The Mexican-American War Revisited

As tension simmers over Arizona’s tough new immigration law, we look back to beginnings, and the Mexican-American War.

A rendering of the 1847 Battle of Buena Vista, during the Mexican-American War. (Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

In 1845, the United States annexed Texas. By 1846, the U.S. and Mexico were at war. By 1848, U.S. troops occupied Mexico City, and the United States of America were – by force of arms – vastly expanded into what had been northern Mexico. 

California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada – all were swept up under the red, white, and blue of the American flag. 

Today, as controversy boils over Arizona’s new immigration law and the U.S.-Mexico border is the scene of such turmoil, this history resonates again. 

This Hour, On Point: back to beginnings. History, immigration, and the Mexican-American War.


Robert Merry, former president and editor-in-chief of Congressional Quarterly, is author of “A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, The Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent.” You can read an excerpt.

Marshall Trimble, Arizona’s state historian and author of numerous books about local and regional history, including “Roadside History of Arizona” and “Arizona: A Cavalcade of History.”

Read more about the War at the Library of Congress.


The history of the Mexican-American War remains alive south of the border. Below are photos from modern Mexican military ceremonies that commemorate six young Mexican cadets, “Los Ninos Heroes,” who refused to retreat in the battle of Chapultepec in 1847, during the Mexican-American War. For Mexicans, the battle has a symbolic power similar to that of the Alamo for Americans, and all Mexican schoolchildren learn the story. U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman and Bill Clinton have visited the marble monument in Mexico City that pays tribute to the young cadets.

Mexican military cadets salute during a ceremony in Mexico City, Sept. 13, 2007, commemorating six Mexican military cadets who refused to retreat in the battle of Chapultepec in 1847 during the Mexican-American War, and fought to the death against superior U.S. forces. (AP)

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, left, escorted by an army honor guard and his top aides, arrives at a ceremony to commemorate the Mexican-American War and the "Child Heroes" or Heroic Cadets in Mexico City, Sept. 13, 2006. (AP)

The Heroic Cadets Memorial in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. (Credit:

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