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BORDER NEWS & ISSUES

The Border Is Here - Spring 2002
by Ron Pamachena, Palominas, Arizona

The Mexican Revolution

The Golden Eagle In Winter - Mexico On Ice

Muchas Gracias

 

The Mexican Revolution

by Ron Pamachena (The Border Is Here, Spring 2002) 

            The towns just across the border from southeastern Arizona are important to the history of all Mexico.  They are important mostly because they had battles of different stages of the Mexican Revolution.  Rebels at all stages were attracted to the border towns, because if they took them, they had all the money from customs instead of the federal government.  In  May 1911, Juarez, across from El Paso, was the largest city in Mexico along the border with the United States.  Once Juarez fell to rebels Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa, their political leader, Francisco Madero, had Juarez's customs money, instead of president Porfirio Díaz.  By June, Madero became Mexico's president, and Díaz left for exile in Europe. 

            Porfirio Díaz had ruled Mexico since 1876.  Mexico was still recovering from driving out France 10 years earlier, and fighting civil wars.  It had little industry and few railroads, the fastest means of transportation of the time.  Díaz collected advisors both from Mexico and overseas, and investment from all over the world.  Mexico developed much during the rule of Díaz, from what it had been like before.  However, very little of this wealth got to most people.  In 1910, the year of the last Mexican census under Díaz, only 1 of 6 people in Mexico could read and write.  Díaz and his advisors tried to get as much wealth and power as possible.  Many people were forced off their land, and land came under the control of a few.  The Creel and Terrazas families each had control of about 10,000 square miles in the state of Chihuahua by 1910.  Tenants on the land were often put into debt by landowners for life, and stopped by Díaz's police if they tried to leave.  There were many small rebellions against this system before 1910; a map in Chihuahua City's bus station in 1990 showed all the actions in the state from 1892 to 1910.  Francisco Madero was from a landowning family in Coahuila, on the other side of Chihuahua from Sonora,  that had become unhappy because Díaz favored a neighboring family in its water disputes with the Maderos.  Once Madero offered himself as a political leader, the actions became coordinated, and became the Mexican Revolution.  A month before the rebels took Juarez, they took Agua Prieta, but they were driven out in 3 days. 

            Madero could not satisfy either the biggest rebels like Emiliano Zapata in the south, or his former war leader Orozco in the north.  He could not satisfy more conservative leaders like Victoriano Huerta.  In 1913, Huerta and his allies destroyed much of Mexico City in a fake battle, and then they turned on Madero and killed him. 

            Venustiano Carranza had become governor of Coahuila under Madero, and decided to flee Coahuila rather than be killed by Huerta.  Pancho Villa had been saved by Madero from being shot by Huerta, for disobeying Huerta's orders not to take the town of Torreon, Coahuila in a battle.  He escaped prison in Mexico City before Huerta killed Madero.  Carranza went to Sonora, where he allied with war leader Alvaro Obregón.  Both Carranza and Villa made their way to Mexico City.  Both took almost a year and a half, from February 1913 to July 1914, to go south.  Carranza got there first, when Obregón cut off the coal supply of Villa's trains.  Huerta went into exile, and died in El Paso in 1916. 

            Obregón could only hold the capital for a month, against the local warlords.  Villa finally came, but could only hold the capital for a week.  By the late summer of 1914, Obregón and Villa thoroughly distrusted each other.  To try to make peace between them and their local allies in the north, Carranza sent them together to a peace conference in Nogales.  This failed.  Obregón and Carranza stayed together, and Pancho Villa broke from both.  Their allies fought to a standoff in Naco in the winter of 1914 and 1915. 

            Obregón moved into the towns of Celaya, Aguascalientes, and La Trinidad near Leon, all just northwest of Mexico City, in the spring of 1915.  He put his troops inside trenches inside barbed wire, as trrops were doing in France at the same time in World War I.  Villa sent waves of his trrops against those of Obregón, but he could not dislodge them anywhere.  By summer, Villa had only 6,700 men possible for him to command, instead of the 20,000 he had before.  By fall, Villa held only the state of Chihuahua. 

            All was not totally lost for Villa, since one of his allies now held most of Sonora, and other supporters of his held Baja California, west of Sonora along the border.  Villa decided to gather 3,500 men and attack Agua Prieta.  All along since 1913, it had been held by Obregón ally Plutarco Elias Calles.  Carranza and Obregón decided to stop the raids of Mexican bandits into Texas, and have the United States recognize them since they had held Mexico City for all of 1915.  They then got the United States to let them ship 3,500 men by rail from Piedras Negras, Coahuila through Eagle Pass, Texas and Douglas, to Agua Prieta.  Calles put them into trenches and fenced them in with barbed wire, with the 600 men he already had.  As farther south in the spring, Villa could not dislodge them.  He left Agua Prieta in 3 days, on November 2, 1915, with about 1,000 men less than he had when he came.  Villa turned south to Fronteras and Hermosillo, and lost in both.  The next month, Carranza and Obregón entered Chihuahua, and removed him from power there.  Pancho Villa became an outlaw again, as he was before 1910. 

            Obregón decided to run for president of Mexico formally, under the constitution he and Carranza had sponsored in 1917.  However, Carranza wanted to put a puppet in, so he could make sure he could become president again in 1924.  Obregón broke with Carranza, and got Calles and other generals to support him.  Calles and other supporters of Obregón met, and wrote the Plan of Agua Prieta in a coffee house there.  Carranza was killed before he could make his way to the port of Veracruz and exile.  The interim president before Obregón formally became president in 1920 made peace both with Villa in the north and the successors of Zapata in the south.  Carranza had had Zapata killed the year before. 

            People would become dissatisfied with Obregón, and one would assassinate him in 1928, before he could become president instead of Calles.  People who were dissatisfied with the actions of Calles against the Catholic Church, as well as individual generals, would rebel against the government until 1935.  General Pablo Escobar came to Cananea and Naco in 1929, but could not hold them for long.  Historians in and outside Mexico disagree on when the Mexican Revolution ended.  Sinnce his interim president, Francisco de la Barra, briefly got everyone in Mexico to agree that Alvaro Obregón was now in charge, 1920 is the best year to say the Mexican Revolution ended, 10 years after it started. 

            Mexico had 12 million people in 1910.  It is estimated that 1.5 million were killed or fled Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.  Most of those who fled went to the United States.  The town of Guadalupe near Phoenix, and the Pascua Yaqui reservation near Tucson, were started in 1913 by refugees from the Mexican Revolution in Sonora.  Had the Civil War in the United States 50 years earlier happened on this scale, 4 million would have been killed or fled, instead of the 600,000 who were.  So, the effects of the Revolution on Mexico were even greater than the effects of the Civil War, such as race relations, on the United States.


The Golden Eagle in Winter - Mexico on Ice

by Ron Pamachena - (The Border Is Here, Spring 2002) 

            Mexico on ice is not just frozen margaritas, or other drinks with tequila, brandy, or rum that have crushed ice in them, or are on the rocks.  Most places in Mexico can get cold, and some can get seriously cold.  There is enough cold to make many think that they can survive the journey to the United States, with what little winter clothing they have.  There is little skiing in Mexico, for there is not enough snow in any area that can be easily traveled to, to support a ski area.  Six cities in Mexico have ice rinks.  In all of them, there are enough people to have youth hockey teams and tournaments.  Mexico even had three competitors in this year's Winter Olympics in and around Salt Lake City, Utah.  They entered the skeleton and 2-man bobsled events.

            Those around here can see the mountains on the other side of the border, and know snow and cold do not stop at it in the winter.  The largest area that gets very cold for long periods every winter in Mexico is the Chihuahuan Desert.  Generally, it is east and south of here.  In Mexico, it covers most of the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Durango, and some of the states of Nuevo Leon, Sonora, and Zacatecas.  Here, Naco and Agua Prieta are in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Temperatures can get down to 14° (-10° C.) every winter.  It gets cold enough in the mountains at the western edge of the Chihuahuan Desert for them to have aspen trees.  Temperatures have gotten down to 5° (-15° C.) in these areas.

            Farther south in west central Mexico, there are the Nevado de Colima and the Volcán de Colima.  The Nevado de Colima translates to "snow-covered Mt. Colima", is 14,600 feet high.  The Volcán de Colima at 13,077 feet does not have snow stick to it.  As the name suggests, it has already erupted this year.  Both are very near Guadalajara, so all three of Mexico's Winter Olympic competitors have visited them, and considered training on them.

            East of Mexico City, there are Orizaba, Popocatépetl, and Iztacchihuatl.  Orizaba, at 18,406 feet, and Iztacchihuatl, at 17,126 feet, have snow on them all the time.  At 17,887 feet, Popocatépetl would have snow, but it has had volcanic activity the last two years.  Mexico City itself is from 7,400 to 7,800 feet in altitude.  Even as far south as it is, it has frosts on some winter mornings every year.

            The La Pista group has 3 ice rinks in Mexico City, one in Puebla, and one in Cuernavaca.  Iceland is a rink in Guadalajara.  There are also rinks in Leon and Ciudad Juarez.  All have youth hockey clubs.  The youth hockey clubs in Aguascalientes use nearby Iceland, and those in Monterrey travel more than 200 miles to use a rink in San Antonio, Texas.

            Roberto Tamés and Roberto Lauderdale represented Mexico in the 2-man bobsled in the Winter Olympics.  This event was won by Germans.  Tamés and Lauderdale finished 35th out of 35.  The Mexican in the skeleton was Luis Carrasco.  He had become noted enough in the press to get the nickname "El Cuaz".  The skeleton was won by American Jim Shea, whose grandfather, winner of 2 gold medals in the 1932 Olympics, was killed in an auto accident less than 3 weeks before the event.  El Cuaz finished 26th out of 26 competitors in the event.  Hopefully, the Mexicans had as much fun at the Olympics in general as the one compeititor from Costa Rica, or the two from Armenia.

            The Mexican Federation of Ice Skating and Winter Sports both conducts youth hockey leagues and helps competitors get to the Olympics.  Mexico does not have as much snow and cold in the winter as Germany or the United States, so it will never be a major world competitor in winter sports.  It does have enough snow and cold for some to be burdened by it, and others to play in it.


Muchas Gracias

(Ron Pamachena, The Border Is Here, Spring 2002) 

            I have gotten the chance observe the many activities of Mexican people, from a lawmaker speaking at a trade meeting about what Mexico wanted to do for border business, to crossers who had just reached the border only to find themselves soaked from a cold early morning rain and almost without anything to go on.  I have also observed American people, from those able to get their governments or organizations to spend much money, to those who get occasional odd jobs just to last a day or so.  I have also gotten to see Mexican and American activity by print, and now much more so, by digital means.  In the 7 years that I have been here, I have yet to see any two persons exactly alike.  Not only that, no one I have observed here has been exactly like any person I saw in the 40 years before that.  In general, however, every Mexican and American I have seen has behaved in the same way, even though the details are different. 

            The Mexican Revolution was a sequence of events driven by a few who led many over 10 years.  The emotion of the events was made greater by experiences that the leaders had before.  Pancho Villa spent 15 years as an outlaw going between the city and countryside of Chihuahua, before being a leader in the Revolution.  Even Venustiano Carranza, who was used to a comfortable existence, had his father's stories from the French Intervention 50 years before, and his own four months on the run from Victoriano Huerta from Coahuila to Sonora and back. 

            Now here is some of what Villa, Carranza, and the other leaders achieved in the Mexican Revolution. 

            Thousands were killed, as in the period of more than a year Villa and Carranza took to move from the north to Mexico City, and in Carranza's drive to get all of Mexico afterwards and Villa's attempt to hold all he had gotten.  Eventually, Pancho Villa would meet Carranza's allies here in Agua Prieta.  One was Lázaro Cárdenas, who would eventually throw out his commander then, Plutarco Elias Calles, become president of Mexico himself from 1934 to 1940, and live a respected life in Mexico until 1970.  In Mexico, November 2 is a memorial holiday, the Day of the Dead.  Before Spain came, the people of southern and central Mexico believed that their ancestors would come back and enjoy the last days of their fall harvest festivals with them.  Northern Mexico did not observe this day much at all.  Pancho Villa and his enemies in Agua Prieta provided northern Mexico with a reason to observe November 2.  Mexicans no matter where they are have very strong family traditions.  Just as southern Mexicans always have, and as people in many American towns do on Memorial Day, northern Mexicans have picnics, and leave many flowers at cemeteries on November 2.  

            Many Mexican families managed to get out of the country rather than be killed.  Stories about their escapes added even more emotion to family traditions than they had already.  The emotion helps draw others to forget hazards as summer heat in the deserts here and lower in Arizona, the cold in the winter even here, and coyotes ready to take as much of their money as possible during their journeys.  Come join us and our families here for a little while or for good, the gringos may occupy most of the land here, but there are jobs and security in our neighborhoods.  American employers are willing to hire them to help them get ahead themselves, and American local leaders look for their votes and other help to advance in their own political careers.  

            Back in Mexico, a constitution was made in 1917 to try to wrap up all the fighting and make new rules for governing the country.  It was still not until 2000, little more than one year ago and 80 years after the fighting in the Mexican Revolution ended, that Mexico could make a change of presidents to another political party, without having that party overthrow the party in power first.  Vicente Fox is still the president of Mexico.  Yet, many Mexicans still follow tradition and come through the border here on their way to neighborhoods in the United States, as those caught by the Border Patrol here as Fox was making his inaugural address.   

Though the fighting in it ended 80 years ago, the Mexican Revolution continues to affect Mexico as well as the United States, both on the border here and in their interiors. 

Yet, there are happier things in Mexico, as the boy from Hermosillo pictured in its newspaper enjoying new toys, or ice skaters and competitors in the Winter Olympics this year.  As Vicente Fox, Mexico's Olympic competitor Roberto Lauderdale was certainly born into the upper classes; those born of foreign parents in Mexico have the choice of enjoying life in the upper classes or leaving the country.  I do not know if the boy, or the other Olympic competitors, "El Cuaz" or Roberto Támes, were born into the upper classes in Mexico.  If they were not, the Mexican Revolution gave them the chance to move there, even if they still had to be lucky to do so.  Americans, as well as Mexicans, would certainly rather be in their positions than those of Mexico's migrants. 

I do not know my own future yet.  I thank all of you who have helped me get by here so I could observe these things over the last 7 years,  and are helping me now.  Hasta luego,  posiblemente?

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