Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: What Do You Do When the Border Crosses You? (1848)


Scroll down for the Becoming Us issue guide.


Before you use this historical decisions issue guide, you must first use your imagination.

This guide asks you to imagine that you are living a long time ago, in a place which has a familiar name but which would have looked very different from the way it looks today. It asks you to put yourselves in the shoes of people who had some important decisions to make at that time, in that place.

What does it mean to become a citizen of a country that has conquered you? The terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo promised that property rights would be “inviolably respected”; can this promise be trusted? If not, what other choices do you have? This is where your lives are—and the property that is the source of your families’ wealth and even survival. Returning to Mexico would mean giving up almost everything and starting over.

It is not simply a question of whether or not to become a U.S. citizen. Many other residents of the former Mexican territory are also wondering what their relationship should be to the government and people of the country that conquered them and took them away from the country they were born in. What do you do when the border crosses you?

This guide presents three possible courses of action, or “options.” Each option has possible benefits, but each has significant downsides, as well. There is no single correct answer, so the Californios will need to discuss these options with each other before you can decide which one—if any—is right for you.

Option 1: Embrace New Opportunities

Option 2: Passively Resist and Refuse to Assimilate

Option 3: Actively Resist and Fight if Necessary