Skip to main content

The 1958 Esso El Paso Map That Solved A Border Dispute

Maps - we use them to figure our way around places, to get from one place to another.  Or sometimes, highlight them to mark where we've been.  But a gas station road map used as an integral part of solving an international border dispute?  That's what a 1958 Esso Map of El Paso, Texas did.

The 1958 Esso El Paso, Texas map that help resolve the Chamizal dispute.

The central issue was the boundary between El Paso, Texas, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and the shifting Rio Grande.  

Background:

Ending the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago sets the Rio Grande as the Texas/Mexico Border.  Sixteen years later, in 1864, severe flooding changed the course of the Rio Grande around El Paso starting a century-long border dispute.

The Rio Grande shifted southward, and an area of Mexican farmland known as the Chamizal Tract was now in the United States.  An 1884 agreement between the two countries established that the center of the river's deepest channel would be the boundary.  It also stipulated that if the river/channel shifts, the old boundary remains in place.

A replica of a US/Mexico boundary marker at Chamizal National Memorial.

At the start of the 20th century, the Rio Grande was straightened as part of a flood control measure.  A northward bend in the river was re-routed southward. But per the 1884 agreement, this land, known as Cordova Island, remained part of Mexico.  During the 1920s and 30s, this small part of Mexico north of the Rio Grande was a safe haven for alcohol and smuggling during the Prohibition period.

Cordova Island was marked with boundary markers and later a four-mile wire fence.  As the area grew, many Americans settled in the areas of Chamizal that were once part of Mexico.

Remnants of the former US/Mexico boundary fence at Chamizal National Memorial.  In 1962, I would be standing in Mexico.

It wasn't until the 1960s that significant progress was made to resolve the dispute.  In 1962, the Kennedy administration approached the Mexican government to solve the Chamizal issue.  The negotiators would use a 1958 Esso Map of El Paso to display different proposals.

According to Frank V. Ortiz, one of the negotiators from the United States, "To keep the negotiations confidential and unofficial I used ESSO gas station maps of El Paso on which lines were drawn by both sides showing various possible solutions."

The Chamizal Convention ratified the agreement on August 29, 1963.  The treaty authorized the construction of a new concrete channel for the Rio Grande.  The new river channel would serve as the new United States/Mexico border and further flood control in the area. As a result of the agreement, the US would gain some land from the former Cordova Island.  In turn, Mexico would regain territory lost after the 1864 floods.

Construction of the new channel and relocation of residents would be quick.  The land exchange between the two countries occurred in October 1967.  Fourteen months later, in December 1968, the new channel was completed, and the Rio Grande followed its new course.

Much of the Cordova Island territory the United States gained is home to the Chamizal National Memorial.  Chamizal National Memorial opened in 1974.  In addition to celebrating the culture of both countries, the park is home to numerous recreational trails, picnic areas, and an amphitheater.  During the Summer, Chamizal hosts many outdoor concerts.

The US Port of Entry and a small part of Interstate 110 are located in what was once Cordova Island.

In addition, parts of Interstate 110, the United States Port of Entry on 110, and the Bridge of Americas make up the eastern boundary of Cordova Island.  So for a trivia answer, parts of Interstate 110 are located on land that was once part of Mexico as late as the 1960s.

On the Mexican side, the country and Ciudad Juarez reserved their new land for the Parque de Chamizal.  The park would be the city's first urban park.  It is home to a soccer stadium, water park, ballfields, and Mexico's memorial to the Chamizal agreements.  The park is accessible by crossing at the Bridge of the Americas.

Sources & Links:

How To Get There:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Dummy Lights of New York

  A relic of the early days of motoring, dummy lights were traffic lights  that  were  placed  in the middle of a street intersection. In those early days, traffic shuffled through busy intersections with the help of a police officer who stood on top of a pedestal. As technology improved and electric traffic signals became commonplace, they were also  originally  positioned on a platform at the center of the intersection. Those traffic signals became known as  " dummy lights "  and were common until  traffic lights were moved  onto wires and poles that crossed above the intersection.  In New York State, only a handful of these dummy lights exist. The dummy lights  are found  in the Hudson Valley towns of Beacon and Croton-on-Hudson, plus there is an ongoing tug of war in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where their dummy light has been knocked down and replaced a few times. The dummy light in Canajoharie is currently out of commission, but popular demand has caused the dummy

Colorado Road (Fresno County)

Colorado Road is a rural highway located in San Joaquin Valley of western Fresno County.  Colorado Road services the city of San Joaquin in addition the unincorporated communities of Helm and Tranquility.  Colorado Road was constructed between 1910 and 1912 as a frontage road of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The roadway begins at California State Route 145 near Helm and terminates to the west at James Road in Tranquility.   Part 1; the history of Colorado Road Colorado Road was constructed as frontage road connecting the sidings of the Hanford & Summit Lake Railway.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway spanned from South Pacific Railroad West Side Line at Ingle junction southeast to the Coalinga Branch at Armona.  The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway broke ground during August 1910 and was complete by April 1912. The Hanford & Summit Lake Railway established numerous new sidings.  From Ingle the sidings of the line were Tranquility, Graham, San Joaquin, Caldwell, H

The Putah Creek Bridge of Monticello (former California State Route 28)

The Putah Creek Bridge was a masonry structure constructed during 1896 by Napa County to serve the community of Monticello.  The Putah Creek Bridge would be annexed into the State Highway System in 1933 when Legislative Route Number 6 was extended from Woodland Junction to Napa.  The Putah Creek Bridge was a component of the original California State Route 28 from 1934-1952.  The span briefly became part of California State Route 128 in 1953 until the highway was relocated as part of the Monticello Dam project in 1955.  Today the Putah Creek Bridge sits at the bottom of the Lake Berryessa reservoir and is accessible to divers.  Pictured as the blog cover is the Putah Creek Bridge as it was featured in the September 1950 California Highways & Public Works.   California State Route 28 can be seen crossing the Putah Creek Bridge near Monticello on the 1943 United States Geological Survey map of Copay.   The history of the Putah Creek Bridge The site of Monticello lies under the waters