It is a delightful example of thinking outside the box, about how a few minor changes to a timeline could have changed the face of the world we know. No need for time-travelling AK-47 merchants (side-eye at H. Turtledove) just a few different decisions and a different bit of luck.
The Mexanish Empire’s History of Magnificence.
The ascension of Emperor Maxmillian I on 10 July, 1863 was the brightest day in Mexico’s brief, but glorious history. Since his ascension, His Most Catholic Majesty, Maximillian I, has presided over a rapid and impressive rise in both Mexican power and prestige on the world stage. At his ascension the Emperor faced the warmongering ways of the Yankee Imperialist Lincoln with manly resolution. Avoiding both direct involvement in the American Civil War, but also maintaining his right to the throne of Mexico. When the Southerners successfully defeated Lincoln in their Civil War, with significant material assistance from the Sovereign of Mexico, any attempts at Yankee meddling in Mexico were ended.
With his right to the throne successfully established internationally, the matter of Native resistance was quickly put down internally as the supporters of Benito Juarez were extirpated at the battle of Santiago de Querétaro in 1866. The Benevolent Maximilian I allowed the discredited failure Juarez to go into exile in the Federal United States as a sign of his magnanimous nature.
Meanwhile the situation in Spain, the homeland of all the best characteristics of Mexico, had deteriorated stunningly. The mismanagement of Queen Isabel II culminated in the outbreak of a civil war between the Cubans and Spain (1868). The Queen’s incompetence infected the army and the forces of Spain performed disgracefully in this early phase of the Cuban situation. Drawing sustenance from these failures the Carlists chose to launch their third attempt at placing their pretender on the throne of Spain (April, 1869). Isabel’s, long standing policy of wasting the wealth of Spain on meaningless baubles for her own amusement, finally caused the suffering working class of Spain to unite under the banner of the new communist spectre known as “Unionism” (early July 1869) in what has been called the “Petroleum Revolution”.
As Isabel’s inept leadership flailed at these issues, the long complaining (and longer shirking of their duties) Catalans chose to launch their own attempt at an independence movement (mid July 1869). This list of challenges proved too great for Isabel II, and she abdicated her throne and fled for the safety of Paris.
The Abdication of Isabel sent this confused Spanish situation into abject chaos. The Carlists insisted that their pretender (Carlos VII) should get the throne. The Liberals of Spain, who had convinced Isabel to abdicate in the first place, wanted Amadeo, the second son of Italian King Victor Emanuel II to become their king. Louis Napoleon, One time friend of Emperor Maximillian, wanted Isabel’s idiotic son Alfonso XII on the throne to maintain the Bourbon (French) line. There were even radicals calling for a Spanish Republic! Into this insanity arrived Anarchists with their typical answer to all problems – lob bombs around, and all of Spain teetered on the brink of anarchy.
At this key Juncture in the history of a Great Nation stepped a moment of rational calm. The Moderado Party (the moderates) did not like any of the options thrust forward by the various factions (they also still smarted from being beaten in the field by the Liberals), so they used the chaos to advance a bold, yet historically sound candidate – Maximillian I of Mexico! He had proper lineage, the Hapsburgs had ruled Spain for centuries and produced most of the country’s most famous rulers.
Maximillian had the air of success about him from his recent accomplishments, which always goes a long way in Spanish matters. His candidacy initially silenced the conservatives (they did not know how to react) and Louis Napoleon (VERY busy with Prussian problems). Maximillian received the IMMEDIATE endorsement of King Leopold II (rimes with Cannibal) of Belgium including ALL the support and leverage he could muster (Maximillian’s wife Carlota is his half-sister , and good for the family is GOOD for the family after all). The Austrians were a bit slower in pronouncing their support (brotherly envy, but good for the family is still GOOD for the family), and the British (peace is good for business and this solution does not enlarge any of the actual ruling houses in Europe), seeing which way the wind was blowing added their voice to the chorus.
When Maximillian was invited to Spain for discussions, he brought 75,000 troops with him (mostly Mexicans but: Austrians, Belgians, and the French contributed, even the Brits sent two regiments of cavalry and a rocket battery!), all transported by the combined navies of the aforementioned nations. At this point the Conservatives joined in the praises of Maximillian, the Liberals’ leaders skipped town for France where they joined in afternoon teas with the deposed Isabel; and the Anarchists, Carlists, Catalans, Communists, and Unionists became “as silent as the grave!”
In the short period since his Coronation as “His Most Catholic Majesty, the Mexanish Emperor, Maximillian”, the emperor launched a policy to purchase many of the finished goods that Mexico needs from Spanish factories (paid for with Mexican Silver), leading to more pay for Spanish workers and less room for agitation from the malcontents. He has also enacted protectionist trade policies that have shielded the Spanish businessman and the Mexican plantation owner from outside competition allowing both groups to prosper in the new larger economic field they occupy. With those areas the Spanish and Mexican industries lack, enough foreign contracts have been let to allow all the foreign parties who supported Maximillian to also turn a profit for their exertions. The Catholic Church has revitalized itself and launched a new Education program throughout the Empire focusing on Primary education with centralized technical schools for the increase of technical experts. Additionally, a “Catholic University” has been opened in each and every territory of the Empire to allow all with promise and inclination a chance at the highest quality of education. Of course, Law and Order have been restored across the empire.
Now, Maximillian has decided that it is proper for the Mexanish Empire to broaden its horizon and bring still other peoples into the light of the new “Catholic Day”. To this end the Emperor has decreed the participation of the Mexanish Empire in the Colonization race now under way. Naturally, by the Grace of God, and with the help of a sharp machete; this enterprise, like all else Maximillian has deigned to pursue, shall reap tremendous dividends.