This Day in History

Feb. 2, 1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo 

Time Periods: 1800
Themes: Imperialism, Latinx, US Foreign Policy, Wars & Related Anti-War Movements
Map of Mexico | Zinn Education Project

Map of Mexico prior to the treaty. Find this and a digital copy of the signed treaty at the Library of Congress.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on Feb. 2, 1848, ending the U.S. Mexico War and extending the boundaries of the United States west to the Pacific Ocean.

The war was an invasion and occupation of Mexico by the U.S. — in fact, the official name for the U.S. Army was the Army of Occupation.

Bill Bigelow wrote in the introduction to the lesson,  ‘U.S. Mexico War: “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”’ and a critique of U.S. history textbooks’ coverage of the U.S. Mexico War:

Grasping some of the motives for that war and some of its immediate effects begins to provide students the kind of historical context that is crucial for thinking intelligently about the border that separates the United States and Mexico. It also gives students insights into the justifications for and costs of war today.

Most Mexicans know that the war against Mexico was another chapter in U.S. imperialism — a “North American invasion,” as it’s commemorated in a huge memorial in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park.

Here’s what Col. Ethan Allan Hitchcock, aide to the commander of U.S. forces Gen. Zachary Taylor, wrote at the time in his journal about the war’s origins: “I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors. . .  We have not one particle of right to be here . . . It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses.”

. . . It was a war of the American elite against the Mexican elite, each side exhorting, using, killing its own population as well as the other. The Mexican commander Santa Anna had crushed rebellion after rebellion, his troops also raping and plundering after victory.

The Zinn Education Project offers a free downloadable lesson from Rethinking Schools by Bill Bigelow for teaching outside the textbook about the war, with a reading by Howard Zinn. The lesson, ‘U.S. Mexico War: “We Take Nothing by Conquest, Thank God”’ is a mixer role play that includes Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion, and more key people and organizations from the period.