Today in the Americas, Veracruz and San Juan del Sur

Nearly one hundred and forty years apart, the two features today center around a common theme in Latin American history: the United States. Today in 1847 and 1984, the US moved closer to Veracruz in Mexico and San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua. This is a continuation of pieces I’ve began elsewhere on the Mexican-American War and the twentieth century of Nicaragua.



Veracruz conjures images of Woodrow Wilson and the Mexican Revolution, but it should also be remembered as a pivotal moment in the Mexican-American War of the 1840s. Veracruz in this context lasted 20 days from March 9 to March 29, 1847.

The siege of the western hemispheres largest port came after decisive battles in Monterrey and Buena Vista (see link above). Zachary Taylor, professed hero of Buena Vista, left his “Army of Occupation” in the hands of General George Winfield Scott, “Old Fuss and Feathers,” a man who served on active duty longer than any American in history (55 years). Scott surveyed the defenses after arriving in Veracruz in early March. In the early morning hours of March 9, General Worth waded in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico onto the sandy beach, by the end of the day, his entire regiment was on Mexican soil without firing a shot – this would prove to be the first US amphibious landing (and not its last).

US troops cut off the city’s water supply and enveloped Veracruz. Colonel Juan Aguayo, at Veracruz, under the cover of a storm that blew in after the landing, attempted to stave off defeat by getting reinforcements into the city. In a week, Scott’s artillery, which could not be set up because of the storm, was ready. With the direction of a younger Robert E. Lee, the guns were put in place. On March 22, the Mexican forces decline surrender and Scott ordered open fire. On March 24, the US captured a soldier that had news of Santa Ana’s marching from the capital to Veracruz. Scott called for reinforcements, as the news was true. On March 29, after much debate about the terms of surrender (including Scott holding women and children in the vicinity of Veracruz) the American flag flew over San Juan de Ulúa as General José Juan Landero y Coss, now in command, surrendered.

From then on, Mexico was opened to US forces, who entered with ease and for purpose. Scott left a minimal force in Veracruz, fought Santa Ana in Sierra Gordo a month later in 1847, on his way to Mexico City. What is telling of this whole encounter is the path in which George Scott takes – basically a recreation of Cortés’ path from his landing in eastern Mexico on his way to Tenochtitlan. In September of 1847, Mexico City was captured and soon, the US would expand in size.


San Juan del Sur

The list of US involvements in Latin America is lengthy, but today marks the anniversary of the US attack on San Juan del Sur, which supported the Sandinsta government that took over the country in 1979. This occurred under the auspices of the Contra war, funded by the United States, designed to weaken and overthrow the FSLN, see my article on Nicaragua above.

How I came to know San Juan del Sur was through the same means as others of my generation, born before the attack, the International Court of Justice case The Republic of Nicaragua v. the United States of America. The ruling is plain, among other things:

The United States of America, by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the Contra forces or otherwise encouraging, supporting and aiding military and paramilitary activities in and against Nicaragua, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State.

The United States of America, by certain attacks on Nicaraguan territory in 1983-1984, namely attacks on Puerto Sandino on September 13 and October 14 1983, an attack on Corinto on October 10 1983; an attack on Potosi Naval Base on January 4 and 5 1984, an attack on San Juan del Sur on March 7 1984; attacks on patrol boats at Puerto Sandino on March 28 and 30 1984; and an attack on San Juan del Norte on April 9, 1984; and further by those acts of intervention referred to which involve the use of force, has acted, against the Republic of Nicaragua, in breach of its obligation under customary international law not to use force against another State.

The US, of course, chose not to participate in the proceedings and has disregarded the courts ordering of reparations to those wrongly harmed by way of its proxy war against the FSLN. The US still grapples with international laws and justice (Iraq?!) and it should be no surprise that it started with ignoring justice in Nicaragua.


~ by Daniel on March 7, 2009.

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