How the United States Nearly Annexed the Yucatán

Twice, during the nineteenth century, the Republic of Yucatan existed as a sovereign state, independent of Mexico, and nearly ended up as part of the United States of America.

Located in Southeastern Mexico, the Yucatán is now part of the 31 states of Mexico; however, amid the chaos of the Mexican American War, an uprising from the indigenous Mayans, and political infighting lead to the near annexation of the region to a very young United States.

The first republic was short-lived, and joined what was then the Mexican Federation, in December of 1823; only seven months after being founded.

Eighteen years later, the Republic of Yucatan declared independence from the same Mexican Federation, but would only remain independent this time for seven years, until rejoining in 1848.

Near the end of those seven years of independence, a delegation of the Yucatan Republic was sent to Washington D.C., on the orders of then president Santiago Méndez Ibarra.

Initially, the delegation was in Washington to argue for the nation’s neutrality in the conflict between Mexico and the United States, as it was currently facing a blockade by US forces. In addition to making pleas for military assistance to the governor of the island of Cuba, the admiral of Jamaica, and the ministers of Spain and England, Méndez also explicitly offered “the dominion, and sovereignty of the [Republic of Yucatan]” to the fast growing United States of America in exchange for assistance to put an end to blockades, infighting, and uprisings in the region.

James Knox Polk, the 11th President of the United States, supported the idea of assisting the Yucatan Republic, and the U.S. House of Representatives followed with the so called “Yucatan Bill,” which was subsequently passed, paving the way for the potential eventual annexation of a large portion of Mexico into the burgeoning United States, even if the initial bill only offered military assistance.

Polk also made an offer to the Spanish Government for Cuba during his administration, and was eager to secure the western regions of the United States before any European powers could attempt to control the area.

However, due to concerns over the nature of internal conflict in the Yucatan, Congress did not act on the bill. They were also concerned about extending a military already engaged in the war with Mexico, and feared a drawn out conflict with the indigenous population in the Yucatan.

Being unable to obtain external assistance, Méndez would step down as erstwhile leader of Yucatan, and his predecessor Miguel Barbachano would reach out to the Mexican government for assistance against indigenous conflicts, and returned the region to the confederation of Mexico.

Thus, after coming within a vote from the United States congress of potentially being absorbed into the republic to the north, the Republic of Yucatán would return again to Mexico after less than a decade of intermittent independence.

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2 thoughts on “How the United States Nearly Annexed the Yucatán

  1. Pingback: Honeybees and the history of colonization | markeastburn

  2. Pingback: Why Did Yucatan Independence Fail? - Historum - History Forums

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