On this day in 1848, the U.S. and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the war between the two nations. In a sad irony, Guadalupe Hidalgo is the site of probably the most revered Christian shrine in Mexico, where the Virgin Mary appeared to a poor farmer in the 16th century. To many Mexicans, it appeared as though Our Lady had deserted Mexico in its hour of need.
In a sense, Mexico got the last laugh. The tremendous territorial acquisitions which the U.S. made at Mexico's expense were a chalice laced with arsenic. The uneasy balance between free and slave states that had prevailed since the Missouri Compromise was knocked askew. Debates in Congress soon turned fiery as Southerners demanded the right to organize some of those territories as slave states. The furies of this debate helped destroy the Whig party and opened the door for the emergence of the Republican party. I'm sure Rush Limbaugh is grateful.
The Mexicans have a saying: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States." In the 165 years that have passed since Guadalupe Hidalgo, the symbotic relationship between the two nations has tilted the balance first in one direction, then another. It's interesting to speculate whether, had Anglos not moved into then-Mexican Texas in the 1820s, American settlement might have pulled the center of east-west movement toward the Pacific Northwest instead of toward the Southwest and California.
Of course, speculation is idle. Like it or not, Mexico and the U.S. are bound too tightly to disentangle. Today's political debates indicate that the poisoned chalice still has some of its nasty potency.