Why Abraham Lincoln Is Revered in Mexico

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As a young Congressman and later as the nation’s leader, the first Republican president proved to be a true friend to America’s neighbor to the south. Slideshow images are Smithsonian logo, headquarters building in Washington, DC, and Lincoln statue in Tijuana, Mexico.

The Smithsonian.com online magazine featured a lengthy article Feb. 23 by Editor-at-Large Jamie Katz about Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, adding to national news attention about Lincoln’s legacy of support for Mexico. Here are some excerpts, and you can click here to see the full article.

…American historian Michael Hogan makes a bold claim. He says that Abraham Lincoln is in no small part responsible for the United States being blessed for many generations with an essentially friendly nation to the south—this despite a history that includes the United States annexation and conquest of Mexican territory from Texas to California in the 1840s, and the nations’ chronic border and immigration tensions.

…In his 2016 study, Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue and Unlikely FriendshipsHogan points to several factors that elevated the United States’ 16th president in the eyes of Mexicans, in particular Lincoln’s courageous stand in Congress against the Mexican War, and his later support in the 1860s for democratic reformist Benito Juárez, who has at times been called the “Abraham Lincoln of Mexico.” Lincoln’s stature as a force for political equality and economic opportunity—and his opposition to slavery, which Mexico had abolished in 1829—made the American leader a sympathetic figure to the progressive followers of Juárez, who was inaugurated as president of Mexico in the same month and year, March 1861, as Lincoln.

…In the course of researching his Lincoln book, Hogan made an important discovery in the archives of the Banco Nacional de México: the journals of Matías Romero, a future Mexican Treasury Secretary, who, as a young diplomat before and during the American Civil War, represented the Juárez government in Washington. Romero had written a congratulatory letter to Lincoln after the 1860 election, to which the president-elect cordially thanked Romero, replying: “While, as yet I can do no official act on behalf of the United States, as one of its citizens I tender the expression of my sincere wishes for the happiness, prosperity and liberty of yourself, your government, and its people.”

…During its own civil war of the late 1850s, Mexico had accrued significant foreign debt, which the French Emperor Napoleon III ultimately used as pretext to expand his colonial empire, installing an Austrian archduke, Ferdinand Maximilian, as Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico in 1863. The United States did not recognize the French regime in Mexico, but with the Civil War raging, remained officially neutral in the hope that France would not recognize or aid the Confederacy.

…With Lincoln’s earlier letter in hand, Romero made the rounds with American bankers in San Francisco, New York and Boston, Hogan says, selling bonds that raised $18 million to fund the Mexican army.

…After the Civil War, the U.S. became even more helpful in the fight for Mexican liberation. In a show of support, Grant dispatched 50,000 men to the Texas border under General Sheridan, instructing him to covertly “lose” 30,000 rifles where they could be miraculously “found” by the Mexicans. Sheridan’s forces included several regiments of seasoned African-American troops, many of whom went on to fight in the Indian Wars, where they were nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers.

…By 1867, the French had withdrawn their occupying army; the Juárez forces captured and executed Maximilian, and the Mexican Republic was restored.

…Though most of this history has receded in the national memories of both countries, Hogan believes that Lincoln’s principled leadership and friendship—outspoken in the 1840s, tacit in the 1860s—created a pathway for mutually respectful relations well into the future.”

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-mexico-loved-lincoln-180962258/#TPR1XsppEaVY4bQY.99

Attention increases re Lincoln support for Mexico

Photo of Lincoln Cottage, Washington DC, courtesy of LincolnCottage.org. Cover image courtesy of Latina magazine

Scholarly publications and the news media are beginning to focus on the book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico that examines Lincoln’s legacy as an international statesman.

A scholarly paper published online by the LincolnCottage.org (based in the museum at Lincoln’s cottage retreat in Washington, DC) uses research in the book to authenticate Lincoln’s support for Mexico as President. The article even borrows the phrase “Unlikely Friendship” from the subtitle of the book by historian and educator Michael Hogan.

The article references Hogan’s research of personal papers (see footnote xi) by Mexican ambassador Matías Romero detailing Romero’s visit to Springfield, Illinois just before Lincoln’s inauguration, and footnote xii directly cites Hogan’s book. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

This was an especially significant and unique visit. By many accounts, this was the first time Lincoln conversed directly with a person of Mexican descent. Furthermore, though he was about to assume responsibility for American foreign policy, Lincoln received not a single caller from the capitals of Europe between his election and inauguration. Lincoln’s personal secretary, John Hay, was understandably gratified to observe Romero’s display of “deep respect and consideration” for the president-elect. Indeed, Lincoln was taken with the young diplomat from the outset.[x]

In contrast to the turbulent relationship between the United States and Mexico in the first half of the nineteenth century, Mexico genuinely looked forward to a Lincoln presidency. In fact, Romero, in his voluminous notes, diary, and correspondence[xi] was the first to note the similarities in personality, demeanor, intelligence and background between Lincoln and Mexican leader Benito Juarez. Indeed, shortly after Lincoln’s election, Mexico had emerged from its own civil war. Mexico’s new leadership wanted nothing more than economic cooperation with the United States and to be treated as a respected southern neighbor — something that would not have even been considered with Lincoln’s Democratic predecessors who were bent on the annexation of significant portions of the Mexican nation. Now, with the election of the Lincoln’s Republicans on a platform of free-soil and free-labor, Mexico’s new leadership counted on the Lincoln administration to respect Mexican territorial borders.[xii]

The book was also featured in the online version of Latina magazine, an English-language publication based in New York City, with a readership second only to the Spanish edition of People magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

More than 200 towns and 600 schools are named after Abraham Lincoln in the United States, but he is widely honored throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as well. Lincoln has been honored with postage stamps in Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Suriname and Venezuela. There are statues of Lincoln in four major Mexican cities: Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City, Tijuana, and Mexico City.

We spoke with Historian Michael Hogan, author of “Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue, and Unlikely Friendships” about his little-known popularity and contributions across our southern border.

Is it fair to say that Lincoln is revered in Latin America? 

Yes, particularly in Mexico. Benito Juarez, the nation’s most admired leader, is often called “the Abraham Lincoln of Mexico,” because he, too, was born from a very poor family, raised himself up by his bootstraps, and became a lawyer and ultimately the president of his country. As president, Lincoln supported the Mexican people against the French, who invaded Mexico in 1863, during the American Civil War.

You can follow posts about coverage of the book, and much more, on the Facebook page Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, and we’ll continue to excerpt snippets in the blog. Thanks for following us.

Lake Chapala Loves Lincoln

cropcrowd20170212_105654A standing-room-only crowd of more than 350 expats and Mexicans at Lake Chapala celebrated the Feb. 12 birthday of Abraham Lincoln  

“Outstanding.” “Factual and entertaining.” “A lot more informative than what I learned in high school and college.” And “I’ve never seen a Sunday morning crowd this big in Ajijic.”

Those were just some of the comments from people in the SRO crowd Feb. 12 at Lake Chapala about the presentation by historian and educator Michael Hogan discussing Abraham Lincoln’s support for Mexico. Speaking without notes for thirty minutes, Hogan captured the rapt attention of expats from the USA and Canada as well as Mexicans in the audience.

Many expats shook their heads in shame at his description of how U.S. President Polk lied to Congress to justify invading Mexico in 1846, declaring an unconstitutional war, and eventually capturing two-fifths of Mexico. People applauded his discussion of Lincoln’s courageous actions opposing the war as a freshman Congressman, which led Polk to brand Lincoln a traitor, the press to vilify him, and the Whig political party to shun him.

Expats and Mexicans alike enjoyed Hogan’s anecdotes about Matías Romero—the 24-year-old Mexican ambassador for Mexican President Benito Juárez—who visited Lincoln in Illinois before his inauguration to pledge Mexico’s friendship. Lincoln penned a note expressing support for Mexico, which Romero pocketed after informing Juárez.

In Washington DC, Romero escorted Mrs. Lincoln on frequent shopping trips because Lincoln was preoccupied with saving the Union. Knowing women smiled and nodded their heads as Hogan described how Mrs. Lincoln intervened with her husband on behalf of Romero, and how she introduced Romero to Lincoln’s inner circle. Romero even helped Gen. Grant practice his Spanish. After French occupation forces of Napoleon III conquered Mexico in 1863, and Juárez set up a government in exile near El Paso, Lincoln and his administration did not recognize the French monarch whom Napoleon installed. Romero used the earlier note from Lincoln to raise $18 million from East Coast bankers to aid Juárez.

As the Civil War in the US was ending, Lincoln’s tacit support for Mexico enabled Grant and Gen. Sheridan to provide excess military weapons to help Juárez combat the French occupation forces, and later supply more weapons and former Union soldiers after Lincoln’s death to restore democracy to Mexico in 1867. It’s a great story, much of it in the archival papers of Romero—virtually ignored in the Banco of México until Hogan researched them.

The Feb. 12 event marked the first “on-the-road” presentation about Lincoln’s legacy by Hogan based on his award-winning book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, one of the best-selling Latin American historical biographies on Amazon. It’s also available at Barnes&Noble, independent bookstores via IndieBound.org, and the Apple store. An in-depth book review by author Mark Sconce is in the current issue of El Ojo del Lago, the largest circulation English-language magazine in Mexico.

After Hogan spoke, former Emb. Carlos Gonzalez-Magallon of Mexico addressed the crowd briefly to express appreciation for President Truman who visited Mexico City in 1947 to apologize for the US invasion. During that trip, Truman also laid a wreath to honor Los Niños Héroes who died in the Mexican-American War.

Many thanks to author Margaret Van Every at Lake Chapala for arranging the Feb. 12 event. In cooperation with Mexican consulates in the USA, the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP) is working to arrange similar presentations this spring and summer in San Diego, Boise, El Paso, Chicago, Washington DC, and New York City. We hope you’ll click to subscribe to the blog and follow our activities. And if you’re interested in being part of the project, please send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. Thanks.

Emb. Carlos Gonzalez-Magallon (l), Mark Sconce, Margaret Van Every, and Dr. Hogan together before the presentation. Afterwards, Hogan autographed copies of his book.

New York and El Paso -What a Week!

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LAMP representatives in New York City and El Paso in meetings with officials of Mexican Consulates, public officials, and officials from the BorderPlex Alliance.

Representatives of the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP) met with Mexican consulates and elected public officials and community leaders in New York City and El Paso January 31-February 3 to begin working together on presentations about Abraham Lincoln’s support for Mexico.

During the same week, the largest circulation English-language magazine in Mexico published an amazing in-depth review for the book “Abraham Lincoln and Mexico” by historian and educator Michael Hogan, which forms the basis for the international project.

In New York City, Consul General Diego Gómez Pickering and his senior staff accepted complimentary copies of the book from LAMP co-founder Mikel Miller and his wife Maria Elena Martinez as a prelude to public presentations by Dr. Hogan. Venues suggested by Emb. Gómez, Consul for Public Affairs Carlos Gerardo Izzo, and Assistant Varinia Robles include the popular Mexican Mondays forum at Columbia University.

In El Paso, Consul General Marcos Bucio Mújica and Cultural Attaché Patricia Luna accepted a complimentary copy from LAMP representative Cindy A. Medina February 3. Emb. Bucio pledged his cooperation, and follow-up meetings will focus on several venue options.

Also in El Paso, Ms. Medina presented a copy of the book to Cynthia Cano, District Director for Congressman Beto O’Rourke. Cano and Medina discussed various possible venues for presentations, including a USA-Mexico Border Summit scheduled this fall. Then Ms. Medina met with Mr. Marcos Delgado, EVP Operations/Business Development of The Borderplex Alliance. They had an enthusiastic meeting to exchange many great ideas, including a possible presentation by Dr. Hogan in the Sun City as early as April. And Ms. Medina presented a copy to the El Paso central Public Library.

Thanks to everybody who is supporting the LAMP activities as we expand across the USA and Mexico city by city. If you are interested in helping LAMP arrange presentations in your area, just post a visitor comment on the blog or send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. You can also click here to connect with us on the Facebook page for the book.