Today in Latin America: This Week in the Mexican Revolution

Speaking of a “Long Decade” for Haiti, this week in 1913 (96 years ago) was a “Long Week” for the Mexican Revolution.

February 9
la-decena-tragicaOn February 9, 1913, Francisco Madero had no idea that this was his end. He was hardly the pinnacle of revolutionary, either in look or action. Those designations, especially with time, have gone to those we know so well today, the Emiliano Zapata’s and Pancho Villa’s. Yet, Madero had the support, albeit begrudgingly, of the peasants and revolutionaries across Mexico. On February 9, 1913, his two-year reign was nearing its end.

This day, however, is remembered as day one of La Decena Trágica, the Ten Tragic Days. This period is remembered more for political misadventures of General Huerta, Félix Díaz, and U.S. ambassador Henry Land Wilson than the sufferings of country at war. La Decena Trágica, however, is the story of Mexico City caught in the middle of a coup d’état.

With rumblings of Porfirio Díaz’s henchmen subsiding, Victoriano Huerta thought 1913 presented him an opportunity to take power from Madero. Huerta entered into a pact with Bernardo Reyes (general under Díaz), Félix Díaz (nephew of Porfirio) and Wilson. Reyes and Félix would “escape” prison (thanks to military cadets outside the city) and begin to wage war against the National Palace, the Zócalo, anything they could shell. Huerta agreed to fight back, regaining his position in the Madero inner circle in his defense of Mexico City, before usurping power. In effect, Mexico City became the ground of a sham war between two sides working for the same goal.

3,000 people were murdered from machine guns, stray bullets, shells, bombs. Even Reyes, the General under Porfirio, was killed in the façade of war. The news of this revolt against the revolution hit home in Morelos and in the North, as troops came and went to lend assistance.

However, Huerta, urged by ambassador Wilson, finally took the opportunity to gain power on February 17 when he had Madero and his vice president Pino Suárez arrested (they would be murdered five days later). Wilson rushed back into the scene with his infamous “Embassy Pact,” that delineated the next three days of Huerta government and his coming to power. As the fog lifted from the bloodshed, Huerta was in power, Madero was dead, the revolution, despite its ambivalence, never supported Huerta. It was only a matter of time before Zapata would agitate once more.

February 16
madero-and-huertaOn the 16th of February, President Taft, on his way out of office, decided not to intervene in Mexico, despite the dubious nature of Wilson and Huerta’s conspiracy. A man like Taft, conservative, imperialist, would not appreciate a man like Madero, no matter how revolutionary he claimed to be. Those like Henry Lane Wilson believed he was working within the ideological boundaries of the Taft White House – this was what it wanted.

Of course, Woodrow Wilson, who became President in March, thought differently. Wilson was shocked by Madero’s murder, Huerta in general (which would lead to Wilson’s, rather brazen, occupation on Veracruz the following year), and Henry Lane Wilson, in particular. Lane Wilson was pulled from his post and President Wilson supported the rising Constitutional Army of future president Carranza, even less revolutionary than Madero, and Pancho Villa.

February 19
Despite the foreshadowing of ruin by Huerta with his back against the wall, on February 19, he became the President of Mexico. In accords with Ambassador Wilson’s “Pact,” Pedro Lascuráin, Madero’s foreign minister (third in the line of succession), was swore in as president. He swiftly (some say one hour, some say fifteen minutes) appointed Huerta interior minister (fourth in the line of succession) and resigned. Huerta, as the line of succession dictates, thus became president of Mexico on February 19.

He faced almost complete opposition from the first minute in office. He was already, in fact, a polarizing figure in the south. Zapata and Villa wanted nothing to do with him. Woodrow Wilson wished to topple his anti-democratic state from his first minute in office. Eventually, Carranza’s “Plan of Guadalupe” effectively ousted Huerta (the plan was supported by Zapata, Villa and Álvaro Obregón) and was exiled on July 15, 1914. He died in New Mexico of cirrhosis of the liver a year later. He is still El Chacal , the jackal, to this day in Mexico.


~ by Daniel on February 11, 2009.

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