How old are you in 1836, when elite Tejanos and Anglo Americans fight the last battle in the Texas Revolution (The Battle of San Jacinto in present day Harris county)?

Creating a Timeline Activity (You will need a piece of letter-sized paper to write and draw on and something to write and draw with to complete this activity)
It is important to situate ourselves in time. This class begins just after the U.S. – Mexico War ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. We need to take a few steps back momentarily to think about the critical moment we begin with in this class. In my experience, people often do not know about the U.S. – Mexico War (often called the Mexican American War). Often people confuse the U.S. – Mexico War (1846 – 1848) with other wars: The Mexican Wars for Independence from Spain (1810 – 1821) or the Mexican Revolution (1910 – 1920). Please be sure to read through these instructions before you begin. Remember, this is a Flex course and each Module reflects two weeks of work so do not wait until the due date to begin your work.

I can’t go to the beginning of time to get us caught up and have to begin somewhere so I have selected to start this timeline activity at the moment Mexico breaks away from over 300 years of Spanish rule in the Americas and begins to govern itself as an independent republic. Let’s focus our attention for a moment on 1821 as a starting point for this exercise. Mexico won its independence from Spain following the long War for Independence, 1810-1821. That was the moment in which Mexico pushed out the Spanish crown and declared itself an independent republic. Before the Mexican war for Independence from Spain, the Spanish Empire extended from the Southern part of the continent into the Northwest (what we currently call the U.S. Southwest). I just want you to have a sense of how vast this empire was and to think about how long the Spanish Empire existed in the region before Mexico gained independence. Look at the yellow portions of the map below to get a sense of how far the Spanish Empire stretched on the eve of the wars for independence from Spain that lasted from 1810-1821:

Step 1: Please read through this abridged timeline that offers an overview of major events leading up to the historical moment this class begins, 1848.

1810-1821: Mexico fights for independence from Spain. On September 16, 1810, an ethnically mixed group of revolutionaries were led into battle by Jos Mara Morelos and Vicente Guerrero, Mexican generals who had Black and Indigenous heritage (you should have learned this last week). Declarations of independence from Spain included demands for an end to the Spanish caste system and the system of slavery, an equitable redistribution of land, and an end to Spanish rule. Mexico wins its independence from Spain in 1821. Your timeline should begin in 1821.

1829: Black and Indigenous Mexican President, Vicente Guerrero, outlaws slavery in Mexico, a move many Historians argue was meant to discourage White slave-owners from immigrating into the Mexican region of Texas. Texas and all of what we refer to as the U.S.-Southwest is part of Mexico at this time and, thus, slavery is now outlawed in Mexican Texas.

1835-1836: The Texas Revolt/Texas Rebellion ensues. Mexico is in the middle of a political struggle between Federalists and Centralists who had different ideas about where the power to govern the Northern territories (such as Texas) should come from. Remember, the President of Mexico has recently outlawed slavery. This rebellion was comprised of battles that continue to be celebrated today, void of any mention of the issue of slavery in Texas. These battles of insurrection include the battle at Gonzales, Goliad, the Alamo, and the decisive battle at San Jacinto. All battles of insurrection that took place in Mexican territories. White Americans, mainly slave-owning Southerners, and a small group of land-owning Mexican Texans banded together to revolt against the Mexican government. They wanted to build a cotton empire with slave labor and Mexico just outlawed slavery. The realities of this White supremacist thinking was encoded into the constitution of the Republic of Texas, created in 1836. See for yourself how it seeks to dictate the exclusion of Native and Black people in the region and privileging of White people in official documents. In the General Provisions Section of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836), Sections 6, 9, and 10 show this very clearly:

SEC. 6. All free white persons who shall emigrate to this Republic, and who shall, after a residence of six months, make oath before some competent authority that he intends to reside permanently in the same, and shall swear to support this Constitution, and that he will bear true allegiance to the Republic of Texas, shall be entitled to all the privileges of citizenship.

SEC. 9. All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude, provide the said slave shall be the bona fide property of the person so holding said slave as aforesaid. Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from the United States of America from bringing their slaves into the Republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall Congress have power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slave-holder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave or slaves, without the consent of Congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the Republic. No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the Republic, without the consent of Congress, and the importation or admission of Africans or negroes into this Republic, excepting from the United States of America, is forever prohibited, and declared to be piracy.

SEC. 10. All persons, (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted,) who were residing in Texas on the day of the Declaration of Independence, shall be considered citizens of the Republic, and entitled to all the privileges of such…

To be clear, Mexico won at the Alamo and the battle took place in Mexican Texas. I encounter many students who have it backwards and that is a product of the Alamo myth of White supremacy. Mexico won at the Alamo. Nevertheless, the Texas revolt was more than that one battle and it resulted in disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande.

1846-1848: Mexico never accepted the loss of Texas after 1836 and the region was considered by most in Mexico and in the United States to be disputed territory. This disputed territory in Texas became the site where the U.S.-Mexico War started in 1845. In 1836 there were roughly 5,000 documented enslaved Black people in Texas. By 1845, when the United States instigated a war with Mexico to claim Texas for the Union, there were an estimated 30,000 enslaved Black people in Texas. This war is a very important moment in history and it is undeniably about the spread of slavery in the United States. The war resulted in the annexation of almost half of Mexico’s territory and it led to the creation of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. U.S. President, James K. Polk instigated the war with Mexico, captured and occupied the nation of Mexico, and the battles continue until 1848, when the war ends with the signing of Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This official contract between neighboring nations guaranteed the full rights of citizenship to Mexicans who decided to stay in the newly annexed territories. This historical moment is the origin of the popular Mexican American saying, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” The land underneath the feet of Mexicans changed and Texas entered into the United States as slave state.

Step 2: Now, I want you to think about what life across this time span may have felt like if you were born in 1821, on the eve of Mexican Independence from Spain and made it to 1848. Draw a timeline for step 2 on a piece of paper that you will submit as an image. Illustrate the timeline as best you can. Use hand-drawn images and words. Use stick figures if you have to. Don’t worry about whether it looks pretty. I know this is not an art class. I also know that this method will help you practice thinking historically and get us where we need to be in 1848.

If you have an accommodations letter on file that excuses you from drawing, I ask you to describe imagery/color/temperature/etc in your written portion so that you are actively thinking in terms of perception and words. More about this in the submission section below.

It should take about 30 – 45 minutes to complete this hands-on part and we are usually able to complete this step in one class sitting. Note: This timeline must be created by you with drawing/writing tools versus a computer (unless you have accommodations on file for this or approval from me). Each event on the timeline should include words and images to document: (1) the date, (2) the historical event, (3) imaginary you and your age at that moment if you were born in 1821.

1. Imagine you were born in 1821, in Mexican Texas, and start your timeline there. You are born into a time when Mexico has just overthrown Spanish rule (1821). Draw an image that represents your birth in 1821. Use minimal written language to describe the events (1821: Mexican Independence from Spain and your birth).

2. The next event on your timeline is in 1829. How old are you when Vicente Guerrero, the Afro-Mestizo President of Mexico, outlaws slavery in 1829? Note that on the timeline with words and imagery (you and the event).

3. How old are you in 1836, when elite Tejanos and Anglo Americans fight the last battle in the Texas Revolution (The Battle of San Jacinto in present day Harris county)? Note that on the timeline with words and imagery (you and the event).

4. How old are you when the ensuing war between the United States and Mexico begins in disputed Texas territory in 1846? Note that on the timeline with words and imagery (you and the event).

5. How old are you when the U.S. – Mexico War ends with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1848? Note that on the timeline with words and imagery (you and the event). Think about how the land under your feet has changed and consider what it must have felt like to survive so much war in your short life.

Note all these historical junctures on your timeline using hand-drawn words and images that represent you and the historical event (1821, 1829, 1836, 1846, 1848).

Notes: each event on your timeline should indicate how old you were if you were born in 1821, the major event described on this page occurring at that time, hand-drawn image that shows you at that age and represents the major event. For example: for the first event on your timeline, 1821, most students draw a baby or an image that represents infancy and imagery that indicates Mexican Independence from Spain.

When you reach the end of your timeline in 1848: your entire life up to this point would have been spent in Mexican Texas. Think about how old you are now and how old you are in the timeline activity. Think carefully about what it means to have a border cross you in order to understand this moment from the perspectives of those we are here to study.

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