sábado, 29 de enero de 2011

The Punitive Mexican Expedition

Brief review of a two-sided story

Patria, México, febrero veintitrés,
dejó Carranza pasar americanos;
dos mil soldados, doscientos aeroplanos,
buscando a Pancho Villa, queriéndolo matar.
Corrido Popular Mexicano

On we sweep with threshing oar,
our only goal will be the western shore.
Led Zeppelin
 Part One

          Mexican Revolution begun, officially, on November 20th 1910, at 1800 hours. A strange case of a Revolution with an exact date to begin,[1] cited by its promoter, Francisco Ygnacio Madero[2] in San Antonio, TX:
7th: the 20th day of November, from 6 P.M. hereinafter, all the Citizens of the Republic take up arms to throw from Power the authorities that actually govern it (Towns separated from communication routes should do it the Eve)[3]
          Madero, born in Coahuila, had powerful democratic convictions and wrote a book named The Presidential Succession in 1910, The National Democratic Party in which he did not only criticized General Porfirio Díaz´s regime, but promoted democracy as the only way to improve life conditions for the Mexican countrymen, for the moment, the gross of Mexican population. At January 1910, Madero arrived to Chihuahua making electoral campaign and meeting Abraham Pablo Ladislao González Casavantes, lead of Chihuahua´s anti-reelection movement. El Imparcial, Government official newspaper, published the next article in January 29th 1910:

THE FAMOUS MADERO´S TOUR. Chihauhua, January the 17th.- Completely unnoticed passed the presence of the so called “lead” of Anti-Reelection Party, Francisco I. Madero, who arrived this City yesterday morning from El Paso, TX. Here, as in Sonora and Sinaloa, Madero got a rounded failure in his political propaganda, such expected thing ´cause he lacks the capabilities necessary to carry on the task he has taken in his hands as if it was a sport;[4] as an orator, politician and writer, he´s a nullity. His famous book The Presidential Succession, filled with mistakes and contradictions, has been knackered in all its arguments by people capable that have analyzed it. The new “Messiah”, deeply disappointed for he´s lack of success, left today heading to his wine lands, where he probably stay in retirement, convinced he´s going nowhere.[5]

Francisco I. Madero,
Leader of Anti-Reelection Party
          It’s said that Madero and Villa meet for the first time there, but it might be a mistruth ‘cause Madero would damage his image meeting a notorious bandit in from northern México. 
          Madero had been part of Liberal Mexican Party of Flores Magón brothers since 1903, but separated from it founded the Mexican Anti-Reelection Centre, recruiting independent power people from almost all the states of the Republic facing the reyistas, supporters of General Bernardo Reyes, military man possibly the successor of Díaz in presidency. But Díaz, about to celebrate his 80th birthday on September 15th 1910, coincidently with National Independence anniversary, sent Bernardo Reyes in a negligible commission to Europe clearing his way to reelection. Reyistas, disappointed and headless, found in Madero´s movement their claim and added to his cause. This is probably the moment in that a political movement turned on an armed revolution: Madero´s party and the reyistas celebrated a national convention in México City, 1910, in which Francisco Madero and Francisco Vázquez Gómez formed the duo trying to get the Presidency. Díaz could not allow this people get the power and instrumented an insidious harassment campaign on them, leading to Madero being arrested aside to Roque Estrada, his speaker colleague at Monterrey, Nuevo León:

DON FRANCISCO I. MADERO WAS ARRESTED IN MONTERREY. Monterrey, June the 7th.- Last night at 11:30, moments in that Madero and other people were at train station ready to aboard and head North, he was arrested by Lieutenant Colonel Morelos Zaragoza, police general inspector, who made of Madero´s knowledge that he was being arrested ´cause of the responsibility derived of constant calls he had made to people to rebellion and following a Federal Judge order. Mister Madero was immediately taken to police station where he was briefly held prisoner while he was sent to County Jail, where he´s since.[6]

General Porfirio Díaz Mori, Mexican President from
November-December 1876, February 1877-November 1880 and
December 1884-May 1911
         After that, Madero was sent to San Luis Potosí and held prisoner restricted to City limits. Díaz instrumented in October a pantomime to send Madero to Jail and instructed Colonel Samuel García Cuéllar, in México City, to telegraph San Luis Military garrison orders to re-arrest Madero. The telegrapher, José H. Portillo, maderista at the time, sent the message to San Luis where the receiver telegrapher, Rubén Durán, another maderista, warned Madero. He sneaked from the city on October 5th, heading the border and reaching San Antonio, TX, where he was received by the anti-reelection party adepts and promulgated, the so called Plan de San Luis Potosí. In the northern side of the Border, Madero´s people moved frenetically to get weapons and money to support the fight they were about to begin. 
          Here is a glimpse of the emerging involvement of some Americans in the saga of the revolution.
          As I said in the beginning, Mexican revolution was dated to begin at November the 20th but, as a matter of fact, it began seven days before, when Toribio Ortega Ramírez, Cuchillo Parado, Chihuahua´s anti-reelection leader knew of the movement of Federal Army troops moving to his hometown and made a revolt in this little sierra city and head the mountains immediately.[7]

General Toribio Ortega Ramírez
The first skirmish of the Mexican Revolution 
was led by this man in Cuchillo Parado, Chihuahua

          It was in Chihuahua Sate, cradle of Revolution, where Villa had his putative hometown. Would it be pretentious to ask –retoricaly, who was Pancho Villa and after made a circumspect apology of the motifs pushed him to do what he did? Sure it would. It will be as pretentious as calling an expedition “punitive”, the castigadora. It would be as pretentious to do that as it would be to pigeonhole Villa´s role in the Mexican Robin Hood paper that most of people know, stereotyped by movies and official history in both sides of the Mexican-American border. Villa was not a social bandit, nor an avenger. He was a man that read between the lines of that war the chance of benefiting all people of his land, a territory that for Villa was everything: a little strip of the planet extending from Texan border cities to Mexico City, a place that, by the way, he didn´t like.[8]
          So, who was this Pancho Villa?

In San Juan del Río, at July 7th, 1878, before me, Jesús García Quiñones, Civil Judge, came Agustín Arango aside witnesses Gregorio Acevo and Ignacio Alvarado and stated that: June 5th by the afternoon was born in Río Grande a child to be named Doroteo, legitimate son of Agustín Arango and Micaela Arámbula and that his paternal grandparents are Antonio Arango and Faustina Vela and his maternal grandparents are Trinidad Arámbula and María de Jesús Álvarez, every single one neighbors of such place. So I, the stated judge, send to made the act that I read to the interested and witnesses named, whom agreed to its content and signed with me one of the witness not doing so the other. We give faith, Jesús Quiñones and Ignacio Alvarado, signs.[9]

          Villa´s father died or let his family when Doroteo was ten years old and the child assumed the debts his father let to his mother, working for López Negrete family, owners of the land and the destinies of the people of that shire. If we attend the legend, Doroteo was coming home (an adobe square in the middle of nowhere) when he found his mother embracing his little sister Martina, defending her from three men. Villa took a pistol belonging to a cousin of him and wounded López Negrete in a leg (not likely ´cause as demonstrated lately, Villa was a great shooter. A Villa´s historiographer named Nellie Campobello stated that her grandfather saw Villa once in an open country rifle contest: “There´s no doubt. Great one with the rifle, this Gorrachueca, this Pancho Villa”),[10] in 1894. So, Doroteo escaped to the sierra and begun his life of outlaw. This is the official version of the beginnings of Pancho Villa´s Legend.
          But this may lead to many pages of Villa´s early life. It is not the intention for this review.
          What we do know is that Villa couldn´t get the stability of most people in his time. Living in the sierras and being prisoner more than one time, Villa escaped from jail and the rifle wall more than once because of his luck and the intervention of his older brothers. He joined the gavilla (gang) of Ignacio Parra and Refugio Alvarado, the hunchback, by 1896: Hey, blondie (…) we know to steal and kill. We say this for you do not get scared.[11] Leaving Durango where his name was more notorious that he would want, Villa reached Chihuahua and tried to begun a “normal” life, running butchery. Trough these years, getting in and out of law, Villa got in contact with Abraham González. 

 Pancho Villa and his wife, in Chihuahua
           González was a rancher from Chihuahua and Villa took trades with him that soon became more than only commercial. Abraham saw Villa as a potential ally in his wide and deep relations with people in the state of Chihuahua. We must keep in mind that Villa raids along the south of the State let him with a great network of friends and compadres

Madero and other chiefs of the Revolution.
Immediately to Madero´s right, Abraham González, his arm resting in a partner´s shoulder

 Allow me to make a parenthesis. Villa had many wives, at least twenty seven, and twenty six sons and daughters. But he did not like too much weddings, but comrades, compadres. He knew that in Northern México, there´s nothing more important than fidelity. He did know that fidelity is important and that comrades and compadres are people you can count anytime. This is the way the División del Norte became the only regular army in the Mexican Revolutions. Let´s stand this clear.
Northern Division of the army was a hierarchy corps based in the power of the troops represented in one man. On dawn of September the 13th 1913, at Hacienda de La Loma, Durango, there was a meeting of regional commanders of the maderista factions of the Revolution. Every single one of those men (Pancho Villa, Toribio Ortega, Fidel Ávila, Trinidad Rodríguez, Agustín Estrada, Julián Granados, Feliciano Domínguez, Maclovio Herrera, Federico Chapoy, Ernesto García, Eulogio Ortíz, Luis Herrera, Tomás Urbina, José E. Rodríguez, Rodolfo Fierro, Pablo Seáñez, Petronilo Hernández, Orestes Pereyra, Calixto Contreras, Severino Ceniceros, Mateo Almanza, Uriel Loya, José Carrillo, Valente Ita, Máximo Mejía, Canuto Pérez, Bibiano Hernández, Pedro Favela, Eugenio Aguirre Benavides, Juan E. García, José Isabel Robles, Sixto Ugalde, Raúl Madero, Benjamín Yuriar, Máximo García, Juan Pablo Estrada, Santiago Ramírez, Mariano López, Canuto Reyes, Roque González Garza, Enrique Santos Coy and many others) represented a faction of the revolution, leading their region, their town, their men. They elected Villa as the head of the corps that shall, in the next months, fight against the traitors of Madero´s revolution. The Northern Division was a regular army corps represented by one man that owed everything to his people. That one man was Pancho Villa.
          But before this, Abraham González introduced Villa to Madero. Taibo II cites Silvestre Terrazas in these terms: suspicious as anyone, Villa went to the meeting in company of one of his more confident men, el tuerto (cause he was missing an eye) Domínguez, arriving at afternoon dawn, without finding Abraham. They waited in a wide door (…) after that, lead of regional Anti-Reelectionism arrived, saluting the ensarapados. Villa said: It was a dark room and we throw out our cuetes (pistols).[12]
          What did Madero said to Villa? We will never know, but Villa turned into a devote anti-reelectionism partidary. Enrique Krauze, Mexican historian, same as other historiographers, takes the easy way: they say that Villa saw in Madero a kind of redemption; other says that Villa saw in the Revolution a way to take his lewd instincts into a socially accepted way. They may be wrong, I think.
          So, Villa added himself to a Revolution that hadn´t even begun. 

 Francisco Villa

[1] Portilla S, Maderismo, Relatos e Historias en México, year 2, number 27, México, November 2010, pages 28-41
[2] Birth document of Madero says: Goberment of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza, Birth of D. Francisco I. Madero, The Citizen Lic. Humberto Gómez Villareal, Major Officer (…) certifies that (…) Birth document number 2 of child FRANCISCO YGNACIO MADERO. At center.- At city of Parras de la Fuente, at twenty and seven days of January of one thousand eigth hundred and seventy four, at ten o’clock, came Mr. Don Francisco Madero, 24 yo, married, farmer and neighbor of Hacienda del Rosario from this Jurisdiction and said: since the 30th day of October from last year one thousand eight hundred and seventy three, did born in the house he lives in the same Hacienda a legitimate son from his and wife Doña Merced González, 19 yo, a child they’ve call FRANCISCO YGNACIO MADERO (…), from La página del Bicentenario, consulted at http://www.bicentenario.gob.mx on Jaunary 22nd, 2010
[3] Madero FI, Manifiesto a la Nación, Plan de San Luís Potosí, Mecanoscrito original con correcciones del Sr. Francisco I. Madero, Plan de San Luis, Documentos facsimilares, Institutional Revolutionary Party, Electoral National Commision, México, 1976, pages 3 and 4, cited from http://www.bibliotecas.tv/zapata/1910/plan.html, page 7, at January 22nd 2010
[4] In English in the original, note from author.
[7] Salmerón P, La Divisón del Norte, the land, the men and the history of a people´s army, Booklet, Planeta Mexicana editorial, México, 2006, page 128
[8] Taibo II, PI, Pancho Villa, a narrative biography, Planeta Mexicana editorial, México, 2006, page 10
[9] Caudet Yarza F, Pancho Villa, Great Illustrious Mexicans collection, Dastin S. L. editors, Madrid, circa 1994, p. 11-12
[10] Taibo II, Op. cit.
[11] Taibo II, Op. cit. page 35
[12] Taibo II, Op. cit. page 53. “Cuete” is the colloquial word to name a pistol. It´s not an onomatopoeia in the strict sense of the word because do not reproduces the sound of an explosion, but it means something that makes an explosive sound.

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