The supporters of Mexican illegal aliens often like to claim “We were here first” as justification for ignoring U.S. immigration laws and illegally entering our country. In truth, they were not here first, or they would not have needed to cross the border to get here. Interestingly, even their ancestors were not here first. Here’s a brief history of who was here first and how this region came to be part of the United States of America. For the sake of brevity, this article will focus on Texas (the first area to fall under American control), and future articles will cover the other areas.
This map, courtesy of the Smithsonian, shows the portion of the United States that was originally claimed by Mexico:
Note that the current U.S. states of California, Nevada Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are fully contained in this area, along with bits of other states.
In the late 1600’s, what is modern day Texas was mostly populated by Apaches, Comanches and other Native American tribes. Those few Spanish settlements that were attempted in this region generally failed, or barely managed to survive. Over the next 100 years or so, Spain gradually established isolated footholds and tiny communities in the area, but did little to physically "possess" this area other than by drawing lines on maps.
In 1821, American Moses Austin received a colonization grant from the Spanish authorities in San Antonio. His son, with legal permission from Spain, brought in hundreds of American families to form what is now Austin, Texas. In this same year, Mexico finally won it’s independence from Spain, and assumed nominal control of this region after having defeated Spain. They were impressed with Austin’s success and prosperity and offered huge tracts of land to other American promoters with the caveat that the settlers they import must become Catholic.
By 1830, legal American immigrants greatly outnumbered Spanish/Mexican immigrants. This worried Mexico, and Mexican troops were sent in to patrol the border, prevent more American immigrants from coming, and levy taxes against the legal and invited American settlers. The people of Texas chafed under these restrictions, and when General Antonio López de Santa Anna declared himself dictator, Texas petitioned for independent statehood (i.e. they wanted to become a separate Mexican state to gain more autonomy rather than remain a part of the Mexican state of Coahuila; they weren’t trying to leave Mexico altogether). Santa Anna responded by imprisoning the petitioner (Austin) for 18 months.
In 1835 Mexico tried to disarm the American settlers of Texas. This was the last straw for the American Texans, and they promptly and forcibly expelled the Mexican Army and declared their independence. Santa Ana led troops back into Texas in an attempt to retake it, and was eventually captured by American/Texans and was then forced to acknowledge Texas as an independent entity.
Texas then asked to become a member state in the United States of America. Texas was admitted into the U.S.A. in 1845.
There a several very important lessons here:
- The first people here were sparse Native American Tribes, though Spain eventually claimed to posses this land
- Spain and later Mexico Invited U.S. citizens to settle Texas, who established the first large scale semi-modern cities
- Mexico REQUIRED American settlers to assimilate by forcing them to convert to Catholicism. (Imagine what would happen if the U.S. tried to tell Mexican immigrants they must convert to Protestantism or some other non-Catholic faith!)
- When Mexico felt that too many American immigrants were entering Texas, they responded by using the military to close the border (something Mexico is vehemently against us doing to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants)
- The first large settlement to thrive in Texas were American
- The mostly-American Texas seceded from Mexico AFTER being cutoff by the Mexican Army, AFTER increased taxation by the Mexican government, AFTER Santa Anna jailed their most prominent resident and AFTER the Mexican Army tried to render them helpless by disarming them.
Labels: History, Immigration