This is Shirley Griffith.
And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program,
EXPLORATIONS. Today, we finish the story of one of the most
important rivers in the United States, the Rio Grande.
(Photo - Ken Osborn/U.S. Geological Survey)
The river flows from the mountains of Colorado south to the
Gulf of Mexico. It forms the border between the United States
and Mexico for two thousand kilometers.
By the early fifteen-hundreds Spanish explorers arrived in
the southwest of what is now the United States. They moved up
the Rio Grande looking for gold and treasure. They found none.
The native Pueblo Indians of New Mexico were friendly until
they were treated badly by the Spanish. Then the Indians pushed
the invaders out. But the Spanish returned in Sixteen-Ninety-Three.
After some fighting, they finally made peace with the Pueblo
More and more settlers arrived and established new towns along
the Rio Grande. Soon people from other countries began arriving.
They came from France, England, and, by the end of the Seventeen
Hundreds, from the newly formed United States to the east.
By the early nineteenth century, Americans had begun settling
in the Rio Grande area, especially in the territory of Texas,
east of New Mexico. The Spanish government in the American Southwest
began to lose control as Spain became less powerful in Europe.
Soon more and more people settling near the Rio Grande began
to think of themselves as Americans. In Eighteen-Twelve, the
Mexican territory of Texas rebelled and declared itself an independent
republic. Spain regained control of Texas, but the seeds of
revolution had been planted. In Eighteen Twenty-One, Spain withdrew
from the Americas.
A new age was beginning in North America. Two young nations,
the United States and Mexico, would now decide their own futures
and the future of the Rio Grande area. One of the most important
questions facing the two countries was who would control Texas.
That was not an easy decision to make. In Eighteen-Twenty-Three,
the Mexican government agreed to permit a group of Americans
to live in Texas. Mexico said the Americans, led by Stephen
Austin, could stay there permanently.
More Americans settled in Texas. Many people wanted to make
Texas a part of the United States. At the same time, more Mexicans
wanted to push all Americans out of Texas.
South of the Rio Grande, there were three revolutions in Mexico¡¯s
first eight years of independence. North of the river, Americans
were more and more unhappy with Mexican rule. In Eighteen-Thirty-Two,
Stephen Austin went to Mexico City to ask that Texas become
a separate Mexican state.
At this time, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was struggling
to gain control of Mexico and become its ruler. He faced a number
of rebellions in different parts of the country. General Santa
Anna told Stephen Austin he would make Texas a separate Mexican
state. Yet events were moving in another direction.
In Texas, demands for change became demands for independence
from Mexico. This led to an invasion across the Rio Grande of
thousands of soldiers led by General Santa Anna. He planned
to quickly crush the rebellion. As Santa Anna moved his army
into Texas in Eighteen-Thirty-Six, a group of Texans signed
a document declaring Texas an independent nation.
To answer this, General Santa Anna led a strong attack against
a group of rebels near the city of San Antonio. The place they
attacked was called The Alamo. There were one-hundred-twenty-eight
men in the building defending it against the many thousands
of soldiers in Santa Anna¡¯s army. After many days
of fighting, the Mexican army broke through the defenses of
the Alamo and killed everyone inside.
Santa Anna and his army began a march across Texas. They burned
towns and villages. They chased the small army of Texans but
were unable to catch them. The Mexican soldiers were tired.
The Texans attacked, shouting ¡°Remember the Alamo¡±.
There was a fierce battle. Only forty Mexican soldiers escaped.
All the others were killed, wounded or captured. General Santa
Anna was among those captured.
General Santa Anna met with Texas leader, General Sam Houston.
The Mexican leader agreed that in return for his freedom Texas
would become independent from Mexico. He agreed that the Rio
Grande would be the border between Texas and Mexico. General
Santa Anna went home to Mexico City. The new Republic of Texas
looked to the future.
The future was not all good. President Santa Anna declared
war on Texas eight years after his defeat by the Texan army.
However, he never carried out his threat of war. He was removed
from office. And the next year, Eighteen-Forty-Five, the United
States government invited Texas to become a state.
This was not acceptable to Mexico. War began. In Eighteen-Forty-Six,
Mexican soldiers crossed the Rio Grande. The Americans quickly
defeated the invading army and began moving into Mexico, toward
Mexico City. Other American soldiers began moving west into
New Mexico. The government in Santa Fe quickly surrendered.
In February Eighteen-Forty-Eight, Mexico surrendered to the
American army. The Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo declared the
border between the United States and Mexico to be along the
Rio Grande and then west to the Pacific Ocean. The new land
belonging to the United States included New Mexico, Arizona
and Upper California. For all this territory, the United States
paid Mexico fifteen-million dollars.
Becoming a part of the United States presented both political
and social problems for Texas. The state of Texas permitted
slavery. Governor Sam Houston opposed joining the Confederate
states that also permitted slavery and were seeking to separate
from the United States. He was removed from office. Texas joined
the southern states in the Civil War. After the northern forces
won the long war and the country united, Texas was re-admitted
as a state.
At this time, the expanding population of the Rio Grande country
faced other problems. Criminals from both sides of the Rio Grande
attacked the people. Also, Indian tribes such as the Apache
and Comanche resisted the spread of white settlers into their
lands. The settlers were destroying the Indians¡¯
way of life. The Indians attacked and killed many white settlers.
By Eighteen Seventy Four, government troops had forced many
Indian tribes out of their traditional lands.
The United States army also was ordered to take action to stop
criminal activities along the Rio Grande. It was given permission
to chase criminals across the river into Mexico. Also, the army
acted to stop Indian attacks.
Over time, fighting ended in the Rio Grande Valley and the
surrounding territory. The United States and Mexico developed
Yet tensions continue along the border between the two countries
today. One problem is illegal immigrants. The other is illegal
drugs. No one knows for sure how many people cross the border
from Mexico to the United States. Officials have estimated that
the number is in the millions.
The illegal immigrants come from Mexico, and from Central and
South America. Most come to the United States for economic or
political reasons. A few come to sell illegal drugs. Many of
the illegal drugs in the United States are transported across
The river itself can create problems too. The Rio Grande flows
where it wants to flow. Dams, canals and other man-made devices
cannot always control it.
Most of the water from the upper Rio Grande does not flow into
the Gulf of Mexico. Almost all of the water is completely used
for agriculture and by cities and towns along the upper part
of the river.
Down the river, many springs and several other rivers flow
into the Rio Grande, renewing the water supply. Two major dams
create electric power and provide water for agriculture and
other needs of people living along the lower part of the river.
Yet man-made controls do not prevent changes in the path the
river takes in many places. Some changes make it difficult to
know exactly where the border is between the United States and
Mexico. The great river, the Rio Grande, continues to flow across
the land and through the history of two countries.
This Special English program was written by Oliver Chanler
and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.
And this is Shirley Griffith. Listen again next week for another
EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.
This V-O-A Explorations Report is published
courtesy of VOAnews.com