Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The anniversary

Mexico observed the Anniversary of the Revolution of 1910 on Monday, Nov. 16. It, like many national holidays, is now celebrated on a Monday rather than on its real date.

You can thank the Chamber of Deputies for the long weekend. Charlie’s Digs collaborator Carol Hopkins and I were present the day Article 74 of Mexico’s Labor Law was amended to change several holidays guaranteed by law from specific dates to the Monday closest to the date.

Until 2005, the Anniversary of the Revolution was celebrated on Nov. 20. I’ve no doubt that on Friday there will be an official commemoration. After all, I doubt there has been any other revolution with as precise a starting date and time.

On election day in 1910, then President Porfirio Díaz claimed a landslide victory and ordered his opponent, Francisco I. Madero, arrested. Madero escaped from prison to San Antonio, Texas. From Texas he wrote a nine-page document published in San Luis Potosí setting the date and time for the uprising against President Díaz: 6 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20.

Madero’s call-to-arms was first answered on the West Texas border by the relatively unknown Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco. Orozco began to smuggle arms from the United States into Mexico. On Oct. 31, Madero placed him in command of revolutionary forces in his municipality.

Orozco led his troops to a series of guerrilla victories against Díaz loyalists. At the close of 1910, most of the state of Chihuahua was in the control of revolutionaries and Orozco was a hero.

Orozco was promoted to colonel and in early 1911 promoted again to brigadier general. In May of that year, Orozco was the architect of the important Battle of Ciudad Juárez.

Madero had been negotiating with Díaz for a cabinet position and greater power in the Díaz government. General Orozco and Colonel Pancho Villa feared the Revolution would be sidetracked before it got up to full steam. They engineered a confrontation before this could happen and the Battle of Ciudad Juárez resulted.

Victory in Juárez, combined with Emiliano Zapata’s victory in Cuautla, Morelos, led directly to the resignation and departure of Díaz and to the presidency of Madero.

Like Emiliano Zapata, Orozco was soon disillusioned when Madero’s presidency did not result in the promised labor and land reform. Furthermore, he was not offered a coveted cabinet position as secretary of war, which he felt was his due.

This anger and disillusionment led to Orozco’s defection from Madero, turning his support to Victoriano Huerta, whose counter-revolutionary views were diametrically opposed to those espoused by Orozco.

In 1915, a despondent Orozco skirted through Texas on his way to meet up with his army. There — in the High Lonesome Mountains south of Van Horn — he was killed, along with four of his companions, by Sheriff John A. Morine, a former Texas ranger.

Sheriff Morine circulated the story that the five men had raided a local ranch. His posse went after them and in the shootout all five were killed. Until now, this ignominious death was the more or less official story of the end of Orozco.

Last week I received a heads-up from Mexico City-based C.M. Mayo about a recently released book with a startling new history of General Pascual Orozco.

Author Raymond Caballero’s “Lynching Pascual Orozco: Mexican Revolutionary Hero and Paradox” is a veritable detective story.

Mayo, herself writing a book about far West Texas, told me, “You can’t write about West Texas or Chihuahua and not write about the Mexican Revolution. They are deeply intertwined.”

Orozco’s anger and disillusionment with Madero led to what Caballero characterizes as the “paradox.” In an interview with C.M. Mayo, Caballero compared Orozco’s defection from Madero over to Victoriano Huerta, to Bernie Sanders suddenly aligning himself with the Koch Brothers.
Raymond Caballero is a lawyer and former mayor of El Paso, Texas. He researched the death of Orozco in old Texas courtroom files.

Caballero explained, “Sheriff John Morine thought he and his boys had ‘just killed themselves some Mexicans.’ When it was known he’d killed General Orozco, one of the greatest military heroes of the early years of the Mexican Revolution, questions began.

There was pressure for an inquest and a Grand Jury inquiry in El Paso where Orozco had many relatives.

“Sheriff Morine did an end run on his home turf. He went to the Culberson County Grand Jury and asked that he and all the members of his posse be indicted for the murder of Orozco and his companions. The trial was held in three days with no investigation. Not surprisingly, all were found not guilty.”

Caballero continued, “As I read the files and the court case I realized what a brilliant cover-up Morine had concocted. They had clothed themselves with the immunity of the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution. They would never be held accountable for the murder of Orozco.”

One hundred years since Orozco’s death, who would have thought new facts could emerge. It’s as though Orozco himself returned from the dead to straighten out the history books. Caballero’s book promises to be a fascinating read.

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