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Foreign Exchange: When the U.S. Gave Texas Land to Mexico

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If it hadn’t been for the Mexican Cession of 1848, much of the southwestern United States—California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado—would still belong to Mexico. But you probably already knew that, thanks to your U.S. History lessons in elementary school.

What doesn’t typically appear in history books, however, is the town the United States returned to Mexico. And it wasn’t ceded centuries ago—this happened in the 1970s.

The Rio Grande, as most people know, is the physical border between Mexico and the United States, and has been since 1845. In 1906, the Rio Grande Land and Irrigation Company feared that a new S-shaped curve in the river would result in flooding and property damage, so they illegally diverted a portion of it. But solving that problem created a new one: 413 acres of U.S. land were now suddenly located south of the river. Although it was decided that this small parcel of land, known as the Horcón Tract, would legally remain part of Texas, it was administered by Mexico.

In 1929, the city of Rio Rico was formed on the tract to take advantage of the boundary confusion. Though Prohibition was in full swing in the U.S., visitors to the little town could drink and gamble freely because the jurisdiction was rather unsettled.

The boundary remained ambiguous until 1967, when James Hill, Jr., a geography professor at Arizona State, came across the issue while studying old geological survey maps. The United States Boundary Commission and the State Department became interested, and in November 1970, the U.S. officially ceded the tract of land to Mexico.

Two years later, Homero Cantu Trevino of Rio Rico filed suit to prevent the U.S. from deporting him from Texas to Mexico. Trevino argued that because he was born in Rio Rico in 1935, he was legally a citizen of the U.S. An appeals court eventually agreed with him, and it was ruled [PDF] that all residents born in the city before 1972 could retain U.S. citizenship, which resulted in a huge decrease in Rio Rico’s population as residents moved elsewhere in the United States.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened, by the way. The Rio Grande has shifted quite a bit in 1852, often due to flooding. By 1873, the river had moved, changing 700 acres of Mexican land referred to as “Chamizal” into U.S. territory. The conflict over who owned the land increased tensions between the U.S. and Mexico for a century. In fact, when President William Howard Taft met with Mexican president Porfirio Diaz in the then-neutral Chamizal to discuss the issue, they were very nearly assassinated—a security detail disarmed a man with a concealed pistol just feet away from the leaders.

Eventually, in 1963, the U.S. announced a border agreement that would return most of Chamizal back to Mexico. The two countries also agreed to jointly finance the construction of a trench that would keep the river on a set path—and hopefully avoid inciting border disputes in the future.

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Courtesy of Sotheby's
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History
Found: A Rare Map of Australia, Created During the 17th Century
Courtesy of Sotheby's
Courtesy of Sotheby's

More than 40 years before Captain James Cook landed on Australia’s eastern coast in 1770, renowned Dutch cartographer Joan Blaeu created an early map of the Land Down Under. Using geographical information gleaned from Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in the 1640s, it was the first map to include the island state of Tasmania and name New Zealand, and the only one to call Australia “Nova Hollandia.”

Very few copies—if any—of the 1659 map, titled Archipelagus Orientalis (Eastern Archipelago), were thought to have survived. But in 2010, a printing was discovered in a Swedish attic. After being restored, the artifact is newly on display at the National Library of Australia, in the capital city of Canberra, according to news.com.au.

The seller’s identity has been kept under wraps, but it’s thought that the map belonged to an antiquarian bookseller who closed his or her business in the 1950s. For decades, the map sat amidst other papers and books until it was unearthed in 2010 and put up for auction.

The National Library acquired the 17th century wall map in 2013 for approximately $460,000. After a lengthy restoration process, it recently went on display in its Treasures Gallery, where it will hang until mid-2018.

As for other surviving copies of the map: a second version was discovered in a private Italian home and announced in May 2017, according to Australian Geographic. It ended up selling for more than $320,000.

[h/t news.com.au]

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geography
What's the Difference Between a Lake and a Pond?
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iStock

Around 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered in water, which is why geographers have coined so many names to describe the forms it takes. But what’s the real difference between, say, a lake and a pond, a spring and an oasis, or a creek and an arroyo?

Vox gets granular with geography in the video below, explaining the subtle distinctions between everything from a bay (a part of an ocean, surrounded by water on three sides) to a barachois (a coastal lagoon, separated from the ocean by a sand bar). The five-minute explainer also provides maps and real-life examples, and describes how certain bodies of water got their names. (For example, the word geyser stems from geysa, meaning "to gush.")

Guess what? A geyser is also a type of spring. Learn more water-based trivia—and impress your nature-loving friends the next time you go camping—by watching the video below.

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