Student play adds another dimension

Mary Todd Lincoln, Matías Romero, and Abraham Lincoln; director Stacy Ohrt-Billingslea and crew members with Consul General Tanya C. Anderson; Benito Juárez; literary critic Mark Sconce, LAMP co-founder Mikel Miller, author & playwright Michael Hogan, and Emb. Carlos Gonzalez Magallon; cast applauding audience. — Photo credits: Doris Payne Camp

The Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP) added a new dimension March 23-25 with the World Premiere of the play “Lincoln and Mexico: The Untold Story.” It opened at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara, the same school that inspired historian and ASFG educator Michael Hogan to write the book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico: A History of Courage, Intrigue and Unlikely Friendships.

The performances also garnered binational support from members of the diplomatic corps from the USA and Mexico, as well as guests from both countries. US Consul General Tanya C. Anderson delivered a strong supporting statement before the opening performance, and former Mexican Emb. Carlos Gonzalez Magallon added his support before the Saturday matinee. The official Facebook page for the Consulado General de los Estados Unidos en Guadalajara also featured the play in a post:

“El jueves 23 de marzo de 2017, la Cónsul General Tanya C. Anderson tuvo el placer de asistir a la inauguración de la producción de teatro de la The American School Foundation of Guadalajara, A.C., “Lincoln and Mexico: The Untold Story”. La obra narra la historia de Abraham y Mary Todd Lincoln, el cónsul mexicano Matias Romero, y un extraordinario elenco de personajes secundarios, todos los cuales influenciaron significativamente la trayectoria de Estados Unidos y México durante momentos clave en la historia de cada país.”

The play, also written by Dr. Hogan, was timed to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the year Mexico drove French occupation forces out of North America. It’s designed to supplement the book as a way for students to increase understanding of the important historical relationships between Lincoln and Benito Juárez. It also brings to light the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Mexican envoy Matías Romero, which facilitated Lincoln’s diplomatic and military support for the Juárez government in exile.

Performances by the student actors—especially those playing Mrs. Lincoln, Romero, President Lincoln, and Juárez—drew enthusiastic support from audiences consisting of ASFG parents, students, faculty, guests from Guadalajara and nearby Lake Chapala, and the news media. One community theater group has already expressed interest in having students perform the play. Eventually, LAMP hopes the book and play will reach tens of thousands of students across the USA as educators begin to use them to stimulate classroom discussions of historical relationships between the two countries. Already, the project is developing and testing lesson plans for the 2017-2018 academic year based on the book.

With the premiere of the three-act play, the overall project now has a way to entertain people while educating and informing them about the legacy of Lincoln’s support for Mexico during the 1840s-1860s. The first way is through sales of the book itself available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and independent bookstores across the USA. A second way is through presentations and lectures by Dr. Hogan in the USA and Mexico to universities and civic and political leaders. A third way is by presenting a copy of the book to each member of the US Congress, funded by a GoFundMe campaign that’s already raised enough money to give copies to all 100 members of the Senate.

If you would like to help arrange a presentation in your area, please submit a comment to the blog or send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. Meanwhile, please help spread the word by going to the GoFundMe campaign to “Send Lincoln to Congress” and clicking to share with your Facebook friends. Thank you.

Mary Todd Lincoln and Mexico

Play poster, plus photo from meeting with (l-r) director Stacy Ohrt-Billingslea; students Tania Romero and Paulina Aragon; US Consul General of Guadalajara, Tanya C. Anderson; and author Michael Hogan

The untold story of how Mary Todd Lincoln helped a young Mexican envoy eliminate the French from North America comes to life in the World Premiere of a play this week at the American School Foundation of Guadalajara. Titled Lincoln and Mexico: The Untold Story, it’s a great way to gain insights about historical relationships between the USA and Mexico.

The play premiere coincides with the 150th anniversary year celebrating Mexico’s defeat of French occupation forces in July 1867. It’s a story of unlikely friendships and intrigue, based on factual history documented in Abraham Lincoln and Mexico published last fall by Michael Hogan, ASFG Emeritus Humanities Chair.

It’s also a play with two storylines—one historical and one contemporary. The main one is the history of relations between the United States and Mexico from 1863-1867; the second, set in modern times, is that of the students and their history teacher, Mr. North, at a small school in Guadalajara. As such, the play also offers insights into how educators can engage students in the learning process.

The play opens in 1863 when the US is in the middle of its Civil War. A 24-year-old Mexican envoy named Matías Romero arrives at the White House. His mission is to persuade Lincoln to support the overthrow of French monarch Maximilian whose armies have taken control of Mexico. Lincoln is far too busy with American affairs but his wife, Mary Todd, intercedes after Romero accompanies her on a three-hour shopping trip. He later meets with Grant and other generals and begins to raise funds to restore the Mexican Republic.

Just on the verge of success, Lincoln dies and Romero’s hopes seem thwarted. Likewise, the history teacher, who is writing this story, fails to find any US research to make his original thesis into a book. Like Romero, Mr. North is similarly discouraged. However, pressed by his students, he makes a trip to Mexico City where he discovers Romero’s personal diaries in a bank vault. He translates the diaries and finds that—even after Lincoln died—Mary Todd encouraged Romero to press on with his cause. He did so and raised over $18 million, acquired sophisticated weapons with the help of Grant and Sheridan, and enabled the Mexican armies to ultimately prevail over the French. Now, North is inspired to complete his own work.

The play ends in 1867 with the Mexican victory, and Matías Romero discussing the triumph with newly-restored President Juárez. While the president is grateful for Romero’s help, he advises him that he should not place the documents relating to the victory or his diaries in the National Archives. It is better that they rest deep in the vault of a Mexican bank until Mexico takes its place among the nations in the world. That time is now, when the 150-year-old story is finally told, and we see Mr. North and his students conversing as the Mexican and American flags converge on stage, and sound of marching music fills the theater.

Other historians and Lincoln’s biographers ignore the fascinating story of Mrs. Lincoln’s involvement, and textbooks in the USA and Mexico exclude her friendship with Romero and the ensuing intrigue. However, the story comes to life due to Hogan’s relentless search for documents to help his ASFG students learn more than what is in standard texts, and his multifaceted script brings it to the stage.

All of it makes a fascinating play, produced and directed and staged by ASFG drama teacher Stacy Ohrt-Billingslea, student assistants Tania Romero and Paulina Aragon, and a cast of dozens.

There are four performances of the play March 23-25: Opening night Thursday, March 23, at 7 p.m., Friday night at 7 p.m., a 1 p.m. Saturday matinee, and a finale 7 p.m. performance Saturday night. Opening night will feature pre-performance remarks by U.S. Consul General Tanya Anderson. On Friday night, Gen. Clever Chavez Marin, noted historian and humanitarian, will address the crowd. Former Mexican Emb. Carlos Gonzalez Magallon will speak before the Saturday matinee.

Multi-national attention for Lincoln book

Photos (clockwise) Javier Palomarez, Michael Oreskes (l) with former Mexico President Felipe Calderon, Fernando Avila Gonzalez (l) with Cd. Juárez lawyers, Eduardo Ramos Moran, Abraham Lincoln book on desk of Sr. Ramos

The book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico is attracting more attention in the USA, Mexico, Canada, and even in Europe. Here is the latest update from the Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP):

BREAKING NEWS!! The GoFundMe campaign to “Send Lincoln to Congress” has raised $1,000 from contributors across North America and Europe. That covers the cost of delivering one copy of the book to all 100 members of the U.S. Senate, and we’ll post updates when delivery begins. Thanks to all of you who helped reach this milestone; you can see the contributor names on the GoFundMe campaign site. Now, we’re raising money to send the book to all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. We hope you’ll help spread the word by clicking to share the campaign on Facebook, if you haven’t already done so.

We’re also busy working with civic leaders, the news media, and academics. Here’s what Cindy A. Medina, LAMP representative for Public Relations and News Media, has been doing the past week:

  • In Washington, DC, The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which represents 4.2 million Hispanic businesses in the USA, is interested in the book. President and CEO Javier Palomarez, originally from Edinburgh, TX, has requested a copy, and maybe he’ll invite author Michael Hogan to speak at the Oct. 1-3 annual convention of the association. It’s an important contact because Palomarez is also an informal advisor to President Trump’s National Diversity Coalition. You can click here to read an interview with him about his role as one of Trump’s most vocal critics during the campaign, and how he evolved into “working with the Donald.”
  • Also in Washington, National Public Radio is interested in the book, and Michael Oreskes, Senior VP for News and Editorial Director, has requested a copy. He’s a career professional journalist, with a high profile in both Washington, DC, and New York City. You can click here to see a recent CNN interview with him about his commitment to rebuild local journalism across the USA.
  • In Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, just across the border from El Paso, Ms. Medina is working with the local bar association to arrange a presentation by Dr. Hogan. Mtro. Fernando Avila Gonzalez, Secretario General Barra y Colegio de Abogados de Ciudad Juárez, is the lead contact, and you can see more about the organization on its Facebook page.

And look at this! Also in Cd. Juárez, leading Mexican businessman Eduardo Ramos Moran is recommending the book to his reading group. He’s el Presidente of Centro Humano de Liderazgo, A.C. (Cehlíder), he heard about the book on his own, bought it, and recommended it in a post on his Facebook page with a shout out to author Michael Hogan. ¿Hablas español? Here’s what Ramos said on Facebook about the importance of the book (hint – he LIKES it, mucho).

Algo que pocos mexicanos conocen es que Abraham Lincoln fue Amigo de Mexico, en su tiempo como congresista fue uno de los principales opositores a la guerra de Estados Unidos contra Mexico, guerra que considero innecesaria e inconstitucional, James K Polk el 11 presidente de USA que proclamo la guerra contra Mexico dijo una sarta de mentiras como que los Mexicanos habian ocupado Estados Unidos, en la anexion de Texas la division era desde el rio de las nueces, pero los abusones extendieron la division hasta el rio bravo, los Mexicanos no teniamos ni para hombres, ni para armas, perdimos en la guerra de 1848, Incluso los Irlandeses donde estaba un tal Patricio se pasaron al bando de los mexicanos y lucharon contra los propios estadounidenses, 13 anios mas tarde en las batallas contra los franceses es Estados Unidos quien le vende armas a los mexicanos, incluso en Estados Unidos ya habia terminado la guerra civil, muchos norteamericanos lucharon junto con mexicanos contra los franceses, ingleses y espanoles, lo que los convirtio en la “American Legion of honor”, esta historia no la ensenan en la primaria Mexicana, excelente libro de Michael Hogan, deberian de traducir esta version para que la leamos los Mexicanos. Este libro revela lo que muchos historiadores no han querido revelar, por cuestiones de conveniencia o tal vez politicas. Es importante destacar que muchos norteamericanos son amigos de los mexicanos, incluso los Irlandeses, es importante leer libros de historia para conocer de donde venimos!!

We’re very proud of the multi-national attention the book is receiving, especially in border areas such as El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. We’re looking forward to increased attention in San Diego and Tijuana, and later this year in Austin, Chicago, Washington, DC and New York City. If you would like to become part of the overall project, and help with contacts and presentations in your area, just post a comment on the blog or send an email to lamp@lincolnandmexicoproject.org. Thank you.

El Paso Event Features Lincoln Book

Photos: Jon Barela, Alejandra de la Vega Foster, logos for participating organizations

The Lincoln and Mexico Project (LAMP) was part of a special occasion March 7 with more than 130 business and community leaders from Texas, Mexico, and New Mexico.

The Borderplex Alliance and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation co-hosted the event honoring Ms. Alejandra de la Vega Foster for her appointment as the Secretary of Innovation and Economic Development for the State of Chihuahua in Mexico.

Special guests included Mr. Paul Foster, Chairman of Western Refining and Ms. Foster’s spouse; Daria Darnell, US Consul General in Ciudad Juárez; Cynthia Cano, District Director for US Congressman Beto O’Rourke; Susan A. Melendez, Senior VP of the Borderplex Alliance; and Marcos Delgado, EVP Operations/Business Development of the Borderplex Alliance. A video message from Congressman O’Rourke congratulating Ms. Foster was played for the guests.

Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, presented Ms. Foster an author’s copy of Abraham Lincoln and Mexico by historian and educator Michael Hogan. The book is especially relevant to the El Paso area because after French occupation forces drove Mexican President Benito Juárez into exile in 1863, he formed his government in exile in the state of Chihuahua near El Paso. While there, Juárez and his followers received clandestine aid from the Lincoln administration, including 30,000 repeating rifles.

Using archival documents from Mexico and the United States, the book examines Lincoln’s legacy of support for Mexico during the 1840s and 1860s as Congressman and President. It’s  in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, in several university libraries, and available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2jQRPnI.

“The book discusses the long history of Mexico and the US and the importance of that relationship,” Barela told the crowd.  “We hope to continue to strengthen that relationship, and I hope Ms. Foster will find time in between her many travels to read the book.”

Business and community leaders from El Paso, Texas, southern New Mexico, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico, attended the event, and the following reception at the El Paso Club.

The LAMP project is interested in working with local business leaders and elected officials to facilitate a better understanding of historical relations between the US and Mexico. If you would like us to be part of an event in your area, just submit a comment to the blog. 

 

Send Lincoln to Congress

Breaking news!!! Our GoFundMe campaign to “Send Lincoln to Congress” raised enough money in the first week to send the book Abraham Lincoln and Mexico to half the 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

The campaign objective is to give two copies of the book to all 535 members of the U.S. Congress, regardless of party affiliation. Each $10 covers the wholesale cost of one copy from the distributor, including shipping and handling.

The book is in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and has been nominated for the William M. LeoGrande Prize for best book about U.S.-Latin American historical relations. And the Smithsonian Magazine wrote a lengthy feature article about it.

It’s a great book, and can help Congress understand historical relations between the two countries because it examines Lincoln’s support for Mexico as Congressman and President. The campaign to send copies to all members of Congress is a critical part of the overall LAMP efforts to stimulate discussions about improving relationships between the USA and Mexico.

Supporters of the Lincoln and Mexico Project, along with fans of the book, have kicked in early money to launch the campaign. We’ve received other contributions from the USA, Mexico, and even Europe. We still need to raise $11,500 no later than June to allow time to deliver two books to each member of Congress during July — one copy in their Washington, DC offices, and one for their offices back home.

Won’t you help us keep the momentum going? You can help by taking two actions:

  1. Click here to see details about the GoFundMe campaign and make a contribution
  2. Click to share the campaign on Facebook and Twitter with your friends

Thank you for your support of this very worthwhile project.

P.S. If you don’t already have a copy of the book, you can click here to buy it from Amazon or click here to buy it from Barnes & Noble. And don’t forget to post a short review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Thanks!