The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987 Page: 160
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
expense of either president's sacrificing his principles or subordinating
his country's national interests. Diaz Ordaz was never unduly influ-
enced by his friendship for Johnson. LBJ, motivated more by friend-
ship for Diaz Ordaz and attachment to Mexico than by domestic politi-
cal consideration, never tried to force his views on Diaz Ordaz and
When Lyndon B. Johnson became president of the United States on
November 22, 1963, he was not an expert on Latin American affairs,
although he was generally informed on the area's problems. The coun-
try he knew best was Mexico. He had grown up with Mexican Ameri-
cans in the Hill Country of Texas and had taught at the segregated
"Mexican school" in Cotulla. In 1934 he and his bride, Lady Bird, had
gone to Mexico City on their honeymoon. As senator he had visited
president-elect Adolfo L6pez Mateos in Acapulco in 1958, but neither
as senator nor as vice-president had he been directly involved in rela-
tions with Mexico. Thrust suddenly into the presidency, he was de-
termined to strengthen the United States' relations with its southern
neighbor, for if the U.S. could not settle differences amicably with Mex-
ico and show its respect for that country, how could it with any other in
the Americas?" Although he lacked the youthful charisma of John F.
Kennedy, for whom the Mexicans had genuine affection, and was from
Texas, a state that represented a dark chapter in Mexican history and
that was notorious for its discrimination against people of Mexican de-
scent, Johnson's charm, affability, extroverted nature, and reasonable-
ness would serve him well. Looking to the future rather than to the
past, Johnson plunged into the job of making U.S. relations with Mex-
ico a showcase of good will and achievement.
Fortunately, Johnson got off to a successful start with the ratification
of the convention that resolved the problem of the Chamizal, which
had long been an irritant to good relations between the two countries.
Located in the El Paso area, this tract of 630 acres had been left north
of the Rio Grande when that river changed its course in 1867. The
Chamizal had been awarded by arbitration to Mexico in 1911, but
the United States had refused to accept the ruling. When President
Kennedy visited Mexico City in 1962, he and President L6pez Mateos
agreed that the problem had to be solved, and on August 29, 1963, rep-
resentatives of both countries signed a convention that would relocate
2"Cotulla," Chap. io, in Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power (New
York, 1983), 166, 167 (quotation), 168-173. For an appraisal ofJohnson's Latin American pol-
icy, see Walter LaFeber, "Latin American Policy," Robert A. Divine (ed.), Exploring the Johnson
Years (Austin, 1980), 63-90.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 90, July 1986 - April, 1987, periodical, 1986/1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117152/m1/198/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.