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Chamizal Treaty marks 50 years

El Paso and Juarez are celebrating a milestone this year, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Chamizal Treaty that ended a long boundary dispute between the United States and Mexico.

The border in the Chamizal area had been in dispute for almost a century, because flooding altered the course of the Rio Grande.

As with much of the history of the 1960s, the Chamizal settlement had its roots in the Cold War. According to a history of the treaty on the website of the Chamizal National Memorial, U.S. President John Kennedy was seeking to improve relations with Mexico in 1962 to keep it from sliding closer to the Soviet Union. Mexican President Adolfo Lopez Mateos told Kennedy the best step to improve relationships was to settle the boundary dispute.

A year of negotiations followed, concluding with the two nation’s ambassadors signing an agreement in July 1964. President Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy after his November 1963 assassination, signed the treaty in January 1964. Johnson and Lopez Mateos cemented the treaty during a 1964 visit to El Paso and Juarez.

The agreement ceded about 430 acres to Mexico and about 193 acres to the United States. About 5,600 U.S. residents living in the land awarded to Mexico had to be relocated.

“The Chamizal Treaty established a relationship of friendship, diplomacy, peace and goodwill not only between the nations of United States and Mexico but especially between the cities of El Paso and Juarez,” Ralph Seitsinger, El Paso’s mayor at the time of the Chamizal agreement, said at a ceremony in Juarez recently.

As with any neighbors, the relationship between the United States and Mexico faces continuing challenges. But the spirit of the treaty should continue to guide our relations.

People interested in learning more about the history of the Chamizal Treaty have an opportunity at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 12 at the Chamizal National Memorial. Several people who played a role in the negotiations 50 years ago will take part in a panel discussion. The discussion is part of several events meant to explore Johnson’s El Paso legacy and is part of Tom Lea Month celebrations throughout October in El Paso.

The peaceful settlement of any international boundary dispute is cause for celebration. That is even more true when our own community played such an important role in such a settlement.

El Paso Times

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