1. Playing on distrust and fear
When war broke out in 1914, America wanted little to do with what had begun as a European conflict. Its leaders had problems of their own, among which was a tense and sometimes deadly dispute with Mexico.
Almost half of Mexico's territory had been taken by the United States in the late 19th Century. As World War One dragged on, Germany offered them an opportunity to get it back. This is the story of how that attempt went spectacularly wrong.
5. America joins the war
The Zimmerman Telegram is often credited with bringing America into World War One in the spring of 1917. In fact, America's involvement was probably inevitable by then.
America had done its best to stay neutral as the world descended into conflict. While he never used the phrase himself, President Woodrow Wilson was re-elected for a second term in office under the slogan ‘the man who kept us out of the war’. Yet although America had not committed troops, her allegiances were becoming clear.
America had begun the war trading with countries on both sides of the conflict. However, British blockades had made it harder for America to do business with Germany and the other Central Powers. At the same time, America’s exports to Britain and France grew, while Wall Street banks loaned large amounts of cash to the Allies, often to buy American goods. American businesses had an increasing stake in the fate of the allies.
Earlier in the war, German U-boats had sunk a number of American ships bound for Britain. In particular, high profile events such as the sinking of the Lusitania passenger liner in 1915 made Americans wary of German power. Only a pledge from Germany to stop attacking passenger ships had prevented America from severing diplomatic relations in 1916.
In 1917 Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare, and this – among other reasons – acted as a tipping point. American ships were being sunk, and American civilians were dying on British ships.
Just as importantly, Germany had broken its promises. American honour and credibility were at stake. When Woodrow Wilson went to congress to ask for permission to take America to war, he used Germany’s attempts to entice Mexico into an alliance as an argument for action. But the reality is that America would probably have gone to war even without Germany’s diplomatic blunder.
6. The border today
Today the border between the US and Mexico is the most frequently crossed international border in the world. However, relationships between the two countries remain strained.
As the 20th century progressed, it became harder and harder for people to move back and forth between the two countries. Restrictions imposed during the First World War were tightened during the Great Depression of the 1930s. As the economy foundered, immigrants who had lived in the United States for decades were repatriated .
A clash of cultures
While economic fears have stoked distrust between the US and Mexico, more tension has stemmed from the fact that the countries are culturally different. The Mexican Revolution of the 1910s left the country a less religious and more left-wing state. Many Americans fear that immigrants will change the cultural, linguistic and political landscape of the nation.
Such concerns are encapsulated by campaigns to make English the official language of the United States.
A growing border wall
Since the Clinton administration of 1993-2001, the American government has overseen the construction of sections of an imposing wall, in addition to an increase in patrols along key parts of the border. While these policies have gone some way to reducing illegal crossings, it has not been possible to prevent illegal immigration into the United States.
7. How WW1 changed the US-Mexico border
World War One saw many changes along the US Mexican border. But which of these changes occurred between 1914 and 1918?