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Down a rabbit hole: “Expats”, 1912

31 January 2022

While looking for something else (specifically, the short lived “Confederate colonies” of the 1860s, when Maximiliano — or rather his French overlords — came up with the “brilliant” idea of importing defeated Confederates and dispossessed [of their slaves] white southerners in an attempt to “civilize” the populace, or replace them, maybe) when I found this.

Of course, the horrendous word “expat” didn’t exist at the time, ony coming into vogue with former colonial masters after the Second World War who either stayed on, or who were looking for someplace where their money allowed them to aspire to a lifestyle they never enjoyed at home. Before that, while writers like Hemingway used the verb “expatriate” as a noun, to expatriate, was just a synonym for to migrate:: although to expatriate implied a voluntary migration, with undertones of turning one’s back on the “old country” and adopting the mores of the new, rather than — as now — to mean migration (temporary or permantly) from a wealthy country, with all the priviliges — and cultural baggage — intact.

What Maximiliano forgot, or (clueless dolt that he was) just never understood, was less than 20 years after the US invasion and annexation of a massive chunk of the country, gringos (expatriates or migrants) were not about to be welcome with open arms by native Mexicans. Even in 1912, they were still viewed (and to a large extent, for reasons still relevant today) would they be.

From El Diario (30 January 1912): an interview with Texas county judge (and later long-serving member of the House of Representatives) J. J. Mansfield, who at the time was acting on behalf of a colonizing company, which intended to to settle iin the area of ​​Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz. One thing the reporter, and the paper, failed to take into account was that the Coatzacoalcos River region is oil country. While the proposed colony under discussion did attract “settlers” they would soon sell out to the oil companies, US corportations controlling the area until the 1938 Expropriation.

“Regarding the discussed problem of North American colonization in our Republic, we had an interview yesterday with one of the future settlers from the neighboring nation, in which we fully and frankly discussed the danger that said colonization might present for our nation. The gentleman, who finely and intelligently and openly answered all our questions, was Judge JJ Mansfield, of Columbus, Texas, editor and owner of that city’s Colorado Citizen newspaper. He was returning to the United States after inspecting to the extensive holdings of an American colonizing company, whose lands cover some 160,000 acres. Extending from the Coatzacoalcos River, to the east of Santa Lucrecia, Veracruz.

Mansfield came to this Republic as one of a party of 180 people organized by the land company, about eighty of whom had stayed in Veracruz, to colonize portions of the aforementioned land, and he told us that many of the others have considered returning with their families. W brieflye outlined for Mr. Mansfield the concerns Mexican patriots have regarding the dangers of North American colonization, especially in states bordering on the neighboring nation and Central America, and how to avoid the fear of a second annexation , as happened in Texas.

“-As far as I know -he answered us seriously- neither the Government of the United States, nor the American people want to annex more foreign land. They only wish to cultivate close relations with Mexico for the advantages that will accrue to both countries in a political, intellectual, and especially commercial sense. Being neighbors, the two countries should not push for anything more more than the feelings of greater cordiality. Speaking on behalf of the region that I represent, I can say that Texans esteem the Government of Mexico and it is in their interest that they respect the country’s integrity.

“-There are those who point out, Your Honor, that of all the immigrants who come to colonize our country, the North Americans are the least willing to adapt to our laws, customs and language. That it is precisely what the Americans do. Americans claim it is their “manifest destiny,” to permeate and “saxonize”(to coin a word) the entire Western Hemisphere, and that once the social conquest has been achieved in this way, it matters little whether or not they politically annex of our land, with their documents and corresponding signatures, because by then we will already belong to them – that they like to command, and hope to absorb us completely, without a fight.

Mansfield, about 1910

“Frankly, what do you think the Americans can, or will, adapt to our institutions? Do the people you just met with send their children to our schools, or to special ones with classes in English? Do they have relations with the Indians in the region? Do they show inclination to take Mexican citizenship? Do they easily learn Spanish?

“-The American colonists of the region that I have just visited, Mr. Mansfield answered us, have been in their new environment for a short time, and have not yet managed to establish schools. Naturally, the first schools to be established will have to conduct their classes in English, as their students are ignorant of any other language for the inculcation of ideas. But of course the main study of these schools will be the Spanish language, because it is absolutely essential being the official language of the country, for the conduct of their business, and their social life. The colonists are generally middle class people, not particularly rich, and it is certain they will send their children, as soon as possible, to the public schools in the region where they live. Such schools, I am given to understand, by law conduct their classes in Spanish. For the rest, the eagerness of the current settlers to learn Spanish in textbooks and by any other opportunity that is offered to them has caught my attention. They laboriously study the language on the trains, on their walks, and after finishing their day’s work. Their children will grow up alongside the indigenous people, they will go to school with them and they will be Mexicans, if not in one generation, then in two for sure.”


Didn’t happen: as mentioned, the “colony” never came to much, which may have been the purpose all along. Mansfield sat on several congressional committes (and chaired at least one) dealing with oil and gas interests.

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