerful chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee, Senator Albert Beveridge, Larsen continues, "embodied some of the common and widespread prejudices of Easterners toward the Hispano, Catholic population of New Mexico. The general feeling of Anglo-Saxon superiority was certainly present in Beveridge, a leading spokesman for the new American imperialism."
Others apparently shared this "eastern orientation." There were frequent newspaper articles attacking New Mexicans which likewise indicated strong prejudices against the Spanish-speaking people. Then there were New Mexico’s defenders. Congressman William McAdoo, Democrat from New Jersey, attacked the narrow mindlessness of New Mexico’s critics, asserting that "Spanish Americans of New Mexico were Americans by birth, sympathy and education, furnishing more troops to the Union army during the Civil War than some of the new states." And, in the Spanish-American war of 1898, the Roughriders proved their American-ness (as they would in World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam).
Nevertheless, Notwithstanding Buchanan’s vows to the contrary, it would not be until the 1910 constitution and statehood in 1912 that the intent of Article IX was finally secured and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo’s promises fulfilled.
For those Hispanos (and others as well) who assembled in Santa Fe in the fall of 1910 to draft the 1910 Constitution, given the poor record enforcement of the "interim bill of rights," it was apparent that there were levels of citizenship. It was not that the treaty was faulty, or that the Mexican commissioners had erred in there judgment. Quite to the contrary, they had been extremely perceptive in the probable course of history. The problem from 1848 to 1910 was how does an internal colony demand and get compliance. This problem was among those that the New Mexican founding fathers in 1910 addressed at the 1910 constitutional convention addressed.
Given this brief historical background, it becomes more apparent why New Mexicans wrote a unique document in 1910. They included the "additional" bill of rights, Article II, Section 5: "…the rights, privileges and immunities, etc. of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo." These rights are again reasserted in Article VII, Section 3, which guaranteed the right to vote regardless of religion, race, language, color or ability to speak the English language. Article VIII, Section 8 mandated teacher training for Spanish-speaking children. The Spanish-American Normal School at El Rito, when the other normal schools did not assume this responsibility, was founded for this specific purpose. Article VII, Section 10 forbade racial discrimination against children of Spanish descent, and guaranteed equal access to an education. They were "…never to be denied admission to the public schools, nor ever be classed in separate schools, but shall forever enjoy perfect equality with other children in public schools…"
In summary, the authors of the 1910 constitution drew upon the experience of the 19thcentury and drafted a document which incorporated all possible protection of the ideals of the United States Constitution and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Larsen says:
"The stringent provisions regarding equality for the Spanish-speaking citizen were intended to overcome fears and apprehensions of the native population that they might be discriminated against by the Anglo majority…"
They further established, as reiterated by Larsen, an amendment process which would make it almost impossible to strip these rights from the document at a later date. The New Mexicanagreed with the amendment procedure hoping:
"that the protection given the Spanish-speaking people would not be tampered with, for native New Mexicans had the right to protest against being put in the same status as the Negro in Mississippi."
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Prior to 1822 What is today Mexico, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and California are all Spanish colonies.
1822 Mexican colonists, following the American revolution, rebel against Spain and win their own revolutionary war, making Mexico a free nation just like America.
1844 James Polk campaigns for the U.S. presidency, supporting expansion of U.S. territories into Mexico.
February, 1845 James Polk, on his inagauguration night, confides to his Secretary of the Navy that a principal objective of his presidency is the acquisition of California, which Mexico had been refusing to sell to the U.S. at any price.
Early 1845 The Washington Union, expressing the position of James Polk, writes: "...who can arrest the torrent that will pour onward to the West? The road to California will be open to us. Who will stay the march...?" "A corps of properly organized volunteers...would invade, overrun, and occupy Mexico. They would enable us not only to take California, but to keep it."
Early 1845 John O'Sullivan, editor of the Democratic review writes it is "Our manifest destiny to overspread the continent ...for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions."
Early 1845 James Polk promises Texas he will support moving the historical Texas/Mexico border at the Nueces river 150 miles south to the Rio Grande provided Texas agrees to join the union. "The traditional border between Texas and Mexico had been the Nueces River...and both the United States and Mexico had recognized that as the border." (Zinn, p. 148)
June 30, 1845 James Polk orders troops to march south of the traditional Texas/Mexico border into Mexican inhabited territory, causing Mexicans to flee their villages and abandon their crops in terror. "Ordering troops to the Rio Grande, into territory inhabited by Mexicans, was clearly a provocation." (Zinn, p. 148) "President Polk had incited war by sending American soldiers into what was disputed territory, historically controlled and inhabited by Mexicans." (John Schroeder , "Mr. Polk's War")
Early 1846 Colonel Hitchcock, commander of the 3rd Infantry regiment, writes in his diary: "...the United States are the aggressors....We have not one particle of right to be here....It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses....My heart is not in this business."
May 9, 1846 President Polk tells his cabinet: "...up to this time...we have heard of no open aggression by the Mexican Army."
May 10, 1846 Violence erupts between Mexican and American troops south of the Nueces River. Of course Polk claims Mexicans had fired the first shot, but in his famous "spot resolutions" congressman Abraham Lincoln repeatedly challenges president Polk to name the exact "spot" where Mexicans first attacked American troops. Polk never met the challenge.
May 11, 1846 President Polk urges congress to declare war on Mexico.
May 12, 1846 : Horace Greeley writes in the New York Tribune: "We can easily defeat the armies of Mexico, slaughter them by thousands, and pursue them perhaps to their capital; we can conquer and "annex" their territory; but what then? Who believes that a score of victories over Mexico, the "annexation" of half of her provinces, will give us more Liberty, a purer Morality, a more prosperous Industry...?
1846 Congressman Abraham Lincoln, speaking in a session of congress "...the president unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced a war with Mexico....The marching an army into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, frightening the inhabitants away, leaving their growing crops and other property to destruction, to you may appear a perfectly amiable, peaceful, un- provoking procedure; but it does not appear so to us."
after war is underway, the American press comments: February 11, 1847. The "Congressional Globe" reports: "...We must march from ocean to ocean....We must march from Texas straight to the Pacific ocean....It is the destiny of the white race, it is the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon Race." The New York Herald: "The universal Yankee Nation can regenerate and disenthrall the people of Mexico in a few years; and we believe it is a part of our destiny to civilize that beautiful country." American Review writes of Mexicans "yielding to a superior population, insensibly oozing into her territories, changing her customs, and out-living, exterminating her weaker blood."
1846-1848 U.S. Army battles Mexico, not just enforcing the new Texas border at the Rio Grande but capturing Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and California (as well as marching as far south as Mexico City).
1848 Mexico surrenders on U.S. terms (U.S. takes over ownership of New Mexico, California, an expanded Texas, and more, for a token payment of $15 million, which leads the Whig Intelligencer to report: "We take nothing by conquest....Thank God").
(date unknown) General Ulysses S. Grant calls the Mexican War "the most unjust war ever undertaken by a stronger nation against a weaker one."
Primary Source: "We take nothing by conquest, Thank God", in A People's History Of the United States, 1492-Present, Howard Zinn, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. (This book is available on the shelf at virtually every bookstore in America. The New York Times Book Review says it "...should be required reading for a new generation of students...." )
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My experience has been the opposite. Everytime I walk in downtown area of any American city, I am constantly approached by the poor looking for a handout ("Spare change for a cup of coffee?" "Spare change for a bite to eat?" "Spare change for a beer?"). Living and working in downtown Santa Cruz, I am confronted each and every day by apparently healthy able-bodied young men wanting a handout.
In Mexican cities, there are more poor than in American cities. However, in Mexico, it is rare to be asked for a handout! Don't get me wrong, the Mexican poor are quite skilled at separating you from your spare change, but they do it by selling you things: jewelry, souvenirs, etc. Even the small children sell chicklets chewing gum in exchange for spare change. Others offer to shine your shoes or provide some other service. However, it is quite rare to be asked for a handout in Mexico. Moral of the story? It is a myth in America that Mexicans want a free ride. The Mexican poor, in stark contrast to the American poor, hold an unquestioned assumption that they have to earn their way, and nearly always offer something in exchange for what they need.
Myth: Mexican "illegals" pay no taxes, contribute nothing to our society or our economy, then rape our social services systems for free, unearned benefits.
The southwest and California were built in large part by undocumented Mexican immigrants. There was a time when Mexican migrant workers passed freely over the border each season to labor in the Southwest. In that time, Mexicans were an important and welcomed source of cheap labor. At the end of the season, the laborers would return to Mexico. The border was always open for their return, so they had no particular reason to remain in "Alte" California ("Upper" California, as the state was called before the U.S. stole it from Mexico).
Throughout the California Gold Rush, which commenced just months after the U.S. took over California from Mexico, Mexican mule trains were crucial in distributing supplies to mining camps and towns throughout California's Sierra Nevada mountains. (Incidentally, although the U.S. gave $15 million to Mexico at the close of the Mexican war as a token for the takeover by the U.S. of California, New Mexico and other Mexican provinces, the California Gold Strike produced hundreds of millions of dollars for America, which was equal in value to billions of today's dollars).
Today, Mexican workers pay sales taxes and work for substandard wages at the shittiest jobs in the state. Paying illegal workers below minimum wage is very common and results in higher profits for the illegal employer, and therefore higher taxes paid by the employer. End result: worker gets much lower pay (essentially payroll withholding) which results more taxes being paid into the U.S. and State treasuries (due to higher profits for the illegal employers). Many illegal employers know their Mexican laborers are illegal, but nonetheless withhold payroll taxes from their paychecks, and rather than pay those taxes to the government, simply pocket them. Quite often the employer will not realize that the Mexican is illegal, and so will go ahead and withhold payroll taxes and pay them to the government.
Since illegal Mexican workers live in fear of deportation, they rarely seek social services or file for income tax returns for fear of being discovered and deported (the only exceptions are emergency medical care and primary education, the two things too urgent to forgo. It's no coincidence that California recently passed a law requiring medical care providers and schools to deny services to illegal immigrants - those are the only two social services they use (in spite of the contributions they make to the economy), because those 2 are the only ones they're willing to risk deportation to use. Justice prevailed - a federal court declared the law unconstitutional).
Myth: Illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals deserving severe punishment.
The typical illegal Mexican immigrant is an honest worker struggling for a better life for himself and his family, not a violent criminal.
In 1995, an article in the San Jose Mercury News reported that it is quite common for families to be divided by the border. For example, the father and one of the sons are legal residents, while the mother and another son are in Mexico and unable immigrate legally. The one father and son cannot afford to give up their jobs in California to return to Mexico, and the rest of the family is unsuccessful at immigrating legally, so the family must live apart.
The anti-immigrant folks never seem to give a second thought to rich U.S. farmers who knowingly employ undocumented workers at sub-standard wages (and in sub-standard conditions). Such employers are a major source of the draw of immigrants into California, but are rarely if ever portrayed as criminals who deserve to be "severely punished". They are indeed breaking the law by employing undocumented workers, but this law is lightly enforced if at all whereas it is becoming quite fashionable for politicians in America to call for increasing efforts at enforcing laws against illegal border crossings (and for Usenet demagogues to scream for severe punishment of "illegals").
In my career in California's high-tech center known as Silicon Valley, I have noticed that the janitors are almost universally Mexicans, and driving through the agricultural areas of California, the laborers breaking their backs in the fields (often covered with carcinogenic pesticides) are mostly Mexican. It seems to me that the Mexicans have really gotten the bottom of the barrel in our society.
So how is it that Mexican immigrants are responsible for all of our economic problems and other troubles, and why all the outrage? To me it bears a chilling resemblance to the way Hitler was able to dupe all of Germany into believing that all their problems were caused by the Jews.
We need to stop being spoonfed our issues by politicians, and stop letting the demagogues push our emotional buttons, and look at the real source of our problems, such as the fact that 50% of what the government collects from us in corporate and individual income taxes is spent on destruction (the military), rather than on building a peacetime social and industrial infrastructure, and a very significant sector of our economy is the "defense" (war) industry, which, unlike peacetime industries, drags down rather than fuels the economy. Why is there no outrage over the fact that the Trident IV first-strike nuclear weapon is still being funded at $300 million a year, when the cold war is long over? Why is there no outrage over the fact that 75% of all international weapons sales are made by the U.S., and 90% of our customers are non-democratic regimes? Why is it that the Mexican worker and welfare mothers are getting all the blame for this country's problems????
It never ceases to amaze and disgust me to see grown adults blaming Mexican schoolchildren and pregnant women for their economic woes, while monthly Space Shuttle missions costing billions (often on "secret military" missions) are not given a second thought.