Sunday, March 4, 2018

Is America at Fault for the State of Mexico?

This question came up some time ago, attracting a string of insults directed at your humble mad man for daring to suggest that the Mexicans are responsible for the sad state of Mexico, just as Americans are alone responsible for the sad (in other ways) condition of the United States. Recently, I was pushed on the subject again and it does seem to come up more and more lately and I have no doubts as to why. Immigration is possibly the most contentious issue in America today and the leading source of immigrants to the United States is Mexico, and has been for some time. With one side demanding open borders or, basically, no borders at all; and the other demanding to “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it”, this is obviously something people can get worked up about. The idea that America is at fault for the state Mexico is in has become the argument of last resort for the American advocates of open-borders. First, they denied the problem, arguing that the border was secure and that illegal immigration to the U.S. was practically non-existent. Then, they had to admit that it did exist but that this was not a problem but a benefit. When pressed for evidence on this point, they now often take a sort of punitive view of it, essentially saying that “we” ruined Mexico and so must hand over the United States in compensation. VIVA LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS DEL NORTE!

You could call this the, “you break it, you bought it” approach to international relations. The United States ruined Mexico and so now owns Mexico and the wellbeing of all Mexicans is the responsibility of the American people and their elected representatives. This may be good policy for the local five and dime but it is obviously absurd as national policy as it would condemn almost everyone guilty against everyone else, an endless cycle of victim-hood pandering. As it happens, it is also untrue, at least if one considers the population of Mexico capable of reason and responsibility. Because, that is what this all comes to; responsibility. Are the Mexicans responsible for their own decisions or is the United States responsible? This is important because, the ‘America First’ crowd does have to swallow a hard fact about something the ‘blame America first’ crowd is not entirely wrong about. This is that, if you consider the several most pivotal moments in Mexican history, the United States was consistently on the side of the leftists or the revolutionaries or the “progressives” as you please to call them. This is simply a fact of history.

The “blame America” crowd will say that this was part of a concerted effort to keep Mexico weak, impoverished and helpless. Others will no doubt say that this was the work of ideologues who believed they were helping Mexico, who wanted to push for policies which were long established in the United States to work their “magic” on Mexico. Things like an American-style constitution, republicanism, states rights, separation of church and state were all things American agents pushed for in Mexico. Now, if these were all inherently bad ideas that brought Mexico to ruin after slowly adopting them over time, one would have to wonder why the United States, which had them longer, is not in the same condition as Mexico? All the same, whether these ideas were good ones or not (and, just for the record, almost all of them were not), America would still not be responsible unless the United States alone forced Mexico to embrace them against the will of the Mexicans themselves, assuming they have free will of course which seems to be up for debate at the moment.

This issue matters to us here because at least two of the pivotal events in which the United States came down on the wrong side of Mexican history involved the two efforts to establish a local monarchy in the country. The U.S. was ambivalent toward the first and openly hostile toward the second. However, in every case, the U.S. was backing existing Mexican factions. In fact, this predates the existence of Mexico as an independent country. The land-grabbing schemes by ambitious Americans toward the Spanish empire were invariably done in conjunction with Mexican revolutionaries. The 1812 invasion of Texas associated with former U.S. Army Lieutenant Augustus Magee was a joint expedition. Magee himself had been recruited by the Mexican revolutionary Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara who was the original leader of the enterprise. He executed the local Spanish officials and he declared himself president of Texas. The 1819 filibuster invasion of Texas was, likewise, formed through the partnership of Dr. James Long and Jose Felix Trespalacios, an anti-Spanish, Mexican revolutionary (who, by the way, was released from prison by Emperor Agustin de Iturbide, given rank and eventually made governor of Texas).

All of these schemes failed and Spain had been doing a good job at keeping Mexico within the empire until bitter divisions in Spain itself caused the traditional conservatives in Mexico, led by Agustin de Iturbide, to make common cause with their former republican, revolutionary enemies, to break away from the Kingdom of Spain. The result was the short-lived First Mexican Empire. In explaining why this empire was so short-lived, the “blame America” crowd point to the U.S. envoy to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett of South Carolina, a man with extensive experience in Europe, particularly the Russian Empire and South America. He actually had accepted the rank of general and fought against the Spanish in Chile. He was also a Freemason, a strong supporter of the Monroe Doctrine and firmly convinced that liberal republicanism was the answer to the woes of Latin America. Was he truly to blame for the downfall of Iturbide? Hardly. If a single American envoy was sufficient to bring down the First Mexican Empire, any strong gust of wind could have done the same. His influence was damaging to be sure, but not decisive.

The embrace of Iturbide & Guerrero
Poinsett established ties with Mexicans already ill-disposed toward Iturbide, encouraged the further spread of (Scottish rite) Freemasonry and was no doubt a malign influence on the country. However, the division in Mexico between the imperialists and the republicans, the animosity between the uneasy coalition of the former royalist Iturbide and the republican revolutionary Vicente Guerrero, joined later by the man who would become the first Mexican president, Guadalupe Victoria. All of this long predated the arrival of Poinsett and ensured that the Mexican Empire rested on a very unstable foundation. The revolutionaries had been unable to win against the royalists in their drive for independence. Events in Spain, however, prompted the Mexican conservatives to break with Spain and join with the revolutionaries in seeking independence with the plan being that they would be in charge and have a Mexican monarchy that retained all of the best aspects, as they saw them, of Spanish rule. As it turned out, however, the revolutionaries, who had failed to drive out the Spanish, basically used the Mexican conservatives to do it for them and then, promptly, turned on the conservatives to bring down their empire and create the Mexican republic that the revolutionaries had always wanted.

Poinsett did not create the division between Guerrero and Iturbide, he did not create the many factions that forced Iturbide to take strong measures to rule the country, he did not introduce Freemasonry to Mexico (a false claim often repeated, it had existed in Mexico since at least the previous century), he did not force Iturbide to raise taxes on his core supporters, he did not win the battles for Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna against the forces of Iturbide and he did not force the officials to abandon Iturbide when Santa Anna approached. He certainly had nothing to do with the Central American republics breaking away nor was he holding a gun to the head of Iturbide, forcing him to recall Congress and present them with his abdication. Indeed, many have puzzled ever since why Iturbide gave up and went into exile when he did when so many Mexicans demonstrably remained supportive of him. Poinsett certainly did not help the situation, he was certainly not impartial and what influence he did have was negative. However, it would absolutely absurd to credit him with bringing down the abortive monarchy of Iturbide rather than the long-standing animosities and rivalries of men like Guerrero, Victoria and Santa Anna.

In the chaos that followed, Mexican history was subsequently dominated by several figures in succession, between intermittent contests for power. There was Santa Anna, then Benito Juarez, then Porfirio Diaz and finally the decades long tyranny of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). As far as Santa Anna is concerned, he was a vain, duplicitous and cruel man but, nonetheless, was in his time practically the only option for a patriotic Mexican to support. His downfall, again, can hardly be blamed on the United States. The Anglo-American colonists in Texas had originally been supportive of him and, under the leadership of Stephen F. Austin, loyal to the Mexican government. When another filibuster invasion was launched in 1826, the Fredonian Rebellion, Austin rallied his colonists to fight against them in support of Mexico. Later, when tensions rose, culminating in the outbreak of the Texas War for Independence, Austin again urged his fellow Texans to demand their constitutional rights but remain loyal to Mexico. He had supported the candidacy of Santa Anna and went to Mexico City to negotiate a peaceful resolution of the crisis in 1834. He was arrested and thrown in prison for more than a year without ever being charged with a crime or given a trial. It was only after that that Austin agreed that war was the only solution.

As it happened, Austin, Colonel Travis of Alamo fame and General Sam Houston all had at least one thing in common with Santa Anna; they were all Freemasons. In any event, the United States was hardly out to ‘take down’ Santa Anna. Poinsett, still around at the time of Santa Anna’s defeat by the Texans, had previously been an ardent supporter of his. He lived in the United States for a time and when Mexico and the United States went to war over the Republic of Texas voting to join the U.S. it was the American government that plucked Santa Anna from exile and returned him to Mexico. The idea was that he would arrange a peace favorable to American interests. Instead, he led the war against the United States but ultimately failed. Yet, even this, the one time the United States actually dominated Mexico, controlling its ports and occupying its capital, might have been avoided if not for the inadvertent aid the Mexicans themselves gave the Americans.

Battle of Buena Vista
The Mexican-American War is a fascinating conflict (one I have tried to come up with an excuse for covering here but to no avail) and not at all the way most people think. Today, because of modern attitudes, it is portrayed as an overpowering America crushing a poor, weak, Mexico under its boot heel, a sort of armed parade with battles fought like the occasional swatting of gnats. In fact, the American victory was no sure thing and not easily gained at all. Mexico had a far larger army than the United States, many combat veterans, a cavalry rated by European observers as among the best in the world and they would be fighting defensively on their own ground with the Americans considerably outnumbered in every engagement. The battles were extremely hard fought and most American victories were narrowly won. Some battles, such as San Pasqual in California, were Pyrrhic victories, the Battle of Monterrey, while technically an American victory, was actually more like a stalemate. Under Santa Anna himself, at the Battle of Buena Vista, the U.S. forces were excruciatingly close to being totally defeated and routed from the field. Yet, the fight at Buena Vista ended in an American victory because of the internal divisions among the Mexicans themselves. Santa Anna received word that an uprising was under way in Mexico City and he quickly broke off to deal with this unrest in his capital.

Had it not been for the internal divisions of Mexico, Santa Anna might well have defeated the Americans and won the war. Similarly, it was Santa Anna, restored to power by the clerical party, who sold more land to the United States (the Gadsden Purchase) before he was overthrown by the group that soon coalesced around Benito Juarez. In the next major fight, which was probably the most decisive in Mexican history, the United States was more involved than probably at any other point and this was the fight between Benito Juarez and the French-backed Emperor Maximilian, each of whom offered very distinct visions of how Mexico should be organized and what the future of the country would be. The United States was, from the outset, very clearly on the side of Juarez and absolutely opposed to Emperor Maximilian and French Emperor Napoleon III. However, because this struggle coincided with the American Civil War, there was nothing the United States could do about it until late 1865 and forward. From that point though, the U.S. did everything short of massive military intervention which proved unnecessary anyway.

The United States applied pressure to stop the Austrian Empire from reinforcing Mexico and to push Napoleon III from withdrawing French military forces from the country. The U.S. then sent Juarez every type of assistance from logistical support, loans, weapons, ammunition, equipment, uniforms and even allowed several thousand U.S. Army soldiers (predominately Black troops) to “desert” to Mexico to fight alongside the Juaristas. All of this certainly helped Juarez to win, however, the fact remains that it was the U.S. supporting *Mexican* opposition to the French which had been there from the beginning. It was not the U.S. Army which took city after city, not the Americans who besieged Maximilian at Queretaro and it was not an American firing squad that sent him to his eternal rest. In fact, the United States wanted Juarez to spare Maximilian as their whole narrative had been that he was a puppet ruler, the hapless dupe of the sinister Napoleon III and thus not responsible for everything that had gone on. It also happened he was a genuinely kind and well meaning person but Juarez would not be dissuaded and Maximilian was shot by the Mexican government just as Iturbide had been shot by the Mexican government decades earlier.

If, therefore, Mexico is in a terrible state because of the downfall of Iturbide and Maximilian in turn, it cannot be the responsibility of the United States of America. The U.S.A. had next to nothing to do with Iturbide, preexisting forces obviously brought him down as his reign lasted less than a year. Likewise, with Maximilian and his downfall, the United States certainly helped Juarez but it is an obvious, logical fact that this was only possible because Juarez was there to help. His faction and the conservative faction had been battling for decades. Juarez had won, then the French came in to support the conservatives and Juarez lost, then the French withdrew and America helped Juarez to win. But, that is the point; that the U.S. helped Juarez and those Mexicans who followed him, not that the U.S. took down Maximilian themselves and gave Mexico a republic and forced them to submit to it. On the contrary, despite his efforts to totally sell out Mexico and effectively make the country a U.S. protectorate (which offer was turned by the U.S. by the way), Juarez is still upheld by the vast majority of Mexicans as a great, national hero; the plucky, little Indian who defeated the “evil” Austrian Emperor and his French invaders.

The surrender of Maximilian
To look at it another way, to say the U.S. is to blame for this is to say that, “the Devil made me do it” is a valid defense and, going further, that the Devil didn’t even make me do it but assisted me in doing it at my own request. I doubt such a defense would hold up before the Almighty and it does not here either. Even aside from Juarez and his faction, there are numerous other factors that one would have to discount entirely in order to say the U.S. is responsible. In the end, one of the key factors in bringing down Maximilian was one of his original supporters: the Catholic Church. After he refused to restore their all of the Church’s property and make Catholicism the only legal religion, the Church turned on Maximilian and for more information on that, those interested can look back at this article on The Catholic Church and the Mexican Empire. Who do you suppose had more popular support among the Mexican people in 1866, the Catholic Church or U.S. President Andrew Johnson? The answer seems obvious. It is not very different to those who blame the U.S. for the rise of the P.R.I. tyranny in Mexico, mostly based on the U.S. brokering the negotiations that ended the heroic Cristero Rebellion in 1929. However, setting aside the support of American Catholics for the Cristeros and the safe haven given to fleeing Mexican bishops in the U.S., it is simply absurd to believe that the U.S. government was responsible for the terms of the cease-fire, for both sides agreeing to it and that the U.S. had more influence in bringing this about than the hierarchy of the Catholic Church itself which even went so far as to excommunicate those Cristeros who refused to lay down their arms.

The bottom line for all of this is the issue of free will, which exists for nations as well as individuals. The people who push this line, as stated at the outset, generally fall into two categories; they either wish to blame America as a justification for open borders or because they think Mexicans are simply irresponsible people who cannot be held accountable for their own decisions. It is certainly not my position that America has been blameless in all of this, far from it. The difference is that America is to blame for what America does, not for what Mexico does and the state of Mexico is the responsibility of Mexicans, not Americans just as the state of the United States of America is the responsibility of Americans and not Mexicans. It is all the more pertinent if America has been consistently in the wrong in the entire history of U.S.-Mexico relations. “The Devil made me do it” is not a valid defense, just ask Eve, and, to quote a line from a famous film, “Who’s the more foolish; the fool or the fool that follows it?”


  1. Great article, MM. I’d say I’d fall into the America first crowd, but our history in Mexican affairs is something we need to take into account.

    A bit off topic concerning the Second Mexican Empire, but was the reason why a Hapsburg was chosen was because of the dynasty’s past hold of the Spanish Empire? Mexico was the crown jewel of Spain’s New World holdings.

    I was going through a Wikipedia list of claimants to thrones, and according to the list, Carlo of House Poletti-Galimberti has a claim on the Kingdom of Spain. Seeing as though the Hapsburgs were long gone from ruling Spain in the 1860s, were there then, as their is today, Habsburg pretenders to Spain, or at least, to Mexico?

    I apologize if the question is a bit hard to answer.

    1. Take into account, certainly but if, for example, simply sending an envoy to Mexico was harmful to them and yet they were themselves unable or unwilling to expel him, the only solution would be to have no contact at all with Mexico which, based on the wall controversy, would seem to upset Mexico more than anyone.

      For the choice of Maximilian, some say it was the Archbishop of Mexico who proposed him, but I have heard others as well. It has been pointed out that there was some degree of legitimacy in choosing a Habsburg but, at the same time, the Spanish were still so unpopular in Mexico that Maximilian had to drop his first name (Ferdinand) because of its association with Spain.

      I don't think there were any pretenders then, at least not of any significance whatsoever. These things were taken more seriously then and would have been a major problem for international relations if this was so. For a Habsburg to maintain a claim to the Spanish empire would have meant breaking their word on the treaty ending the War of Spanish Succession.

  2. Was the selection of Maximilian a French ploy to encumber Austria with an unstable Mexico and the Monroe doctrine?

    1. I don't think so but you are also not on to nothing. When Napoleon III was under pressure to pull out (and this came before the U.S. got involved) from a war weary public and the economic strain, he did try to basically 'pass the buck' to Austria by encouraging them to send more troops and basically take over for the French in keeping the Mexican Empire alive.

  3. It is not a question of blame you, but the American Empire can not say what happens in my colonies is not my bussiness. If United States has always aspired to control the natural resources of weaker countries, obtaining advantages of incalculable value sowing wars and calamities around the world, this is something that Mexico can hardly be accused of.

    1. The question at issue, however, is not the rest of the world but Mexico. Mexico is not a colony of the USA, obviously, as the Mexican government expelled the American businesses and made a law that they could not own land in Mexico. If Mexico is an American colony, America is obviously responsible for it but then Mexico must also submit to American rule. If Mexico is not a colony but is still being influenced in a negative way by the United States, the obvious answer is to sever all ties with Mexico, stop all trade and interaction, build the wall, return all Mexicans in America to Mexico and return all Americans in Mexico to the USA.

    2. The neocolonialist drive fails again and again. The question of blame is unimportant for me in this context. It is too easy to blame the Mexican institutions for not being stronger or US interests for taking advantage.

      The founders of Mexico's cartels were rogue paratroopers trained by the US at "The School of The Americas". The training camp has a sordid history and the name pops up in connection to (mostly anticommunist) coups and torture incidents throughout Latin America. How much of that is legitimate and how much is simply the opposition's rhetoric is beyond me.

      For myself, I wonder if the whole issue would not be simpler the US stopped beating around the bush. If Mexico were annexed, Mexicans would not need visas. The US would be directly responsible for Mexico's stability and security. On the economic front, Mexico has state run petroleum concerns, cheap labor, and younger demographics.

      It is hardly a PC solution or one the anti-immigrant community can get behind, but it makes more sense than neocolonialism. At least people would know where things stand.

    3. You may well get your wish, though not in the same way but you are certainly not alone in saying that the state of Mexico is due to American meddling, you are not alone in wishing the two populations to be merged. It is already happening. U.S. lawmakers are openly refusing to recognize the border or differences in citizenship, the Mexican-American population is the fastest growing in America and has already surpassed African-Americans as the second largest racial or ethnic group in the country. If you think this is a good thing, I doubt I could convince you otherwise.

    4. I don't think it is a good thing, nor do I blame the US for Mexico's situation. No matter what happens the US is going to be blamed for negative outcomes. In the case of a positive outcome, someone in DC might try to take credit for that as well. Economic and political powers are going to try to manipulate both sides regardless of the situation.

      Given all of that, annexation simplifies things tremendously. Certainly not my ideal, but I doubt that will ever be on the table.

      Don't sell your self short MM. Your writing has introduced me to perspectives I would have never considered before. You make a convincing case for your views and I am grateful for your efforts. Thank you.

    5. That seems a bit contradictory. I suppose I could agree that it would simplify things insofar as it would result in one-party rule and possibly a race war by driving home the point to the English-speaking population that they will never have any power or influence again unless they scrap the system and fight for it. I'd still prefer absolute separation to that.

      It is true that the US will be blamed in any event, I have come to accept that, which is why I've come around to being pretty much an isolationist. If we will be blamed regardless, I'd just as well be blamed and not lose thousands of lives and billions of dollars for it.


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