Interactive Timeline
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Spain establishes colonial government in Mexico.
Mexico wins independence from Spain.
Mexico becomes a republic.
Juan Seguín is elected Mayor of San Antonio, Texas, but is forced to flee in response to Anglo aggression.
U.S. forces under General Winfield Scott enter Mexico City; peace negotiations with Mexico begin.
Gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill in the Sacramento Valley area of California. By 1849, large numbers of U.S. pioneers and immigrants from around the world travel to the mining area. Many gold seekers set up camps on Mexican-held land, forcing out some of the original landowners.
The Foreign Miners Tax is levied; Mexican miners are among the hardest hit.

The Gadsden Purchase Treaty is signed.

Anglo businessmen try to push Mexican teamsters out of south Texas, violating the guarantees of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

France, Britain, and Spain attempt to force Benito Juarez’s government to repay debts owed. Even thought Britain and Spain withdraw, the French remain, hoping to establish a new empire. On May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), mestizo and Zapotec soldiers defeat the French army in the Battle of Puebla.


Chinese labor is reduced because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and railroad companies search for alternative sources of cheap labor. Mexican workers are increasingly recruited.

Increasingly, Mexican Americans work for the railroads. Railroad construction continues throughout the early 20th century.

The corrido (ballad) of the border becomes popular as a musical form.


The first border patrol is established to stop Asian workers from coming into the United States through Mexico.

At the New Mexican constitutional convention, Mexican American delegates mandate that both Spanish and English be used for all state business; to support the conditions of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.


President Woodrow Wilson sends troops to Veracruz, Mexico, in an effort to depose Victoriano Huerta, who soon resigns.

General John J. Pershing leads 10,000 American soldiers into Mexican territory in retaliation for a raid on Columbus, New Mexico by General Francisco "Pancho" Villa. After 11 months, Pershing is forced to return to the U.S. without ever catching sight of Villa. U.S.-Mexican relations suffer because of the action.

In spite of President Wilson’s veto, an Immigration Act that mandates a literacy test for immigrants is passed.


Immigration Act of 1924 halts the flow of other immigrant groups, border stations are established to formally admit Mexican workers, and a tax is collected on each person entering.

Mexican American parents successfully sue the school board in Lemon Grove, California to prevent the segregation of their children from Anglo children.

President Roosevelt’s "Good Neighbor Policy" starts, which opposes armed intervention by any foreign power in the Western Hemisphere.

Novelist John Steinbeck publishes Tortilla Flat, a novel about Mexican American life in the United States.


The bracero program begins, allowing Mexican nationals to temporarily work in the United States – primarily in the agricultural industry.

Josephina Niggli publishes Mexican Village, consisting of ten stories exploring her identity as part Mexican, part Anglo.

Harry S. Truman becomes the first president to visit Mexico City, laying a wreath at the foot of the U.S.-Mexican war monument to the Niños Heroes.


The Bracero program is revived.

Operation Wetback: The U.S. Immigration Service deports more than 3.8 million people of Mexican heritage.

César Chávez organizes the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) in Delano, California.

The first maquiladoras are established under the Border Industrialization Program; mass employment of cheap labor along the Mexican border by U.S. companies begins.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 limits immigrants into the United States.


The largest increase of maquiladoras occurs after devaluation of the Mexican currency.


Ana Beatriz de Santiago, beauty queen of the U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities International Association, is detained for two hours by border agents on her way to a convention where she is to turn over her crown to the next queen. A customs agent reportedly lifted her dress and patted her stomach to determine whether she was pregnant. The Sister Cities Association formally complains to U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The Clinton Administration takes credit for decriminalization of the border region, citing his increased funding of border police as major force in stopping crime. According to FBI reports, serious crime was down 30 percent in San Diego, Calif. 5 percent in Nogales, Ariz., 14 percent in El Paso, Texas and 20 percent in Brownsville, Texas.

Clinton becomes the first president to visit Mexico since Jimmy Carter in 1979. He promises Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo that he will avoid "mass deportations" under the U.S. immigration policy.

        1600   1800                                                                                     2000
1500       1700     1900    
U.S.-Mexico border region is inhabited by many Native American groups who have lived in the area for centuries.
Hernan Cortes conquers central Mexico
Adam-Onis Treaty: U.S.-Mexico boundary established by Spain and the United States.
Mexico permits Stephen F. Austin to start Texas colonization.
Struggle Over Texan Independenc
The U.S. Mexico war begins.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brings the U.S.-Mexican War to an end.

The California Land Act attempts to resolve property disputes between Anglos and Mexican Americans. California regions with the largest Mexican American populations are taxed more than any other region in the state.

The Surveyor of General Claims Office is established in New Mexico, though claims by Mexican Americans cannot be processed fast enough to prevent take-overs.

During the 1860s, Tiburcio Vásquez, Joaquín Murieta, and others are labeled "bandits" for resisting the take-over of lands held by Mexican Americans in California.


Napoleon III of France withdraws his support from Maximilian, the Austrian archduke who had been made Emperor of Mexico, and Benito Juárez regains control of Mexico.

[Hear Napoleon's March]


Copper mining continues to lure people to Arizona, driving more Mexican Americans from their lands.


Copper, silver, and zinc are found in Arizona and New Mexico; Texas begins to mine salt, leading to further expulsion of Mexican American land owners.


Mexican Revolution begins. Thousands of Mexicans flee across the border for safety.

In Mexico, Porfirio Díaz is forced to dissolve his government because of a successful revolt led by Francisco Madero. To protect its citizens and property, the U.S. sends troops to the border, where fighting in the Mexican Revolution is so close that U.S. citizens gather to watch.

U.S. Marines are held by Mexican authorities at Tampico, Mexico. Despite Mexico’s apology, President Wilson orders the U.S. fleet to attack and occupy Veracruz, Mexico to assert the rights of Americans.

A secret telegram from Germany to Mexico— proposing an armed alliance between the two countries—is published and causes the U.S. to enter World War I.
[Hear Radio Program]


The Immigration Act of 1921 restricts the immigration of Southern and Eastern Europeans. Agriculture lobbyists rally to block the movement to include Mexicans in the proposition.

Largely due to a lack of immigration quotas, more than 89,000 Mexicans come into the United States on permanent visas, making 1924 the peak year for Mexican immigration.


San Antonio community leader Eleuterio Escobar forms La Liga Pro-Defensa Escolar (The School Improvement League) because of the gross inequity in spending he discovered between Mexican American and Anglo public schools.


The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) protests discrimination by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which refuses to provide skilled apprenticeships to Mexican Americans.


Mexican American veterans return from the war and use their G.I. benefits for college education, purchasing homes, and furthering the economic growth of the community.

Backed by LULAC, a suit by Gonzalo Mendez against many California school districts causes the Federal District Court to rule that segregation in schools is unconstitutional. This sets the judicial precedent for the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which repeals the "separate but equal" concept.

World War II veterans organize the American G.I. Forum in Texas to fight against discrimination and promote the welfare of Mexican Americans.


The film Salt of the Earth is heralded by many as a true representation of Mexican Americans and their struggle.


The bracero program is finally repealed, and Mexican American labor leaders see an opportunity to work toward unionizing the farmworkers.


The Mexican American Women's National Association (MANA) is established to advance the status of Mexican American women, promote leadership opportunities and work toward parity in the workplace.


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into affect, stimulating trade between the United States and Mexico. Massive increases in border populations occur due to the treaty.


Bill Clinton uses a strict approach to limiting illegal immigration in his re-election campaign in order to sway large electoral states, such as California and Texas. Under his direction, U.S. Border Patrols are bolstered, sensors are installed and 40 miles of 14-foot fence is built to deter the flow of illegal immigrants.

Bill Clinton signs a declaration with Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo committing their nations for the first time to devise a joint strategy for combating drug trafficking.