Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Historical Journal

UCLA Historical Journal bannerUCLA
Issue cover


Interethnic Mayan and Afro-descendent Relations through War, Trade, and Slavery during the Mayan Caste Wars, 1848-1901

The broader purpose of this paper is to contribute to an awareness of the cultural and social role of African descent peoples in the history of late colonial and nineteenth century Mexico. I specifically focus on the ethnic relations between African descent peoples and Mayans in communities of the Yucatán peninsula during the 1847 to 1901 guerras de casta or Caste Wars. This period offers unique insights to interethnic relations in a region and time where Indigenous peoples maintained autonomy from western powers, which influenced the parameters of the dynamic interactions between African descent and Native American peoples. I utilize quantitative and qualitative sources such as census data, court documents, newspaper articles, and ethnographic interviews that depict the social, political, and cultural context of the Yucatán peninsula. This essay reveals that Mayan and Afro-descendent trends originating in the colonial era continued into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus, at no point in Mexican history did the influence of Afro-Latin American culture ever end. Instead, Afro-descendent peoples continue to contribute to Mexican cultures in coeval and interrelated courses of development with Native American and European cultural influence. Moreover, nineteenth century global migration trends contributed to even more diverse influences on Mexican cultural history.

San Francisco, 1906: The Law and Citizenship in Disaster

Using the city of San Francisco and the earthquake and fire of 1906 as a case study, this paper examines the use of violence to impose public order, while seeking to show that disaster can affect the laws of a community. In San Francisco, the belief that martial law was in effect led to a power shift. The confusion created a unique situation in which city leaders contradicted the very law they were seeking to enforce, and obliterated the rights of citizens in the name of protection and public order.

In the scholarship of the 1906 disaster, most works that consider the military involvement in disaster tend to downplay the events, which so many memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and newspaper reports described from that year. This paper uses those primary sources to show how Mayor Schmitz and the military leaders directly affected the scale of the urban disaster that followed the earthquake by essentially seizing power through the military. The mayor’s illegal declaration and actions caused confusion in the city and altered the parameters of citizenship. Secondary research in both the field of history and the field of disaster studies will allow this paper to explicate the laws of the federal, state, and city government, which will explain the extralegal and illegal activities of the leaders of San Francisco and the effect those actions had on the catastrophe.

The Complex Depiction of Nicias in Thucydides

The main source of information about the Peloponnesian War, which took place between Athens and Sparta at the end of the fifth century BCE, is an account written by the historian and Athenian general Thucydides.  Unfortunately, it is problematic to try to recover the historical figures who participated in this war from Thucydides’ work.  Oftentimes, he was not present for speeches that he provides and his biases are frequently evident.  It is, however, possible to study historical figures as Thucydides depicts them, through both his narrative and the speeches he attributes to these figures.  This paper examines Thucydides’ depiction of the Athenian general Nicias, who unwillingly led a failed expedition to Sicily during the Peloponnesian War.  An analysis of both Nicias’ speeches and his actions in Thucydides’ narrative shows a complex depiction.  Nicias has many faults and only some of his predictions to the people of Athens come true.  Ultimately, he is unsuccessful as a leader.  Nevertheless, Thucydides seems to depict Nicias as having the best interests of Athens in mind.  This depiction is multilayered and complex, but it is clearly a much more positive depiction than that of the Athenian general Alcibiades.

Controlling the California Gold Steamers: The Panama Route in the United States Civil War

The United States Civil War was not fought merely on the more famous battlefields of Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Bull Run, and Chickamauga. While armies of hundreds of thousands battled on land, a secret campaign was being waged for control of the financial backing of the United States. Gold transshipped along the Panama route, from San Francisco to Panama to New York, sustained the Union war effort for four years. With a fleet of vessels operating along this route, each capable of transporting over $1 million in bullion, Southern leadership quickly took interest in the Panama route. Confederate Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory was keen to intercept these gold shipments, intending to use the captured bullion to both finance Confederate military expenses while simultaneously adding international legitimacy in Europe. What developed was a four-year campaign involving both warships at sea and diplomats across the globe. New concepts such as commerce raiding and small teams of special naval agents merged with older ideas of convoys and privateers to bring forth one of the most important campaigns of the United States Civil War that few are familiar with, but which shaped its outcome as much as the campaigns that raged across America.