` ||`

The Mexican Revolution


Pictures & Records

`::image.description || image.title`

Add your story…

Porfirio Diaz,

story image(s)
2 images

The regime of the the tottering old dictator, Porfirio Diaz, had been in power practically since the end of the American Civil War. Managing to be reelected time after time in rigged elections, Don Porfirio ruled Mexico with an iron hand, allowing his storm troopers, the dreaded "rurales" to terrorize the peasants into abject submission.

Matters came to a head at the mine at Cananea, Sonora, in 1906 when striking miners were violently repressed by gun wielding American company thugs.

This and other minor rebellions set the stage for a major uprising just four years later, in 1910. The struggle that would follow would eventually leave a million casualties in bloody conflicts all over the country, and send Diaz into permanent exile in France.

Francisco I. Madero

story image(s)
3 images

In 1910, a rebellion broke out under the leadership of Francisco I. Madero, who had lost a rigged election when he ran against Profirio Diaz for the nation's presidency. He soon attracted help from both inside Mexico and out, including a lot of foreign idealists and soldiers of fortune.

An early supporter was Pascual Orozco, whose rebel bands were known as the "Colorados" because they fought under the red flag. There were also bands of Americans and other foreigners fighting with Madero. Orozco was made the commander of rebel forces, but later betrayed Madero and Villa was one of the leaders charged with fighting his rebellion.

Bandit groups had fought against landowners who treated their farming and ranching workers like slaves: these workers, known as "peons", were encouraged to join the rebellion. One of these bandits was Francisco "Pancho" Villa - whose real name was Doroteo Arango - who had become an outlaw after shooting the son of his master on the plantation, or "hacienda", where he had grown up.

Villa was almost shot for insubordination early in his career as a military leader, but was rescued literally seconds before his execution - as he stood there in front of the firing squad - after a rider arrived with a pardon and reprieve from Madero himself.

The Mexican Revolution

story image(s)

The Mexican revolution, like a lot of other conflicts, was a struggle for survival on the part of the participants - with foraging for food being as important as winning battles in determining who would live to fight another day or survive to see the end of the conflict.

An army on the move was really a people on the move - including women and children. Although these were understood to have the role, largely, of mere camp followers - in the assessment of many - they were in reality the quartermaster corps, since it was they who fed the troops and cared for them. Many soldiers were just children when they took up arms, and a lot of them died in front of firing squads at a tender age, after surrendering to opposing armies instead of dying fighting.

When a man died in battle, his woman could take up his arms and become a soldier herself. One woman officer, General Petra Herrera, had an all woman troop. They would shoot any men they caught sneaking into their camp at night.

Whereas some some officers were sympathetic to the plight of the female members of the army unit - "soldadera" as they were called - Villa was not. He is reported to have murdered a group of them after one of them tried to assassinate him and none of their number would tell him who was responsible for the attempt.

Feeding captured soldiers was out the question. They were either expected to join the side of the army which captured them or else they were just shot - or hanged if bullets were scarce. Officers were usually not given the option of joining up. Villa's own officers were also likely to be shot for any perceived insubordination or failure to perform their duty in an adequate fashion.

Villa Arrives

story image(s)

The last of the major "federales" armies in Northern Mexico which defended the regime of Victoriano Huerta - the man who murdered Francisco Madero - was holed up in Ojinaga at the end of 1913 under the command of General Salvador Mercado and Pascual Orozco, and the rebel generals Toribio Ortega and Panfilo Natera were unable to dislodge him from the fort there. Finally, Pancho Villa arrived from Chihuahua City with a huge rebel army and sent the federales packing across the Rio Grande to Presidio, Texas after much slaughter. The federales, along with their women and children were led on a forced march up to Marfa, Texas, where they were loaded into boxcars and sent off to concentration camps.

Villa executed any stragglers and suspected sympathizers of the federales cause, and hammed it up for movie photographers in the streets of Ojinaga, while stocking up on American military supplies and reportedly burying a rather large horde of gold in a secret location near "Devil's Cave" on the Cerrito de la Santa Cruz, near Ojinaga.

Meanwhile, the Americans, not knowing what to do with Mercado's soldiers and their families, kept them behind barbed wire for the remainder of the conflict, until the federales' cause was finally lost for good.

This was to be the first and the most famous of Villa's occupations of Ojinaga. There were actually four different battles of Ojinaga though out the revolution, but this was the most important and most famous.

Earlier, Villa had participated in a  campaign to rout the traitor Pascual Orozco, who had joined a reactionary uprising against Francisco I. Madero, but fled to the US near Lajitas, Texas, new to Ojinaga, in order to escape the pursuit of Madero's forces. Orozco, who had originally been supreme commander of Madero's original revolutionary forces, was eventually killed by American ranchers in a failed attempt to steal horses.

Among those who were in Ojinaga or across the river in Presidio, Texas, at the time of the battle were the famous American writers John Reed and Ambrose Bierce - the "Old Gringo" - General John Pershing, who later became the leader of the American forces in WWI, and most of the elite of Chihuahua, including Enrique Creel and Luis Terrazas - the former Chihuahua governors whose selfish and shortsighted policies had largely been responsible for the uprisings that they were now fleeing.

An earlier battle of near equal proportions had been fought at the outset of the Revolution under the directin of Generals Toribio Ortega and Jose de la Cruz Sanchez. It had resulted in a statemate similar to the impasse that existed in January, 1914 before the arrival of Villa. Ojinaga was an almost impregnable location in terms of either a siege or an assault, and it was mainly the fearsome reputation of Villa that sent Mercado and Orozco fleeing into the US.

The First Siege of Ojinaga in Late 1910 and Early 1911

story image(s)
The First Siege of Ojinaga in Late 1910 and Early 1911

As the Mexican Revolution was about to break out in Mexico under the leadership of Francisco I. Madero and his "antireelectionist" party, activity along the border was heating up, with Madero and his agents inside US concluding arms purchases and recruiting Mexicans living inside the US to join their rebel forces.

Luther T. Ellsworth - US Consul in Cd. Porfirio Diaz (now known as Piedras Negras) - was reporting on Nov. 20, 1910 that Madero expected a "sizable force" on insurrectionists to show up in Cd. Porfirio Diaz to support his reentry into Mexico.

When he was disappointed to find that this was not so, he returned to San Antonio and then sent to New Orleans. In the meantime, hostilities had already begun in earnest, starting with an engagement between the antireelectionist rebel leader Toribio Ortega and the federales in Cuchillo Parado on November 16, 1910. Other rebel groups already in the field were the bands led by Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco, who were nominally under the direction of Abraham Gonzalez, the chief of the antireelectionists in the state, and another group of "Magonistas" - followers of Ricardo Flores Magon  an anarchist who was largely influenced by American organizers of the IWW - the International Workers of the World. These people refused to align themselves with Madero, but fought a common enemy, the regime of Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz.

On Dec. 10 rumors began circulating in Cd. Chihuahua that rebels were going to try and take the border towns and Cd. Juarez as reported in the El Paso Morning Times

In January 1911 Madero and his agents are reported recruiting Mexicans from the US side and involved in arms purchases including one from New York to Texas. Many exiles made their way into Mexico by way of the Big Bend and Sierra del Carmen

Ojinaga had a population of around 3000. There was a ford in the river between Presidio and Ojinaga, with a Mexican customs house on one side and an American customs house on the other. The largest town on the American side was Shafter, which was controlled mostly by the Chisos Mining Company.

Presidio was mainly a commercial center where traders did business with people from both sides of the border.

It is known that on Dec. 9 a band of 150 armed men crossed the river into Mexico at Ruidosa.

On or around the 10th of December it was reported by Luther T. Ellsworth - US Consul in Cd. Porfirio Diaz - to Secretary of State Philander C. Knox - that "many thousands of Mexican exiles" were on the US side of the border armed to the teeth and preparing to cross into Mexico. He also noted that Mexicans were being recruited in El Paso, Presidio, Boquillas, and Eagle Pass.

At about the same time, Presidio was reported to be "teeming with refugees crammed into houses and improvised huts" and crossing the river from Mexico daily. These were mostly women and children.

Ellsworth reported that customs inspectors in Presidio had informed him that a band of several hundred men was preparing to attack Ojinaga. Ellsworth ordered the interdiction of arms and ammunition and attempted to prevent insurrectionists from crossing into Mexico but Knox countermanded the order.

US Attorney General George W. Dickerson took a different view and ordered the arrest of Madero and his associates for violating US statutes but Madero escaped into Mexico through El Paso and went to Villa Ahumada.

Abraham Gonzales also had an arrest warrant issued against him out of El Paso but he took a train to Marfa and secretly went to the Ojinaga area to take charge of the insurrection there

As this was a secret mission the details have not been traced but he went back to El Paso shortly afterwards and crossed into Mexico and went to Zaragoza.

After that Taft authorized the sale of arms to Mexico (May 1911) and the warrants against Madero and Gonzalez were lifted, that was reversed later (March 1912) by a joint resolution in Congress banning arms sales and transport to Mexico.

In December of 1910 it is known that there were at least 1,800 rebels in the Ojinaga area but they were not unified, among them were several Americans and it was reported that the rebels were effective fighters capable of fighting pitched battles with the federales.

The first significant battle in the immediate Ojinaga region was fought on December 11, 1910 between a force of 50 rebels and 200 federales and citizens of Ojinaga led by the mayor Cardo Amarillas. In the course of the battle 60 mounted federales dismounted and fled on foot and their horses stampeded to the American side where they were rounded up by US customs inspectors. The rebels disengaged when their ammunition ran short and retreated to Mulato.

The federales gave pursuit and attacked the rebels in Rancho La Haciendita, 9 miles east of Ojinaga two days later and were turned back by the rebels, losing 30 horses which again stampeded to the American side. They looted houses and killed livestock on their way back into Ojinaga. The rebels attacked their rear and took a large number of prisoners of which 97 joined the rebels.

The federales again attacked Mulato on December 21 but were repulsed, while the entire noncombatant population took refuge in Polvo (now known as Redford), on the American side.

The rebels now controlled Mulato and San Carlos and the entire region, and they finally came under the leadership of one man by 1911, Emilio Salgado, while the suzerainty of the region held in surrogate fashion by Enrique Creel, owner of Hacienda Los Angeles and Mexican Foreign Minister, was ended.

The rebel factions in the Ojinaga region came under the control of Jose de la Cruz Sanchez who began organizing to take Ojinaga from the Federales.

An ex-bandit turn rebel, Antonio Carrasco, was ordered by Sanchez to take the old customs house at the ford between Presidio and Ojinaga, thus preparing the stage for a siege on April 5, 1911. However, Carrasco was working as a double agent selling secrets to the new federal commander in Ojinaga General Gonzales Luque. Gonzalez beefed up defenses there and Sanchez learned of Carrasco's treachery and sent agents to track him down. When they caught him he was shot by a firing squad consisting of four Mexicans and a Scottish mercenary named F. S. McCombs.

Gonzales Luque had arrived in Ojinaga the first week of January with 200 men and he was reinforced with 150 more a few days later. He then had 600 men and he began offensive operations against the rebels immediately. Having intelligence that Toribio Ortega was in command of force of 170 rebels in Cuchillo Parado he sent 250 men in that direction in hopes of routing them, but Ortega ambushed them at Cuesta del Peguis and caught them in a deadly crossfire killing between 100 and 150, while the rest fled in headlong disorder back to Ojinaga. Ortega then rode to San Antonio del Bravo to join Sanchez.

By January 24, Sanchez had a force of 600 men prepared to attack Ojinaga and he invited Gonzalez Roque to surrender.

Another large force was assembled in Mulato under Emilio Salgado, including a group of 200 who had crossed over from the state Coahuila and had fought skirmishes in the San Carlos area with federal patrols.

Meanwhile, in February 1911, a force of around 1500 under the command of Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa was preparing to attack Juarez.

By February in Ojinaga there were few skirmishes but the federales did not venture outside of Ojinaga. The rebels completely controlled the countryside. Ojinaga itself, being placed on a nearly impregnable location, with the 18th century fort located on a mesa with steep sides all around, was defended by a determined career soldier and well armed troops.

The city was surrounded and under siege by Sanchez and Ortega, but the stalemate was broken when the rebels began firing on Ojinaga on March 12. The rebels now had a large stock of supplies in Mulato to sustain their siege, but they needed to take the customs house in order to cut off supplies to Gonzalez Luque from Presidio. A local arms merchant, Johann "John" Kleinmann, was willing to sell ammunition and supplies to whoever could pay him in gold or gold backed currency.

Sanchez and his men, who included the Scottish mercenary F. S. McCombs, attacked the customs house on March 15. Their tactic was that of stampeding horses with branches and tin cans tied to their tails at soldiers in foxholes who were dung in around the location. This caused a panic among the defenders who imagined a massed cavalry attack such as Villa used in his attacks, a tactic that had been mastered during the Apache wars of a generation earlier. Sanchez's men began firing on them from long range when they stuck their heads up to fire at the supposed attackers. The federales panicked and attempted to flee and they were routed in the open field. The rebels continued attacking and advancing on Ojinaga and reached within 150 yards of the city and dug in, but their positions were vulnerable to cannon fire from the heights of the city and the fort there.

Now that the customs house was in rebel hands, the US customs personnel began enforcing their rules only at the river ford, which was the only authorized entry into Mexico, could anything cross into Ojinaga. They were apparently helping the rebels in this, since they ignored any other unauthorized crossing of the border by anyone but the federales. This was indicative of the general support for Sanchez and Ortega, especially, and the rebels in general by the population on the American side.

When 70 mounted federales slipped out of Ojinaga and crossed at another location to scout the rear of the rebels, the Americans prevented their return by the same route.

Meanwhile, Gonzales Luque refused to let women and children escape from Ojinaga, which was feeling the effects of a severe siege. He was using them as human shields to prevent an all out rebel attack.

In April a band of 200 rebels arrived from Juarez led by Antonio Villareal, including 26 Americans under the command by Captain A W Lewis, a former United States Cavalry officer. In their possession was a stolen American cannon known as the "blue whistler" with an American crew led by Captain James Bulger, and a machine gun which also had an American crew.

The federal government now sent between 500 and 1000 men under Gen. Manuel Gordillo y Escudero to reinforce Gonzales Luque. Sanchez and Ortega tried to stop them at Cuchillo Parado on April 29 but they were outnumbered and they had to retreat after stopping their advance for 6 hours. Gordillo y Escudero was intent on destroying the rebels' base in El Mulato.

Sanchez fought a pitched battle with them in La Mula the next day which lasted 12 hours and resulted in heavy casualties. He had to leave the field when Gonzalez Luque threatened to sally forth from Ojinaga and outflank him. This was the first rebel defeat of the campaign, and it effectively broke the siege because the lines maintained by Sanchez were lifted as he reorganized in El Mulato.

Ortega and Villareal (including his Americans) tried to storm Ojinaga but were repulsed. The Americans under Villareal then joined Sanchez in El Mulato.

Gordillo y Escudero took control on the plaza of Ojinaga having broken the siege, defeating Sanchez and causing the disorderly withdrawal of Villareal and Ortega, but his victory was hollow as Pascual Orozco took Juarez on May 10 and gave Madero the upper hand in signing a treaty on May 17 that caused the retirement of Porfirio Diaz and put Madero in power.

The rebels had mounted a brilliant campaign under the leadership of Sanchez and Ortega, but they never had the strength to overcome the tactical advantage of Gonzalez Roque who commanded the nearly impregnable redoubt on the hill on which Ojinaga is located and the for there, and the arrival of a massive group of reinforcements now placed the besiegers in a position of having to worry about being attacked on both sides, outflanked, and subjected to crossfire. It is likely that they could have regrouped and begun another siege, but only after a great deal of expense and planning at that point.

Ortega and Sanchez went on to conduct important missions later on during the various Villista campaigns, with Ortega leading his brigade into battle with Pancho Villa on numerious occasions. Sanchez, however, went on to perform even more valuable, although less glamorous service by practically single-handedly keeping the rebel cause afloat and supplied with arms through his constant smuggling of cattle into Presidio where they were bought by Presidio and Brewster county cattlemen who sold them on the open market, while the money they paid to Sanchez was mostly spent with Klienmann, who supplied Villa with massive amounts of arms and ammunition.

Villa's Account of the Battle

story image(s)
Villa's account of the Battle of Ojinaga begins shortly after the Battle of Tierra Blanca, as he was advancing on Chihuahua, and the city was expected to fall to him, and General Salvador Mercado, "The Great Evacuator", decided to abandon the city and retreat towards Ojinaga. Villa's account is as follows:At the end of November I received reports of the panic which had struck the rich men of Chihuahua when they learned of my victory at Tierra Blanca. To discredit my forces, they spread rumors of crimes we were committing. But the discipline and good behavior of my troops had been demonstrated in Ciudad Juarez, where no one was killed or robbed, and no one was punished without cause. General Salvador Mercado, chief of the Huertista forces in Chihuahua, was responsible for fears. When the Battle of Tierra Blanca ended on November 25, he was in such a hurry to leave that he was already on the road to Ojinaga by the twenty-eighth, taking the principal families of the town along with him. Marcelo Caraveo, the last to leave, abandoned the city three days later, and after that - that is, after December 1, 1913 - it was at my mercy.

As I remember, I left Juarez December 3, and after five days of marching entered Chihuahua. We were met by a commission of civilians headed by a man named Don Federico Moye, who said, "Sr. Villa, we come in the interests of peace. General Mercado's troops have abandoned the place and it is yours. We hope for the treatment great conquerors give to peaceful towns. Your orders will be carried out, but respect our lives, Señor, and those of our families, and do not despoil us."

I listened calmly and answered without arrogance, but I knew the ways of people who were submissive when helpless but who continued to work under cover as implacable enemies. I explained that the inhabitants of Chihuahua, rich and poor, would have to unite in aiding the cause of the people, saying, "Señores, my forces are not puffed up with their triumphs. They will not mistreat you. But don't deceive yourselves. There will be punishment for those who commit evil acts against us. No one shall withhold the supplies my troops need or engage in conspiracies against our cause. My soldiers are ready to inflict the death penalty for such acts."

My entrance made a great impression perhaps because I had so many troops, for I had left only the Hernandez and Zaragoza brigades in Juarez. Our enemies could hardly contain their fear, but the humble people received us with affection. On my arrival I found two hundred soldiers of the 6th battalion, under three Federal officers: a captain, a lieutenant, and a second lieutenant. They were there to guarantee order but were no longer needed. I called the captain and said to him, "You are not afraid of Pancho Villa or deceived by the slanders about me. Well, you shall see you are right. I give you and your officers safe conduct to any place you wish. But as for your troops, who are from this town, don't reproach me if I keep them to fight for the popular side."

At first I assumed the office of governor of Chihuahua to stimulate public business. But after two weeks of work I transferred it to General Chao in obedience to Carranza's orders and occupied myself with military affairs only. I made a trip to Ciudad Juarez in connection with financial arrangements and the international situation. The American general at Fort Bliss, Hugh L. Scott, wanted to talk to me. We had exchanged greetings in the middle of the bridge at Ciudad Juarez, and now he wanted to visit me.

I appointed Lazaro de la Garza to attend to the collection of money. He had served me well after the taking of Torreon. As assistant collector I appointed and engineer, Felicitos Villareal, who was also a financier. These appointment were needed because the loan we received in Torreon was getting low and the Torreon bankers were showing bad faith. They were hardly free of troops when they refused to pay the drafts which I had drawn on them. They said, "We sign under duress and are not obligated to keep the agreement." But they were wrong. It was not rue that they had agreed under duress to honor the drafts. It was from fear of my troops, quite a different thing. I did not take them by the had and compel them to sign. They signed of their own free will that otherwise the people would treat them as enemies. Furthermore, the money they gave me did not really belong to them. It belonged to the people, the true owners of all the money there is in a country. The people are the ones who produce it. I , the representative of the people, had the right to demand, and it was just for them to deliver, all the money necessary for the cause.

I was also necessary to settle the conflict and find all possible resources. I returned to Chihuahua and organized a column of three brigades to advance on Ojinaga. It numbered about three thousand men, including artillery. My problem was to find a leader, since I had duties I could not leave. I summoned the generals and principal commanders to a meeting in the Federal palace. I explained the importance of the operation and suggested that they chose a leader. Present were Tomas Urbina, Herrera, Hernandez, Ortega, Jose Rodriguez, Chao, Trinidad Rodriguez, and a few others. Also present was General Panfilo Natera, chief of the Central Division, who had been on his way to consult with Carranza but was returning from Juarez by way of Zacatecas because the United States would not let him cross to Nogales. Taking advantage of his presence, I said, "My friends, the operation is of great importance. I can rid the state of Chihuahua of our enemies and leave us the masters of our action on the march south. But I cannot go, and you should choose General Natera, who is here, or General Ortega, who is familiar with the region."

I expected Natera to be chosen. I was hoping to avoid rivalries and jealousies. As it happened, Natera declined, having little knowledge of the terrain and troops, and spoke for Toribio. Not to be outdone, Toribio, though he wanted the command, responded with praise of Natera. He extolled Natera's ability and said he would gladly yield to him. The others quickly took him up on his offer, none of them wanting Toribio as his superior.

The column to take Ojinaga consisted of 500 men in the Villa brigade, under the command of Jose Rodriguez; 550 men from the Gonzales Ortega brigade, under the command of Toribio Ortega; 450 men from the Morelos brigade, under Faustino Borunda; 400 men from the Cuauhtemoc Brigade, under Trinidad Rodriguez, then a lieutenant colonel; 300 from the Contreras Brigade, under Luis Diaz Cuder. Also, there were two batteries of 75 and 80-millimeter cannon under the command of Martiniano Servin and a machine-gun regiment under Margarito Gomez.

They left Chihuahua on December 22, 1913, with munitions and equipment of all kinds. In San Sostenes they found a great deal of railroad material, arms, ammunition, and clothing which the enemy had abandoned. Four days later they were at the ranch La Mula. Two days later they were in Mulato. The next day the fought with Caraveo and Flores Alatorre, who were defeated and forced to flee. Caraveo was wounded, and 260 prisoners were taken. They got four machine guns and ten mules loaded with ammunition. Three days later, on January 1, 1914, they made contact with the enemy at Ojinaga. This time the enemy attacked, dismantled a piece of artillery, caused many casualties, and forced a retreat. The next day the battle continued, and the enemy killed 200 men. On the third day enemy cavalry came out, supported by artillery. There was a furious encounter resulting in great bloodshed, and although the enemy withdrew, driven back by Servin's cannon and the action of our troops, Ortega ceased fire during the combat, and 80 of our men were killed and 130 taken prisoner. Señor! Our forces saw the enemy withdraw without loss or damage, and the 130 prisoners were shot in Ojinaga.

Our action was paralyzed in spite of Natera's effort and ability. The trouble came of disputes and quarrels among brigade leaders, who were angry with Toribio because he was apparently unwilling to win under Natera. So, on the second day, in the heaviest of fighting, our forces retired to rest; and two days later there weariness and discontent increased; and a day later, Martin Lopez and Carlos Almeida wanted to return to Chihuahua and Jose and Trinidad Rodriguez wanted to withdraw to Jimenez. Failure demoralized them, and it was only because Servin would not follow them that that they decided either to wait one more day longer and take Servin by force or to keep fighting until the end if Natera would shoot Toribio, whom they held responsible.

On January 6, I was advised in Juarez of these events and took my measures. The news reached me at eight at night. At once I gave General Rosalio Hernandez orders to march with his troops and horses, and by two we were on the road. By telegraph I ordered Herrera and Juarez Brigade to advance by train toward Ojinaga. In this way, without preparations or supplies, I started to Ojinaga with my two brigades. In three days we were in La Mula. Having nothing to eat, we began to kill cattle on the ranches and our food was roast beef without salt. I sent General Hernandez and General Herrera to El Mulato to await my orders, and with an escort of twenty-five men, I myself made forced march to the Hacienda de San Juan. I reached camp at four on the afternoon of January 10. There was a heavy frost, and the wind almost blew us from our mounts. I appeared when spirits were lowest, and as the news of my arrival spread, everyone began to feel better. I dismounted under a cottonwood tree and stretched out on the ground. I sent for the chiefs. As soon as they came, I began to talk to them. wanting to give them an impression of calm, I had picked up a sprig of grass, and as I talked indulgently, nibbled at it.

I asked them, "How have you been doing, boys? The reports are bad. But the coyote has had his last hen from my hen house. I am to blame. Natera told me he wasn't familiar with conditions here. But nothing will happen now I am here. Don't worry, and get some sleep." That night I heard them all singing.

The next day I dictated the following orders for the attack: the troops would be divided in three columns; on the south Hernandez and Jose Rodriguez with eight hundred men, supported by Servin's artillery; on the right, that is on the east between the Conchos and the Bravo, my headquarters and nine hundred men under Trinidad Rodriguez and Herrera; on the left, Toribio Ortega with seven hundred men and Auxiliaries of San Carlos under Chavarria. All were to be ready by seven at night. The horses would be chained, guarded by one man for every ten, and at 7:30 we would advance on the city, with our hats on our backs for identification.

Before the generals and chiefs withdrew, I called Toribio Ortega and said, "Compañero, it seems that you forgot the instructions I gave you in Chihuahua and because of that many Revolutionaries like Onesimo Martinez are dead. Well, I won't pardon you a second time. Good-bye."

We were ready to take Ojinaga, and that afternoon I addressed my chiefs and soldiers: "Chiefs and soldiers of liberty, any man who turns back will be shot then and there. The password is 'Juarez', and the countersign is 'Faithful Ones'. When your gun is trained on a man, ask him, 'what number', and if he is one of us, he will answer, 'One'; if he does not answer or gives a different number, fire. Do you understand?" They shouted yes.

My right wing, under Herrera and Trinidad Rodriguez, defeated Antonio Rojas and Fernandez Ortinel in fifteen minutes and gained their objective. On the south, Mansilla and Salazar offered hardly any resistance to Jose Rodriguez and Rosalio Hernandez. And on the west, where the fighting was the heaviest, Caraveo's troops, after battling for forty-five minutes, abandoned their position when told of our success elsewhere. The action was much shorter than I could have expected. We took Ojinaga, not in an hour and a half, as I had ordered, but an hour and five minutes. When the firing was dying down in every sector, I advanced at a moderate pace and entered the streets. Everywhere I heard soldiers shouting my name and advancing without opposition.

That is all I had to do to take Ojinaga, but it was not my triumph, it was that of my officers and soldiers. Thirty five of my men were killed, among them Jesus Felipe Moya, a Revolutionary whom I had just promoted to general and for whom I wept. Four hundred of the enemy fell. We secured their horses, saddles, rifles, machine guns, and cannons.

Salvador Mercado and Pascual Orozco, who directed the battle from the Old Customs House, crossed the river and took refuge in the united States. Of the generals, chiefs, officers, and soldiers who crossed the frontier with them, only Marcelo Caraveo, with eighteen men as an escort, and Desiderio Garcia, with three or four others, ventured back into Mexican territory and set out for the south.

The next day I gave orders to clear camp, after giving the inhabitants of the town assurances of safety. Colonel John J. Pershing, in command on the other side of the river, asked permission to visit me in our territory. We greeted each other courteously. He congratulated me on my successes and I praised him for sheltering the defeated troops, since this spared me form being responsible for further casualties. When he offered me his hospitals for my wounded I answered that I could take care of them with my own facilities, but told him I was grateful for the offer and would have accepted it if necessary. In less than forty-eight hors I was ready to return to Chihuahua, leaving only the Gonzales Ortega Brigade behind as a garrison.

I made the trip by automobile, with Raul Madero, Rodolfo Fierro, Luis Aguirre Benevides, and a chauffeur.

The Life of General Francisco Villa at Ex-Hacienda La Purísima Concepcian de El Canutillo

story image(s)
Pancho Villo (Older)
Glenn P. Willeford: Research Assistant with the Center for Big Bend Studies at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas


Gral. Francisco Villa negotiated a peace with interim Mexican President Adolfo De la Huerta and signed the Manifesto a la Nación at Hacienda Tlahualilo in La Laguna Comarca on 31 August 1920. In September he and 350-400 of his soldiers, along with their families, moved to La Purísima Concepción de El Canutillo, a former hacienda of the family of don José María Jurado. The ex-hacienda, which Villa purchased at a cost of 636,000 Mexican gold pesos (it was not a free gift of the government), had several annexos and included Rancho de San Antonio, Rancho de Ojo Blanco, La Hacienda del Espíritu Santo, La Hacienda de Nieves, and the Rancho de la Vía Excusada. The Convenio de Sabinas [Coahuila] had also granted the Villistas three other ex-haciendas for the purpose of settling his loyal soldiers on their own land. One of those, San Salvador de Horta was also in Durango state while the other two, San Isidro de las Cuevas and El Pueblito were situated in Chihuahua. All four of those properties became agricultural colonies under the ultimate command of Gral. Villa.

Upon their arrival the Villistas found the headquarters at Canutillo in poor condition. Roofs and doors were missing from the buildings and the cold mountain winter was coming. Under the direction of their leader, Francisco Villa, the old soldiers went to work. By the time freezing weather arrived the houses at Canutillo were waterproof and warm.

Other improvements began to be made at the growing community, which soon numbered about 2,000 men, women, and children. By 1923 Canutillo had been converted into a small city with a central store (which sold goods at the wholesale price), a doctor, chumilquitos (small specialty stores), an electrical repair shop, a mechanical shop (automobile repairs and welding were also performed), a blacksmith, a saddlery, a loom or weaving facility for the locally-grown wool, a mill for grinding corn, a carpentry shop, a post office, a telegraph connection to Parral, and telephone connections to Rosario and Indé. Improvement projects that Villa was considering at the time of his death included: the construction of a railway to Indé and Tepehuanes; the construction of a wheat mill, the placement of telephone lines to all of the annexos or ranches connected with Canutillo; and the construction of a "Puente de la Paz" (Bridge of Peace) across the Río Nazas at Gómez Palacio, Durango.

Modern agriculture was the main emphasis at the four ex-haciendas, and Canutillo soon became a model farm. With over 4,000 acres of cultivable land along the Río Florido, crops of corn and wheat were grown and sold on the commodities market. A sharecropping system was instituted for the farmland by which the quilino, or sharecropper, kept or utilized two-thirds of the crop he raised. Villa soon brought in heavy farm machinery to help with the plowing and harvesting. He is known to have had at least three tractors at the Canutillo farm. The other Villista colonies were also mechanized. Gral. Villa became such an important prospective buyer of machinery that Texas Governor Pat Neff promised to exempt him from arrest for past crimes if he entered the state in order to shop there for farm equipment. (This is truly remarkable when one considers that in 1916 he was being pursued by over 10,000 U. S. soldiers within Chihuahua state and that he had been wanted "Dead or Alive" by the U. S. government.)

Villa had long been interested in improving education in México. In keeping with this desire he erected a new facility, the Felipe Angeles School, at Canutillo. This large building contained classroom space for 300 students and was modern in every respect. Not only did Villa personally employ several of the teachers, but the federal government sent five highly-qualified lady teachers as well as a director, Professor Jesús Coello Avendaño, from Cd. México. Children from Canutillo and the surrounding ranchos were required to attend classes. Villa himself often sat in during the sessions, especially if one of his children was present. Today the Angeles School has lost its roof and is going to ruin, yet the slate blackboards still hang on the crumbling walls in mute testimony to the progressive ideas of Francisco Villa.

Athletics was an important part of Villa´s life; he wore tennis shoes and white pants when he exercised. At Canutillo he engaged in jogging as well as in the sport of rebote, a game much like modern racquetball. (The old stone rebote court today stands in a pig pen on the west side of Canutillo village. It should be protected and preserved as a historical monument by the state of Durango.) One of his rebote partners, a teacher named Rodolfo Rodríguez Escalera, during a 1981 interview with Professor Ignacio Sánchez Arriola of Mexico City, remembered:

Look, one time we were playing and it was my turn to serve against Villa. At the moment of service he stepped in the line of fire and I grazed his arm. I was very scared . . . so I apologized. He said, "No professor: play, play, play. This is a game for strong men." So we continued as if nothing had happened.

Villa´s life at Canutillo may be described as having been idyllic. As long as he remained at home under the protection of his fifty-man escort of Dorados he was safe from his many enemies. He could relax there. La Purísima Concepción de El Canutillo is a tranquil and beautiful place; the architecture of la casa grande and la iglesia date back to Spanish colonial times. Just below the headquarters begin the fertile fields that lead down to the Río Florido. Cottonwood trees outline the twisting river and canals while the clean mountain air is crisp and exhilarating. For a time Mrs. Luz Corral, Villa´s wife, resided at the former hacienda; however, following a disagreement with her husband, she departed. In 1921 Villa married Austreberta Rentería in Hidalgo del Parral; thereafter she dwelt with the general in the casa grande. (Austreberta conceived two of Villa´s children, Francisco and Hipólito, while they lived at Canutillo). Additionally, at least eight of Villa´s other children resided there.

Friedrich Katz, in his recent tome entitled The Life and Times of Pancho Villa, says:

Villa was an attentive father. He frequently took his sons along when he rode through the hacienda, explaining his ambitious economic projects to them . . . . [And] every day his children sat down with him at the family meal, which was attended by about thirty persons.

While being interviewed by Sánchez Arriola, maestro Rodríguez Escalera recalled a nostalgic moment that took place as life was closing in on Gral. Francisco Villa. It occurred at La Purísima Concepción de El Cantillo, and it was an event that the teacher would remember for the rest of his days. This is what he observed:

[Villa had] ordered a dance to be held in the large room [of the casa grande at Canutillo]. The only ornaments . . . were the División del Norte flags that he had put away in his room. He placed a box on a table and personally climbed on top and nailed all the flags to the wall without permitting anyone to help him. After he finished he stood there for a few minutes and just stared at those flags. Perhaps he remembered the battles those flags represented for the Mexican people, battles that he and his men had won and the government of Carranza had taken credit for. I believe that was the last time [that Gral. Villa] was emotionally touched. A few months later he was assassinated on the streets of Parral.

General Poncho Villa

José Doroteo Arango Arámbula

(June 5, 1878 – July 20, 1923) — better known by his nom de guerre Francisco Villa or, in its diminutive form, Pancho Villa — was one of the foremost generals of the Mexican Revolution.

Doroteo Arango was born in San Juan del Río, Durango. His obscure family origins and early life have been confused by the existence of many divergent and poorly documented accounts as well as popular oral tradition. One recent theory (2000) claims he was the illegitimate son of Luis Férman Gurrola, a wealthy hacendado whose own father was an immigrant of Austrian-Jewish origin, and Micaela Arámbula de Arango, a maid.
After working for a time as a peon on his father's hacienda, he left and quickly took up the life of a bandit and outlaw in Durango and later in the state of Chihuahua, whence he immigrated. He was caught several times for crimes ranging from banditry to horse thievery and cattle rustling but, through influential connections, was always able to secure his release.
Villa underwent a transformation after meeting Abraham González, the political representative of Francisco I. Madero in Chihuahua, Chihuahua. González gave Villa a basic education which opened his eyes to the political world and changed the way in which he thought about his own life and his relation to those in power (in the state of Chihuahua, the powerful Creel/Terrazas family). From this point until near the end of his life, Villa considered himself a revolutionary fighting for the people.
In 1911, with U.S. support, Villa helped defeat the federal army of Porfirio Díaz in favour of Francisco I. Madero. Following Madero's power, General Huerta sentenced Villa to death for insubordination. Villa escaped to the U.S. border until it was safe. After that, Villa again rebelled against former allies, first against Victoriano Huerta, later against Venustiano Carranza. Carranza, in an attempt to appease both Villa and Zapata offered them both great tracts of land, or Haciendas. Villa accepted his offer while Zapata did not. This is one of the reasons that the reputation of Villa as a revolutionary/folk hero has been debated.
On March 9, 1916, Villa led 1,500 Mexican raiders in a cross-border attack against Columbus, New Mexico, in response to the U.S. government's official recognition of the Carranza regime. They attacked a US Cavalry detachment, seized 100 horses and mules, burned the town, and killed 17 of its residents.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 12,000 troops, under Gen. John J. Pershing, into Mexico on March 15 to pursue Villa. In the U.S., this was known as the Pancho Villa Expedition. During the search, the United States launched its first air combat mission when eight aeroplanes lifted off on March 19. The expedition to capture Villa was called off as a failure on January 28, 1917.

In 1920, Villa ended his revolutionary actions. He was assassinated three years later in Parral, Chihuahua. As a perceived rebel against injustice and abuse, and despite the violent excesses he undeniably committed, Villa is still remembered in Mexico as a folk hero.

Villa Quotes

story image(s)
If I ever catch you again, I will kill you." — (Pancho Villa would capture U.S. soldiers and spare them by cutting one of their ears off, and he said these words upon releasing them.)
"Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something." — Last words.

The Fighting 69th in the Mexican Border Campaign

On November 10, 1910 Francisco Madero, Jr. crossed the border into Mexico from his exile in Texas. This act marked the beginning of a revolution against the 30 year rule of Porfirio Diaz. Madero had previously run for election against Diaz and had been imprisoned by the dictator, escaped and fled to San Antonio. In May of the next year Diaz fled to Spain. Madero was elected President of Mexico and was inaugurated November 1911. The forces he set in motion did not settle with his inauguration. By February 1913, Madero was dead by an assassin’s bullet.

Francisco "Poncho" Villa was a bandito and Guerrilla fighter who had backed Madero in his revolt against Diaz. After  he learned of Madero’s assignation he began raising troops in Northern Mexico. This private army came to be know as the Division of the North. They included his cavalry forces which became famous as the "Dorodos". Allied with Venustiano Carranza against the new dictator, Gen. Huerta, Villa became governor of Chihuahua and entered Mexico City in Triumph with Carranza in August of 1914.

Peace was not to be between the two. In September, Villa withdrew to his power base in the North and declared war on Carranza.

In the following two years Villa suffered a series of defeats which decimated his Division of the North. During these campaigns Carranza and his allies received both overt and covert aid from The United States Government. As his fortunes declined, Villa’s war degenerated into a guerrilla campaign marked by sporadic raids on trains and small outposts.

In January of 1916 Villista forces raided a train coming from Chihuahua City, killing 17 Americans on board. On March 9th, Villa at the head of a force numbering about 450 raided Columbus, New Mexico killing 19 Americans.

On March 15th President Wilson ordered Brigadier General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing to cross the Mexican border in pursuit of Villa. A brash young lieutenant by the name of George S. Patton managed to get appointed to Pershing’s staff just before he jumped off. Most of the regular Cavalry units in the Western U.S., including the "Buffalo Solders" of the 10th Cavalry, participated in pursuit of Poncho Villa. On May 6th another band of Mexicans raided the town of Glen Springs, Texas, shouting "Viva Villa" and "Viva Carranza." To augment the defense of the Southern borders of the United States, Wilson began a call up of the National Guard beginning with Texas and Arizona and New Mexico units on June 18, 1916. Eventually the entire National Guard participated. The role of the National Guard troops was to patrol the border, secure towns and bridges thus freeing up the regular army troops for action under Pershing.

The 69th New York was one of the New York National Guard units called into service for this emergency. Under the command of Col. William N. Haskell, the 69th camped at McAllen, Texas. For months they drilled, trained and patrolled the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The unit saw no combat during this time but valuable experience was gained by officers and men alike which would stand them in good stead in the trenches in France. Almost all of the company and staff officers and the NCOs who served under Col. Haskell went overseas with the Regiment in World War I.

Two other men who would leave their stamp on the 69th in the next conflict were also on the Mexican Border. "Wild Bill" Donovan and Father Duffy. Captain Wm. Donovan was commander of Troop I of the 1st New York Cavalry, a unit he helped form in Buffalo, NY. He was beginning to get his reputation for demanding excellence and hard training from the men of his command. He was noticed by the upper ranks and marked for advancement. Father Duffy left his parish in the Bronx and shipped out with the Regiment as Chaplain. The midnight mass he conducted under the Texas stars on Christmas Eve, 1916 was attended by faithful from many units stationed in the vicinity of McAllen, Texas.

The 69th was mustered out of Federal service in March, 1917 and returned to a triumphant welcome home. Less than a month later their country was at war with Germany. The Regiment immediately began preparing to go overseas.

Timeline of the Mexican Revolution

9/16/1810-Miguel Hidalgo rebels against colonial Spain.
1811-Hidalgo is captured and excecuted.  Jose Morelos takes control of the revolution.
1815-Morellos is executed by the Spanish.
1821-Under the command of Augustin De Iturbide Mexico’s rich plantation owners rebel, and declare Mexico is free from Spanish rule.
1822-Iturbide is declared Emperor Augustin I
1823-Unpaid troops overthrow Iturbide and set up a Republic with one of thier generals, Guadelupe Victoria, as president
1855-Age of Santa Anna begins
3/2/1836-Texas declares it’s self an independant state from Mexico
1846-Mexico becomes imbursed in the Mexican/American War
1850-Tariff’s and internal decay destroy the Mexican economy
1853-U.S. buys southern Arizona from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase for $10 million
1855-Liberals led by Benito Juarez kill Santa Anna, Juarez becomes president of Mexico
1857-Liberals led by Juarez write a constitution
1857 to 1861-Civil War called the War of Reform, between liberals and conservatives, occurs in Mexico.
1862-Conservatives get help from Napolean III of France, who wanted a French Empire in Mexico.  Napolean installs Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico
1867-French  troops withdraw form Mexico leaving Maximillian to be killed.  Juarez reclaims presidency
1867-Juarez dies
1877-Porfirio Diaz becomes dictator of Mexico
1877 to 1884-Mexicos economy greatly improves
1879-Emiliano Zapata is born in the state of Morellos
1910-Franciso Madero runs against Diaz in Mexico’s first free elections.  Diaz riggs the voting, however.
November, 10, 1910-Madero leads a revolution against Diaz.  He loses
1911-along with Zapata, Villa, and Orozco, Madero revolts against Diaz again
1911-Madero becomes President of Mexico.
November, 28, 1911-Emiliano Zapata issues the Plan de Ayala
1913-Madero is murdered by General Victoriano Huerta, who becomes president
July 1914-Huerta resigns and leaves Mexico
August 1914-Carranza occupies Mexico
Oct. 1914-Revolutionary leaders reject Carranza as Mexico’s President, force him to leave the country
November, 24, 1914-Zapata occupies Mexico city
December, 14, 1994-Zapata and Villa meet
1915-Zapatistas carry out Agrarian reforms in Morelos
December 1915-Carranzas forces retake Morelos
December 1916-Zapatas forces retake Morelos
November 1917- Carranzas forces retake most of Morelos
April 10, 1919-Zapata is murdered in an ambush arranged by Carranza
1920-Alvaro Obregon along with the Zapatistas, Villistas, and other revolutionary groups overthrow and kill Carranza.  Obregon becomes President of Mexico.  Fighting Ends

Timeline taken from la revolucion de Mexico


story image(s)
Corrido sheet music celebrating the entry of Fransisco Madero into Mexico City in 1911

Events of 1910~1913

During the election of 1910, Madero (Anti-Reelectionist) ran against Díaz. Díaz had promised a true democratic election, proclaiming that Mexico was ready for democracy Dia. However during the election, Díaz had Madero and approximately 5,000 other members of the Anti-Reelectionists jailed. Vásquez Gómez took over the nomination, and during Madero's time in jail, Díaz was declared president with an electoral vote of 196 to 187. Madero's father had posted substantial bail, and Madero was able to take daily rides around San Luis Potosi by day, accompanied by guards. On October 4, 1910, Madero simply galloped away from his jailers, and smuggled himself across the border to Laredo, Texas. Moving to San Antonio, Texas, he issued his Plan of San Luis Potosi which proclaimed the elections of 1910 null and void, and called for an armed revolution at 6 p.m. on November 20, 1910 against the 'illegitimate' presidency of Díaz. The Revolution spread, and Francisco Villa occupied Chihuahua, Chihuahua, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The overthrow of Díaz was accomplished on 17 May, when Madero signed the Treaty of Ciudad Juárez, in which he demanded the resignation of Díaz as a condition for an armistice. Díaz resigned on May 25, 1911.

Madero appointed Francisco León de la Barra as interim president. León de la Barra was strongly conservative and acted to neutralize the more radical ideas of the Revolution. Madero's action, along with his lack of real political experience and his excessive optimism, created a rift between him and many of his former allies, including Emiliano Zapata, who felt that Madero was not pushing hard enough for land reform. To protest Madero's apparent lack of interest in pursuing Zapata's goals, Zapata issued the Plan of Ayala on November 25, 1911.

Some of the population's expectatations for Madero and disappointment in his administration may be due to his name: as a personal adjective, the word madero in the Spanish language indicates a man of strong resolve and backbone; some believed this adjective did not describe the personality of Don Pancho very well.

Fall and execution:

In early 1913 Victoriano Huerta, the commander of the armed forces, conspired with Félix Díaz (Porfirio Díaz's nephew), Bernardo Reyes and US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, against Madero, which culminated in a ten-day battle known as La decena tragica (the Tragic Ten Days). Madero accepted Huerta's "protection" from the Diaz/Reyes forces, only to have Huerta betray and arrest him. Madero's brother and advisor Gustavo A. Madero was kidnapped off the street, tortured, and killed. Following Huerta's coup d'état on February 18, 1913, Madero was forced to resign. After a very brief term of office by Pedro Lascuráin, Huerta took over the Presidency later that day. Francisco Madero was shot four days later, aged 39. The Huerta government claimed that bodyguards were forced to shoot Madero and Vice President Pino Suárez, during a failed rescue attempt by Madero's supporters. This story was met with general incredulity.


Josa María Pino Suárez

José María Pino Suárez (September 8, 1869 – February 22, 1913) was a Mexican politician.

Pino Suarez was born in Tenosique, Tabasco. He was one of the collaborators with Francisco I. Madero in the Mexican Revolution. Following the success of the Maderista Revolution, he successfully ran for Vice President with Madero as the Presidential candidate of the Progressive Constitutional Party (formally Antireelectionist Party). As Vice President of Mexico, he was imprisoned and later shot along with Madero during the coup by Victoriano Huerta during La decena tragica in 1913. Pino Suarez street and the subway station Metro Pino Suarez in Mexico City are named in his honor.

Victoriano Huerta

Not to be confused with Adolfo de la Huerta.

José Victoriano Huerta Márquez (Colotlán, Jalisco, December 23, 1850– January 13, 1916 in El Paso, Texas) was a Mexican military officer and president of Mexico.

Huerta was born in the town of Colotlán, Jalisco, son of Jesús Huerta and Refugio Márquez who were of Mestizo descent. He entered the Mexican Army at the age of 17, distinguished himself and gained admission to the Military Academy at Chapultepec.

During the Porfirio Díaz administration he rose to the rank of general, and fought to subdue the Chan Santa Cruz Maya people of Yucatán and against the rebels of Emiliano Zapata. On the eve of the 1910 revolution against the long established Diaz regime, Huerta was involved in the innocuous project of reforming the uniforms of the Federal Army.

After Díaz went into exile Huerta initially pledged allegiance to the new administration of Francisco Madero, and he was retained by the Madero administration and crushed anti-Madero revolts by rebel generals such as Pascual Orozco. However, Huerta secretly plotted with US. ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, cashiered general Bernardo Reyes, and Félix Díaz, Porfirio Díaz's nephew, to overthrow Madero. This episode in Mexican history is known as La decena tragica.

Following a confused few days of fighting in Mexico City between loyalist and rebel factions of the Army, Huerta had Madero and vice-president José María Pino Suárez seized and briefly imprisoned in the Palacio Nacional. The conspirators then met at the US Embassy to sign el Pacto de la Embajada (The Embassy Pact), which provided for Madero and Pino Suarez's exile and Huerta's takeover of the Mexican government. After a very short term of office by Pedro Lascuráin) on February 18, 1913 Huerta proclaimed himself provisional president of Mexico. Four days later Madero and Pino Suárez were taken from the Palacio Nacional to prison at night and shot by officers of the Rurales (Federal mounted police) who were assumed to be acting on Huerta's orders.

Huerta established a harsh military dictatorship. US President Woodrow Wilson became hostile to the Huerta administration, recalled ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, and demanded Huerta step aside for democratic elections. When Huerta refused, and with the situation further exacerbated by the Tampico Affair, President Wilson landed US troops to occupy Mexico's most important seaport, Veracruz.

The reaction to the Huerta usurpation was Venustiano Carranza's Plan of Guadalupe, calling for the creation of a Constitutional Army, for Huerta's ouster, and for the restoration of constitutional government. Supporters of the plan included Zapata, Pancho Villa and Alvaro Obregon. After repeated field defeats of Huerta's Federal Army by Obregon and Villa, climaxing in the Battle of Zacatecas, Huerta bowed to pressure and resigned the presidency on July 15, 1914.

He went into exile, first traveling to Kingston, Jamaica aboard the German cruiser SMS Dresden  From there, he moved to England, then Spain, then to the United States. He was discovered to be plotting to return to power in Mexico — in both Spain and Washington, he had been negotiating with German agents to secure the Kaiser's support for another attempt at a coup d'état. He was arrested in Newman, New Mexico, USA, on June 7, 1915 together with Pascual Orozco and charged with conspiracy to violate US neutrality laws. After some time in a US Army prison at Fort Bliss, he was released on bail but remained under house arrest due to risk of flight to Mexico. While so confined, he drank very heavily and died of alcohol poisoning in El Paso, Texas.

Huerta is still vilified by modern-day Mexicans, who generally refer to him as El Chacal — "The Jackal".

Gustavo A. Madero

Gustavo A. Madero

(1875 – 18 February 1913), born in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico, was a participant in the Mexican Revolution against Porfirio Díaz along with other members of his wealthy family. Madero's brother, Francisco I. Madero, was president of Mexico (1911-1913). During the coup d'etat in Mexico City known as La decena tragica ("the ten tragic days"), Gustavo Madero was killed after being tortured in 1913 by order of Victoriano Huerta (and American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson). A section of Mexico's Distrito Federal was named after Gustavo A. Madero.

Pedro Lascuráin

Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes (Mexico City, May 12, 1856 – July 21, 1952 in Mexico City) was very briefly interim president of Mexico.

Lascuráin was the foreign minister in Francisco I. Madero's cabinet. On February 18, 1913, General Victoriano Huerta overthrew President Madero. Lascuráin was one of the individuals who convinced Madero to resign the presidency when Madero was being held prisoner in the National Palace, claiming that his life was in danger if he refused.

To give the coup d'état an appearance of legality, Huerta had Lascuráin assume the presidency. Lascuráin then appointed Huerta to be his interior minister and promptly resigned, thus handing the office of president over to Huerta. Huerta called a late-night special session of Congress and under the guns of Huerta's troops the legislators endorsed his assumption of power. A few days later, Huerta had Madero and Vice-President José María Pino Suárez killed. The coup and the events surrounding it became known as la decena trágica (the tragic ten days) in Mexico.

Lascuráin was thus president for less than one hour. (Sources quote figures ranging from 15 to 55 minutes.) This makes his presidency the shortest in world history. Huerta subsequently offered him a post in his cabinet, but Lascuráin declined. He retired from politics and began practicing again as a lawyer.

Lascuráin received a law degree in 1880 from the Escuela Nacional de Jurisprudencia in Mexico City. He was mayor of Mexico City in 1910 when Madero began his antireelectionist campaign against Díaz. Lascuráin was a supporter of Madero, and after the later was elected president to replace Díaz, Lascuráin served twice as Mexican foreign secretary in Madero's cabinet (April 10, 1912 to December 4, 1912 and January 15, 1913 to February 18, 1913). In between the two terms he was again mayor of Mexico City. As foreign minister he had to deal with the demands of U.S. Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, who was later involved in planning Huerta's coup.

Lascuráin was the director of the Escuela Libre de Derecho, Mexico City's top law school, for 16 years, and he published extensively on commercial and civil law.

Emiliano Zapata

story image(s)
5 images

Emiliano Zapata Salazar

(August 8, 1879 – April 10, 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution which broke out in 1910, and which was initially directed against the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. He formed and commanded an important revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South.

Zapata was born to Gabriel Zapata and Cleofas Salazar in the small central state of Morelos, in the village of Anenecuilco (modern-day Ayala municipality). He was the ninth out of ten child.He had to care for his family because when Zapata was 17 his father died.He was of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry. At that time, Mexico was ruled by a dictatorship under Porfirio Díaz, who had seized power in 1876 and was the president for 30 years.

The social system of the time was a sort of proto-capitalist feudal system, with large landed estates (haciendas) controlling more and more of the land and squeezing out the independent communities of Native Americans and mestizos, who were then subsequently forced into debt slavery (peonaje) on the haciendas. Díaz ran local elections to pacify the people and run a government that they could argue was self-imposed. Under Díaz, close confidantes and associates were given offices in districts throughout Mexico. These offices became the enforcers of "land reforms" that actually concentrated the haciendas into fewer hands.

Zapata's family, although not enormously wealthy, still retained its independence. They were never in danger of poverty, avoiding peonage and maintaining their own land (rancho). In fact, the family had in previous generations been porfirista, that is, supporters of Díaz. Zapata himself always had a reputation for being a fancy dresser, appearing at bullfights and rodeos in his elaborate charro (cowboy) costume. Though his flashiness would usually have associated him with the rich hacendados who controlled the lands, he seems to have retained the admiration and even adoration of the people of his village, Anenecuilco, so that by the time he was 30, he was the head of the defense committee of the village, a post which made him the spokesman for the village's interests. He was directly elected to this position during the autumn of 1909, just a year before the start of the revolution.

Zapata, who also spoke the indigenous language Nahuatl, was recognized as a leading figure of the largely indigenous Nahua community of Anenecuilco, and he quickly became involved in struggles for the rights of the Indians of Morelos. He was able to oversee the redistribution of the land from some haciendas peacefully, but had problems with others. He observed numerous conflicts between villagers and hacendados over the constant theft of village land, and in one instance, saw the hacendados torch an entire village.

For many years, he campaigned steadfastly for the rights of the villagers, first establishing via ancient title deeds their claims to disputed land, and then pressing the recalcitrant governor of Morelos into action. Finally, disgusted with the slow response from the government and the overt bias towards the wealthy plantation owners, Zapata began making use of armed force, simply taking over the land in dispute.

The 1910 Revolution

At this time, Porfirio Díaz was being threatened by the candidacy of Francisco I. Madero. Zapata made quiet alliances with Madero, whom he perceived to be the best chance for genuine change in the country of Mexico.

In 1910, unrest finally broke out in the formation of guerrilla bands. Zapata quickly took an important role, becoming the general of an army that formed in Morelos – the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Liberation Army of the South).

Zapata joined Madero’s campaign against President Diaz. With the support of Pancho Villa, Pascual Orozco, Emiliano Zapata, and rebellious peons, Madero overthrew Díaz in May of 1911 in the battle at Ciudad Juarez. A provisional government was formed under Francisco Leon de la Barra. Under Madero, some new land reforms were carried out and elections were to be ensured. However, Zapata was dissatisfied with Madero's stance on land reform, and was unable, despite repeated efforts, to make him understand the importance of the issue or to get him to act on it. Madero and Zapata’s relations worsened during the summer of 1911 as Madero appointed a governor who supported plantation owners and refused to meet Zapata’s agrarian goals. Compromises between the two failed in November 1911, days after Madero appointed himself President, and Zapata and Montaño fled to the mountains of southwest Puebla. There they formed the most radical reform plan in Mexico; the Plan de Ayala.

Zapata was partly influenced by an anarchist from Oaxaca named Ricardo Flores Magón. The influence of Flores Magón on Zapata can be seen in the Zapatistas' Plan de Ayala, but even more noticeably in their slogan "Tierra y libertad" or "land and liberty", the title and maxim of Flores Magón's most famous work. Zapata's introduction to anarchism came via a local schoolteacher, Otilio Montaño Sánchez – later a general in Zapata's army, executed on 17 May 1917 – who exposed Zapata to the works of Peter Kropotkin and Flores Magón at the same time as Zapata was observing and beginning to participate in the struggles of the peasants for the land.

The plan proclaimed the Zapatista demands for “land, liberty, and justice”. Zapata also declared the Zapatistas as a counter-revolution and denounced Madero. Zapata mobilized his Liberation Army and allied with former Maderistas Pascual Orozco and Emiliano Vazquez Gomez. Orozco was from Chihuahua, near the U.S. border, and thus was able to aid the Zapatistas with a supply of arms.

Madero, alarmed, asked Zapata to disarm and demobilize. Zapata responded that, if the people could not win their rights now, when they were armed, they would have no chance once they were unarmed and helpless. Madero sent several generals in an attempt to deal with Zapata, but these efforts had little success.

Revolution against Huerta and Carranza:

Madero was soon overthrown by Victoriano Huerta, a former porfirista general, who granted amnesty to Díaz and suppressed resistance to land reforms. General Huerta murdered Madero in February of 1913. In May, Huerta closed the House of the World Worker, which was largely made up of intellectual radicals including Antonio Diaz Soto y Gama. The peasant reaction to this increased the size of Zapata's forces considerably, and also gave rise to a new group in the north: the Villistas under Pancho Villa. The Villistas were mainly composed of Madero supporters. Zapata at first was hesitant to meet with Villa, after Villa vehemently rejected the Plan de Ayala when a Zapatista introduced him to the concept in prison.

Opposition to Huerta coalesced under Venustiano Carranza, who led a Constitutionalist faction with which both Villa and Zapata eventually allied. These forces proved too much for Huerta and he was quickly deposed. Following his defeat, the Constitutionalists set up a convention to decide the form of the new government. Zapata refused to attend the convention, pointing out that none of the attendees had been elected. Instead, the chiefs in Morelos sent a delegation to present the Plan de Ayala for consideration and observe the convention.

Soon thereafter Carranza had himself made head of the government, which sparked further outrage. Initially, Carranza commanded the loyalty of Álvaro Obregón, who suppressed the Villista guerrillas. The Zapatistas, however, remained mobilised, but grew increasingly fractured after many long years of campaigning, in which Gen. Pablo Gonzalez, appointed by Carranza in 1916 to recover the State of Morelos from Zapata's control, hanged many peasants and destroyed property all over the state, with no effect since Zapata's forces continued to fight, even recovering the city of Cuernavaca by mid-1917.

The Carranza regime ultimately put a bounty on Zapata's head, expecting disenfranchised Zapatistas to betray him. It also attempted to entice away the other chiefs in the Zapatista army; neither action proved successful.


Although government forces could never completely defeat Zapata in battle, he fell victim to a carefully staged ambush by Gen. Pablo Gonzalez and his lieutenant, Col. Jesús Guajardo.

Guajardo proposed Gonzalez feign a defection to Zapata's forces. Gonzalez agreed, and to make the defection appear sincere, he arranged for Guajardo to attack a Federal column, killing 57 soldiers. Zapata subsequently agreed to receive a messenger from Guajardo, to arrange a meeting to speak about Guajardo's defection.

On April 10, 1919, Guajardo invited Zapata to a meeting, intimating that he intended to defect to the revolutionaries. However, when Zapata arrived at the Hacienda de San Juan, in Chinameca, Ayala municipality, Guajardo's men riddled him with bullets. They then took his body to Cuautla to claim the bounty, where they are reputed to have been given only half of what was promised.

Following Zapata's death, the Liberation Army of the South slowly fell apart, although Zapata's heir apparent Gildardo Magaña and many other Zapata adherents went on to political careers as representatives of Zapatista causes and positions in the Mexican army and government. Some of his former generals like Genovevo de la O allied with Obregón while others eventually disappeared after Carranza was deposed.


Zapata Biography

story image(s)

Emiliano Zapata is the Mexican rebel leader who said "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." A former sharecropper, he organized and led peasants during the battles of the Mexican Revolution, joining forces with Pancho Villa and others to fight the government of Porfirio Diaz. Zapata supported agrarian reform and land redistribution; his rallying cry was "Land and freedom!" (His positions attracted the support of some urban intellectuals, who linked him to the theories of Karl Marx.) Though Diaz was defeated, Zapata continued to resist subsequent government leaders; he was ambushed and shot by Mexican troops in 1919. Zapata remains a folk hero in Mexico, where his name has often been invoked by rebels like Subcommander Marcos.

Zapata Dies

story image(s)

Contributor: bgill
Created: June 18, 2007 · Modified: June 18, 2007

Start your own page

Only the original contributor of the page can edit this page.