The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1991, Volume 37, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Review

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: A Legacy of Conflict.

By Richard Griswold del Castillo. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. 251 pages. $22.95.

Reviewed by Oscar J. Martínez, Professor of History, University of Arizona and author of Border Boom Town: Cíudad Juárez Since 1848 and Troublesome Border.

The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is perhaps the most important document in the history of U.S.-Mexican relations. Upon its ratification in 1848, it established most of the current boundary between the two nations, transferring a huge amount of territory, including old Spanish settlements such as San Diego, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico from Mexico to the United States. The treaty is of particular significance for the people of the borderlands, especially Mexicans who were absorbed into the United States following the tragic events of 1846-1848. It defined their new status in U.S. society and extended guarantees under the U.S. constitution. Native Americans have also been affected by the treaty, as have Mexicans and Anglo-Americans who migrated to the Southwest since the mid-nineteenth century.

In this masterful work, Professor Griswold del Castillo provides an excellent overview and analysis of the Guadalupe Hidalgo pact. Chapters 1-4 give important information of historical conflicts that shaped U.S.-Mexican relations and on the negotiations that went on during the War that eventually resulted in the treaty. Chapters 5 and 6 are especially valuable, as they examine legal interpretations of the historic document, particularly with regard to citizenship and property rights. Chapter 7 relates the often contrasting views of U.S. and Mexican historians pertaining to the treaty. In Chapter 8, the author discusses the treaty’s importance in the ideology and rhetoric of the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The story of the twenty-four day occupation of Catalina Island in 1972 by the militant Brown Berets is a dramatic manifestation of the feelings of many Chicanos that U.S. non-compliance with certain treaty provisions needed to be brought to public attention. In Chapter 9, the author focuses on selected treaty-related issues in the history of U.S.-Mexican relations, including the Pious Fund and El Chamizal.

Professor Griswold del Castillo has made a very significant contribution to the literature of the borderlands with the publication of this book. For decades, students of the region have wondered about numerous questions pertaining to the treaty, but the extant literature supplied few answers. With the wealth of information contained in this book, that problem has now been resolved. Maps, illustrations, and the text of the treaty (in an appendix) enhance the book’s value.

Academics, students and the reading public can all benefit from this work. It is well researched, well written, and focuses on important subjects. In short, it is an outstanding book, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in U.S.-Mexico relations, the border region, or the Chicano population.