Gadsden Lapse: Watch Out for the Details

By Zereshk - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
The skyline of Tucson, Ariz., the largest city in the Gadsden Purchase area. (Photo by Zereshk via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1953, parts of southern Arizona and New Mexico reverted back to Mexican control for 24 hours as a result of overlooked fine-print in the Gadsden Purchase, 100 years earlier.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the Gadsden Lapse.

The Gadsden Purchase was made in 1853 with the intention of securing a southern route for a transcontinental railway that avoided the Rocky Mountains. It included land south of the Gila River and west of the Rio Grande. Modern cities in the area purchased include Yuma and Tucson, Arizona.

The contract between the Mexican government and the Americans was written in Spanish and poorly translated into English before it was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Had an American senator been able to read Spanish, he would have seen that the contract included a roll-over clause that went into effect 100 years after ratification.

The clause allowed the territory to revert to Mexican control at 12:01 a.m. on April 1, 1953, starting a 24-hour clock for the Americans to trigger the indefinite roll-over of the contract. The Americans made the decision to keep the territory with a 78-18 vote by the Senate at 1:34 p.m.

The territory became American in perpetuity at 12:01 a.m., April 2, 1953.

Because of the lapse, anyone born in Tucson or Yuma on April 1, was not born a citizen of the United States and is not be eligible to be President of the United States. However, the government did allow them to become citizens, effective April 2. It’s estimated that 243 babies were born in the area on that day.

Our question: What is the term used to describe those born during the Gadsden Lapse?

Today is April Fool’s Day. It’s Arbor Day in Tanzania and Edible Books Day.

It’s the birthday of composer Sergei Rachmaninov, actress Debbie Reynolds and musician Jimmy Cliff.

This week in 1984, the top song in the U.S. was “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins.

The No. 1 movie was “Police Academy,” while The Aquitaine Progression by Robert Ludlum topped the New York Times Best Sellers list.

Before the break we asked: What is the term used to describe those born during the Gadsden Lapse?

The answer is: There is no term, as the Gadsden Lapse never happened. As we said earlier, it’s April Fool’s Day.


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