A community advocacy newspaper for northern New Mexico
Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, NM 87521
Poor Chupadero, so far from God, so close to Santa Fe By David Correia and Eric Perramond
Los Alamos National Laboratory Update By Joni Arends, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, and Sheri Kotowski, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group
A Brief History of American Imperialism, Part 1 By Mark Schiller
By David Correia and Eric Perramond
In the strange world of New Mexico water politics, the tiny Las Acequias de Chupadero north of Santa Fe may be the strangest still. The 55 parciantes who irrigate nearly 110 acres of pastures, orchards, and fields in the narrow valley at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains owe most of the water in their ditches to an unusual 19th century agreement hatched between residents of Chupadero and the adjacent Rio en Medio valley. At the time, the Rio Chupadero was no rio at all. The water that trickled through the Chupadero valley each spring never lasted more than a few weeks. Despite the lack of water, the Commissioners of Las Acequias de Rio en Medio recognized the agricultural possibilities of the valley. In 1897 a convenio was agreed to and a splitter box at the headwaters begun. Together the residents of both valleys constructed a transmountain diversion that brought water from the Rio en Medio into the Chupadero valley.
Where there was once a trickle, there was now a river. The new waters increased the Chupadero growing season by three months. The one-page convenio, an astounding collective effort to build the diversion, and the ongoing cooperation among parciantes of the two valleys continue to serve as the political and ecological foundation of what is today the Las Acequias de Chupadero. But the very existence of the Rio Chupadero, its social and political origins, challenges the reductive legal frameworks of water adjudication in New Mexico. In the complicated political economy of water in New Mexico, the Rio Chupadero poses particularly difficult questions. If the 1897 agreement literally created a new river and a local water economy, how and in what way should new property owners be bound by that agreement? And where does the Rio Chupadero fit in the labyrinthine world of New Mexico water law? Is it a river? Is it an acequia?
Until recently, these questions were the domain of the State Engineer. And in the economic reductionism that governs the logic of the State Engineer, the complicated social and ecological history of the Rio Chupadero and the interests of local parciantes would likely take a back seat to the interests of commercial developers. But changes to the New Mexico code in 2003 transformed acequia-State Engineer relations and local water governance in New Mexico. The new law now gives acequia commissions the power to deny requests to move water rights out of a ditch if commissioners determine that such a transfer "would be detrimental to the acequias or community ditch or its members." If the State Engineer once served as a rubber stamp for developers to replace potato patches with mega-mansions, local acequia commissions now control their own fate.
But while the change granted local acequias new and important authorities, it also imposed new standards and requirements. When confronted with transfer requests, acequia commissions now function as quasi-judicial bodies. While this has always been true of acequia associations to a certain degree, the new law holds acequia commissioners to strict legal standards related to the holding of public hearings and the drafting of judicial decisions. With these new rules come new realities. Lay knowledge of community politics and the ecology of local acequia function is now less important than specialized legal knowledge-now acequias need lawyers, not just mayordomos. In this new world, commissioners must pay as much attention to the legal landscape of water law as they do to the local landscapes of ditches and drainages.
And into this new world came Santa Fe Properties (SFP). This summer the group applied to the Chupadero commission to transfer its recently purchased water rights out of the acequia's drainage basin.
Soren Peters, son of the prominent Santa Fe restaurateur and art and real estate mogul Gerald Peters, represented SFP in a transfer request in front of the Chupadero commission.
The first request by Peters was to transfer surface water rights to an elevated mesa-a perfect site for ritzy houses, many noted-that overlooked the Rio en Medio valley. Many parciantes on the Chupadero ditches were concerned that this was part of a water transfer from agriculture to residential development. The 1897 convenio defined an agricultural water sharing agreement, but the Peters transfer would have displaced local water rights into a zone unsuited for irrigated agricultural.
One of the central points in the original convenio was that only commissioners from both communities could make decisions that would affect the flow at the splitter box. After a group visit to both sites proposed for the transfers, the commissioners ruled against the surface to groundwater move. Commissioners were concerned that the transfer would undermine the time-honored relationship between Chupadero and Rio en Medio.
The second part of the Peters request had to do with a simpler surface water conveyance. Peters proposed to move an existing water right downstream along the Rio Chupadero (a right they purchased from Christian Brothers, the founders of the now defunct College of Santa Fe). The commissioners were more favorable to this request, but only if Peters was willing to play by the acequia's rules. But Peters rejected the acequia's jurisdiction on any and all of these matters. Santa Fe Properties's intent, it seems, was to purchase water rights for commercial purposes and move them as they deemed fit along and between basins.
This idea that water is a "commodity" untied from local community governance norms has become an all too frequent reality for acequias throughout New Mexico. The conflicts that erupt when developers with deep pockets invade small valleys in places like Chupadero have come to define the struggles over who gets to decide water issues in New Mexico. The conflict offers a stark contrast between those who self-interestedly understand water as a private commodity versus those who see it as inherently part of an ecological, cultural, and political landscape.
The SFP v Chupadero case is a microcosm of adjudication conflicts throughout the state and the struggles that acequia organizations face when individuals want the water but not the local oversight that comes with them. That the acequia is both a physical ditch and an institution has turned out to be an inconvenient truth for many people not wanting to be subject to community governance. It also highlights a willful misunderstanding of both hydrology and the local governance of acequias. As the historical arrangements between Rio en Medio and Chupadero demonstrate, some communities have figured out their own democratic and ecological bypasses around the water and land bureaucracies in the state. The question, of course, is whether meaningful local governance will stand the legal onslaught now under way.
Despite the commission's denial of Peters' request, the story is far from over. Santa Fe Properties has appealed the acequia commission's rejection to the District Court. Given the location and history of the Chupadero acequia, the transfer conflict, stuck as it is between the economics of residential development and the social history of a river, promises to be thornier and more difficult to settle than most.
But this is really just one more chapter in a longer Santa Fe story about how water not only flows uphill towards money but even, on occasion, ignores gravity.
Editors Note: In a related case, the commissions of the San Jose de Hernandez Community Ditch and La Acequia del Gavilan in Ojo Caliente in 2007 denied water transfer applications by Española mogul Richard Cook (Peña Blanca Partnership), which have already been challenged in court. The initial decision, questioning the constitutionality of the state statute, was decided in favor of the acequias. The case will now be decided on the merits of the commissions' decisions to deny the transfer applications (see the October 2007 and October/November 2008 La Jicarita News issues for more details).
By Joni Arends, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, and Sheri Kotowski, Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which is the only U.S. facility currently manufacturing the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, continues to oppose efforts to protect public health and the environment. The New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) public hearing on the revised draft hazardous waste permit for LANL is scheduled to begin April 5, 2010 and we have several critical concerns.
First, LANL continues to oppose posting financial documents that will provide funding for cleanup and remediation when operations end at the various hazardous waste facilities. These requirements ensure that cleanup will be done. Former Senator Pete Domenici, a longtime advocate of nuclear weapons expansion at LANL, was able to pass a rider to exempt the other Department of Energy (DOE) sites in New Mexico - Sandia National Laboratories and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant - from such requirements during his tenure.
Second, the Inspector General of the DOE recently released a report about the problems with fire protection at LANL, a facility with "unique" hazards. http://ig.energy.gov/documents/IG-0821.pdf. This is the second report since June, indicating a heightened awareness of the problems that have been documented for over a decade by the Inspector General, as well as the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board (DNFSB) and the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The Inspector General cited recommendations found in the 1995 and 2004 Baseline Needs Assessments, which LANL has not addressed. These include staffing, training, and the need for pre-fire plans for facilities that handle hazardous chemicals, explosives, and radioactive materials. Some of the issues were resolved on paper at the end of September 2008 when Los Alamos County and the NNSA signed a Cooperative Agreement for fire protection services, after 11 years of negotiations and temporary contracts. Although issues, such as staffing, are addressed in the contract, inadequate staffing remains a problem. Further, many of the issues will not be addressed until 2010.
The Inspector General said, ". . . the challenges facing NNSA, LANL, and the County are significant, especially given the history of failed attempts to secure the appropriate level of fire suppression services for LANL. We believe that the recent initiatives taken by the NNSA under the Cooperative Agreement are good first steps, but additional actions are needed."
Kevin Roark, LANL spokesman, said, "Things are definitely being done. We completely reorganized our fire-protection system by creating a new division. We're hiring fire-protection engineers. We're replacing many thousands of outdated sprinkler heads. Things are happening."
Sheri Kotowski, Lead Organizer for the Embudo Valley Environmental Monitoring Group (EVEMG), has been monitoring emergency preparedness and has participated in the extensive negotiations regarding the draft NMED hazardous waste permit for LANL. She said that the DOE Inspector General and other federal oversight agencies do not have enforcement powers so they cannot require LANL to rectify the on-going deficiencies. However, according to Kotowski, through the hazardous waste permitting process NMED has enforcement powers for emergency management and response, including "fire protection" under the Contingency Plan. "In permits issued by the Environment Department, there are enforcement mechanisms so that the deficiencies must be corrected to ensure that the facilities are in compliance. In the case of the hazardous waste permit, the Environment Department needs to step up and use their enforcement powers within the context of the hazardous waste permit to keep the public protected."
James Bearzi, Chief of the NMED's Hazardous Waste Bureau, responded by saying, "There is no state or federal law that would allow us to enforce the inspector general report. To make a statement like the Environment Department should step up . . . is ludicrous."
Kotowski would agree that NMED does not have the power to "enforce" anything that the DOE Inspector General recommends; however, as the regulator of hazardous waste, NMED has the power to investigate whether the hazardous waste operations under the existing permit- or those to be permitted under the new permit- are operating safely and are in compliance with the fire protection requirements. If the inspection finds problems, then NMED has the authority under the hazardous waste laws to enforce any violations.
But we may not have to wait and see. On October 14, there will be a "functional exercise" at LANL that will test emergency preparedness and communication between federal, tribal, state, and local emergency responders. The exercise grew out of community concerns about the lack of information during the May 2000 Cerro Grande fire. EVEMG, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, and others have been working for years to bring the functional exercise to fruition and will serve as "observers."
Bearzi said, "This type of exercise, bringing these emergency managers from all these different counties, hasn't happened anywhere else in the state. So, actually, I would say the folks in northern New Mexico are getting the extra attention they deserve."
The Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement, or the Abeyta Litigation Settlement Act, and the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act of the water rights claims of the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, and Tesuque, recently passed U.S. Senate and House committees. A review by the administration, according to Representative Ben Ray Lujan's office (Lujan introduced both bills in the House), raised several concerns: that there be a clear cap on construction costs for the regional water systems; that there be a 40% non-federal cost share; and that some questions regarding water rights be resolved. We haven't seen any proposed amendments, and according to Paul White, of the Pojoaque Basin Water Alliance, Representative Lujan declined to meet with him or his group to discuss their long standing concerns (which La Jicarita News has covered extensively) regarding the Aamodt settlement.
Just as we were going to press, the results of a Brain Sanderoff poll were released, showing that 59 percent of the Pojoaque Valley residents polled "have negative feelings" regarding the terms of the Aamodt settlement, and that "those who have heard more about the Aamodt settlement tend to have a more negative opinion of it and of the proposed water system." Santa Fe Commissioner Harry Montoya, who expressed surprise at the survey results, was quoted as saying about the terms of the settlement, "I think it's as good as it's going to get."
It's that time of year again when we ask our readers to please send in their subscriptions for 2010, which will mark La Jicarita News' 15th year of publication. This past year several of our newspaper colleagues - Bill Whaley of Taos' Horse Fly and Ed and Martha Quillen of Salida's Colorado Central - sold their publications, which are about the same age as La Jicarita. If we were to give up the ghost there would be no sale of a non-profit newspaper, so we'd like to hang in there for at least another year to pay the bills and, to paraphrase Mark Twain, get our facts first so we can then "distort 'em" as we please.
Thanks to everyone who contributed articles this year, thanks to Vanguard Printing in Albuquerque for always getting the paper out in a timely fashion, thanks to our faithful funders the Healy and McCune foundations, and thanks to all our loyal readers who send in money whenever the spirit moves them.
Photos by Eric Shultz
Authors Dave Correia and Eric Perramond at the diversion site
The Quivira Coalition's 8th Annual Conference will be held on Wednesday, November 4th through Friday, November 6th at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuquerque. This year's program is a celebration of the centennial arrival of Aldo Leopold in the Southwest as a ranger with the fledging Forest Service: "Living Leopold: The Land Ethic and a New Agrarianism." A Water Symposium and Range School will be held on Wednesday, and presentations, including Land Health, Conservation, Sustainable Agriculture, Restoration, Beauty, and The Land Ethic will be held on Thursday and Friday. You can register online at www.quiviracoalition.org.
Congress designated the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area in 2006 to "respect, protect, conserve, and celebrate the landscape and historical, social, and cultural characteristics of communities in Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, and Taos counties." NRGNHA is currently developing a 10-year Partnership Plan and to that end is sponsoring a Stakeholders Workshop on Friday, October 30 from 9:00 to 4:30 at the Oñate Center, 6 miles north of Española on NM 68. If you would like additional information contact Glenna Dean at 505 753-0937.
La Jicarita News received the following letter from some guy in Albuquerque, via the internet, of course, which just goes to show how COMPLETELY CRAZY some folks are out there. Of course, we'd love it if Nancy Pelosi were really a Marxist.
La Jicarita News:
Nancy Pelosi's Controversial Marxist Connection
Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is second in the line of succession to the presidency may be a security risk. There is increasing concern about whether Pelosi has close personal relationships with pro Castro Rep.
Barbara Lee and the Hallianan family of San Francisco once under scrutiny by the California Senate Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities for their pro-Soviet propaganda efforts. Lee was a secret member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism a spin-off of the Communist Party. Now think back to the Soviet Union's staged collapse and compare it with our imminent collapse and notice some of the similarities and it easy to see that the same people are behind this machination. http://sfr-21.org/collapse.html.
By Mark Schiller
Editors' note: This is the first in a series of articles that will explore the causes of indigenous peoples' land dispossession in the United States with particular regard to what occurred in New Mexico.
Modern scholarship has demonstrated that the American Revolution was not an anticolonial liberation movement as it has traditionally been portrayed, but rather the process by which the American mercantile elite threw off the yoke of the British mercantile elite (See William Appleman Williams, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Ann Laura Stoler, Amy Kaplan, and R.W. Van Alstyne to name just a few scholars whose work supports this thesis). It was, in essence, a battle between two rival factions within the British Empire for control of the land, resources, and markets of North America that resulted in a bifurcation of that empire. Cultural historian Stanley Cavell states the argument bluntly, ". . . America's revolution never happened. The colonists fought a war against England all right, and they won it. But it was not a war of independence that was won, because we are not free; nor was even secession the outcome, because we have not departed from the conditions England lives under, either in our literature or in our political and economic lives."
In point of fact, the "founding fathers" were English ancestored, white male slave owners who employed a rationale of white supremacist entitlement to initiate a policy of colonial expansion that drove the national boundary west to the furthest limit of the North American continent and dispossessed or murdered everyone in its way. As early as 1751, Benjamin Franklin counseled the English Crown, ". . . the Prince that acquires new Territory, if he finds it vacant, or removes the Natives to give his own People Room . . . may be properly called Fathers of their Nation . . . ." By 1783 George Washington was referring to the United States as a "rising empire" and in 1809 Thomas Jefferson wrote James Madison, ". . . I am persuaded no constitution was ever so well calculated as ours for extensive empire . . . ." The expansionist drive gained such momentum that in 1823 when President James Monroe famously declared to Congress that "the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers . . . ." (quoted from Monroe's December 2, 1823 speech before Congress later known as the "Monroe Doctrine"), he was not seeking to protect the western hemisphere from further colonization but proclaiming the United States' hegemony over the region.
That hegemony exacted a terrible toll on the Native American and Indo-Hispano people who resided on the lands into which the United States expanded. As the eminent American historian William Appleman Williams has noted, the "assertion that Americans enjoyed free security as well as free land throughout most of their history, and that these factors explain the nation's development is hardly half the story. What is missing is the pattern of total war developed and put into operation against the Indians and then transferred to later opponents."
This series of articles will try to shed some light on an aspect of that "war," which has not been as thoroughly documented as the wars against Native Americans. By closely examining government policy I argue that the injustices that occurred during the adjudication of Spanish and Mexican land grants by federal agents and courts were not primarily legal issues - although the courts were often the arena in which the dispossessions and disenfranchisements were enacted - but part of a colonialist policy that the government implemented, both explicitly and covertly, in order to make land and resources available for Anglo capitalist exploitation. The United States federal government never had any intention of "inviolably respecting" (as the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo asserts) the property or human rights of the Mexican citizens it incorporated as a result of the Mexican-American War. Its real concerns were economic and political, and the legal proceedings were, by and large, a dog and pony show to disguise that fact. I further contend that the official narrative (the most recent iteration of which is the 2004 General Accounting Office Report on community land grants in New Mexico) constructed by the government to chronicle and explain this era not only attempts to justify the land theft but cover up a legacy of racial hatred and brutality.
As a result, thousands of legitimate Mexican landowners were dispossessed of their land. At least 14,000,000 acres were lost in New Mexico alone. This has had devastating social, economic, cultural, and environmental consequences that have contributed to New Mexico becoming one of the poorest, most environmentally exploited states in the country.
Before detailing the specifics of my argument, it's essential to establish that an undercurrent of imperialist aggression pervades American history prior to these adjudications. Early expansionist policy, predicated on the dispossession of Native Americans, was clearly the model upon which later colonialist schemes directed at Indo-Hispanos and others were based.
Historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz asserts: "Thomas Jefferson . . . was the real architect of the genocide and confiscation of the land of indigenous peoples. . . ." An 1801 letter to James Monroe outlined Thomas Jefferson's Anglo-centric expansionist vision. "However our present interests may restrain us within our own limits, it is impossible not to look forward to distant times, when our rapid multiplication will expand itself beyond those limits, and cover the whole northern, if not the southern continent, with a people speaking the same language, governed in similar forms, and by similar laws; nor can we contemplate with satisfaction either blot or mixture on that surface [emphasis added]." This "blot or mixture" Jefferson could not "contemplate with satisfaction" included Native Americans, blacks (as free men), and Indo-Hispanos.
Jefferson both vilified and elegized Native Americans in a schizophrenic attempt to, on the one hand, justify their extirpation and obtain their lands and, on the other, salve his pious conscience. Historical anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace suggests, " . . . Jefferson appears both as the scholarly admirer of Indian character, archaeology, and language and as the planner of cultural genocide, the architect of the removal policy, the surveyor of the Trail of Tears." In the Declaration of Independence Jefferson refers to Native Americans as ". . . the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions." By contrast, in a 1797 letter to James Wikinson Jefferson wrote, "When we contemplate the Fortunes of the Aborigines of our Country, the Bosom of Philanthropy must heave with sorrow, and our sympathy be strongly excited -what would not that man, or that Community merit, who reclaims the untutored Indian - opens his mind to sources of happiness unknown, and makes him useful to society? Since it would be in effect to save a whole race from extinction, for surely - if this people are not brought to depend for subsistence on their fields instead of their forests, and to realize Ideas of distinct property, it will be found impossible to correct their present habits, and the seeds of their extinction, already sown, must be matured."
The notion that "untutored" native communal populations must yield to the "enlightened" institutions of western civilization, particularly yeoman husbandry and its corollary, private property, would be repeatedly invoked as a rationale for their dispossession. It formed, as I shall demonstrate, the basis upon which judicial decisions and Congressional acts that legitimized and institutionalized land theft and racism were predicated.
Jefferson's expansionist agenda included not only aggressively encouraging settlement of the land west of the Alleghenies (which had been forbidden under British rule and in which he had a personal investment), with its consequent dispossession of thousands of Native Americans, but the 1803 acquisition from France of the land from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from the Gulf of Mexico to what became the Canadian border through the Louisiana Purchase. Astonishingly, though he himself questioned the constitutionality of the purchase, he managed to finesse the treaty that authorized this enormous land acquisition through Congress despite vehement opposition from the federalists. Regarding his "democratic" political ideals, which have been held sacrosanct by revisionist historians, Jefferson himself remarked, "what is practicable must often control what is pure theory." His immediate successors, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson also embraced Jefferson's oxymoronic credo that the government was constructing an "empire for liberty" predicated on the dispossession of indigenous peoples.
Monroe and his Secretary of State John Quincy Adams solidified the United States' hold on the eastern portion of North America with the acquisition of the "Spanish Floridas" from the crumbling Spanish colonial empire, severely weakened by continental wars in 1819. As early as 1786 Jefferson had shrewdly spelled out the government's long range intentions for the Spanish colonies in the western hemisphere: "Our confederacy must be viewed as the nest, from which all America, North and South, is to be peopled. We should take care too, not to think it for the interest of that great continent to press too soon on the Spaniards. Those countries cannot be in better hands. My fear is that they [the Spanish] are too feeble to hold them till our population can be sufficiently advanced to gain it from them piece by piece."
Article II of The 1819 Treaty of Amity, Settlement, and Limits between the United States and His Catholic Majesty ceded ". . . all the territories that belong to him [the King of Spain], situated to the eastward of the Mississippi, known by the name of East and West Florida" and fixed the boundary between Spain and the United States west of the Mississippi at the Sabine River, which ultimately became the boundary between the states of Louisiana and Texas. Although the United States accepted this limitation, according to historian Richard Van Alstyne, Jefferson maintained that the the land he had procured [through the Louisiana Purchase] extended westward to the Rio Grande and politicians, including Henry Clay and Thomas Hart Benton asserted that the United States had actually given away territory with the treaty. It would only take a generation, however, to "correct" this mistake.
Spain's increasingly tenuous hold on its colonies in the new world, coupled with the Mexican mercantile's dissatisfaction with the Spanish colonial system draining the wealth of Mexico, led to an insurrection culminating in Mexico declaring its independence in 1821. In an effort to protect its northern territorial frontiers from further incursion by the United States, the newly established Mexican government began issuing what it termed "empresario" grants to Anglo land speculators. These grants, which included enormous tracts in Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, were made with the understanding that the empresarios, who included, among others, Stephen Austin in Texas and Charles Beaubien, Gervais Nolán, Ceran St. Vrain, and Charles Bent in New Mexico and Colorado, would import settlers whose communities, theoretically, would act as buffers against United States' expansion.
Austin's colony, which was located in the fertile river bottom between the Brazos and Colorado rivers south of the El Camino Real, offered free land in a temperate climate while the United States government was charging $1.25 an acre for land in much harsher environments. Thus, Austin was able to induce an enormous influx of Anglo settlers, who quickly outnumbered the indigenous population, while maintaining their allegiance to the United States.
Now, with an established Anglo population, the United States renewed its efforts to acquire the territory. President John Quincy Adams, still stinging from the political controversy that festered over the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase he helped negotiate in 1819 with Spain when he was Secretary of State, offered the Mexican government $1 million for the Texas territories, which included much of New Mexico and southern Colorado, in both 1825 and 1827, to no avail. Adam's successor, Andrew Jackson, raised the offer to $5 million but was also unsuccessful.
The Mexican government, realizing the United States was intent upon annexing Texas, attempted to stem the flow of Anglo immigration by statute in 1830 and, when that proved ineffective, it tried to crush Anglo Texans' efforts for self-determination by force of arms. Santa Ana's victory at the Alamo in February of 1836 was short lived, however, as the cry of "Remember the Alamo" ignited a wave of xenophobic support that allowed for a quick reprisal. Led by Andrew Jackson's protégé and James K. Polk's close friend, Sam Houston, an army of eight hundred Texans decimated Santa Ana's forces at the Battle of San Jacinto six weeks latter, resulting in the independent Republic of Texas. While Mexico refused to acknowledge the new country's sovereignty, it was powerless to intervene.
Annexation of Texas by the United States then became a hotly debated subject with the northeastern manufacturing interests fearful that the addition of Texas would strengthen the southern slave based agricultural interests in the economic and political tug of war that had developed between the two capitalist factions. Northern opposition, however, was tempered by fears that the Britain wanted to maintain an independent Texas as a potential market for British goods, free from American protective tariffs as well as a source of cotton for its textile mills. In the meantime, the Republic of Texas was being deluged by American immigrants seeking free or cheap land, and the annexation debate was ultimately decided by the overwhelming support of the land hungry residents of the established western states. Running on a platform that endorsed the annexation of Texas and the Oregon Territory, James K. Polk, a man who would acquire more territory during his four year presidency than any other president before or after, managed a slim victory over Henry Clay, who opposed both acquisitions. The debate fueled the mounting frenzy of jingoistic support for expansion, which was given moral and judicial justification through the racist conceit of "Manifest Destiny," and the stage was set for the Mexican-American War.
Next month's article will focus on the theoretical and legal underpinnings of Manifest Destiny.
Copyright 1996-2006 La Jicarita Box 6 El Valle Route, Chamisal, New Mexico 87521.