Stories about the bor­der don’t fall in a straight line

The Arizona Republic - - News - Clay Thomp­son Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

To­day’s ques­tion:

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.

Have a ques­tion for Clay? Reach him at 602-444-8612 or clay.thomp­son@ari­zonare­pub­

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