By David Williams
California recently declared itself a sanctuary state. Some are even considering leaving the Union rather than comply with the president’s views on immigration. As I reflected on this, I thought about the history between the United States and Mexico.
The relationship between Mexico and the colonists from America was not always one of hostility. For many years, they shared the land and the hardships it brought. They fought the elements and the Indians together. The church bell sounded the warning of an impending attack. Women and children would seek shelter and men would take up arms. The people of Mexico admired the Americans for their declaration of independence from England. Spain had little love lost for the British. During the revolution, Governor Bernardo de Galvez opened New Orleans to the Americans and delayed British ships when possible. The city of Galveston, Texas, is named after him.
So, where did it all go wrong? The seeds of revolution may have been planted by victory and rebellion of the American people, but the plant really took root because of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1808, Napoleon deposed the rightful king of Spain. The people of Mexico liked King Ferdinand VII but preferred his brother Joseph to Napoleon’s illegal puppet king. In 1814, King Ferdinand once again sat on the throne but the thought of independence had taken root.
Throughout its history, Spain’s colonization was as much about converting the natives to God as it was about discovery and gold. As they conquered cities and robbed its residents of their resources, Spanish explorers left behind monks and friars, who helped establish the settlements. Father Miguel Hidalgo, a Roman Catholic priest, led a small army in 1821 and took over two cities, Guanajuato and Guadalajara, from Spanish forces and encouraged Mexico to seek independence.
Father Hidalgo left a bloody path across Mexico. His army, which eventually grew to 80,000 men, did at first have some victories, but eventually Hidalgo was caught and shot. He became the first hero of Mexico’s declaration of independence.
Mexico finally won its Independence from Spain in 1821. Ironically, it was General Augustin Iturbide fought against Father Hidalgo.
There weren’t enough Mexicans in Texas to sustain the territory. The Mexican government thought it would of mutual benefit to invite Americans and offer the opportunity to settle in Texas. Mexico thought that settlers from the United States would help with Indians and ease relations between the two countries.
Spain granted the rights to start a colony to Moses Austin. The grant was called “The Old 300.”
Austin died before he could establish the colony, and the grant was passed on to his son, Stephen, who was encouraged by his mother took up his father mantle. Stephen Austin was able to secure another grant from Governor Jose Navarro and encouraged Americans in New Orleans to come to Mexico. A married man could purchase land for $117 dollars. Twenty-thousand settlers came to Texas, along with their five thousand slaves. Mexico allowed the early settlers to settle only if they swore their allegiance to Mexico and converted to Catholicism. Many of the earlier settlers arrived and accepted those conditions, but squatters who arrived later did not. The Americans who came to Texas had a very independent spirit, were tough by nature and did not like to be told what to do. The Mexican government soon realized it made a huge mistake by inviting the Americans to settle.
The rest is history. Fortune and momentum proved to be a fleeting mistress as each side experienced victory and defeat. Heroes such as William B. Travis, James Bowie and the legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett lost their lives at The Alamo. America eventually prevailed in the ensuing Mexican War, and much of Mexico was annexed into America.
An argument could be made that it all started with a very successful invitation from Mexico. Some might argue that Mexico could have prevented all of this by simply building a wall. I’m reminded of a quote: “Today’s madness, yesterday did prepare.”
Contact David Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.