Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Comes to the History Colorado Center
One of the most formative documents in United States’ history will arrive in Denver on the 175th anniversary of its signing.
EN ESPAÑOL | DENVER — January 17, 2023 — Pages from the original Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, a document which transformed this part of the world forever by significantly expanding the United States and setting the stage for Colorado’s statehood, will be exhibited in Denver for the first time ever.
The treaty will be arriving in Colorado on February 2– which marks the 175th anniversary of its signing– but will not be on display until the following morning as the delicate pages need to acclimate and rest after its traveling to the Mile High City. Starting the morning of February 3 the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo will be displayed in the Borderlands of Southern Colorado exhibition at the History Colorado Center until May 22, when it will be returned to Washington D.C.
The treaty’s exhibition in Denver is made possible courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., which is loaning four pages of this fragile and rare treaty to History Colorado.
Signed on February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and set the stage for the westward expansion of the United States by shifting the political border south from the Arkansas River to the Rio Grande and west to the Pacific coast of California.
In the treaty, the Republic of Mexico relinquished all claims to Texas and lost 55 percent of its territory, some 525,000 square miles, to the United States. This land eventually became all, or parts, of the present states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as a large portion of western and southern Colorado.
Shifting the U.S.-Mexico border transformed the citizenship, rights, and property claims of the Mexican nationals residing in the region and despite the treaty’s assurances, regional residents were eventually dispossessed of their lands and wealth. Women were disproportionately impacted as many of their rights under the Republic of Mexico, especially their right to own land and property, were revoked following the signing of the treaty and occupation by the United States.
This redrawing of borders did not, however, alter the linguistic, ethnic, and geological boundaries that were already taking shape in places like the San Luis Valley in what is today southern Colorado.
“Many people are not familiar with this aspect of Colorado’s identity,” said Dawn DiPrince, History Colorado’s Executive Director and State Historic Preservation Officer. “This borderlands’ history is very important to individuals, families, and communities of southern Colorado, and we are proud to collaborate and share this history with a broader audience to expand the way Coloradans understand the history of our state.”
Understanding this history includes acknowledging and reckoning with the impact on borderland inhabitants who experienced “displacement in place,” as new political and cultural structures were imposed on their lives overnight.
“In some ways, it is hard to fathom that old handwritten pages would wield such power over the lands and lives of so many in this part of the world, but this treaty dramatically altered the lives of many families who call southern Colorado home today,” DiPrince said.
The erosion of civil and property rights for former Mexican nationals is just one aspect of the treaty’s impacts. It is also connected to the displacement of Indigenous tribes and has been referenced in hundreds of court cases ranging from international border disputes to water and mineral rights claims.
The treaty is also intimately connected to the California Gold Rush as it was signed days after the initial discovery of gold in the Sacramento Valley and opened the door for expansion of Anglo-Americans hoping to strike it rich in the mountains of the West.
The treaty’s time at the History Colorado Center is a rare opportunity for people to see a document that is fundamental to the contemporary US West and the place we call Colorado today.
“Artifacts, like the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, serve as tangible witnesses to power, tragedy, and events that form our histories, '' DiPrince said. “They enable us to make meaning of our past in ways that inform our present and build our future. We urge all Coloradans to visit the Treaty while it is at the History Colorado Center so they contemplate the moments and turning points of our shared stories.”
About Borderlands of Southern Colorado Initiative
History Colorado’s Borderlands of Southern Colorado Initiative shares the sweeping saga of beauty and conflict steeped in cultural differences, colonizations, and clashing ideologies about land ownership before and after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Through bi-lingual exhibitions, programs and experiences, the Borderlands of Southern Colorado Initiative showcases the human stories and the landscapes that define Colorado’s borderlands and are essential to knowing our roots as a state.
About The National Archives and Records Administration
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, so people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage. The National Archives ensures continuing access to the essential documentation of the rights of American citizens and the actions of their government. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and online at: www.archives.gov.
About History Colorado
History Colorado is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education and a 501(c)3 non-profit that has served more than 75,000 students and 500,000 people in Colorado each year. It is a 143-year-old institution that operates eleven museums and historic sites, a free public research center, the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the History Colorado State Historical Fund (SHF), which is one of the nation’s largest state funded preservation programs of its kind. More than 70% of SHF grants are allocated in rural areas of the state. Additionally, the offices of the State Archaeologist and the State Historic Preservation Officer are part of History Colorado.
History Colorado’s mission is to create a better future for Colorado by inspiring wonder in our past. We serve as the state’s memory, preserving and sharing the places, stories, and material culture of Colorado through educational programs, historic preservation grants, collecting, outreach to Colorado communities, the History Colorado Center and Stephen H. Hart Research Center in Denver, and ten other museums and historic attractions statewide. History Colorado is one of only six Smithsonian Affiliates in Colorado. Visit HistoryColorado.org, or call 303-HISTORY, for more information.