The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997

Trading across the Border:
National Customs Guards in Nuevo Le6n
JORGE A. HERNANDEZ*
W IDESPREAD CONTRABAND APPEARED IN MEXICO AFTER INDEPEN-
dence. After 1821, the new country experienced a transformation
as its rulers resolved to promote prosperity by legislating appropriate
policies. The leaders sought, in particular, to expand commerce
between the former Spanish colony and the world. They intended for
the international trade to transpire in a legal manner; yet, they them-
selves hindered their plans by imposing high tariffs. Unwisely, politicians
in Mexico City chose to fund the government almost exclusively with
duties collected at the ports. When they recognized their blunder, they
tried to rectify their mistake by raising tariffs. Their actions instigated
smuggling, and within a few years, most of the new commerce occurred
as contraband.
In the early 1850s, Mexican leaders responded to the illegal com-
merce by instituting a new customs agency. The illicit trade that
emerged in the 182os intensified each decade thereafter and reached
extremely high levels in the years immediately after the Mexican War,
especially in the northeastern provinces. Tamaulipas, Nuevo Le6n, and
Coahuila surfaced as major centers for the introduction of unlawful
goods because of their proximity to Texas. As early as the 182os, Anglo-
Americans living between the Nueces and Sabine Rivers started to pro-
vide products from the United States to residents of those three states.
Sometimes they snuck the merchandise into the area themselves, while
at other times they sold goods to Mexican merchants, who then con-
veyed the items into their country without paying duties. Their commer-
cial exchanges with citizens from the northeastern provinces escalated
after their separation from Mexico in 1836 and climbed to an even
higher level after 1848 when their southern border became the Rio
Grande. Faced with a worsening situation, national officials in the former
*Jorge A. Hernandez is assistant professor of history at the University of Texas-Pan American.
He received his Ph.D. in 1995 from Texas Christian University, where he worked under the
direction of William Beezley.

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/. Accessed September 18, 2014.