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Role of the Media

Newspapers: Mexican Press

by Jesús Velasco-Márquez from The United States and Mexico at War

A typical Mexican newspaper during the war with the United States followed a standard format. First, there were the sections of local, national, and international news, which were obtained from official communiques or were taken from other national or international newspapers. Second, there were letters written by the public to the editors, informing about or commenting on the news and editorials. Third, there was the editorial page.

Following Mexico's independence in 1821, the Mexican press was an instrument of the various political factions. The press was conceived more as a means to form public opinion in favor of the diverse political factions than to provide objective or unbiased information. Hence, the press was clearly aligned with political parties or factions, which between 1830 and 1840 consisted of the radical liberals or puros, the moderate liberals or moderados, and the conservatives. The primary differences among those parties were mostly in regard to the type of government and the extent to which social reforms should be carried out.

During 1845, when the possible U.S. annexation of Texas was the central issue, one of the most important newspapers was El Siglo XIX, which had been founded in 1841 by Ignacio Cumplido and expressed the point of view of the moderados. This paper originally supported the measures taken by President Jose Joaquin de Herrera favoring a negotiated settlement with the government of the Republic of Texas to avoid its annexation. Opposing this view were La Voz del Pueblo and El Amigo del Pueblo, which expressed the opinions of the puros and demanded an immediate military campaign against Texas. After the Republic of Texas agreed to annexation by the United States, El Siglo XIX joined the opposition, asking for military action to prevent annexation and rejecting the Mexican government's acceptance of John Slidell as U.S. commissioner to negotiate the annexation.

In December 1845, President Herrera was forced to resign and was replaced by Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga, whose political aim was to establish a monarchical government. His effort was supported by the newspaper El Tiempo, which was founded and directed by Lucas Alamin. This paper not only pushed for the government's design but also denounced both the U.S. attempt to acquire Texas and the U.S. demand for cession of more territory from Mexico. It did not, however, support a military solution until Slidell's mission was finally rejected in April 1846. The political view (i.e., establishment of a monarchical government) expressed by El Tiempo was opposed by the liberals - both puros and moderados - in early 1846 through papers such as EI Republicano (which was the continuation of El Siglo XIX) and EIMonitor Republicano, whose names indicated their political orientation. Joining these was Don Simplico, which was founded by two young liberals: Guillermo Prieto and Ignacio Ramirez. This paper was a satirical tabloid that criticized almost all political leaders. The liberal press asked the Paredes y Arrillaga administration for immediate deployment of army troops to defend the border. By June 1846 both the liberal and the conservative press were denouncing the U.S. invasion of Mexican territory and requesting an effective governmental response.

In August 1846, Paredes y Arrillaga was overthrown, and EI Tiempo was shut down. Liberal journals then dominated the country. In Mexico City they pushed for restoring the federal republican Constitution of 1824 and favored the return of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who had been banished from Mexico in 1844. They hoped that these actions would enable Mexico to resist the advance of the U.S. army into Mexican territory. They also supported the creation of the guardias nacionales, or civil regiments, to resist the U.S. Invasion.

With news of the Battle of La Angostura, the fall of Veracruz, and the defeat at Cerro Gordo, the press accused Santa Anna of lack of judgment and even treason, and at the same time demanded a public uprising against U.S. forces in those places that had been occupied. Yet by May 1847, when the arrival of Nicholas P. Trist as peace commissioner was reported, the paper EI Razonador started a campaign favoring negotiations with the United States, a view that was strongly attacked by other newspapers. By that time also, some newspapers were being edited by U.S. writers in places that were under U.S. control, among these papers were The American Eagle, The American Star, and The North American. Their goal was to convince the residents of the need to accept the U.S. terms for peace. The North American even pursued a propaganda campaign favoring annexation of all of Mexico by the United States.

With the approach of Gen. Winfield Scott's army to Mexico City, the Mexican government closed all the papers in July 1847, with the sole exception of El Diario del Gobierno, the official journal. Nevertheless, after the fall of Mexico City the liberal press resumed its activities in September 1847, mainly through EI Monitor Republicano and El Eco de Comercio, which concentrated on refuting the U.S. press in Mexico and campaigned in favor of peace negotiations.