Stories about the border don’t fall in a straight line
A map of the United States-Mexico border shows a straight line with an irregular piece of land which appears to be Mexico extending into America. Can you explain that?
Is it an irregular piece of Mexico extending into the United States or is it an irregular piece of the United States extending into Mexico?
I guess it depends on how you look at it.
Popular history says that when the border was being measured out the surveyors, heading from east to west, got to Nogales and realized the closest bar was in Yuma so they set out in a beeline towards there.
It’s a good story, which is why it is popular history, but that’s not quite the way it worked out.
After the Mexican-American War in 1848, the U.S. took over a huge territory, including parts of what are now New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, plus U.S. claims to Texas.
That agreement set the southern border of Arizona at the Gila River. That, however, wasn’t enough for some interests in the United States. So James Gadsden, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, negotiated the purchase of 45,535 square miles of what is now southern bits of Arizona and New Mexico for $10 million.
Southern politicians wanted to buy a much larger piece of land from Mexico with access to a seaport at the head of the Gulf of California while the North wanted just enough land for a southern railroad route.
For its part Mexico wanted to hold on to its land route to Baja California, fearing that if it didn’t the Americans in California would just move in and take it over.
Eventually, the Northern interests prevailed and instead of buying up the head of the Gulf of California and all that other land, we got Yuma.
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