The Mexican Immigration Problem in the U.S.A. – How It Started: Part 1

By: William H. Tucker, Publisher

There is much debate in the United States about immigration, especially from Mexico. Let’s remember the roots of this problem. Today’s illegal Mexican immigration problem was started by the largest land grab in modern history. In 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico that eventually led to the Mexican-American War of 1846. This war would result in the United States forcibly taking the Mexican states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado.

United States forcibly took the Mexican states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado.

In August of 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain with the Treaty of Cordoba, which was a compromise treaty after ten long years of fighting. The new country emerged from the war essentially bankrupt with little money for the military to protect its vast borders or people. Anglo-American immigrants, primarily from the southern United States, began immigrating to the Mexican state of “Coahuila y Tejas” (later renamed Texas) in the early 1820s at the invitation of the Mexican government, which sought to populate the sparsely inhabited lands of its northern frontier. Many Anglo-American immigrants brought their African slaves.

Anglo-Americans soon became a majority in Coahuila y Tejas (Texas) and eventually became disillusioned with Mexican rule. The Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas endorsed a plan for the gradual emancipation of the state’s slaves in 1827. In 1829, Mexico abolished slavery, some thirty-six years before the United States did the same in 1865. This loss of unpaid labor, if actually enforced in Coahuila y Tejas, would have been a severe blow to the region’s emerging cotton economy. This angered many slaveholding Anglo-American immigrants who had moved to the state from the southern USA and had lived in Mexico less than a decade.

Over the next ten years, Mexico tried to control Anglo-American immigrants through laws and military skirmishes to protect its sovereignty, but they were not successful in stemming the flow of immigrants from the north and the call for Texas independence.

There were not many large battles fought between the Mexican army and the American immigrants, but the last one is the most famous. In December 1835, a group of disgruntled Anglo-American immigrants had taken control of the Alamo, an old mission in San Antonio. Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna moved his army of several thousand men into the area and decided to make an example of the insurgents. In the early hours of March 6, 1836, the Mexican army, led by General Santa Anna, attacked the Alamo after a thirteen-day siege, in what became known as the Battle of the Alamo. Almost all of the defenders, estimated at 182–257 men, were killed, including James Bowie, Davy Crockett, and William B. Travis. Later in March, a second event occurred. Santa Anna’s army managed to force the surrender of 342 Anglo-Americans near Goliad. Santa Anna ordered the execution of all of the prisoners. The two battles, the Alamo and Goliad, served to bring bickering Anglo-Americans together in opposition to General Santa Anna.

After the Alamo, the Mexican army clearly had the momentum and the Anglo-American immigrants and the Texas army were fleeing toward the USA border. In February 1836, General Santa Anna led a large army across the Rio Grande in pursuit of the fleeing Texans. He was delayed, however, by the unexpectedly determined defense of the Alamo. Sam Houston led a successful retreat, but other insurgents were defeated and massacred in late March. Santa Anna pursued the rebels, overstretching his supply line and thus isolating his forces on San Jacinto Prairie. There, on April 21, he was routed by Houston in a surprise attack that lasted only eighteen minutes. Most of the Mexican army was killed, and the others fled. Santa Anna was found hiding in a swamp and was taken prisoner. Mexican troops then withdrew from Texas. Meanwhile, the Texans declared their independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, and organized a provisional government. The Republic of Texas remained independent until 1845, when it became part of the United States.

To be continued.

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