Mr. Romero to Mr. Gresham.


Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to transmit to you, referring to our previous correspondence on the subject, a copy of a communication from the consul of Mexico at El Paso, Tex., bearing date of the 4th instant, which shows the urgent necessity that exists for a decision of the question relative to the taking of water from the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande) del Norte in the State of Colorado and the Territory of New Mexico, which has so seriously affected the existence of the frontier communities for several miles below Paso del Norte, above the confluence of the tributary rivers with the Rio Grande, and points out the danger lest otherwise those communities may be annihilated.

My object in sending you the inclosed copy is to solicit, very specially, an examination and decision of this grave question by the Department of State, in order that the evils referred to by the Mexican consul at El Paso, Tex., may be remedied.

Be pleased to accept, etc.,

M. Romero.

Mr. Guarneros to Mr. Romero.

No. 2.]

For some time past, as you are aware, the difficult question of the right of both peoples to make use of the water of the Rio Grande has been agitated by the inhabitants of the frontier towns of Paso del Norte and El Paso, Tex. This question is an element that is destined to decide with regard to the existence or the disappearance of the frontier towns. Thus has been estimated, with good reason, in my opinion, the importance of this most serious question.

As you are likewise aware, our Government has never abandoned its claim to that right, and no one doubts that the matter will be settled in a manner favorable to the interests of both countries; but that which now renders it imperatively necessary that some step be taken, even if it be merely of a temporary character, is that the alternative “to be or not to be” is daily drawing nearer, an alternative which has so long been feared by persons who know the needs which press so hard upon Ciudad Juarez. The nearness of that danger is what compels me to address this report to you, the depopulation of our aforesaid city staring me, so to speak, in the face.

Of course it is not my purpose here to touch upon the points of public law which the question involves, since that does not come within my [Page 396]province, nor would I ever presume thus to elucidate it; I must simply confine myself to a statement of what is actually taking place to the detriment of the interests of Paso del Norte, leaving it to you to infer what the results will probably be.

Agriculture, which is already impoverished on this entire frontier, is threatened with total destruction within perhaps two years, if the scarcity of the river water continues during that short period; and the destruction of agriculture will inevitably entail the ruin of the infant industries which are now kept in existence with so much difficulty.

Almost all articles of prime necessity are brought from places situated at a distance of from 500 or 1,000 miles, because they can not be produced here, and this circumstance occasions a condition of things that is well nigh unbearable, since, owing to it, the prices of commodities are not proportionate to the limited means of the majority of the inhabitants.

It is already impossible for employers to pay the wages of their employés with their accustomed liberality or regularity; large numbers of the laboring class are absolutely unable to find employment, and leave the country. As this class of persons forms the majority of the inhabitants, it is evident that, if this state of things continues, the city must go to decay and ruin.

There remains no other recourse for the maintenance of tranquility pending the settlement of the main question—the only one which will remedy so many evils—than the equitable division of the waters of the river.

There is a scarcity of that water here, not because the supply in the river has been naturally exhausted, in which case there would, of course, be no ground for complaint, but because of the numberless drains which have been made by the farmers of Colorado and New Mexico, who have settled the pending question by appropriating the water of the Rio Grande to their own exclusive use.

Companies, moreover, are still being organized and plans are being formed, more or less seriously, for the purpose of monopolizing on the American side the small amount of water brought down by the river in those months when it is so abundant that it can not be exhausted by the drains in New Mexico and Colorado. A meeting of stockholders has just been held at Denver for the purpose of removing the political and material difficulties which have hitherto stood in the way of the accomplishment of their plans for irrigation, and I am informed that it is attempted to create the impression that these plans involve certain concessions in favor of Ciudad Juarez, such as selling it the water which it requires, when Ciudad Juarez has quite as much right as they have to use the water.

The plans, which have heretofore threatened our city with destruction, are not unknown to you, and it is probable that you also have knowledge of those to which I have referred as having been discussed by the meeting at Denver, but, as a supplement to this report, I have the honor to inclose four clippings from The Times1 newspaper, published in this city, which have reference to that meeting, and, as I have already remarked, I leave it to you to consider the consequences that must necessarily follow the accomplishment of those plans.

All that I desire to do is to discharge my duty by reporting the foregoing to you and to our Government, and, in doing so,

I have, etc.,

José Zayas Guarneros.
  1. Not printed.