University of Arizona Hosts Gadsden Purchase Conference

Lori Harwood
Dec. 16, 2003

Internationally renowned scholars from the United States, Canada and Mexico, including local author Tom Sheridan, will address the history and consequences of the 1853 Gadsden Purchase during a two-day conference.

The conference, titled "The Gadsden Purchase of the Mesilla Valley: Maps, Diplomats, and Mid-Century Expansionism," will be held on Friday, Nov. 14, 1:30 - 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 15, from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. at the Arizona Historical Society, 949 E. Second St. The conference is free and open to the public.

The Gadsden Purchase, completed 150 years ago, resulted in the incorporation of Tucson, southern Arizona, and southern New Mexico into the United States, "suddenly, with the stroke of a pen," writes Sheridan.

Juan Garcia, head of the UA's history department, says the treaty triggered an ongoing identity debate among Tucsonans of the time. "I think any time you create an artificial boundary you put people in a situation where they're forced to look at their own cultural identity and whom they identify with. Tucson has been unique in that there has been a real effort to maintain and blend the original culture that was here. In some ways Tucson reflects a better inter-mingling of different groups than other communities have been able to achieve," he says.

Conference coordinator and UA doctoral candidate Monica Rankin says conference speakers will address three major aspects of the Gadsden Purchase: Mexican politics and popular reaction, U.S. expansionism, and the creation of a border culture and its enduring legacy.

Featured speakers include Josefina Zoraida Vázquez y Vera of the Colegio de México, Mark Gilderhus of Texas Christian University, and Christon Archer of the University of Calgary. Information including the program and abstracts of presentations can be found online,

William and Flora Hewlitt Foundation, U.S. Department of Education - Title VI, University of Arizona Center for Latin American Studies, and the UA Southwest Center sponsor the conference.