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Mesilla 1854Mesilla, New Mexico in 1854

In Mexico, it was known as Venta de La Mesilla (which translates to “The Sale of Mesilla”), but in the United States, it was called the Gadsden Purchase. This was a defining historic moment for Mesilla and the United States, however, few know why June is so special to our little town.

You see, back in 1853, relations between the fairly young United States and the even younger Mexico, were strained. Along the borders of the two countries, raids by American Indians had been a constant problem for settlers on both sides. The biggest problem was that after the war with Mexico, a portion of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo mentioned that the U.S. would protect those living along the border from such raids. However, the raids persisted and Mexico insisted that because the United States was not able to stop them, the U.S. Government owed money for the damages inflicted. The United States, of course, disagreed.

The President of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, was also facing desperate times at home – his government was strapped for funds and resources. He could not afford to dispatch his troops all the way up into what is now present-day New Mexico and Arizona to keep the territory protected or the bureaucracy running smoothly.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna c1853 pierce

The solution, to what appeared to be an impending conflict, came with the advent of the railroad in the United States. The United States badly needed to find a southern, transcontinental route across the country. The proposed plan had a rail line starting in El Paso and traveling to the U.S territories in California, and then north to what are now Oregon and Washington.

The United States was so desperate for this route they approached Santa Anna with a proposal of $15 million dollars for their territory bordering Texas to California. An important part of that proposal was the Mesilla Valley, including the large (at the time) town of Mesilla, with about 3,000 residents, as well as flat, open country, that would allow the rail line to go due west from El Paso without rerouting too far north.

President Santa Anna was inclined not to sell the territory, but he was faced with low funds at home, a military and government stretched thin to service the territory, and one other important factor: he’d just come out on the losing side of the American-Mexican War. He knew that if they wanted to, the United States could simply march in and take the land. It would  likely be easier for them this time than it was when they did it for Texas.

So, to avoid a war, save some funds and replenish resources, he agreed.

The negotiations started in mid 1853 and lasted until December of that year, when the treaty was agreed upon and signed by the Secretaries of State of both nations. Ratification negotiations began in the United States between the Pierce administration and the U.S. Congress in January of 1854 and lasted for months. The negotiations were tough and complex. One of issues they were looking to resolve centered around whether slavery would be allowed in the new territory. After much discussion and negotiation, the United States finally sent a ratified treaty to Mexico that, among other new provisions, dropped the price to $10 million dollars and reduced the size of the purchase. The initial United States request would have extended south to the Sea of Corez, or what is now Puerto Penasco.

On June 30, 1854, Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna agreed and signed the ratified treaty. Mesilla was now part of the United States of America!

mesilla gadsden purchase

In November 1854, U.S. troops, who took over four months to travel to Mesilla, lowered the Mexican flag in the center of the Mesilla Plaza, and raised the American flag, consummating the treaty.

Interestingly, La Posta de Mesilla would have witnessed all of this first hand, as one of the primary buildings of the compound and the Plaza was built in the 1840s!

So, there you go: why June is so special for Mesilla, New Mexico, and for La Posta de Mesilla. Hopefully you can come by and make a toast to this history, and think back to when our “little chile joint” had a front row seat at the center of one of the most important land purchases in history!