A 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.