A luxury afforded the owner of a web page is the freedom to sound off and thousands of visitors, worldwide, tune-in. This fractal receives well over one thousand visitors a month. The Alligator reports have received thousands of Mexican visitors during the four years they have been posted: gracias amigos Mexicanos.
Early 1997 three of us were talking under the bullet hole Pancho Villa, supposedly, shot into the ceiling of the Café La Opera. Two Mexican friends were welcoming me to Mexico.
“Whatever happens in the up-coming election”, Hugo, sipping his Corona, assured, “the PRI has given Mexico nearly seven decades of peace.”
Ummmmm, thought I, you wont find a statue of Hernan Cortes anywhere in Mexico.
Now let’s reel back from there. Northern England 1941, an exclusive private school, Lisvane, had a library shelf creaking with National Geographic magazines. Then an English schoolboy still believed in Empire, and geography was the subject.
I loved escaping into those profusely illustrated, sexy, magazines. The Mayans were accorded lots of space: bloodthirsty Aztecs too. Cenotes, those lime stone sink holes proliferating in Yucatan, according to many articles, hid a trove of treasure accumulated from the sacrifice of pretty young maidens weighed down with exotic jewelry as they were thrown into the water filled holes: to appease Chac, the rain god. From then on I was hooked.
The victors write history! Who are the victors in Mexico? Naive as I am, I offer an answer, this fractal version: no one!
Mind, though, I am no neophyte. I have traveled Mexico extensively for four decades: including living in Mexico City for nearly two years. Reading any thing Mexican is recreation. Carlos Fuentes perceptively demonstrates an autochthonous scatological sense of humour in “The Years with Laura Diaz” when describing how Laura’s husband met his demise: read it!
You are, therefore about to read, gracias, my take on twentieth century Mexico: use it or lose it!
One thing must be established unequivocally. There was no revolution in Mexico at the beginning of the twentieth century. There was a civil war. The Juarez concept of liberalism, interrupted by the Porfiriato, was continued for the landed classes: Madero, Huerta, Carranza and Obregon. Nothing has changed! The Anencuilco concept was doused by the assassination of Zapata. Plutarcho Calle set the country up. Lazaro Cardenas’ presidency provided a brief interlude but the subsequent era of PRI / PAN repression continues to this day.
Through the medium of this fractal I have nominated seven milestones as a guide to another parallel view: one contrary, and more credible, to that written by the ”victors”, bringing us full circle. My choices are based on what lasting effect, good or bad, each had on Mexico. Conventional wisdom has much different choices: why not Venustiano Carranza, for instance? Well . . . Carranza's brief presidency continued the Porfiriato with little change.
Inevitably milestones are famous powerful, extraordinary luminaries of history: five of mine follow suite. I have included an anonymous "revolutionary" guerrilla, the beginning of the upheaval and concluding with the end result. All the highfalutin greats would be nothing without the men and women who fought to free themselves from the debt at the tiendas de raya.
Excepting the guerrilla, who preceded our time frame and survives to this day, my milestones are arranged in chronological order: not in importance for it is a subjective value judgment as to who in history is more important, especially in view of official lies, propaganda and willful dissembling. The very purpose here is to eschew all that!
My milestones mark historically significant traumas that have molded modern Mexico.
Milestones! Surely the "revolutionary" quartet, Carranza, Obregon, Villa, Zapata are milestones: icons? Indeed they are and they have been eulogized ad nauseum, essentially, for what they did not achieve. All were assassinated.
Carranza was a control freak in the Porfirio Diaz mold; Villa was not presidential material and he knew it. Without Angeles he would be a lesser historical figure; Obregon, enlightened to a certain extent, was a very cruel yet cunning operator and Zapata had a vision for his Anenecuilco neighbours that stopped there. None actually changed the course of the country. Their promises notwithstanding, only Zapata’s vision saw land reform as the essential issue. Their followers sacrifices remained unfulfilled, nay, ignored!
The peon above was the backbone of the "revolutionary" vision. He fought well and obediently in his serape and huaraches. And in the end he got nothing: except that his numbers brought about limited land reform even though they had to wait twenty years for Cardenas.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna rates a milestone. Hidalgo, Guerrero and Iturbide came before, of course, and the struggle for independence and empire was bloody and fruitless. Later, Santa Anna's childish, arrogant irresponsibility, as it diminished the country, weighs heavily on the Mexican psyche even today. Scars left by this neurotic, inflicted in the previous century, cannot be ignored when apprising today's events.
As for independence . . . the term itself is a malevolent myth. Mexico, Canada, the two outer edges of the American Empire are no more independent than the over arching globalization myth of free-trade allows them to be!
Everyone knows the legend of the Alamo. Mexico tries to forget the humilating distortion of the battle of San Jacinto. Well, thank Santa Anna for that! And mark how his over weaned ego lost half of Mexico’s northern territories. In mid nineteenth century Mexico was comparatively strong and wealthy. Today Mexico vegetates as a result of his, incompetent vain leadership.
For sheer chutzpah Santa Anna takes the breath away. Even more incredulous is that he got away with his antics. And “got away” with his antics is the key. No leader has the power to pull a country into decline without the tacit complicity of the people. It is good to remember that when considering today’s bureaucratic oligarchy. Santa Anna is also one of the few Mexican power addicts to die in his bed.
The tragedy of Jose Vasconcelos and Felipe Angeles. Had events transpired either one or both should have been president.
Had Doroteo Arango listened to the advice of General Angeles preceding the battle of Celaya Mexico could well be a different country today. As it was the myth, ”Pancho Villa” wrought its infection: the psychosis of power had set in.
General Filipe Angeles was a skilled artillery officer. His bombardments often saved the day from Villas reckless cavalry charges. I have difficulty understanding how such a sophisticated cultured individual was able to countenance Villa: indeed, they ultimately fell-out, wandering aimlessly until their demise.
Give General Alvaro Obregon, the victor at Celaya, credit, he had done his homework. While on his farm in Sonora he studied trench warfare tactics. Doroteo on the other hand by his own admission only, ”wanted to fight!” His cavalry pounded Obregon’s trenches, wave after wave, of course hopelessly, against barbwire and booby traps. The bandido against the cientifico.
Despite the pretensions of the Porfiriato, the battle of Celaya was Mexico’s baptism into the modern world.
Had President Alvaro Obregon and his fellow Sonorans been more judicious in his handling of the Catholic Church the Cristiada could have been avoided. The incident at Café Bombilla in San Angel may not have been. Be that as it may he was an enlightened president, effecting many reforms. Not the least in Mexico’s intellectual life. General Angeles should have been on his side!
Such were the vicissitudes of the Mexican "revolution", it must have been difficult to choose sides or, indeed, to know which side was which from week to week!
Well, I’ve got this far without mentioning Maximilian Hapsburg and Benito Juarez.
They are the milestones of a different Mexico.
Juarez, a supposed liberal, led the war to rid Mexico of Napoleon lll’s imposed acolyte. It was all about renunciation of debt. The Europeans wanted their money. Mexico didn’t have it. How Maximilian was supposed to repay the debt seems to have been lost in the chaos of war.
Maximilian, in theory an imposed despot, was in practice a liberal with a limited vision of land reform. Juarez got rid of Maximilian, becoming the monster he deposed. Selling off church properties to pay off the debt he re-sold them to the haciendados. He should have distributed the land to the peasants. Ultimately, Benito Juarez, the Liberal, set the stage for the repressive regime of the Porfiriato. Accordingly I have difficulty elevating him, or indeed, Maximilian as milestones.
To continue. Jose Vasconcelos was the intellectual of the Mexican "revolution". An appointee of Obregon he held many ministerial posts. But for him we may never have heard of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, David Sequeiros nor many of the other great Mexican talents.
That is "revolution". Indeed the very word implies change and so often it belies its own outcome. The Mexican "revolution"" was supposedly a reaction to the oppression of the Porfiriato. In which case to use the word is meaningless for even to this day repression is Mexico’s daily life.
Can anyone dispute, President Cardenas was one of the world’s greatest politicians? He did far more than nationalize the oil industry: establishing Pemex. His record of land distribution out performs every other president on the issue before or since. He actually listened to his constituency and carried out his program. And he survived.
Cardenas, fortuitously, was Plutarcho Calle's misjudgment. Calles saw in him another stooge. In no time Cardenas showed who was boss, actually eschewing the Sonorans’ modus operandi, and instigating the most wide-sweeping reforms of any president, or politician worldwide. As a milestone he's cool.
Now that Mexico has opened up slightly, thanks to Cardenas, a faded light is beginning to expose the complicity of, then, interior minister to President Diaz Ordaz, Luis Echeverria. Who gave the order in 1968 in Tlatelolco? Who sent the “Halcones” on Corpus Christi Thursday 1971?
I was in Mexico during the election in 1969 that brought Echeverria to the presidency. I remember much palaver and the name: I remember little of his opponent, if indeed he had a serious opponent! As president of the Republic Echeverria visited the habitat conference held in Vancouver BC 1976. I was briefly introduced to him.
Echeverria heralded the age of the buttoned down bureaucrat. Ernesto Ponce de Leon Zedillo was his indistinguishable heir. How will Vincente Fox Quesada compare? True to form, evidently. At least he has converted three Chiapas army camps into community centers: some reform. Sub Comandant Marcus's nation-wide "other campaign" may well be prescient. Zedillo didn’t have the imagination to do that!
There is no doubt in my mind that the likes of Echeverria, Salinas and Zedillo are, justifiable, the reason why the PRI can be accused of betraying the "revolution". Now can be added the PAN: and the Lopez Obrado affair has revealed Vincente, Don Coca-Cola, Fox Quesada in his true and sullied colours.
Yet despite what a small minority see as betrayal the beat goes on.
My dear friend, Elisabet had a well paying job at Pemex. Is she typical? I dunno, she probably is. Anyway she treated El presidente with the awe and respect of a religious icon. She was catholic, of course, yet I suspect her reverence for El presidente superceded El papa! From Elisabet I acquired a limited insight into the lasting effects of the tragedy of some ninety odd years ago. To all intents and purposes, if I read her correctly, the "revolution" never happened!
So, looking back, how far have we come? The gratuitous slaughter in Mexico in the years between 1911 and 1928, horrifying it is, pales in comparison to the slow-drip continual, colonial slaughter inflicted on the world today.
NAFTA, globalization, whatever, is wreaking havoc with no end in sight: Zedillo thinks it is the panacea. Vincente Fox Quesada wants to join Puebla and Panama at the hip: another excuse to transfer public wealth into private hands. Here come Carlos Slim - again. No one has learnt a damn thing.
Oh but wait a minute. We have learnt something! We, or to be more specific, our inglorious politicians, (aye and with our compliance) have learnt just how much they can get away with: and it is one hell of a lot!
That opening comment about Cortes may have seemed out of context. I placed it to remind us of the lurking horror that started the American saga on the wrong course: ergo, did the Pristas preside, Aguas Blancas, Acteal aside, over seven decades of peace? Cortes set the tenor that has lasted even up to today, on-going. Was it a peace of the grave?
Emiliano Zapata was the "revolution". His followers fought for real change. He didn’t want to sit in that chair. He was five centuries ahead of his time!
Santa Anna, I chose as the second milestone: yes! El campesino mexicano, of course, pre-dated and post-dated him. Indeed, the Mexican campesino is as ubiquitous today as ever: especially in the Lacondon and San Salvador Atenco, but also urbanized on the mud flats of Chicoloapan and Nezahualcoyotl. And his now, upwardly mobile, affluent,
As for my milestones, Raphael Sebastion Guillen Vincente, in the manner of Cuautemoc, was hard to exclude. But his cause is yet to materialize. So was Diego Rivera. Victorio Huerta was a drunk, dictatorially even worse than Diaz. Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes have a place but not as milestones. I cannot shake the impression that, while describing to us the mexicano, their chosen mission in life lies outside Mexico.
Will AMLO, Lopez Obrador, become a milestone? It is becoming more likely! The recent July 02 election solved nothing other than to demonstrate the perrenial Mexican penchant for electoral corruption. Millions took to the streets. The civil war may yet turn into a genuine revolution . . .
What about "El Ninos Heroes", or as the yanks call them, the Ninos Perdidos? Should not they be milestones. No because there were no Ninos Heroes! American "forlorn hopes" storming the castle knew nothing of them: no mention is made of young kids throwing themselves off the palisades in any contemporary English speaking literature on the war of intervention!
John D. Eisenhower, in his book "So Far From God," accepts that one cadet, of the fifty who remained in Chapultepec, threw himself off the escarpement with the colours. Was he pushed? Did he slip! Contemporary conjecture has good grounds to believe those fifty were incarcerated for bad behaviour. And when the general retreat sounded they were forgotten!
Half-a-dozen cadets committing Hari Kiri is typically a zenophobic lie: another nasty myth woven to protect vested interests. Ruling classes, anywhere, need this nonsense. Ninos Heroes: rubbish! Don't buy it!
Maybe one day we will be civilized. One day we will be able to quarantine these sad organisms who seem incapable of life without acquisition, without power, without that needling worm that will not allow them to rest until they have lied, cheated and destroyed everything they touch.
What can be done to stop us hurtling psychotically into oblivion: environmental collapse, global warming? Surely we can muster the courage to stop all this market-mania before it destroys everyone we love!
2004 Mexico: Walmex overshadowing the pyramids of Teotihuacan! Was Felipe Angeles put up against the wall for that?
Please share your thoughts?
All responses will be posted.