The “Wars of Expansion” exhibit case.     

Case 2 Orientation

You have opened the seventh of thirteen QR codes located throughout the gallery.

The second section of ¡Presente! is “Wars of Expansion.” This section has two display cases: one on the rear, left wall, and one opposite in the middle of the gallery. They examine U.S. expansionism and how the Mexican-American War and Spanish-American War impacted the history of the oldest U.S. Latino communities: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. 

Case 2 Themes

The “Wars of Expansion” section explores three main themes: Texas's independence from Mexico and the Mexican-American War are in the display case in front of you. The U.S. annexation of Puerto Rico is in the display case behind you. 

Panel 1: Texas: Breaking from Mexico:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

Texas was part of Mexico until 1836, when local Mexicans and Anglo-American immigrants fought together for Texas’s independence. 

Anglo-American families began moving to Texas in 1825. Only about 3,500 Mexican Texans, or Tejanos, lived in the sparsely settled region. The Mexican government encouraged Anglo-American immigration to boost the population. By 1836, the Anglo-American population had grown to 30,000. Many of these settlers were angry that Mexico abolished slavery in 1830. Many Tejana and Tejano landowners thought that Mexico’s government had too much control. Together, they rebelled against Mexico and established the Republic of Texas (1836–1845). The United States annexed Texas as a pro-slavery state in 1845.  

Object Group 1 Description:

Two graphic reproductions and a saddle. Reproductions are a black and white, tintype photo of Alamo survivor Juana Navarro Alsbury, and a painting of tejano independence fighter Juan Seguín in a military uniform shown in a three-quarter profile. Saddle is a Tejano-style horse saddle with knob on the front that connects to a rope for herding cattle.

Panel 2: Texas: Invading Mexico:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

The Mexican-American War changed the lives and identities of Mexican communities in the United States. 

After annexing Texas in 1845, the United States set its sights on Mexico’s northern territories. From 1846 to 1848, the United States invaded Mexico and occupied its major cities. After winning the war, the United States gained about half of Mexico’s territory under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.   


The estimated 115,000 Mexicans living in present-day California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico became U.S. citizens. In the following decades, many lost their land and political representation to Anglo-American and European newcomers.

Object Group 2 Description:

Two graphic reproductions: an 1846 Mexican-American War recruitment poster reading “To Arms! To Arms! Volunteers for the Mexican American War!” and a historical print of soldiers engaged in combat while women and children flee Mexico City during the 1847 U.S. attack on the city.

Panel 3: Puerto Rico under the U.S. Flag:
Label Text and Object Descriptions

The United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War in 1898. It annexed several former Spanish colonies, including Puerto Rico. 

U.S. sugar corporations bought up much of Puerto Rico’s farmable land. Sugar became the island’s principal export. Poverty drove many rural families to towns and sugar growing regions for work.   


The 1917 Jones-Shafroth Act declared that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. The island, however, remained an unincorporated U.S. territory. Democracy and constitutional rights were limited. Most Puerto Ricans wanted more control over local affairs. Puerto Rico’s political parties at the time presented conflicting visions for the island’s future—U.S. statehood or independence.  

Object Group 3 Description:

A broad, straight, 33-inch-long machete blade, used to cut sugar cane. Graphic reproductions: a print showing the U.S. Navy bombing Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan; various images of Puerto Rican work and home life in the early 1900s; one print features schoolteachers and children; in another, young women pose for a portrait holding musical instruments.

Signature Object: Brass Curiass, or Chest Armor:
Object Label Text and Description

An unidentified soldier from a Mexican cavalry regiment wore this armor. Objects like these were war trophies for returning U.S. troops. In Mexico the Mexican-American War is remembered as “the North American Invasion.”  


A brass cuirass, or chest armor. This shiny object features full front and back breastplates with leather shoulder straps. The leather shoulder straps are adorned by thick, gold chain links. A U.S. officer likely took this armor from the battlefield and brought it home to St. Louis, Missouri, after the war.

Directions to Next QR Code

QR code 8 is about 25 feet ahead on your left. QR code 8 is across the aisle on your left.