mexicans continue to struggle towards democracy

Some predictions have a ring of certainty about them. Take the events of July 7, 1846, when the Pacific Squadron of the US Navy appeared in Monterey…

Some predictions have a ring of certainty about them.

Take the events of July 7, 1846, when the Pacific Squadron of the US Navy appeared in Monterey Bay on the coast of California.

No one on board or ashore probably doubted the outcome of this mission. California would become part of the United States.

The United States had declared war on Mexico on May 13.. Less than two months later, Commodore John Sloat opened fire on the shore batteries protecting Monterey, the capital of the Mexican territory of Alta California.

He found only a small Mexican coast guard force willing to oppose his attack. What some historians refer to as the Battle of Monterey can’t really be seen as anything more than armed encounter.

Basically Mexican authorities surrendered without firing a shot.

Sloat raised the new 28-star version of the Stars and Stripes over the Customs House there.

Texas, a major ‘causa belli’ for this trumped-up war, had gotten its star placed on the flag just three days before.

Sloat then proclaimed, grandiloquently, Alta California annexed to the United States.

At this time, Alta California covered the territory occupied by modern California and also Nevada, Utah, plus parts of Arizona and Wyoming.

This unilateral proclamation, of course, occurred without any consultation with, or concern about, the desires of the Spanish or native Californios living there.

Now this war, like so many others, really could have been predicted. Multiple factors pointed towards its inevitability.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 mightily contributed to the United States’ continental aspirations.

The famous Monroe Doctrine of 1823 marked out its turf against possible European rivals.

Both provided a clear base for the emergence of the compelling Manifest Destiny ideology; it was not only obvious, it was pre-ordained that the United States would expand.

Though the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 established the borders between the expanded United States and the lands controlled from Mexico City, the United States never really has had any problem with limits imposed by international treaties when push comes to shove.

Four years earlier, in 1842, an overly ambitious Commodore Jones had invaded Monterey believing that the inevitable war had already broken out.

The peace his marines founded obviously couldn’t last, but he withdrew anyway.

Mexico is having another difficult week 160 years after the fall of Monterey, waiting for the outcome of its very tight national elections.

“The only sure thing until now is that it has raised society to an undesirable degree of polarization,” noted a Mexico City daily newspaper, La Jornada, on its editorial page yesterday, “a fraying that should have been unnecessary and to an uncertainty that is not deserved.”

While the presidential struggle between the progressive Andres Lopez Obrador, leader of the “For the Good of All” Coalition and the stay-the-course candidate of the National Action Party, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, is too close to call. (Hinojosa was declared winner on Thursday afternoon.)

It was not an ‘aguila o sol’, ‘heads or tails’ situation.

This is not 1988 when electoral fraud by the Party of the Institutional Revolution extended its one-party rule for another six years. The democratic progress of Mexico is not in doubt.

More advance electoral reform measures are in place there than in the United States.

Of their 500 federal deputies, 200 are proportionally elected making the Mexican system more in tune with democratic institutional development around the world than either Canada or the United States.

While warfare regrettably is still all too predictable across our globe, so is the advance of democracy rooted in a new emerging global understanding of equality.

Mexico lost Alta California, but it is not losing out in the struggle for democracy.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.