TIMELINE 1776-1899


Declaration of Independence

1776 Representatives from thirteen American colonies under the dominion of England sign a Declaration of Independence, declaring themselves to be free and independent of English rule. They form a new nation, the United States of America. The successful revolution sends shockwaves throughout the European colonies in the Americas. (SEE DOCUMENTS: The Declaration of Independence).

1779  During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington requests aid in fighting the British from Bernardo de Galvez, Governor of Spanish Lousiana. Galvez gathers approximately 10,000 pesos from Tejano citizens of the Texas territory and gathers cattle for a cattle drive north to provide Washington and his troops with fresh meat.

1793 Inspired by liberal notions of “liberty, equality and fraternity,” the French masses overthrow the monarchy that has ruled them for years. The French Revolution, and the death by guillotine of Louis XVI, confirms again for colonies in the Americas that it is possible to be independent and free of colonial rule.

1805 El Diario, the first daily newspaper is published in Mexico City. Though heavily censored by Spanish authorities, the newspaper begins to affirm a distinctly Mexican identity. This identity is reflective of a new generation of criollos (the descendants of Spaniards born in Mexico) and mestizos (the descendants of mixed marriages between Spaniards and native Indian peoples) who resent the privileged rule of gachupines (Spanish born administrators, merchants and land owners) and begin to discuss the possibility of independence from Spain.

1808 Charles IV, King of Spain, abdicates and requests that Napoleon Bonaparte grant him asylum. Instead, Napoleon has him incarcerated in France. Napoleon then sends his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, to rule Madrid. With the Spanish empire beginning to crumble, hostilities break out in the Americas between the criollos and the gachupines.

1808 In the town of Querétaro, a small group of criollos, including a wealthy landowner, Ignacio Allende, and a village priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, meet regularly under the guise of a literary society to plan the ouster of the Spanish born gachupines from Mexico.


Father Miguel Hidalgo

September 16, 1810 Hearing that the plot to overthrow the Spanish has been discovered and that he will soon be arrested, Father Hidalgo decides to advance the date for the rebellion that had been set for December.

On the morning of September 16th he rings the bell of the Church in the town of Dolores, calling the Indians to mass. When the Indian population is gathered he calls on them to revolt on the hated gachupine landowners:“Long live religion! Long Live our Lady of Guadalupe! Long live the Americas and death to the corrupt government.!” With the Virgin of Guadalupe as their banner, Father Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende lead the Mexican people, Indians, criollos and mestizos into a war of Independence. (SEE DOCUMENTS: El Grito De Dolores)

1821 Following an eleven-year war of independence, one of the criollo generals, Augustín de Iturbide consolidates power and declares himself Emperor of Mexico. Within a year, he is dethroned and banished from Mexico.

December, 1821 Stephen Austin receives permission from the Mexican government to bring in 300 families to settle in the Northern Mexican territory known as Tejas. The colony of San Felipe de Austin is created. Nine years later, there will be more then 20,000 American settlers in Tejas, along with about 2000 slaves that the settlers have brought with them.

November, 1823 The Mexican Congress meets to draft a Mexican Constitution, based, in part, on the United States Constitution and elects Guadalupe Victoria as President and Nicolás Bravo as vice president of the new Republic. Mexico is, at last, an independent Republic with its own native born leadership.

1823 President Monroe proclaims “The Monroe Doctrine” telling European powers to stay out of the affairs of the Caribbean and Latin America as insurrection movements begin to take hold in the Americas.


President John Quincy Adams

1826 President John Quincy Adams sends his diplomat Joel Poinsett to Mexico. Poinsett offers to buy Tejas for $1 million. The offer is rejected by Mexico. He returns to the United States and brings back a beautiful Mexican flower which is soon named after him, the Poinsettia.

September 15, 1829 Mexico abolishes slavery. Anglo American settlers in the territory of Tejas respond by freeing their slaves but then retaining them as indentured servants.

1830 Mexico passes a decree prohibiting further settlements in Texas by Anglo Americans. But the decree comes too late as already thousands of settlers begin to organize for independence.

September, 1835 Stephen Austin states that “war is the only recourse,” for Anglo settlers in Texas. The Mexican government responds by sending an army of 6,000 troops to Texas under the leadership of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.


The Alamo

March 2, 1836 With Santa Anna’s army marching on the Alamo, Anglo-American settlers in Texas meet at the town of Washington-on-the-Brazos and declare the free and independent Republic of Texas (The Lone Star Republic) and lay claim to territory in what is today portions of Oklahoma, Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado. (SEE DOCUMENTS: The Texas Declaration of Independence)

March 6, 1836 Mexican troops encircle 180 defenders of the Alamo, among them Mexican natives of San Antonio, and eventually overrun them. The myth of heroic American freedom fighters going up against insurmountable odds is created and later promulgated to justify United States expansion into the Southwest.

April 21, 1836 Texan forces under General Sam Houston defeat Mexican General Antonio de Santa

Lone Star Republic Flag

Anna’s forces at the battle of San Jacinto. The capture of General Santa Anna by Houston brings an end to hostilities with Mexico. Santa Anna concedes Texan independence in exchange for his personal freedom. Texas is declared the Lone Star Republic with its own flag.

1842 Juan Seguín, whose father, Eramos, facilitated the acceptance by the Mexican government of Stephen Austin’s first colony of Anglo-American settlers in Texas in 1821, is elected Mayor of San Antonio. Shortly thereafter, Anglo Americans launch a campaign which drives Seguín and his family, along with other Tejano families, out of Texas and into Mexico.

March 9, 1842 Francisco López, a farmer with a degree in mineralogy from the University of Sonora, Mexico, discovers gold at Santa Feliciana Canyon near Los Angeles. He sends the sample to be assayed at the U.S. mint in Philadelphia making this the first official discovery of gold in California. But there is evidence to suggest that Mexicans had been mining for gold in California for at least two decades prior to 1842. Knowledge of gold deposits in California are known by U.S. authorities prior to any declaration of war with Mexico in 1846.

1844 Texas, whose economic mainstay is a cotton industry facilitated by slavery, makes a bid for annexation to the United States. Abolitionists in Congress are able to deny statehood to Texas.

1844 La Verdad, a Spanish language newspaper, is published in New Mexico.

1845 Texas is finally annexed to the United States of America as a “slave state,” becoming the 28th state.

April , 1846 Following the declaration of the Lone Star Republic, the boundary between Texas and Mexico remains unclear. Mexico claims the area south of the Nueces River but Texas refuses to accept this demarcation. American forces under General Zachary Taylor cross the Nueces and enter the disputed territory claimed by Mexico, provoking a military skirmish between Mexican forces and United States dragoons. Several American soldiers are killed. This prompts President James Polk to declare that “American blood” has been shed “upon the American soil,” justifying his argument for war with Mexico.

May 13, 1846 The Congress of the United States declares war on Mexico in spite of vehement protests by leading Americans such as Congressman Abraham Lincoln, novelist Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman.


San Patricio Brigade Flag

1847 As many as 250 American soldiers of Irish descent defect to the Mexican side of the Mexican American war and fight alongside Mexican soldiers against forces of the United States at the battle of Churubusco. The “San Patricio Brigade” will ultimately comprise more than 300 soldiers who will fight to the end of the war on the Mexican side.

1847 U.S. forces lay siege to Mexico City under General Winfield Scott. Negotiations begin with Mexico for a peace settlement.February 2, 1848 The Mexican Congress ratifies the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceding to the United States almost half of Mexico’s territory (roughly the present day states of California, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and Utah). The United States agrees to pay Mexico $15 million and guarantees the property, language and religious rights of those Mexicans who remain in the ceded territories who are permitted to be become U.S. citizens while giving up their Mexican citizenship. Those who remain become the first Mexican Americans. (SEE DOCUMENTS: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo)


1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

January 24, 1848 James Marshall discovers gold at Sutter’s Mill in California confirming the rich gold deposits suggested by the earlier discoveries by Francisco López. A gold rush erupts as prospectors arrive in California from the eastern United States and from Latin America.1850 The Foreign Miners Tax is passed in California. The law places an extra burden on Chinese, Mexican and South American miners who, because of their prior mining experience, have been more successful than their Anglo counterparts in the California goldfields.

1851 The California Land Act of 1851 is passed in California. The law provides that all land titles in California must be confirmed by a land tribunal in San Francisco in the English language. This forces many monolingual Californio land owners to hire English speaking attorneys, newly arrived from the East, to represent their interests. In the course of the next ten years many Californio land owners will be legally robbed of their lands.

1851 In the mining community of Downieville, California, a Sonoran immigrant known as Josefa stabs a miner, Fred Cannon, who had broken down her door and harassed her. A hastily convened kangaroo court made up of Cannon’s friends finds Josefa guilty of murder, not self-defense, and hangs her. She is the first woman to be hanged in California.

1851 La Estrella de Los Angeles, one of the first bilingual newspapers, is published in Los Angeles. Until 1855 it will be published half in Spanish and half in English. With the advent of the Civil War the paper is banned for the outspoken views of its editor who is eventually arrested for treason.

1853 The territory of southern New Mexico and Arizona is acquired for $10 million from Mexico by the United States as part of “the Gadsden Purchase,” negotiated by James Gadsden, U.S. Minister to Mexico. Aware that silver had been mined from the northern Sonora area known as “Arizonac” as far back as 1763, James Gadsden had originally offered to buy the Mexican state of Sonora but Mexico refused. Gadsden settled for southern Arizona and New Mexico and in the years that followed the region developed into an important center of silver and copper mining.

1855 El BajareZo, one of the earliest Spanish language newspapers, is published in San Antonio, Texas.1855 Amid vigilante persecution of Mexicans in California, Francisco P. Ramirez publishes El Clamór Público (The Public Outcry) in Los Angeles. The newspaper is outspoken in denouncing the abuse of Mexicans who are often lynched by mob violence, causing Ramirez to declare: “The criminals have always escaped. Justice is almost never administered.”


Juan Nepomuceno Cortina

1859 Outraged at the abuse suffered by fellow Mexicans at the hands of local authorities in Brownsville, Texas, Juan Cortinas, a land owner, raises an army of one hundred men to fight for the rights of Mexicans in Texas. The “Red Robber of the Rio Grande” raids the town of Brownsville and declares “Orderly and honest citizens are inviolable to us. Our object as you have seen has been to chastize the villainy of our enemies who have connived to persecute us and rob us without any cause and for no other crime than that of being of Mexican descent.”Eventually, Cortinas is driven out of Texas and settles in Mexico.

1861 At the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War, Mexican Americans living in Confederate and Union states enlist to fight in the war. More than 10,000 Mexican Americans will fight on both sides in the war. Among those men who serve is a Hispano from New Mexico named Juan José Herrera who will later put his military experience to work in support of the rights of the people of New Mexico.

Juan Jose Herrera


1862 The forces of Napoleon III invade Mexico seeking to force the Mexican government to pay debts owed to France. Mexico begins a fight for its independence from French rule under the leadership of a President of Indian descent, Benito Juarez. At the decisive Battle of Pueblo, fought on the Fifth of May, Mexican forces under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeat the invading French army, temporarily securing Mexico’s independence.

1864 French troops invade Mexico City and install Archduke Maximilian, brother of the Emperor of Austria, who proclaims himself Emperor of Mexico. Benito Juarez and his forces continue fighting a guerilla war against the invaders. The war ends in 1865 with the ouster of French forces and death by firing squad of Maximilian.


President Abraham Lincoln

February 12, 1866 President Abraham Lincoln, a sympathizer with Mexican President Benito Juarez’s fight for independence from the French intervention, demands the removal of French forces from Mexico.

September 23, 1868 After twelve years of planning, Puerto Ricans in the town of Lares arise to oust Spanish rule over Puerto Rico, taking over the town and proclaiming an Independent Puerto Rican Republic with its own “Lares” flag. Though the Spanish put down the revolt, the struggle for Puerto Rican Independence will continue under the leadership of insurrectionist leader Dr. Ramon Emeterio Betances.

The "Lares" Flag


October 10, 1868 In the Village of Yara, Cuba, an insurrection by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, known as El Grito de Yara, calls for the ouster of the Spanish and initiates the Ten Years War, a Caribbean war of independence from Spain. Although Céspedes was eventually killed in battle he is regarded as the “George Washington” of Cuba.

1869 By order of territorial Governor William A. Pike, land grants originally deeded to Hispanos in New Mexico by the Spanish and, later, Mexican government, are ordered burned or sold for waste paper. More than 1,700 land grants, by which Hispanos legally lay claim to much of what is today the state of New Mexico, are destroyed. At the same time, back-up copies of the land grants, kept in an archive in Guadalajara, Mexico, are also destroyed by a mysterious fire. Within ten years, New Mexico Hispanos are divested of 80% of the land they once owned.

1872 The first English language novel written by a Mexican American, Who Would Have Thought, by María Amparo Ruíz de Burton, is published.

1873 Due to the efforts of Puerto Rican Ramón Baldorioty de Castro, Spain agrees to outlaw slavery in Puerto Rico.


Tiburcio Vasquez

March 19, 1875 Tiburcio Vásquez, an educated man who could read and write in English and who spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of Mexicans in California, is arrested for murder and hanged. Throughout his life he has sworn that his armed activities against Anglos have been justly motivated in defense of his people: “A spirit of revenge took possession of me. I had numerous fights in defense of what I believed to be my rights and those of my countrymen. I believed we were unjustly deprived of the social rights that belonged to us.”

1875 General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a landed Californio who served in the Mexican Army and later, during the American era, was part of the Constitutional Convention of California, publishes a history of California. It is the first history of the American conquest of California from a Mexican American perspective.

1876 Mexican General Porfirio Díaz leads a successful coup in Mexico and establishes himself as President of Mexico. He will rule with dictatorial powers until he is ousted in 1911 by the Mexican Revolution.


Porfirio Diaz

1878 The Tucson based Spanish language newspaper El Fronterizo is established by Carlos Velasco. It will continue its work of speaking out against abuses of the Mexican American community until the death of its founder in 1914.

February 11, 1878 The Treaty of Zanjón concludes the Ten Years War with Spain agreeing to make reforms in Cuba. Antonio Maceo, an Afro-Cuban general, however, holds out in the “Protest of Baragúa” and does not surrender. He is exiled to New York where he will later meet José Martí and organize for the final war that will oust the Spanish from Cuba.

1881 Lucy González Parsons, originally from Texas, champions the eight-hour work day along with her husband Albert Parsons in Chicago, Illinois. At a rally in Haymarket Square, a disturbance breaks out and police shoot into the crowd killing several people. Albert Parsons is one of eight people accused of inciting the incident. He is found guilty and hanged. In spite of this, Lucy continues to speak out for an eight-hour work day and the rights of women as a leader in the Chicago Working Women’s Union.

1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed in California which bars Chinese labor from working on the expansion of the railroads in the Southwest. To fill in the shortfall in laborers, the railroad companies recruit more Mexican workers.

1886 Although slavery had been previously banned by various decrees in Cuba, Spain finally passes an enforceable law outlawing slavery in Cuba.

1888 El Regidor (The Alderman) is published in San Antonio, Texas. Within a short time it becomes the most widely read Spanish language paper in Texas.

1888 In Northern New Mexico, Juan José Herrera and his brothers Pablo and Nicanór, fight the usurpation of Mexican owned land by Anglo homesteaders, railroad and cattle interests by creating the Gorras Blancas, a band of Mexican American resistance fighters. The “White Caps” ride by night, tearing down fences and derailing trains. Eventually, they will form the first all Hispano political party, El Partido del Pueblo (The Party of the People).

1891 Juan José Herrera continues his organizing efforts by publishing El Defensór del Pueblo (The Defender of the People) which advances the political activities of the Knights of Labor, a Mexican American labor organization.

1892 El Hijo de la Tempestád (The Son of the Storm) is published by Eusebio Chacón. It is one of the first novels written by a Mexican American.


Poet and revolutionary Jose Marti

1892 José Martí, a diminutive Cuban poet exiled in New York, forms the Cuban Revolutionary Party which will eventually instigate the war that will expel the Spanish from Cuba.

1894 The Alianza Hispano Americana is formed in Tucson, Arizona. The Alianza is one of many mutual aid societies organized by Mexicans throughout the Southwest which provide Mexican Americans with economic aid and social and political support.

1895 José Martí and General Máximo Gómez proclaim “El Grito de Baire” calling for a full scale war of independence of Cuba from Spain.

1896 The Supreme Court of the United States issues the Plessy v. Ferguson judgment ruling which determines that “separate but equal” facilities for Blacks is legal. This ushers in legal segregation affecting Blacks and Mexican Americans which will last until it is upturned in the 1960s.

1897 Miguel A. Otero is appointed governor of the New Mexico territory.

In 1855 he was the first native New Mexican to be sent as a delegate to the United States Congress when New Mexico was still a territory, and was later appointed by Abraham Lincoln to serve as Secretary of the New Mexico Territory.

February 15, 1898 The U.S.S. Maine is mysteriously blown up in Havana harbor and President William McKinley declares war against Spain. The intervention of the United States curtails the authentic war of independence by native Cubans and Puerto Ricans. The mightier forces of the United States overcome the Spanish. The surrender of Spanish forces at Santiago de Cuba ends the war and brings Cuba under the jurisdiction of the United States, along with Puerto Rico and the Phillippines. Cuba’s goal of independence is again frustrated.

1899 The United States occupies Puerto Rico, setting the tone for Puerto Rican/U.S. relations to the present.