Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 20/07/2019
The expansion of the United States over North America is a story of wars and intelligent purchases of lands from colonial powers in urgent need of money – like Louisiana from Napoleonic France and Alaska from the Russian empire. But it is also a story of strategies never tested before, or tested with scarce or no results, as shown by what happened in Mexico-owned Texas between 1820s and 1830s.
After gaining independence from Spain in 1821, Mexico had to face a series of domestic-level troubles due to the lack of achievement-oriented entrepreneurs that hindered the development of a strong national economy. The US, which helped Mexico fight Spain during the 10-year conflict, took advantage of the poor economic condition of the neighbor and sent groups of settlers in the northern parts of the country, in particular Texas, with the official purpose to start small-scale enterprises with which make the economy flourish after the war trauma.
The hidden purpose was to conquest Texas by means of demography, namely through a silent colonization based on the ethnic revolution which over the years would lead Americans to overcome Mexicans.
It is easy to understand why the US wanted to resize the newly-independent neighbor: its dimensions were an obstacle for the westward expansion (the present-day California was part of Mexico) and, geopolitically speaking, a large-sized and resource-rich country constitutes a permanent threat.
But why Texas? Texas is located in a geostrategic position and can be considered one of the most important geographical pivots of North America along with Alaska and California and it is no surprise that the US tried several times (but unsuccessfully) to establish settlements in it long before Mexican independence, namely when the country was still part of the Spanish empire. The US aimed at having a warm outlet to the Pacific but they could not due to the control exerted by Spain, and later by Mexico, over present-day Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, which were bridgeheads to reach California. Last but not least, the integration of Texas in the US would mean more control over the Gulf of Mexico and American southwest.
Texas, differently from the other Mexican provinces, was closer and above all was scarcely populated and, therefore, easily conquerable in a few years of cautious settlements. The US put its eyes on it since 1810s and so already knew what kind of strategy to pursue.
The Austins, a powerful family of entrepreneurs in metals interested in making business in Texas since Mexico was still part of Spanish crown, were chosen to lead the colonization. In 1825 Steve Austin entered Texas with 300 families – at that time the province had less than 3,500 inhabitants protected by about 200 soldiers.
Mexican government thought that the American presence could help foster local productivity and protect the widely-unpopulated land from the incursions of Indians. By 1830s, American settlers outnumbered the Tejanos, namely the local residents of Spanish heritage, and the first symptoms of discontent emerged: clashes between Catholics and Protestants, episodes of inverse racism involving Americans against Tejanos, growing exclusion of Tejanos from the labour market and social life, and so on.
The reaction of the then-Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante was as drastic as tardy: the Laws of April 6, 1830 outlawed further immigration to Texas from the US and made business more difficult for American settlers with the introduction of new taxes and measures to fight slavery – which was illegal in Mexico but widely practiced by American settlers.
The law had no effectiveness because Texas was virtually already part of the US: an estimated number of 30,000 English-speaking settlers lived in the province during the 1830s, compared to less than 8,000 Spanish-speaking people – and the slaves owned by Americans were about 5,000, that is almost the number of Mexican-born residents.
American settlers exploited a political crisis emerged in 1832 during the coupt attempt by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna to overthow Bustamante to start a revolt, after which Mexican soldiers were expelled from the province. The government, now led by Santa Anna, tried to avoid the much-feared secession by making some concessions to the rioters, but Stephen Austin had already in mind the next step: the declaration of independence in 1835 of the self-proclaimed republic of Texas.
On the background of the events, in the US both politicians and media started lobbying to support the full independence of Texas from Mexico, and some advocated its annexation to the US. American settlers gave rise to a large-scale uncontrolled unrest and eventually Santa Anna decided to suppress it, but he could not know that the US had already planned every detail since the 1810s.
The republic of Texas lived some years in complete autonomy from Mexico City, also due to the formation of armed militias trained and equipped by the US. It was recognized as an independent state in 1837, but it was not annexed until 1845, when the then-American president James Polk decided to send troops to take control over it and to end the dispute.
Mexico reacted militarily – precisely what the US wished, and a large-scale war between the countries started. The US easily won the conflict, also due to the fact of virtually owning Texas. In 1848 Mexico was obliged to sign an embarrassed peace agreement, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, according to which it ceded about one third of its territory to the US: not only Texas, but the modern-day states of California, Nevada, Utah and parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Wyoming. The US reached its long-dreamed objectives: Texas, the geostrategic resource-rich outpost lying between the Pacific, the Southwest, Gulf of Mexico and Central America, and California, the outlet to the Pacific.
Texas revolution tells much to present-day readers and strategists because it proved the effectiveness of the demographic bomb theory. Indeed, in particular contexts characterised by low fertility rates and/or low levels of population or population density, and worsened by the presence of shortsighted statesmen, it is possible to exploit all these factors in order to produce a dystopian scenario of ethnic revolution useful for destabilizing purposes. Large communities of citizens and oriundos living in such contexts can be properly exploited and turned into dangerous fifth columns: this is exactly what happened in Texas.
More recently other powers followed this strategy with very high degrees of success: Iran fostered the growth of Shia communities all over the Middle East and got extraordinary results in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen – where Shiites ceased to be small minorities and turned into large national communities which are cause of useful insurgencies. Albania did the same in the Southern Balkans and succeeded in reviving the long-dreamed project of the “Greater Albania”. The Albanisation of regions such as present-day Kosovo and Macedonia started during the first decades of 20th century, when the Balkans were still object of harsh confrontation between European powers and Ottomans.
The Albanisation was pursued mainly by means of population transfers, controlled migration, and forced expulsions, during the interwar period and the Fascist era. For instance, tens of thousands of Serbs were obliged to relocate from Kosovo to other regions between the 1920s and the 1940s, accelerating the trend of ethnic substitution started at the beginning of the century due to the gap in fertility rates and domestic migration.
Hoxha’s Albania played a fundamental role in istigating Kosovars to demand full independence from Yugoslavia and provided them not only weapons and funds but also a common ideological platform from which to draw: Albanian irredentism.
Both Albania and Kosovo claim to be not interested in forming one single nation, but the story of Texas revolution suggests that such processes can last decades. It is news of early July that the two countries have signed a landmark agreement according to which their diplomatic missions are set to be unified as well as their foreign policies are going to be developed together. It is clear that the last step will be the political unification – as denounced by Russia after the deal was made public, but how and when no one knows.
North Macedonia is another battlefield in which Albania is supposedly being used the demographic threat strategy. Over the years Albanians ceased to be one of the many ethnic minorities living in the country to turn into the second-largest ethnic group. Such event happened on the background of the increasing tensions between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians, tensions that are not only racially-led but above all they are politically-motivated.
In 2001 Albania-backed paramilitary group known as the National Liberation Army paralyzed the country to demand more rights for Albanian community. Since then, Albanians got more recognition, public space, they even set up their own political parties, but the threat of civil war keeps remaining pervasive in the same way nationalist rhetoric is growing among Macedonian-born Albanian public opinion and politicians.
Texas, Kosovo, Macedonia, Middle East, all these cases show how it is possible to control migration flows to pursue farsighted plans of colonization whose dangerousness manifests itself only after decades. The demographic bomb can’t be stopped when is about to explode, because it means that the ethnic make-up has been changed inevitably, but some trends can be monitored and somehow foregone in order to prevent new Texas revolutions from starting.