The Original Mexican Border

Franciscan missionariesDuring the three hundred-plus years Spain claimed ownership of California by right of conquest, Spain’s official religion took a part in setting the state’s first southern boundary. Imperial Spain’s Nueva Espana (New Spain) was far-flung: it included the Caribbean, Mexico, and parts of what are now the southwestern Continue reading The Original Mexican Border

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

california relief mapThe Mexican-American War began in May, 1846, following a formal Declaration of War by the United States. The issue was the Texas Republic’s request for annexation to the United States, compounded by a dispute over international boundaries. Mexico had never recognized the Lone Star Republic’s independence from Mexican ownership ten years previously, and now vehemently insisted that the boundary was not the Rio Grande, but the Rio Nueces farther north. President James Polk very much wanted Texas for the Union, and California as well. Leaving nothing to chance, he sent naval warships into California waters. The war ended in Mexico City in September 1847, with the United States victorious. The formal treaty to end hostilities was signed February 2, 1848 at Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico—granting the future states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, and the disputed Texan regions, to American sovereignty for a payment of $15 million dollars in gold and silver.

Mexico Acquires California

Mexican flagMexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821—in general (though the specifics were different) for much the same political and economic reasons our Thirteen Colonies declared their independence from England in 1776. The new Republic of Mexico acquired Spain’s former conquests extending from coastal Continue reading Mexico Acquires California

California, a Fantasy Name

California got its name before anyone knew what or where it was. In 1510 author Garcia Ordonez de Montevaldo published The Sergas de Esplandian in Seville, Spain. The fantasy romance novel about the exploits of a swashbuckling cavalier, who traveled to a mythical island named California, became wildly popular. This island, located “on the right hand of the Indies,” was populated by tall, black female warriors who had shields and swords and ornaments made of gold. Their ruler was the beautiful queen Calafia. Subsequent to Hernan Cortéz’s conquest of Mexico in 1519, his officers Francisco de Ulloa or Hernando Grixalva (accounts differ) discovered that the mystical island was actually a mainland. There weren’t any Amazon-like black women toting golden shields, either. If he was disappointed, Ulloa (or Grixalva) nevertheless named his find California. However, the myth lived on. As late as 1696, European cartographers were still drawing California as a large island in the Pacific Ocean adjacent to the coastline of the New World.