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Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid
Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid (1792-1866): Last Mexican Governor of New Mexico
by Samuel Sisneros
"Do not find it strange if there has been no manifestation of joy and enthusiasm in seeing this city occupied by your military forces. To us the power of the Mexican Republic is dead. No matter what her condition she was our mother. What child will not shed abundant tears at the tomb of his parents?" Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid delivered these words of emotional and patriotic sentiments to the Nation of Mexico as the last Mexican Governor of the department of Nuevo Mexico. Paradoxically he had also used these very words on August 19, 1846, in Santa Fe when he accepted, in the name of the citizenry, the defeat and possession of New Mexico by the United States of America. Here, he pledged his and his fellow New Mexicans’ loyalty and allegiance to the occupying force.
Vigil y Alarid's allegiance speech was a response to Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny’s better known and often quoted proclamation of American military occupation that demonstrated contradictory sentiments towards the change in national sovereignty. As Governor of New Mexico Vigil y Alarid began his address with praise for the United States and hope for the “wonderful future that awaits” New Mexico. After stating that the inhabitants of New Mexico “humbly and honorably” submitted their loyalty and allegiance, he exclaimed: “No one in this world can successfully resist the power of he who is stronger,” indicating a sense of futility and reluctance. He continued his impassioned passage presented above, followed by an explanation or consolation that the reason for Mexico’s “misfortunes” was a result of civil war. He called Mexico “one of the grandest and greatest countries,” but then in the following sentence he salutes the conquering nation of the United States. Vigil y Alarid’s conflicted allegiance is perhaps the beginning of a new dual-nationalist identity.
Vigil y Alarid's speech of allegiance, peppered with lines of discontent, mirrors other public expressions made by him during his political career. This ambivalence exemplifies how the people of New Mexico were forced to deal with the dilemma of whether to maintain political and socio-cultural ties to Mexico or accept political, economic and cultural dominance by a foreign government. Vigil y Alarid moved through the various periods of his life against the backdrop of political, social and economic upheavals that changed the face of New Mexico. His life and times as well as his stance regarding the identity of Nuevo Mexicanos after the U.S. takeover of New Mexico may be seen as representative of many Nuevomexicano’s loyalty to both the nation of Mexico and to a regional “Patria Chica.”
The expressions of nationalistic loyalty toward Mexico, the U.S. or both by the people of New Mexico, varied. Some showed complete acceptance and assimilation and participation in the United States political system, while others responded with resistance including organized military confrontation, guerrilla warfare, and challenges to the United States legal system or repatriation to Mexico. Like many of the people of New Mexico, Vigil y Alarid’s choices of resistance were sometimes based on practical needs. He demonstrated both acceptance and resistance, expressing loyalty to the U.S., Centralist Mexico, his “Patria Chica” Nuevo México, but also to his strongly held principles.
As a result of the aggressive military takeover of nearly half of Mexico’s northern territory by the United States, Vigil y Alarid along with many of his generation saw three national sovereignties rule in New Mexico. They lived through the end of the Spanish colonial era in the Americas and saw the birth of the new nation of Mexico, which Vigil y Alarid came to call his “Mother.” They subsequently witnessed the loss of land and stature in that nation, which he and others loyally served, with the U.S. takeover in 1846.
The takeover of New Mexico and other portions of the Mexican republic by the U.S. was predicated on two earlier overlapping episodes. One was westward expansionism and the United States belief in Manifest Destiny; the other was Mexico’s desire to populate Texas in an attempt to protect its interior providences against enemy Indian attacks. These converging forces caused Texas to become populated by American settlers, who along with some Tejanos, eventually rebelled against Mexico, in an effort at independence and to bring Texas into the union of American states. With the annexation of Texas, the United States set it sights on New Mexico, California and points in between for expansion. As a result Mexico and the United States went to war, which proved very beneficial for the United States but was a great loss for the Republic of Mexico in land and status.
The historiography relating to the role played by Vigil y Alarid just before, during and after the United States occupation and the patriotic sentiments of the Nuevomexicanos during this time has been lacking. Early Anglo-American historians have perpetuated the “bloodless conquest” myth of New Mexico and viewed Vigil y Alarid as a friendly collaborator with the United States. They mentioned him only in the context of his short term as the last Mexican Governor of New Mexico and his famous "Acceptance of Allegiance Speech" in 1846, after General Kearney’s occupation of Santa Fe. Nor did they present his political sentiments and those of other Nuevomexicanos of his generation in a way that adequately expresses their frame of mind.
Ralph Emerson Twitchell, New Mexican author and historian, concluded that friendly feelings between New Mexican and Anglo traders and a weak allegiance to Mexico created sentiments in New Mexico that favored a change in sovereignty. He says that New Mexico’s predominant mixed class (Spanish and Indian) were loyal neither to Spain nor to Mexico and because Mexico was unable to resolve the “trouble with marauding Indians," many in the population looked for a government that could bring a sense of peace and prosperity to New Mexico from whatever quarter. These assertions by Twitchell and shared by many early Anglo American writers reflect certain bias and may demonstrate attempts to justify the United States occupation.
One of the earliest Hispano historians to write on the issue of New Mexican allegiances was George I Sánchez. Writing along the lines of the previous Anglo-American authors, he stated that the Mexican regime “had little effect upon the life of New Mexicans.” He presented New Mexico as apathetic toward changes in administration whether it be Spanish, Mexican or United States and presents a fatalistic approach stating that “far removed from the currents of civilization, the New Mexican has been forced to live in a world of his own making.” Sánchez states that the common people comprehended the United States occupation as nothing more than another power to be dealt with or not. He stated that the educated and elite who were involved with commerce, on the other hand, were aware of the democratic conditions of the United States and were in favor of New Mexicans becoming Americans. One of these persons, Sánchez inferred by interjecting the "1846 Allegiance Speech, was Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid. Sánchez spoke of the New Mexicans’ willingness to be part of the United States, suggesting “the New Mexican quickly and wholeheartedly accepted his foster parents.” He diminished the many attempts of Nuevomexicano resistance by referring to the so called "bloodless occupation," and called the Hispano and Pueblo Indian “rebels,” who participated in the Taos Revolt, a few “malcontents who did not have the sympathies of the native leaders or of the masses.”
Although Sanchez’s work does not include citations and often contradicts itself, it does represent the myths and anti-Mexican historical memory that existed in the 1960’s. Sánchez’s work, along with earlier writing by people like Twitchell, has perpetuated the belief that New Mexico was isolated and uniquely separate from Mexico. These beliefs are still prevalent in New Mexico and are responsible for much of the internalized racism directed toward recent immigrants, “Mexican nationals,” by some Nuevomexicanos who identify themselves as “Spanish Americans.”
Following George Sanchez’ work, a few other historians have touched on the topic of national sentiments towards Mexico. Although their writings do not focus on Vigil y Alarid, they do address the historical background of Mexican nationalism in New Mexico. Historian and genealogist, Fray Angélico Chávez, discusses the issue of patriotism and nationalism in New Mexico prior to and during the United States occupation. He says that Padre Martínez, a well-known parish priest, educator, prominent leader in New Mexico politics, and a contemporary of Vigil y Alarid, “cherished his Mexican patriotism.” Padre Martínez’s sermons often included impassioned Mexican narration. During a civic celebration honoring Mexican hero Don Miguel de Hidalgo, Martínez said that Mexico had been “oppressed since the days of Cortéz. Martínez had great admiration for the 1821 Plan de Iguala that made Mexico Independent of Spain and all of the people of Mexico equal citizens. Chávez implied that, Martinez had a powerful influence on the common folk in New Mexico whom he claimed “had no way of knowing about any such decree of racial equality” unless they were told about it by someone like himself. According to Chávez, Martínez centered his writings on human rights and says that “one can safely assume that his preaching and conversation throughout the North Country often touched upon these matters, and with impassioned references to Padre Hidalgo and the Iguala laws of equality and freedom.” Chávez mentions that Vigil y Alarid and Manuel Armijo were involved in a plot to embarrass Martínez by accusing him of complicity in the Rebellion of 1837, the only uprising of New Mexicans against the Central Mexican government. The Rio Abajo Nuevomexicano loyalists, however, opposed it with a counterinsurgency. Regardless of this isolated incident, Fray Angelico’s work demonstrates that Padre Martinez was an important force behind Mexican nationalism.
Former New Mexico State Historian, Robert J. Tórrez, argues that New Mexicans indeed were very patriotic towards Mexico. He cites several documents that demonstrate that state officials and the general public expressed patriotism through regular and elaborate celebrations of the 16 de Septiembre, Mexico’s independence from Spain. In addition, he presents documents that support New Mexicans’ allegiance to the central Mexican government, including an insurrection in 1847 against the United States, in which three hundred Nuevomexicanos, both Hispanos and Indians, gave their lives in defense of their loyalties to Mexico. This was, as Tórrez states, “an ultimate expression of Mexican Patriotism.”
Tórrez has explored this Mexican patriotism, expressed as resistance to the United States, in a subsequent work that offers a new interpretation of the New Mexican revolt and subsequent treason trials of 1847, following the United States occupation. As a result of the revolt in Northern New Mexico, many people were accused and tried for treason, a clear violation of international law; they could not be tried for treason against the United States, because they were not citizens of the United States. Tórrez proposes that we re-evaluate this period in New Mexico history, a time when Nuevomexicanos died resisting the American invasion. These people, according to Tórrez, “should be remembered, not as rebels and traitors, but as Mexican patriots who died defending their country.”
In an attempt to contextualize Mexican nationalism in New Mexico and the part played by Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid, it is important to focus on the chronology of events in his life and political career. Born a citizen of New Spain in 1792 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid spent his childhood as a subject of the Spanish crown. Information on Vigil y Alarid’s childhood is sparse, although it is known that he was married at the age of sixteen or seventeen to Rafaela Sánchez in 1808 in Tomé, Nuevo México. His parents, Domingo Vigil and María Francisca Alarid, were both from military families and lived at the presidio of Santa Fé. Francisca Alarid most likely descended from the progenitor of the Alarid name, Juan Bautista Alarí, for whom Vigil y Alarid was possibly named. A European Frenchman, Juan Bautista Alarí went to New Mexico in the early 1700s, where he was known as a medic and a soldier. Vigil y Alarid, like his ancestor, was also a medic, a soldier, a poet, and a pharmacist.
Little is known of his activities during the time after his marriage up to the independence of México. At this point in his life, he most likely received news of Miguel Hidalgo’s 1810 “Grito de Dolores” which precipitated México’s independence from Spain in 1821. This was the beginning of Nuevo Mexico’s participation with the new nation of Mexico and this is the time when we first see the political activities of Vigil y Alarid. His service to México in various political positions lasted throughout the twenty-five years New Mexico was part of the Republic of México. He served intermittently as Secretary of State under Governor Francisco Javier Chávez in 1822 and continued in that post until 1847 under Governor Manuel Armijo.
Serving in various political capacities, Vigil y Alarid often found himself at odds with the central Mexican government. Just a few years into his political career as secretary of state, he was named New Mexican deputy to the State Congress in Chihuahua in May of 1824. As a representative of Nuevo México, which was at that time called a provincia of the “Estado interno del Norte” in Chihuahua, Vigil y Alarid reported his suspicion of the actions of the delegate to the Cortes in México City, Jóse Rafael Alarid (relation not known). Jóse Rafael Alarid had also signed México’s first Constitution (October 4, 1824). Delegate Jóse Rafael Alarid was granted his petition, that Nuevo México be separated from Chihuahua, to no longer be a province in the union of the Estado interno del Norte, which included Chihuahua and Durango. As a result, New Mexico became a territory of the Mexican Federation and Chihuahua became its own separate state, transferring El Paso del Norte from its traditional jurisdiction in the province of New Mexico to the State of Chihuahua. Vigil y Alarid voiced his opinion that Nuevo México should remain as part of the “confraternity” of the Northern provinces. Perhaps it was his intention to remain united in the far frontier (since New Mexico was the farthest north) rather than to centralize. Regardless of his opposition, on July 6, 1824, the change in jurisdiction occurred and Vigil y Alarid returned to Nuevo Mexico.
Back in Santa Fe, Vigil y Alarid resumed his position as secretary of state, this time under Governor Bartolomé Baca. Also, at this time Vigil y Alarid became the first Mexican customs agent in Nuevo Mexico. As a consequence of Mexico’s relaxed trade restrictions, Nuevo México became an important commercial link between the interior of Mexico and the United States via the Santa Fe and Chihuahua Trails. This trade created economic loyalties and partnerships between elite Nuevomexicanos and trappers, prospectors, squatters and every kind of business adventurer who came down from Missouri and beyond. High quality and low prices made Nuevomexicanos dependent on the products from the Santa Fe Trail. Because of this economic dependency, the central government in 1826 installed Vigil y Alarid as customs collector, to administer trade regulations and payment of duties. This position was new to New Mexico and because of the distance from Mexico City, tariffs were difficult to enforce. It was also hard to protect foreigners from abuse by customs agents. This may have contributed to accusations against Vigil y Alarid and his subsequent dismissal from this position though a year later, in the same position, it was noted that he was accused of failing to arrest an illegal American.
During the time Vigil y Alarid was the custom agent there was bad blood between Vigil y Alarid and Charles Bent, a shrewd businessman and land developer who later became the first American-born governor of New Mexico. Bent was accused, along with a partner, of beating Vigil y Alarid. Charles Bent became civil governor of New Mexico in September 1846 after the United States’ takeover. His short term as the first U.S. Governor of New Mexico ended on January 19, 1847, when Nuevomexicano and Pueblo Indian insurgents from the Taos revolt assassinated him along with other officials including Louis Lee, a creditor confronted earlier by Vigil y Alarid as custom agent. The murder of Bent and others was part of an attempt by the revolutionary movement to rid New Mexico of Anglo-Americans. Though Vigil y Alarid was not implicated in Bent’s murder, it is evident that he did have a motive, and tension certainly existed between Anglos and Mexicans in New Mexico. The Texan-Santa Fe Expedition, the beating incident involving Vigil y Alarid and Charles Bent, and the Taos rebellion, give solid evidence that should put to rest the myth that the conquest of New Mexico was peaceful and bloodless.
Though similar confrontations occurred prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which in 1848 ended the United States war on Mexico, the Treaty offered another means in which New Mexicans were able to express their loyalty to Mexico. As stipulated by Article VIII of the treaty, Mexicans (Hispano and Indian) residing in the occupied territory, known today as the Southwestern United States, were provided by the Republic of Mexico the opportunity to repatriate to Mexican soil in order to retain Mexican citizenship. They were left to make hard decisions as to their national identity. In 1849, over four thousand Mexican citizens from northern New Mexico and from what is known today as the El Paso valley made the choice to repatriate. They followed the receding and consequently redrawn border dividing Mexico and the United States and crossed over into the Republic of Mexico. In the State of Chihuahua, they established the towns of Mesilla (present day Doña Ana county in southern New Mexico), and San Ignacio and Guadalupe, which are located 40 to 50 miles downriver from Ciudad Juárez in Chihuahua, México.
Included in this group of Nuevomexicano emigrants was Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid, who, like his predecessor Manuel Armijo, went southward to Chihuahua in exile. He first moved to Aldama sometime between 1847 and 1850. Perhaps during his days as Congressional Deputy in Chihuahua City he had made contacts that welcomed him at Aldama just north of Chihuahua City. Soon after, he moved to Guadalupe and San Ignacio to be with his fellow New Mexican repatriates. On February 10th, 1852, Vigil y Alarid was elected to the local Guadalupe council as Secretary. The head of the council was Padre Ramón Ortiz, who was the commissioner of emigration to the new colonies.
Shortly after Vigil y Alarid commenced his new political career in Guadalupe problems arose with the local authorities. Vigil y Alarid’s difficulties in the colony of Guadalupe started in June 1852 when he refused to hand over the sum of fifty pesos owed to the Suplente de la Jefetura Política de Cantón Bravos (itinerant Chief Magistrate) don Joaquín Alvarez. Vigil Y Alarid believed Alvarez held his political position without legal authority, because Alvarez was both employed as the Aduana Fronteriza (Director of Customs) in El Paso del Norte and also employed by the Federal government. He stated in a letter to the authorities that there was no law that authorizes a federal employee to take a state position. He continued to explain how this was an insult to the supreme powers of the State. He justified his disobedience and accusations towards Alvarez by quoting articles from the Constitutional law of the Customs department.
His letter clearly demonstrates that Vigil y Alarid was educated and familiar with the law. Nevertheless, his actions resulted in a criminal investigation. Consequently, Vigil y Alarid placed a guard in front of his house for protection, which ultimately resulted in a confrontation between the military and civil authorities. Military Captain Miguel Castro came to the defense of Vigil y Alarid, saying that “Don Juan Vigil” submitted to him his military dispatches and credentials as a military Captain from the supreme governor. And further, that Vigil y Alarid was given these legal titles by virtue of his service to the nation against the invading forces of the United States. Thus, he, Military Captain Miguel Castro, was commanded to protect Vigil because he (Vigil) maintained privileges and special protection (gosa de fuero de guerra), because of his military service to the Mexican republic. Regardless of Vigil y Alarid’s gosa de fuero or the efforts of Castro, on July 13th, Vigil was sentenced to 30 days in prison for lack of respect and insults towards the Magistrate.
It is not known if Vigil y Alarid served the thirty days in jail but soon after the situation calmed down, but not for long. Vigil y Alarid found himself united with another major force behind the emigrant communities from Nuevo Mexico, Padre Ramón Ortiz. In their demonstration of patriotism, both participated in patriotic fraternities. The Juntas Patrióticas, as they were called, were very active in the communities around the El Paso area. They collected funds for the annual celebration of the 16 de Septiembre, Mexico’s Independence Day. Vigil y Alarid along with Padre Ramón Ortiz and other Guadalupe residents participated in the festivities.
Apparently, discontent had grown between the ex-governor of New Mexico and Padre Ortiz, ex-emigration commissioner of the colonies, who was responsible for bringing the repatriates to the new colonies. Born in Santa Fe, and educated and ordained in Durango, Mexico, Ortiz established himself as the life long parish priest at the mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. He was the most influential and affluent person in El Paso del Norte (present day Ciudad Juárez). In 1853, Vigil was the primary complainant in a Foreign Ministry investigation into Padre Ortiz’s dealings as emigration commissioner. This investigation led to Padre Ortiz’s replacement by Guadalupe Miranda, another prominent politician from northern New Mexico. Ortiz was accused of mishandling funds during the settlement of the colonies and directing insults towards the people of Guadalupe and San Ignacio when they gathered to adhere to the Plan de Guadalajara, a national attempt to overthrow the Government of Presidente Mariano Arista. In the investigation of Ortiz, Vigil y Alarid complained about the conduct of Padre Ortiz, and in addition, filed a complaint regarding infractions committed by Chihuahuan authorities toward the repatriation efforts.
The complaint against State authorities may account for a letter written on October 3, 1853 from the Chihuahua state Government to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a document included in the investigation on Padre Ortiz. The letter did not take seriously the complaints made by Vigil y Alarid but attacked him instead. The letter stated that Vigil y Alarid, while in New Mexico, had “occupied himself by complaining against the authorities.” The letter also stated that when the Americans occupied New Mexico, Vigil was named Governor, and held this title as a “representative of the United States of America.” The letter goes on to say that after an American governor replaced Vigil, he continued to live in New Mexico and was “reputed” to be an American citizen but then repatriated, as a Mexican citizen, first to Cantón Aldama and then to Guadalupe Bravos. The letter then notes that the citizens of Guadalupe lived peacefully until Vigil’s arrival. In Guadalupe, the civil government accused Vigil y Alarid of inciting divisions between colonists from New Mexico and those from Isleta, Socorro and San Elizario, Texas. Vigil y Alarid was accused of positioning himself as a leader and expelling those that were not from New Mexico. He also tried to collect contributions intended for the Justice of the Peace. It was for this reason the military commanders sent troops from El Paso del Norte to Guadalupe. Again Vigil y Alarid claimed exemption because of his fuero de Guerra. The letter notes that his claims of exemption were not valid because not only did he remain in New Mexico after the occupation but that he held public office as Governor under the United States Government. The letter ends by saying that the “disfavorable” proceedings should be remedied soon, because it is very likely that Vigil y Alarid will most likely continue with his “old habits.”
Vigil y Alarid’s pattern of confronting the authorities also came to a head just a couple of years after his problems with Padre Ortiz and Chihuahua State officials. In 1855, Vigil y Alarid again rose to the occasion in defense of his political and social convictions. The incident involved the mistreatment of an Indian slave woman by her master, a parish priest. A letter sent by Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid to the Bishop of Durango during the latter’s holy visitation to the El Paso del Norte area exposed the situation. Vigil y Alarid’s letter [dated May 22, 1855] made an explicit defense of those most affected by class, race and gender, manifested in a religious official’s dominance over a female Indian servant.
Vigil y Alarid claimed that the priest, whose name he “omits for the time being,” hit and beat a defenseless Indian woman, causing her bruises and open wounds. Vigil noted that the priest bragged about owning this woman as a purchased servant. Vigil y Alarid stated that it was expressly prohibited, under the fundamental civil laws of the Republic of México, to partake in such “contraband.” Furthermore, Vigil y Alarid said that the priest forcibly brought this woman from the territory lost by the Republic of México as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. This situation, Vigil y Alarid claimed, tested the patience of the authorities and became a public scandal. The priest assigned to the parish in Guadalupe at this time was Padre José Antonio Otero, an emigrant from Tomé, New Mexico. Vigil y Alarid continued with a detailed and sympathetic account of how this woman had suffered so much that she was at the point of suicide. In an emotional if not poetic plea, Vigil y Alarid stated: “This slave woman, tired of so many cruel and insufferable impediments, and remote is a remedy to her fate, on this day cried an ocean of tears and on her knees with deep sighs of bitterness (exsaltando suspiros amargos) she has entreated me to have the compassion to bring all this to the attention of your excellency.”
Vigil y Alarid ended his letter by stating that he wrote it not for his sake but for the sake of his “client” and for humanity. His letter demonstrates how aspects of the slave system were brought from colonial Nuevo México to Guadalupe, but also that Vigil y Alarid functioned as a legal representative and was well versed in Mexican laws and the social, racial, and gender constraints that this Indian woman faced. Perhaps he wrote this letter as a result of his convictions and appreciation for the revolutionary ideas as advocated by Padre Miguel Hidalgo, the same appreciation that first drove Vigil y Alarid and others to repatriate to Mexico.
Meanwhile, the colonists in Guadalupe and San Ignacio were not only caught up in Vigil y Alarid’s local political maneuvers, but soon were involved in the national politics of México. After México lost its northern territory, Santa Anna’s conservative centralist dictatorship ceased, and Federalism took hold. But in 1853 Santa Anna and conservative Centralism returned. Struggles intensified between liberals and conservatives during the end of Santa Anna’s final reign, with the liberals returning to power in 1855. They enacted the Constitution of 1857, which incorporated many of their ideas. As a result, the Conservatives revolted, disavowing liberal reforms and proclaiming Félix Zuloaga, president. This began the Guerra de Reforma (Reform War), splitting México into two political camps. Conservatives upheld church control and the sustained privileges of the elite and the military. Benito Juárez and other liberals wished to confine the powers of the Church and the military. For three years a bloody battle ensued until the conservatives were finally defeated in 1861.
It is unknown what Vigil y Alarid’s involvement was during the above-mentioned movements but because his name does not appear in any investigations of this time period, he may have moved back to his patria chica New Mexico. This “return migration,” was ironically a real repatriation to his homeland, where he spent the last years of his life until his death in 1866. In New Mexico, Vigil y Alarid came full circle in this ten-year odyssey along the Camino Real, where he took his last stand against the United States government and his ultimate patriotic expression of resistance against United States dominance. As always, he demonstrated his sentiments through his written words: On October 22, 1860, he wrote to Santiago Collins, editor of Gazeta Seminario de Santa Fé, to oppose American land titles and defend the property rights of New Mexicans. He knew the law well and cited various articles from past cases, as he had done throughout his career. He was especially ardent in his reference to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, a subject he often discussed in letters he wrote during his career. In one such letter he accused the Surveyor General of violating the articles dealing with land ownership.
Vigil y Alarid attempted to defend his people’s land rights by using the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to his and their advantage, but in the end, he realized that for him at least, his “mother,” the nation of México, was indeed dead as he proclaimed in his 1846 acceptance of allegiance speech. After a period of mourning and intense work, his need to be a part of his patria chica grew stronger than his nation-state affinities. His loss of political office affected his sense of “nationalism;” it no longer fit into his ideal of an “imagined community.” At this point in his life, his allegiance, along with those of the citizens who did not repatriate, was to their patria chica. Because of the change in political borders, 1846-48, an association with México now only existed through familial ties and in connection to the land that was granted to their ancestors under the Spanish, Pueblo and Mexican governments. As in his acceptance of allegiance speech, Vigil y Alarid spoke for and defended old allegiances when he quoted from a land case in his letter to the editor of Gazeta de Santa Fé: “The people change their loyalties; their relations to their old sovereigns are broken; but their relations among themselves and their property remain permanent.”
His world reflected Nuevomexicanos’ plight during the change of three national sovereignties. Like the rest of Nuevo México, Vigil y Alarid made decisions of national and regional loyalty based on personal needs and advantages. But in the end, at least to the emigrants to northern Chihuahua, their negation of one national identity (the United States) affirmed an affinity to another (México). Some returned to New Mexico like Vigil y Alarid but the majority remained in the colonies.
Outside of academia, this dialogue continues in other aspects of today’s society, as reflected in a well-known Mexican/Mexican American popular corrido by the renowned norteño conjunto group,Los Tigres del Norte. Appropriately titled “Mis dos Patrias,” or “My two Countries,” the song contains lyrics that are applicable to the dichotomy discussed in this thesis, demonstrating that immigrants relocating from México to the U.S. struggle today with the same dilemmas of national identity as did the Nuevomexicanos. The phrases in the song are: “Deje las tumbas de mis padres y mis abuelos, llegué llorando a tierra de anglosajón,” and, a few verses later, “Pero qué importa si soy nuevo ciudadano, sigo siendo mexicano como el pulque y el nopal:” or “I left the tombs of my parents and grandparents behind and I came weeping to the land of the Anglo-Saxon.” This is very similar to Vigil y Alarid’s words expressing the same despair and a lack of sense of place in the middle of two Patrias,when he said: “No matter her condition she was our mother. What child will not shed abundant tears at the tomb of his parents?” Vigil y Alarid wavered between mourning for a life away from his emotional connection to México as he knew it and acceptance of U.S. dominance. The second verse, from “Mis Dos Patrias,” translates to “But what difference does it make if I am a new citizen, I still continue to be as Mexican as the pulque drink and the nopal cactus.” The repatriates who left their homeland also continued to be as Mexican perhaps as their Manzano or Magdalena Mountains and the Tomé hill in the geographical landscape of New Mexico. The cultural landscape carries new regional identities forged from old national loyalties.
The history of Juan Bautista Vigil y Alarid is but one of many that deal with the changing identities, both geographical and cultural, along the Camino Real. His story reflects the physical resistance to U.S. occupation and an expression of Mexican nationalism that mirrors the stories of many citizens who were forced to choose between their loyalty to Mexico and the land that sustained them physically and spiritually.