Digital History ID 558
Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid
In 1846, on the eve of the Mexican War, Mexico's northern frontier had about eighty thousand inhabitants. This was only about ten percent of the Mexican population, which numbered around eight million. Three-quarters the inhabitants of the northern frontier lived in New Mexico.
The eighty thousand Mexicans who lived in the Southwest did not respond to the Mexican war with a single voice. A few welcomed the United States. Many others, recognizing the futility of resistance, responded to the American conquest with ambivalence. A number openly resisted the Anglo military advance. For example, in 1847 disaffected Mexicans and Pueblo Indians in Taos, New Mexico, staged an unsuccessful revolt, in which they killed the governor imposed by the United States. One observer described the dominant view: "The native sons have hope that the Americans will tire of a long and stubborn war and that in some time they will be left to live in their land in peace and tranquility." Perhaps the strongest resistance to the invasion took place in California. In 1846, California's Hispanic population only totalled about twenty-five thousand people--one person per twenty-six square miles. By 1846, about 1,200 foreigners had arrived in California, the largest group being Anglos concentrated in the Sacramento Valley.
The Californios had tenuous ties with Mexico City. Four times they had rebelled against Mexican rule, the latest revolt in 1844. But the Californios had little interest in submitting to Anglo rule, and at battles in Los Angeles, San Pascual, and Chino Ranch, citizen volunteers defeated Anglo forces.
In late September 1846, the Californios forced Arnold Gillespie, who the United States had installed as administrator, to surrender his forty-eight man garrison. Under Captain José Maria Flores, the Californios proceeded to subdue Anglo garrisons in San Diego and Santa Barbara. At the battle of San Pascual 160 Californio horsemen killed eighteen men, including three officers, and severely wounded their commander Stephen Kearny. But by the end of 1846, United States forces had suppressed Californio resistance.
Here, Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid, New Mexico's acting Mexican governor, expresses a deep ambivalence about the province's conquest. While pledging obedience to the new government and pride in being part of a "great and powerful nation," he also voices a profound sense of loss, and anxiety about the future.
General:--The address which you have just delivered, in which you announce that you have taken possession of this great country in the name of the United States of America, gives us some idea of the wonderful future that awaits us. It is not for us to determine the boundaries of nations. The cabinets of Mexico and Washington will arrange these differences. It is for us to obey and respect the established authorities, no matter what may be our private opinions.
The inhabitants of this Department humbly and honorably present their loyalty and allegiance to the government of North America. No one in this world can successfully resist the power of him who is stronger.
Do not find it strange if there has been no manifestation of joy and enthusiasm in seeing this city occupied by your military forces. To us the power of the Mexican Republic is dead. No matter what her condition, she was our mother. What child will not shed abundant tears at the tomb of his parents? I might indicate some of the causes for her misfortunes, but domestic troubles should not be made public. It is sufficient to say that civil war is the cursed source of that deadly poison which has spread over one of the grandest and greatest countries that has ever been created. To-day we belong to a great and powerful nation. Its flag, with its stars and stripes, covers the horizon of New Mexico, and its brilliant light shall grow like good seed well cultivated. We are cognizant of your kindness, of your courtesy and that of your accommodating officers and of the strict discipline of your troops; we know that we belong to the Republic that owes its origin to the immortal Washington, whom all civilized nations admire and respect. How different would be our situation had we been invaded by European nations! We are aware of the unfortunate condition of the Poles.
In the name, then, of the entire Department, I swear obedience to the Northern Republic and I tender my respect to its laws and authority.
Source: Ralph Emerson Twitchell, The History of the Military Occupation of the Territory of New Mexico, From 1846 to 1851, By the Government of the United States (Danville, Ill.: 1909).
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