Legacies of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
One treaty shaped the destinies of two nations
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ended the U.S.-Mexico War on February 2, 1848. It was the result of 40 years of tension in the borderlands between American Indian Nations, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, and the United States.
The Treaty established the border between Texas and Mexico at the Rio Grande River and ceded over half of Mexico’s northernmost lands to the United States. The peace agreement drastically changed American and Mexican claims to Texas and the Southwest and altered the lives of people living in those regions. Overnight, Mexicans became Americans and American Indians became targets for removal. A much smaller Mexico was left with a war-mangled country, and the newly expanded United States would soon find itself in the grips of a civil war. Despite these dramatic and lasting impacts, the Treaty and its surrounding context are not well known.
Inside the Exhibition
Featuring 29 artifacts, the special focus exhibit, located in the Statehood Gallery on the Second Floor of the Texas History Gallery, explores the short-term and long-term impacts of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on Texas, the United States, Mexico, and Tribal Nations. At the heart of the exhibit is the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo itself, on loan from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Handwritten pages of Articles III, VIII, and X will be rotated through over a one year period. The exhibit will explore six major themes through artifacts, documents, artworks, and media.
- Swords, military war honors, lithographs of battles, and a U.S. uniform introduce the war, which was a turning point for the armies of both countries. In Mexico, it revealed that decades of political infighting had created a nation too weak to defend itself and that change was necessary to strengthen and unify the country. In the United States, it emphasized the need to have a professional, standing army that doubled in size as the country expanded its military reach.
- A Shifting Boundaries animated map shows how the boundaries of Texas, Mexico, the U.S., and Tribal Nations changed between 1821 and 1850.
- Maps, surveying tools, and the writings and drawings of two boundary commissioners highlight the most tangible outcome of the treaty — the drawing of a border between Mexico and the U.S. It took four separate boundary commissions six years (1849–1855) to complete. Disputes over the precise location of the boundary were not resolved until 1853.
- A chair made by enslaved workers in Texas shines a light on the plight of the enslaved during and after the war. The Fugitive Slave Act required all states to arrest and return enslaved fugitives. Many enslaved men and women chose to escape to Mexico where slavery was outlawed and the Fugitive Slave Act was unenforceable.
- Branding irons, a train lantern, and citrus farming brochures speak to the process of Mexican land loss following the Treaty. Lands along the Rio Grande had been owned by Mexican families for centuries when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo moved the border over them. In the decades that followed, Mexican land owners were slowly pushed out as Anglo farmers and ranchers came to dominate the region.
- A treaty stone, Comanche lance, and a set of watercolors bring focus to an often-overlooked population impacted by the Treaty. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo undermined Tribal sovereignty. With no consideration or consultation with Tribal Nations, U.S. and Mexican diplomats placed Tribal sovereignty under the control of the United States and created an international border that divided Tribal homelands.
- Two contemporary artworks highlight the long-term cultural impacts of the Treaty. The losses to Mexico eventually created a nationalism that brought stability to the nation. In the U.S., a whole new culture came into being, that of the Mexican American, whose powerful identity has contributed to the richness of America.
The Bullock Museum, a division of the Texas State Preservation Board, is funded by Museum members, donors, and patrons, the Texas State History Museum Foundation, and the State of Texas.
At the museum: 02/16/2024 - 02/16/2025
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