'Reconquista' is the wrong term

During the recent anti-Trump riots in San Jose, an angry-looking Latino held up a hand-lettered sign that said, “Trump, this is Mexico!  You are not welcome on Native Mexican soil.”  Other protestors threw eggs and rocks, burned American flags, and waved Mexican flags.  Five persons have been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon.  The riots were part of what some Latinos call the “Reconquista.”  It harks back to the fifteenth century, when the Spanish reclaimed the Iberian peninsula from the Moors.  As I shall show, however, California is not native Mexican soil.

The California Reconquista is fueled by false information in the history books.  They read as if American forces invaded California when it was ruled by Mexico.  In fact, Mexico's governance of California had ended one and a half years earlier, and Mexican rule had been brief.  Here is the true story.

In 1820, Mexico had a Spanish governor, and the people living there were called “Mexicans.”  At that time, California had a Spanish governor, and the people living there were called “Californios.”  There was little interaction between the two provinces.  Land travel between them was discouraged by hostile Native Americans.  Seldom would a ship proceed from Mexico to California and if it did, the ship would stop first at Hawaii.

In 1821, the Mexicans overthrew Spanish rule and became independent.  In the following year, Mexico laid claim to California.  The Spanish governor in the capital of Monterey declared the claim “absurd.”  He expected help to come from Spain, but none came.  The governor departed, and the sparsely populated province submitted to Mexican rule.  But not for long.  The Californios and the Mexicans were not compatible.  There were revolts in which Californio governors temporarily replaced Mexican governors.  Few Mexicans moved to California.

In 1842, Mexico tried to sell the ungovernable California to the king of Prussia.  His ambassadors in London and Washington urged purchase, but the king declined the offer on the advice of a famous explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

In February of 1845, a Mexican governor was ousted by Californios for the last time.  The new governor was Pio de Jesus Pico, a Los Angeles businessman of partly African descent.  Erroneously, Pico often is referred to as the “last Mexican governor of California.”  In fact, he was a Californio born near Los Angeles during the period of Spanish rule.  The Mexican governance of California had lasted, off and on, for only twenty-three years.

The leading Californios debated how they could be safe from foreign aggression.  Governor Pico recommended a British protectorate.  Noting that France was Catholic, General Jose Antonio Castro recommended a French protectorate.  General Mariano Guadelupe Vallejo urged annexation to the United States.  In that case, he said, the Californios would not be “subjects.”  They would be “fellow-citizens ... prosperous, happy, and free.”

In 1846, after the Mexican-American War broke out, the U.S. Navy arrived in Monterey on July 1 and hoisted the American flag.  It was a timely arrival.  A British fleet showed up on July 16 too late.  The British had planned to seize California as a means of collecting Mexican debts.

In sum, Mexican rule was brief, much interrupted, and unwelcome.  California was destined to become British or American.  It was not native Mexican soil.

During the recent anti-Trump riots in San Jose, an angry-looking Latino held up a hand-lettered sign that said, “Trump, this is Mexico!  You are not welcome on Native Mexican soil.”  Other protestors threw eggs and rocks, burned American flags, and waved Mexican flags.  Five persons have been charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon.  The riots were part of what some Latinos call the “Reconquista.”  It harks back to the fifteenth century, when the Spanish reclaimed the Iberian peninsula from the Moors.  As I shall show, however, California is not native Mexican soil.

The California Reconquista is fueled by false information in the history books.  They read as if American forces invaded California when it was ruled by Mexico.  In fact, Mexico's governance of California had ended one and a half years earlier, and Mexican rule had been brief.  Here is the true story.

In 1820, Mexico had a Spanish governor, and the people living there were called “Mexicans.”  At that time, California had a Spanish governor, and the people living there were called “Californios.”  There was little interaction between the two provinces.  Land travel between them was discouraged by hostile Native Americans.  Seldom would a ship proceed from Mexico to California and if it did, the ship would stop first at Hawaii.

In 1821, the Mexicans overthrew Spanish rule and became independent.  In the following year, Mexico laid claim to California.  The Spanish governor in the capital of Monterey declared the claim “absurd.”  He expected help to come from Spain, but none came.  The governor departed, and the sparsely populated province submitted to Mexican rule.  But not for long.  The Californios and the Mexicans were not compatible.  There were revolts in which Californio governors temporarily replaced Mexican governors.  Few Mexicans moved to California.

In 1842, Mexico tried to sell the ungovernable California to the king of Prussia.  His ambassadors in London and Washington urged purchase, but the king declined the offer on the advice of a famous explorer, Alexander von Humboldt.

In February of 1845, a Mexican governor was ousted by Californios for the last time.  The new governor was Pio de Jesus Pico, a Los Angeles businessman of partly African descent.  Erroneously, Pico often is referred to as the “last Mexican governor of California.”  In fact, he was a Californio born near Los Angeles during the period of Spanish rule.  The Mexican governance of California had lasted, off and on, for only twenty-three years.

The leading Californios debated how they could be safe from foreign aggression.  Governor Pico recommended a British protectorate.  Noting that France was Catholic, General Jose Antonio Castro recommended a French protectorate.  General Mariano Guadelupe Vallejo urged annexation to the United States.  In that case, he said, the Californios would not be “subjects.”  They would be “fellow-citizens ... prosperous, happy, and free.”

In 1846, after the Mexican-American War broke out, the U.S. Navy arrived in Monterey on July 1 and hoisted the American flag.  It was a timely arrival.  A British fleet showed up on July 16 too late.  The British had planned to seize California as a means of collecting Mexican debts.

In sum, Mexican rule was brief, much interrupted, and unwelcome.  California was destined to become British or American.  It was not native Mexican soil.