October 26, 2007
News from the Inside
Good Run of Mexican-American War-era Newspaper, El Monitor 1847-1848
177. [MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR]. El Monitor Republicano. Segunda Epoca. [Mexico City] Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, 1847-1848. 50 scattered issues (July 9, 1847-March 21, 1848), 4 pp. each, printed in four columns. Folio, creased where formerly folded, a few with minor edge wear and wrinkling, some issues slightly browned, otherwise fine. Includes nos. 865, 869-900, 902-904, 950-954, 957-958, 960-964, 966-967, and 1045.
First editions. Charno, pp. 378-380 (noting that publication was suspended July 13-September 26, 1847). No. 869 here is September 27, 1848, the first issue after publication was resumed. The first issue here is no. 865 (July 9, 1847). These issues cover a crucial time in Mexico City history: Scott took possession of the city on September 14, 1847, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo would be signed on February 2, 1848. Thus, most of these issues were published when the city was occupied by U.S. forces.
These newspapers offer great insight into life in Mexico City while it was being ruled by Scott and U.S. forces. Issue 869 (September 27, 1847) is generally filled with documents representing the painful adjustment to the occupation, including: an announcement to the populace urging cooperation and outlining how ordinary governmental functions will continue uninterrupted; announcements from the now-absent Santa-Anna concerning how the Mexican government in exile will function; and Scott’s famous General Order 287 of September 17, announcing the terms of martial law he is imposing. The next day the Ayuntamiento prominently announces plans to memorialize those Mexicans who have died defending the city. Later two reports are printed. The first is a long, detailed one from Nicolas Bravo recounting the battles that led up to the city’s fall. Another, moving one, is written by Andres Terres, commander of the forces at the Garita de Belin, and recounts such misfortunes as the terrible damage done to his forces when U.S. cannon fire destroyed the stone gate arches, effectively turning the rocks themselves into deadly shrapnel. In the next issue, life seems to return to a more normal state, with a long section of international news appearing. An editorial, however, is somewhat critical of U.S. forces and their motivations. Finally, other editorials reveal the interesting tidbit that when Santa-Anna left in the middle of the night with the Mexican army, he did not even bother to tell the ayuntamiento that he was leaving, apparently leaving its members to awaken the next morning to discover the city defenseless and occupied. Announcements of new publications also begin to re-appear in this issue. In the next issue, diurnal affairs exert themselves more and more. The editor, for example, remarks that they attended a play presented by an English acting troupe who apparently had accompanied the U.S. troops on their march. Another column notes that U.S. troops flew to arms in the middle of the night in fear of a popular uprising, when in fact the commotion was nothing more than a citizen firing into the air trying to draw attention to the fact a house was on fire. Finally, the editors urge the citizenry to persuade General Scott to have mercy on the captured San Patricios, who supposedly are being confined under terrible circumstances.
As time passes, war news and local news ebb and flow in the pages as circumstances dictate. The editors always include editorials, however—many of them scathingly critical of Santa-Anna, the Mexican government, and the administration of Mexico City. After-action reports also drift in and are routinely printed. Columns and news from other sources and places, such as Europe and South America, are also often included. Space is given to the U.S. newspapers being published in the capital along with the Mexican editors’ opinion of their contents and viewpoint. Of course, as significant events are revealed, they are extensively reported. One such instance is in issue 883 (October 11, 1847), which contains the first installment of an extensive report on the August 21, 1847, negotiations concerning an armistice; the report is continued in several of the following numbers. The same issue also contains a reprint from Querétero of a court martial of U.S. deserters, all of whom are named and almost all of whom are reported to have been hanged. Occasional U.S. orders are printed, such as that in 892 (October 20, 1847), ordering dram shops and liquor stores closed after 6 p.m. Keeping alive the dream of further military resistance to the U.S., the Minister of War and the Navy, beginning in issue no. 958 (December 25, 1847), begins publication of a long order reorganizing Mexican military forces. Revelations about events during the war are also brought to light as they are discovered, further fueling various controversies concerning how the war was prosecuted by Mexican officials.
This collection represents a fairly substantial, though somewhat incomplete, run of an influential Mexico City newspaper published during the U.S. occupation. Within its pages are captured and preserved the stresses, strains, fears, and joys of the Mexican populace during this critical time in their history. ($2,500-5,000)
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Copyright Dorothy Sloan 2007