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Medal commemorates border battle

 

A medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of the settlement of a 100-year-old border dispute between the U.S. and Mexico has been produced by the International Coin Club of El Paso, Inc. The 600 acres of disputed land, known as the Chamizal, was located in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.

The boundary between the U.S. and Texas was established by the Treaty of Puerto Velasco as the Rio Grande. This treaty, signed on May 14, 1836, recognized the independence of Texas. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and fixed the Rio Grande as the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was not well planned and failed to provide for unforeseen changes in the Rio Grande. By its terms, the center of the river’s deepest channel was to be the boundary. Stipulations providing for sudden or gradual changes in the river were not included in the treaty.

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It is impossible to pinpoint the exact date of the beginning of the Chamizal dispute as the river changed course over a period of many years. However, a violent flood occurred in 1864 that dramatically changed the river’s course. By 1873 the river had moved approximately 600 acres, cutting off land from Mexico that was in effect made United States territory. The land came to be known as El Chamizal, apparently after a hardy desert bush with the same name. Eventually the land was settled and incorporated as part of El Paso. Both Mexico and the United States claimed the land. In 1895, Mexican citizens filed suit in the Juárez Primary Court of Claims to reclaim the land.

The dispute was formally settled on Jan. 14, 1963, when the United States and Mexico ratified a treaty that generally followed the 1911 arbitration recommendations. The agreement awarded to Mexico 366 acres of the Chamizal area and 71 acres east of the adjacent Cordova Island. The United States received 193 acres of Cordova Island from Mexico, and the two nations agreed to share equally in the cost of rechanneling the river.

On Sept. 17, 1963, the U.S. Congress introduced the American-Mexican Chamizal Convention Act of 1964, which finally settled the matter. In 1964 Presidents Adolfo López Mateos and Lyndon B. Johnson met on the border to end the dispute officially. In October 1967, President Johnson returned to the border in El Paso to meet with President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and formally proclaim the settlement.

Mexico and the United States produced medals in 1963 and 1964 commemorating the settlement.

The El Paso Coin Club issued 45 of the 2013 medals in .999 fine silver and 100 in bronze. It also issued 80 sets that each contain a copper-nickel and a bronze medal.

The 39 mm medals were designed by club members Charles Steward and John Grost, and were produced by the Highland Mint.

Although the silver medal is sold out, the two-medal set is available for $31, and the individual bronze medal is $10. Postage is included. Checks should be made out to ICCEP and mailed to John Grost, 619 E. Crosby Ave., El Paso, TX 79902. For more information, email johngrost@aol.com.

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