Finding Common Ground in a Neighborly Way

September 18, 2017Rocío LowerNPF Blog
— National Park Service
Diplomacy, Cultural Exchanges, and Friendship at Chamizal

Tensions over land disputes in the southwest led to the beginning of the Mexican-American War in 1846. When the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed two years later, the Mexican government acquiesced in recognizing the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of the United States.   

For the next one-hundred years, the changing banks of the Rio Grande caused problems for a tract of land known as the Chamizal. The issue: the spring floods carved away at the river’s southern bank, resulting in the once Mexican Chamizal tract ending up entirely on the American side of the river.

Add to that the land peninsula of Cordova Island, a piece of Mexican land surrounded on three sides by U.S. territory, and the result was a century-long thorn in the side of Mexican-U.S. relations.

Museum exhibit showing timeline of history at Chamizal National Monument
National Park Service

A diplomatic solution was not negotiated until the Chamizal Convention of 1963.

Congress established Chamizal National Memorial in 1966 to celebrate the peaceful resolution to what became known as the Chamizal issue. Today, this Texan park serves as a hub for cultural exchange and mutual appreciation, offering a variety of indoor and outdoor activities for you to enjoy.

You can discover the rich stories of culture, history, and friendship preserved within the park when you:

Peruse the art gallery exhibits

Housed in the west wing of the park’s administrative building, the Franklin G. Smith gallery features local and border artists year-round. The exhibits rotate every two to three months, ensuring every visit will offer something new to explore. Learn about what is currently on exhibit here.               

Hit the trails

Hiking trail at Chamizal National Monument with downtown El Paso in the horizon
National Park Service

Whether you want to go for a jog, take the pup for a stroll, or go for a ride on the bike, you’ll be sure to enjoy trekking the park’s trails. You can even bring along a pair of binoculars to do some birding or to spot other wildlife in the park.   

Picnic in the park

With nine covered tables and plenty of additional areas to spread out, it’s easy to plan a picnic in the park. Unpack the grub, gather around the grill, spread out on picnic blankets, and enjoy the beautiful setting around you with loved ones.   

Earn a Junior Ranger badge and patch

Young boy receiving his Jr. Ranger badge from a kneeling park ranger at Chamizal National Monument
National Park Service

Complete the park’s Junior Ranger booklet independently or during the Junior Ranger Club event held on the third Saturday of every month. Geared toward kids ages 5-11, the event offers activities focused on exploring the park’s history, borderland culture, and surrounding environment. 

Attend the Chamizal Cultural Festival

Tables of traditional pottery at the cultural festival at Chamizal National Monument

The park’s signature festival is held annually in October and celebrates the unique story of this place. Through cultural demonstrations and engaging activities, you can better understand the history and traditions of the people who have called the borderland home.   

The story of Chamizal was shaped by nature and resolved through diplomacy. Chamizal National Memorial celebrates the enduring friendship between two neighbors and the cultures that converge here. To learn more about national parks that honor our shared heritage, click here, and then go find your park! O mejor dicho, encuentra tu parque!

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