The Río Bravo at Paso del Norte

More than a few times, the Río Bravo (Rio Grande) shifted dramatically at Paso del Norte, especially at the Partido de Chamisal. Due to flooding, many families of Chamisal moved north to Doña Ana in the 1840s. The river continued to change course after it became a section of the boundary between Mexico and the United States.

The map above illustrates the river’s movement between the late 1820 and late 1890s. (Map courtesy of the Mapoteca Manuel Orozco y Berra — click map to enlarge).

East Bajada of the Doña Ana Mountains

East bajada of the Doña Ana Mountains
South end of the Jornada del Muerto Plain on the bajada of the Doña Ana Mountains, 2.9 miles east-northeast of Doña Ana Peak, 5.2 miles southeast of the peak of Summerford Mountain, 32.4725 -106.7449, Doña Ana County, New Mexico, 18 Dec 2012. Creosote shrubland with Acourtia nana, Flourensia cernua, Gutierrezia microcephala, Zinnia acerosa, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis, Dalea formosa, Prosopis glandulosa, Dasyochloa pulchella, Muhlenbergia porteri, Eriogonum trichopes, Larrea tridentata, etc. (Photo and description by Patrick Alexander.)

New Mexico and/or Chihuahua

In early July of 1845, Felipe Sena, on behalf of the Departmental Assembly of New Mexico, complained about the granting of land in Doña Ana.  He argued that Doña Ana was in New Mexico (not Chihuahua), and proposed that the titles to land in Doña Ana be suspended pending re-granting of the lands by New Mexican authorities.   (The Spanish Archives of New Mexico  Vol. I, No. 257.)

A month later, U.S troops invaded New Mexico.  

Chihuahua and/or New Mexico


In 1839, Jose Maria Costales of Chamisal submitted a petition to the local Prefecture of Paso del Norte, asking that over a hundred families of El Paso be allowed to settle “el punto de Doña Ana.”  The Prefecture then forwarded the petition to state officials of Chihuahua.[1]  

Why was the petition to settle Doña Ana sent to authorities in Chihuahua, instead of New Mexico?  The answer: at the time, Paso del Norte and Doña Ana were in the jurisdiction of the State of Chihuahua.  After the Mexican Independence, the State of Chihuahua’s northern border extended north of Paso del Norte (and north of Doña Ana) to the paraje de San Diego.[2]  

[1] See Historical Background.

[2] Desconocidos, Mapa del Partidos de Estado de Chihuahua, circa 1830; Escudero, José de Agustin de.  Noticias Estadísticas del Estado del Chihuahua. En la oficina del Puente de Palacio y Flamencos Núm. 1, por Juan Ojeda, 1834, p. 185 (“El punto limítrofe el estado de Chihuahua y el terrítorio de Nuevo México, es S. Diego, segun la diputacion provisional de dicho territorio.”)