The News
Saturday 20 of July 2024

A Thought For A Day

Chapultepec Castle in Bosque de Chapultepec, where the event is being held,photo: Wikimedia
Chapultepec Castle in Bosque de Chapultepec, where the event is being held,photo: Wikimedia
Surely the invasion of Mexico from Alta California was not an overnight plan in Washington

September 13 will always be a memorable date for both Mexico and the United States. It marks the end in 1847 of the so-called “Mexican-American War” which for the most part was never a Mexican war, but indeed a U.S. invasion of Mexico — from Alta California to Mexico City — to achieve what was not possible in a peaceful manner.

When talking to Mexican historians, each and every one of them still remembers “the great land grab” caused by “the insatiable ambition” of the United States to expand and as the culmination of “The Monroe Doctrine,” which finally limited its territory to the Rio Bravo or Grande, call it what you will, depending on the side you’re on.

Whatever caused the final defeat of the Mexican government could have been anything but indeed it was the result of a type of stability of a nation established in 1824, which immediately proved not to be ready for democracy, though it was presumed to be a democracy.

By the time the U.S. invasion began in August 1846 — starting with the creation of the Republic of Texas in 1836 — Mexico had proven to be a most a unstable government, as during a short period of 22 years it had had the staggering amount of 15 different presidents, including Antonio López de Santa Anna, who ruled from 1833 to 1855.

Santa Anna is a separate chapter in the period’s history, nonetheless, he’s seen by historians as the culprit of the “desgracia” that came upon the Mexican Republic at the hands of the northern gringos.

Santa Anna, says biographer Armando Fuentes Aguirre, was never a president by design but was indeed a soldier by heart. The reason why there were so many presidents was that Santa Anna would leave the post “in charge” of an appointed substitute until there was an armed conflict at hand. Then he’d show up to “save the nation.”

Fuentes Aguirre, who calls Santa Anna a “scoundrel,” acknowledges that at the time he was the only one around the military with the temperament, savvy and audacity to whip up an army at a day’s notice. Though Mexico had a standing army, it was not sufficient for war purposes.

And whip up armies Santa Anna did. He did it to go to Texas and win the battle at The Alamo in 1836, only to lose it a day later at the San Joaquin River south of San Antonio.

In 1838 he also put together an army to fight off a French invasion at the port city of Veracruz, where he lost a leg in the so called “War of the Pastries” as the French invaders took as an excuse a debt the Mexican government owed to a French baker in Mexico City to “collect” the dues.

Surely the invasion of Mexico from Alta California was not an overnight plan in Washington. It had been carefully planned since 1840, when a landscape painter “spy” was sent to Mexico City to do exactly what he came to, paint landscapes, except those landscapes were the designed route Zachary Taylor was to follow when he entered Mexico City.

Since President James Polk came to power in 1844, he immediately began preparations to invade Mexico and indeed by May 13, 1846, he declared war the country. Why? The land grab, what else? But usually a declaration of war is much more complicated than that.

When news arrived in Mexico City on Sept.1, 1846 that General Zachary Taylor and his troops were near the northern city of Monterrey, Santa Anna, then in retirement, came back to the helm of the nation and indeed put together the defense of Mexico City.

Surely in this episode “the rest is history” but it does not put aside the fact that Mexico holds a yearly ceremony at Chapultepec Park to commemorate “the hero children” who made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 13, 1847 in defending Chapultepec Castle.

Surely, there is not much to celebrate for Mexicans on September 13, nor for the 1,100 U.S. soldiers whose remains are still at the American Cemetery in Mexico City, but it is surely a day to think about because it was truly a day that marks, at least in my history book, the birth of two nations.

And that is worth a thought, even if just for a day.