Memorandum by Mr. Harold C. Herrick, Jr., of the Office of Middle American Affairs to the Officer in Charge of Mexican Affairs (Rubottom)


Subject: Notes relating to the Chamizal for your use in talking with Vicente Sanchez Gavito.2

1. You might tell Sanchez Gavito the following points:

We wish very much to obtain a solution of the Chamizal.
We hope that Mexico likewise desires to find a solution. If so we feel sure that an answer can be found at this time to this problem.
However, we believe that the two Commissioners3 must actively continue their conversations to work out the details of the agreement within the framework of the conversations which we have had with Sanchez Gavito.
We are quite willing to work out a new water treaty to increase the benefits for the farmers in the Juarez Valley but we consider that this and the Chamizal should be handled concurrently.

2. Things we are willing to offer to Mexico:

Recognition of the Chamizal award.4
We continue to hold that the 1864 river line cannot be determined. Therefore, a percentage division of the Chamizal must be obtained. (We are willing, if necessary, to give Mexico 420 acres of land, which is what she claims of the 630 acres in the Chamizal. However, the 420 acres cannot be given to Mexico within the area of the Chamizal.)
More water to Mexico by modification of the 1906 Treaty.5
We are willing: (1) To modify the stipulated schedule of deliveries of water, which in effect will give Mexico an additional more than 13.5% (Mexico has requested this, this Government has been agreeing on a year to year basis and, therefore, there is agreement on this point), and (2) To give Mexico 50% of the water in the Rio Grande below San Elizario Island.

3. Things which Mexico desires to which we cannot agree:

Agreement on a water treaty before there is agreement on the Chamizal.
All of the water in the Rio Grande below San Elizario Island down to Fort Quitman cannot be given to Mexico in exchange for a like amount of water some place down river. The reason for this is that farmers in the United States depend on the waste and drain waters reaching the Rio Grande below San Elizario and, therefore, the most we can offer to Mexico is 50% of the flow in this stretch of the river.
There is no disagreement regarding Mexico’s desire to modify the schedule of water deliveries, although such modification will give to Mexico more than 13.5% additional water.

4. Our ideas of what would seem to be a reasonable settlement of the Chamizal:

This country recognize the award.
The two Commissioners reach agreement on what percentage of the Chamizal, as an acreage or percentage figure, is Mexican (We would be willing to go to a maximum of 420 acres).
The Commissioners agree on the location of a modified channel of the river which will cut the maximum amount of land to Mexico in the Chamizal—Cordova Island area, which is engineeringly feasible and which is believed to be politically acceptable both in the United States and in Mexico. We do not believe that the entire Cordova Island could be compensated for in the area, although we are willing to consider any Mexican suggestions in this regard.
Assuming that part of Cordova Island would remain in the United States, uncompensated for by the rectification of the river at that location, the two Governments would, at a later date, enter into a separate convention for the elimination of detached areas along the Rio Grande which would include the remainder of Cordova, Horcon Tract and Beaver Island.

  1. Informal conversations between Sánchez Gavito, Director General of the Mexican Diplomatic Service, and officials of the Department of State concerning the Chamizal question were held intermittently during 1950 and early 1951. Pertinent documents are contained in decimal file 611.1231.

    For background information on the Chamizal problem, see U.S. Senate, Convention With Mexico for Solution of the Problem of the Chamizal, Searing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 1963.

  2. Lawrence M. Lawson and David Herrera Jordan, the Commissioners of the United States and Mexico, respectively, on the International Boundary and Water Commission—United States and Mexico.
  3. Reference is to the Lafleur award of June 15, 1911, by which the 630-acre Chamizal tract had been divided between the United States and Mexico. For documentation on the award, see Foreign Relations, 1911, pp. 565605.
  4. For text of the Convention for Distribution of the Waters of the Rio Grande, signed at Washington, May 21, 1906, see Department of State Treaty Series (TS) No. 455, or 34 Stat. (pt 3) 2953.