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The Impact of the Gadsden Purchase on Colonia Diaz

Updated: Dec 9, 2023


Map of Gadsden Purchase Territory

If you’re like me, you learned the basics about the Gadsden Purchase in school, how land purchased from Mexico became southern Arizona and New Mexico. You might even remember this took place between the Mexican-American and Civil Wars. I couldn’t have told you much more than that until I did research for Neighbors Across the River.


Called the Sale of La Mesilla in Mexico, here are more details about the transaction finalized in 1854.


  • The treaty concluding the Mexican-American War left unclear where the new international boundary lay west of El Paso, Texas. The best available map was known to be faulty.

  • Both countries claimed the Mesilla Valley (Las Cruces, New Mexico area) and the rich Santa Rita copper mines northwest of there.

  • Business interests in the southern United States wanted a southern transcontinental railroad. They claimed no viable route existed except through this region.

  • Mexican President Santa Anna agreed to the sale because he needed money for his army.

  • James Gadsden was the United States' chief negotiator.

  • The U.S. paid $10 million for 29,670 square miles.

  • The jagged border created allowed the wagon road initially laid out by the Mormon Battalion to remain within United States territory.

Town and Valley of Mesilla, 1854 Watercolor Painting by Carl Schuchard
1854 Watercolor Painting by Carl Schuchard

So what does the Gadsden Purchase have to do with Colonia Diaz?


Unlike most of the ancient towns and settlements in northern Chihuahua, the town four miles south of Colonia Diaz was settled in 1872. The settlers once lived in the United States, and perhaps their exposure to the English language and American customs made interactions between the two towns a little easier.


On the other hand, they came from La Mesilla, a town founded just south of the supposed new border after the Mexican-American War by those wanting to remain citizens of Mexico. Six years later, the Gadsden Purchase put them back in the United States.


Why they moved in 1872 is a long story, but can you see how most Mexicans would think America was determined to gobble up Mexican territory? How they would be suspicious, in 1885, of a large influx of Mormon colonists coming from the United States?


For further information on the Gadsden Purchase see:

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