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Published: Wed, March 01, 2017
World | By Lorena Waters

Mexican America | National Museum of American History

Mexican America | National Museum of American History

"Mexican America" ​​is a sampling of objects from the collections of the National Museum of American History. The stories behind these objects reflect the history of the Mexican presence in the United States. They illustrate a fundamentally American story about the centuries-old encounter between distinct (yet sometimes overlapping) communities that have coexisted but also clashed over land, culture, and livelihood.

Who, where, and what is Mexico? Over time, the definitions and boundaries of Mexico have changed. The Aztec Empire and the area where Náhautl was spoken-today the region surrounding modern Mexico City was known as Mexico. For 300 years, the Spanish colonizers renamed it New Spain.

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When Mexico was reborn in 1821 as a sovereign nation, its borders stretched from California to Guatemala. It was a huge and ancient land of ethnically, linguistically, and economically diverse regions that struggled for national unity. Texas, (then part of the Mexican state of Coahuila and Texas) was a frontier region far from the dense cities and fertile valleys of central Mexico, a place where immigrants were recruited from the United States. The immigrants in turn declared the Mexican territory an independent republic in 1836 (later to U.S. state), making the state the first cauldron of Mexican American culture. By 1853, the government of Mexico, the weaker neighbor of an expansionist United States, had lost what are the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. In spite of the imposition of a new border, the historical and living presence of Spaniards, Mexicans, indigenous peoples, and their mixed descendants remained a defining force in the creation of the American West.

Who, where and what is Mexico? Over time, the definitions and boundaries of Mexico have been changing. It was known as Mexico to the Aztec Empire and the whole area where Nahuatl was spoken - now the region surrounding Mexico City. For 300 years the Spanish colonizers referred to it as New Spain. When in 1821 Mexico resurfaced as a sovereign nation, its borders extended from California to Guatemala. At that time it was an ancient and immense territory made up of ethnic, linguistic and economically diverse regions that fought for national unity. Texas (then part of the Mexican states of Coahuila and Texas) was a border region away from the dense cities and fertile valleys of central Mexico, where immigrants from the United States were recruited. In 1836 this Mexican territory was declared an independent republic (and later, US state), becoming the first calderón of the Mexican American culture. By 1853, the Mexican government, the weak neighbor of an expanding United States, had lost the territory of present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. In spite of the imposition of a new frontier boundary, the historical and occupational presence of Spaniards, Mexicans and indigenous peoples, together with their mestizo descendants, would constitute, over time, a determining influence for the development of the American West. >

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