José Angel Hernández Mexican American Colonization during the Nineteenth Century: A History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
by Marshall Poe
New Books in History March 6, 2014
Americans talk a lot about the flow of Mexican immigrants across their southern border. To some that flow is seen as patently illegal and dangerous. To others it’s seen as unstoppable and essential for the functioning of the U.S. economy. Everyone agrees that something must be done about it though, in fact, little is ever done. It’s an American problem that seems to have no American solution.
But, as José Angel Hernández points out in his pathbreaking book Mexican American Colonization during the Nineteenth Century: A History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Cambridge University Press, 2012) , it’s not just an American problem: it’s also a Mexican one and always has been. In the wake of the Mexican American War (1846-48), the United States appropriated a huge chunk of what was Northern Mexico. This act of–what else can you call it?–naked imperialism left a lot of Mexican citizens stranded across the new border. The Mexican authorities might not have been able to get their territory back, but they were quite interested in getting their countrymen back. In pursuit of this objective, they mounted repatriation campaigns designed to do just this. They were largely unsuccessful. The reason had less to do with the attractiveness of returning to Mexico–the Americans were not doing a terribly good job of protecting the Mexicans against the Native Americans who basically controlled the region–than it did with the corruption of the Mexican officials who ran the campaign. It’s a fascinating and largely forgotten story. Listen in.