100 Myths in the History of Mexico
Vol.2 Pt.2

-by Francisco Martín Moreno-

translated by D. Ohmans
© copyright 2016

Text imprint Mexico City, Aguilar, ©2011

Table of Contents
  • PREFACE IN ADDITION TO THE SHEDDINGS OF BLOOD, we can affirm that the other great constant in the history of México is the lie. Might some relation exist between these two institutions of the Mexicans? It is necessary that, without prejudices we face our past. The lack of an accurate memory is tied to the lack of true citizenship: it will be knowledge of our past that will help shape a true critical conscience or aspirational horizon towards which we direct ourselves. The perverse myths disseminated by the official history should not impede our configuring a fair image of ourselves, a clear image that exalts and highlights our intelligence and our dignity; but it is necessary that we draw those disastrous veils which, through their endeavor to make the dominion of one group or another lasting, official history has been irresponsibly spread. If the truth shall make us free, let us go, without any delay, to encounter it. image FOREWORD SILENCE damages the historical truth as much as the lie itself. Of course it is not possible to tell it all at once, yet when there are such persistent absences, when theFOREWORD passage of time instead of bringing more information about our past only brings more lacunae, especially deep silences with respect to very specific themes, then it is not possible to keep attributing the shameless omission of those subjects to the impossibility of telling it all. One of the major silences of our national historiography has to do with the political activity of the clergy during our independent existence. For example, it is not considered whether the Catholic church has been the worst enemy of the nation, against which it financed and directed such a number of coups of State that we can attribute to said practice many of the most disastrous characteristics of our political culture and of our civil customs. Likewise, it is false that we once stopped being a nation of bosses: that tag stems from the lies that Plutarco Elías Calles and his minions employed to fool the people and the political class itself with regard to the fruits of the revolution. To another class of silences belongs that which in turn concerns the figure of Carlota of Belgium, who after being called empress of México abandoned her ephemeral empire, not without first becoming pregnant, and not exactly by the emperor. It is necessary to occupy ourselves with these subjects not only from pure love of knowledge (which would be sufficient justification) but also because their study teaches how truths are hidden, how historical facts are prostituted. Is it remembered that the North Americans' pretext for declaring war on us in 1847 was that Mexico had spilled North American blood on North American soil? A damnable lie, villainous, that makes us appear blameworthy for one of the greatest injustices in American history. It is also false that Victoriano Huerta would assassinate the president of the Republic in order to achieve power: that Huerta ordered Madero killed, in one of the lowliest acts committed by a Mexican, is a proven fact...but, what picture did Madero play on the day of his infamous murder? Something that is almost not mentioned, yet which has become an indisputable fact, is that Francisco Villa has not been a respected hero following his demise, and that the sort of dishonors which have been done to his memory should shame a people who hypocritically venerate him while, with the other hand, permitting the desecration of his cadaver. Finally, when we think of the conquest of México the book by Bernal Díaz del Castillo almost infallibly comes to mind, one of the few testimonies about the deeds occurring during that transcendental occasion. But, how true will his history of the conquest be? We violate all those silences, certain that something new about we ourselves will be revealed...
    AT THE END OF THE FIFTIES Daniel Cosío Villegas affirmed: "still to be written is an informed and impartial history of the opposition of the Catholic church to the liberal movement... It cannot be doubted, either that that opposition existed, nor that it took violent and even criminal forms." In effect, the 19th century is full of events in which the bloody role played by the Catholic church is evident, the backwardness that it caused the nation, the social division which it stimulated, and the places embattled or mutilated so as to impede the civil authority from removing their privileges or perhaps intercepting their gigantic patrimony - something like 50 percent of the country's real estate, among other goods. The official history does not say so, but blood ran in torrents in México every time that the church perceived a threat to its interests, which impeded the strengthening of the Mexican State, provoked economic and social convolutions, sowed the germ of political instability, and provided perpetual financial crises. FROM COUNTERINSURGENTS TO FATHERS OF THE NATION In the same way that the ecclesiastical hierarchy vigorously combatted the insurgency of 1810 excommunicating and demoting Hidalgo, Morelos and their followers, providing all manner of resources to the viceregal power, and 11 years later financed and executed the Plan of the Profesa, so called in allusion to the temple where the independence of México was truly determined. Matías Monteagudo, the inquisitor who had judged Morelos and who in 1808 inaugurated the practice of clerical coups of State to topple the viceroy Iturrigaray, came to become the true father of independence in 1821, with the sole purpose that in México the liberal Constitution of Cádiz would not take effect, which was already being applied in Spain and which diminished the church's power and patrimony. THE ARMADAS OF GOD In September of 1828, when the government of Vicente Guerrero ordered the seizure of the goods of those individuals who lived outside the country, confiscation of half of the rents of Spaniards located in México and the transferal to the government of the properties of the church expropriated by the states; the clergy resumed pressure for the fall of the government, for in effect: This was the drop that drained the glass: Seize the properties of the Church, transfer them to the Government! Attack the property of the rich and of the clergy...! At the end of October, the legislatures of Puebla and Michoacán filed for removal of the minister...Lorenzo de Zavala who left the Ministry on the eve of Guerrero being eliminated on the 4th of November by the sedition of Bustamante. "The nation has been saved!" the reactionaries then said: It is true that Guerrero marches southwards and promotes a civil war... In this state of affairs the government and the chambers expedite the necessary laws to return the Mexican Church to its old splendor... What a contrast the people presents between the fourth day of December of 1828, with the 3rd of October in 1830! Lawless mobs then joined in looting and plunder, while now they deliver everything to God showing sincere repentance for those outrages... In 1833, when the vice-president Valentín Gómez Farías attempted to radically transform the Mexican State founding of system of lay teaching, suppressing the convents, creating the national library and decreeing: "In all the Republic the civil obligation of paying the ecclesiastical tithe ceases, leaving each citizen in full liberty to participate in this in accordance with what his conscience dictates." The ecclesiastical heads, once again, set out to overthrow the atheist government: the colonel Ignacio Escalada launched his Escalada Plan, swearing to "sustain at all costs the holy religion of Jesus Christ and the charters and privileges of the clergy and of the army threatened by the intrusive authorities." Days later the Escalada Plan was endorsed in Tlalpan, and on the 8th of June in the same year, the general Mariano Arista launched the Plan of Huejotzingo, which "promised to protect and defend the Catholic religion and its longstanding regular clergy and proclaimed general Santa Anna as the supreme dictator." And in turn there unfolded, in that same tenor, armed uprisings in Puebla, Jalapa, Oaxaca, Cuernavaca, Querétero, San Juan del Río, and Iguala. Gómez Farías fell and then the bishop of Puebla could say: The year 1834 will be memorable in the history of Anáhuac by having been for us the origin of everything bad and afterwards everything good... Jesus Christ's legacy, that is, the pious offerings destined to feed the poor and maintain the churches, were delivered over...to the most inhuman and sacrilegious depredation, or to the most scandalous looting... Furthermore, O mercy of the Highest! O portents of your goodness! O incomprehensible secrets of the eternal wisdom! He who brings resplendent light out of the center of the fog brought to birth from this chaos the most orderly, the holiest revolution that our republic had ever seen. Orizaba cried, then Cuernavaca cried, all the peoples shouted in consonance, and the religion of Jesus Christ was heard energetically proclaimed, was seen to be lifted and established at the same instant when it seemed destined for total destruction... The work is entirely that of God: the mutation of the scene is due exclusively to the skill of the Exalted and the powerful mediation of María de Guadalupe, true Mother of the very God, and also the sweetest mother of all Mexicans. Once the government was overthrown, the Congress was replaced by a new one which--following the desires of the clergy and of Santa Anna--would abolish the federal Constitution of 1824 and would promulgate the so-called Constitution of the Seven Laws, breaking the federal pact and handing over the nation to a new series of failures, the first of which would be the loss of Texas. In 1834, when they attempted to reconstruct the anachronistic legal framework through a Constituent Congress, the general Tornel delivered a new parliamentary blow in that Nicolás Bravo, interim president, would dissolve the Congress and would deliver the so-called Organic Bases: a new reactionary retrogression. In December of 1845, when the hostilities of the war with the United States commenced, the high clergy supported Mariano Paredes y Arrillaga, who in one of the most cowardly disloyalties in the history of the Mexican army, having been sent to combat the invader, Paredes rose in arms against the Mexican government and assuming command of the nation, ignoring the Texan conflict orchestrated by the United States, worked intensively for the installation of a monarchical regime in México, with a Spanish prince at the head! With Paredes overthrown, the church bishops, and with the country already invaded by the North American troops--in February of 1847--the church again organized a coup of State against the government of the vice-president Gómez Farías, through the so-called mutiny of the polkos, an authentic felony that not only facilitated the invading troops in taking the port of Veracruz and access to the city of Puebla, naturally assisted by the bishop of the locality, but also unhinged the defense of the north of the country after the battle of La Angostura, in which general Zachary Taylor--however much the official history denies it--was defeated... Certainly another unforgivable treason by the Catholic church towards the Mexican State... "In January of 1851, an unusual act occurred: José Joaquín Herrera handed over power, peacefully, to Mariano Arista. Since the times of Guadalupe Victoria, no president had left the National Palace on his own volition," yet very soon "the reaction threatened Arista's political course and the conspiracies began"; once again the outbreaks of violence, the pronouncements and the barracks revolts began to desolate the Republic, until on the 20th of October in 1852, through the Hospicio Plan, underwritten by priests, called upon the army to support the rebellion on the grounds--more was lacking--of public recognition of the services provided the nation by Santa Anna, who in this way returned to occupy the presidency of the Republic despite the treasons committed during the war against the United States, and which facilitated the stripping of half the national territory! With the triumph of the revolution of Ayutla and the coming to power of a generation of liberals who had grown up in independent México with all its failures, all its frustrations, bringing also a new era of radical and republican measures which equally would encounter a fierce resistance on the part of the clergy. There we have the Plan of Zacapoaxtla (1855) or that of Puebla (1856) or that of Tacubaya (1857), designed by the same Catholic church to overthrow Comonfort's government and later abolish the Constitution of 1857 itself, which led to the explosion of the Reforma war (1858), a bloody conflict financed, it is clear, with ecclesiastical resources, so that the clergy would not only be required to sell their copious holdings. "With the priests converted into grenadiers of the church [the press said] they have machine gunned the poor nave of Saint Peter, have disturbed the faith of the faithful, the repose, the oratory and the silence of the cloisters." Defeated in the Reforma war, the church returned to savage the State by promoting the French intervention and in facilitating the installation of the ephemeral empire of Maximilian, whom they abandoned to his fate when he failed to abolish the reformist laws. Again, then, they lost, yet as soon as Juarez, the true father of the nation, falls victim to a chest angina, they attack once again, with no notion of piety nor of love nor of respect for the nation. It was under the government of Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada--on the 5th of October in 1873--when the Congress incorporated the Reforma laws into the Constitution, and a little more than a month later the "Jacobin deputies" denounced the clergy for: having abused the tolerance of the Government to re-organize themselves and conspired against the established powers, and having skillfully evaded compliance with the laws: the nationalization of ecclesiastical goods had been decreed, but the clergy, thanks to "assessments"...obtained abundant resources that they later invested in purchasing ranches in the names of individuals; the suppression of some religious festivals ordered by law "had never been achieved"; the dissolution of the monastic orders was prescribed, yet these continued with the monks or nuns living in neighboring houses; nor were the laws of the civil registry obeyed, for the clergy defended sacramental marriage; in a few words, the clergy prepared a new civil war. In 1875, that "civil war" exploded to the cry of "Viva Christ the King," attempting to impede the application of the law. In Guanajuato, Querétero, Jalisco, and Michoacán there are acts of violence, despite which "the movement, called cristero, did not prosper and soon degenerated into a war of guerrillas in which robbery, assassination and arson were more and more prevalent." Then Porfirio Díaz appeared and shouted, following the Plan of Tuxtepec: "That no citizen shall impose and perpetuate the exercise of power and this will be the ultimate revolution." Considering the support of the church for this cry proferred by a supposed liberal--in reality a hypocritical tyrant throughout the entire Porfiriate--"the action of the Catholic church in México was totally illegal, transgressing the regulations of the Mexican Constitution and the Reforma Laws." Then in the 20th century the same church supported the coup of State and the dictatorship of Victoriano Huerta, the "Jackal"; it opposed the validity of the 1917 Constitution, which it tried to abolish through the cristeros rebellion in 1926; attempted to overthrow the government of Plutarco Elías Calles, and participated actively in the assassination of Álvaro Obregón, president elect, in 1928. Each time with less strength, they kept conspiring during the Thirties, seeking any military dissidence to support in order to cast the impious laws, the atheist governments, to the ground. On the 13th of January in 1940 the senator José María Dávila assured the Senate of the Republic that some generals, among whom was found Juan Andrew Almazán, no less than a candidate for the presidency: "are in connivance with the Episcopate and with the expropriated North American oil companies to organize an armed uprising and, among other things, abolish the 3rd article of the constitution." Nothing new - this last, we should indicate, in alliance with the Nazis. So then, it is false--exceedingly!--that the church was never involved in coups of State. It follows that among other reasons already expounded in another chapter of this edition, it would be feasible to adduce with justice that the Catholic clergy has been the worst enemy of México throughout the length of her painful history...
    LAW OF SECULARIZATION OF GOODS OF THE CHURCH, OF 6/28/1856 Article 1. All the country and urban ranches which today are or are administered as owners of the civil or ecclesiastical corporations of the Republic shall be adjudged the property of those to whom they are leased, for the price corresponding to the rent that they actually pay, calculated with annual interest of six percent. Article 2. The same adjudication shall be made made of those who have incorporated country or urban ranches assigned by the census, capitalizing at six percent the price they pay, in order to determine their value. Article 3. Under the name of corporations shall be understood all the religious communities of both sexes, orders and archconfraternities, congregations, brotherhoods, parishes, gatherings, colleges, and in general every establishment or foundation that has the character of perpetual or indefinite duration.
    THE CHURCH AGAINST THE CONSTITUTION There is continually more evidence that the Catholic Church, in opposition to that which is established in our Constitution, has begun an intense campaign of political positioning, oriented to influence and determine the decision-making processes throughout the country, such as intervening in the current federal electoral process and in the statewide electoral processes. Although the political ambitions of the Church are not something exceptional, for such an interest is present in practically all human organizations with a certain social power, the consent they have relied on up to now to carry out actions of a political or electoral character in our nation, even when their participation is prohibited, a fact that does not pass unobserved.
    Marco Alcántara, The political church
    THE SUPREMACY OF THE STATE Given the participation of liberal groups and those opposed to the church...in the Constitution of 1917 provisions were included that ensured the State of economic and political control of the Church... All these questions were evidenced during the sessions of Thursday the 4th of January and of Saturday the 27th of the same month in 1917. Within the...Magna Carta were contained provisions relative to religious liberty in the 3rd article, concerning teaching in the 5th, upon the capacity to freely join the monastic orders in the 27th, covering the right on the part of the clergy to acquire goods, and 24, which contrary to the restrictive article 130 affirmed the principle of religious liberty... The constitution of 1917 was shaped by article 130, differentiating the supremacy of the State over any Church...
    Gerardo Cruz, Historia de Mexico en las relaciones Iglesia-Estado y su dimension juridica
    CAESARISM CONSTITUTES ONE of the most significant contributions of Latin America to the political history of the hemisphere. While in the Old World the chieftains--whose name comes from the Latin capitellium, "head"--are ever less prevalent (without them, in general, having stopped being execrable figures) on this side of the planet tyrants keep emerging, the eternal enemies of democracy and liberty who historically have imposed their law, that is, their states of will, by means of arms, for invariably they have ruled as the messiahs or saviors of their nations, or of all humanity, and as owners of the absolute truth, when in reality the only thing they pursue is power for power, power at any price, since now they almost never have a political project to improve the quality of life of the governed and do have a perverse strategy to conceal their more sinister intentions. Thus, while in Europe the actions of the bosses are an example of what should not happen, in Latin America, at least since the 19th century, the arrival of a providential man has been desired who would transform reality and resolve with a penstroke--or by force--all the problems of the country. Despite the foregoing, and against all evidence, it has been insisted that some years ago México ceased being a nation of bosses: this fact, due to its importance, brings us before two fundamental questions - why is Mexican history characterized by the presence of bosses, and did we truly cease being a nation of bosses? WARLORD REASON Our culture is hybrid, crossbred. In it, since the 16th century, three great dictatorial traditions have prevailed: the pre-Hispanic gentlemen, who were an incarnation of the gods and whose words could never be doubted; the Spanish monarchs, who exercised power through the grace of God, and likewise could not be questioned; and the Catholic church, which inexorably requires absolute obedience and respect for its anachronistic commands - opposed, in almost equally absolute terms, to the most elementary reason. We are, at least in principle, a culture prone to accept the existence of great persons who can do everything, it mattering little whether they are named Huey Tlatoani, Your Majesty, Your Most Serene Highness, Maximum Leader, or Mr. President. Nevertheless, the autocratic tradition of crossing races--despite its importance--is not the only determining factor in Mexican Caesarism: it is also, undoubtedly, one of the consequences of the Catholic religion in our country, which maintains the existence of a providential being capable of solving everything with the simple exercise of his will. No one can avoid, in this respect, the sinister heritage of Spanish authoritarianism, Hispanic intolerance, a psychological defect that contaminated the nations conquered by the mother country and which impeded in time and form the arrival of democracy and ultimately, shared economic growth. The viceregal tradition, that obeyed solely the need to efficiently and permanently exhaust the New World, bequeathed us the terrible custom of not only tolerating, but even adulating the oppressive tyrant and of endowing it with all the attributes of a divinity (so it is not in vain that the power of a king derives directly from God), such as the examples of the Latin American dictators, always attentive about capitalizing on this disastrous inclination of our societies toward the infallible supermen: Carias Andino, Anastasio Somoza, Jorge Ubico, Fulgencio Batista, Pérez Jiménez, Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, Juan Domingo Perón, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chávez, among many others, so many more... In accordance with this tendency, the majority of the Mexicans, at least since the times of the colonization, have been firmly convinced in the existence of providential beings who can do everything, given that they are an instance of the incarnation of force and divine power. Thus it is not strange that when on the political horizon a person is descried who claims to have the solution to all the problems, some Mexicans hurry to consider them as our savior: that was what happened various times with Antonio López de Santa Anna, with Álvaro Obregón and with Plutarco Elías Calles, among still others, who offered the salvation of the nation, when in reality all that they sought was power for power. Nevertheless, the paradise that throughout time the bosses have offered is always paradoxical: though the paradise is found in the future, it is always identical to the past. Let me explain: when the conservatives and the ecclesiastical hierarchy offered the Mexicans a perfect nation, in reality they were proposing to return to the times of colonization, when the king and the ecclesiastical hierarchy were the only arbiters of the national destinies; with the revolutionary Eden of Obregón and Calles something very similar occurred: their obsession with dictatorship did not look towards the future nor toward democracy or freedom, but instead towards an authoritarian past. In consequence, when the Mexicans have followed the bosses they only move like crabs: they seem to advance, yet in reality they retreat from the present and the future, so that all the bosses turn out to be retardants. No one can doubt that the Catholic religion created an imprint in the collective imagination, a sign that leads us to consider the existence of men who can take us to paradise, and precisely for that we seriously accept the presence and the action of the bosses. They are, if we observe them carefully, the new messiahs who benefit from the politico-religious beliefs. In this manner, the strength of the bosses, while tyrants upon whom the destiny of the nation depended, impeded the development of democratic practices and institutions: for many years effective suffrage was substituted with the designations of bosses; examples of this disastrous practice: Porfirio Díaz and Manuel González, as well as the interminable re-elections of the first; Carranza's intention to impose Ignacio Bonillas (which cost him his life); the Obregónist imposition of Plutarco Elías Calles and Manco's failed attempt to return to the presidency; the ignominious period known as "The Maximato," in which Calles "governed the country by telephone"; the unfortunate culture of the cover- up and the presidential revelation as a signal of the onset of the sexennial chicanery; the not very distant practice of removal of governors at the will of the presidents and. finally, the verticality that characterizes the functioning of our political parties and the consequent and unhideable deficit in legitimacy of our electoral processes. In harmony with this, the expeditious and legal judicial system was supplanted by the desires and the interests of the tyrant in power, and the development of democratic practices was obstructed to the degree that they were undermined by bosses, this situation reaching their climactic moment during the Porfiriate, when: The Federal Judiciary was formed in the same fashion as the Congress. The president designated his candidates in person, and sent his list to the Chamber of Deputies for them to vote on... Once the Court was installed, the Circuit Magistrate and District Judges were named by the same procedure and with the same subjection to the President... With all the departments of Justice in the Union constituted in this way, it was said that nothing was done in them unless the President approved. In this manner, faith, tradition and the obstacles created by the bosses themselves impeded the political evolution of our nation. WILL WE CONTINUE TO BE A NATION OF BOSSES? Although many persons have proclaimed that we have ceased being a nation of bosses (especially after the memorable and hypocritical words of Plutarco Elías Calles in his last presidential address: "we shall stop being a nation of bosses in order to become a nation of institutions") it is evident that "providential men" still frequent the public scene - and will haunt it when more ignorant and desperate persons exist. Yet how was it not going to be like this? Before banishing forever this authentic social curse, the revolutionary regime that over 70 years cramped the political freedom of the Mexicans only ingrained even more the perverse acceptance, or at least their inclination towards veneration of the boss. Or were the presidents of the brilliant PRI not true sexennial bosses - not to say chieftains, which today the governors of the states are? Did they not perfect the mechanisms of subjection of the entire political apparatus to a single person, in this case the next sexennial Tlatoani? What is certain, however, is that after 70 years of "perfect dictatorship," in frank betrayal of the postulates of the revolution which started it, we Mexicans still keep waiting for our savior, for the maximum leader to resolve our problems, for the boss who thinks for us and conducts us to the promised paradise. How many times does one hear that "México needs a firm hand"? Where are the enlightened despots? Do they exist? How distant have become the words that in 1911 Luis Cabrera dedicated to the precise person of one of our bosses: if Mr. Madero turns out not to be a genius in the science of governing, so much the better: we should congratulate ourselves for the deception, because it will mean that the disgraceful epoch of miraculously masterly governments, of irreplaceable governors and of dictatorships, has concluded, to give way to the era of honorable governors and of simple common sense, to the era of truly republican governments where it is the people who govern behind the Chief of State. Therefore, tied to the problem of the necessity for the boss is the matter of permanence in power and, necessarily, that of re-election, since, once more following Cabrera: re-election...signifies that there is no faith in anything but the capacity of a superman...and that this prolific race of ours is not capable of producing great men, except as the exception, and that consequently we are predestined to be governed alternately by a half-century of Santa Annas and another half-century by Díaz's. In effect, we shall only cease being a nation of bosses when we stop believing in providential beings (?) and assume the imperious necessity of developing our institutions, of creating a democratic and just nation where liberty and law are above the persons who only seek power and lack the liberal and modern projects capable of improving the quality of life of the governed. We shall say adios to the bosses on the day in which citizens exist, that is to say, true guardians of the republican institutions.
    FOR MANY OF THEIR CONTEMPORARIES in the Old World, Maximilian and Carlota were an exceedingly strange pair. Some held that she had married for love, and that he, from self- interest; others thought that her lack of children could only be due to an "unnameable illness" that the Hapsburger had contracted during one of her travels to Brazil, and still others maintained that the acceptance of the throne of México was only a new attempt to unite as a pair after the confirmation of her sterility. Gossip about the court--the same as in our time--were the order of the day and Maximilian and Carlota were not immune to it. But it is indeed true that the emperors did not have an heir: the unnameable disease, the use of sheep gut condoms, the cotton soaked in water and vinegar, the impotence, the lovelessness or declared homosexuality of Maximilian may be an explanation of this matter, whose definite cause is yet to be discovered. Upon their arrival in México, the imperial couple provoked the same remarks as in Europe. According to the biography of Carlota written by Susanne Igler, her Mexican allies and the ecclesiastical hierarchy were very worried because the emperors were not conceiving an heir to the Mexican empire and, in consequence, the future of the kingdom was at risk. The alienation of the royal pair was not insignificant, and to top the evils, their habit of sleeping in separate bedrooms "had raised suspicions among Mexican society." How were they going to give continuity to the empire if during the nights the walls of the castle separated them? But the disgraces of the royal couple could not be reduced to the foregoing, for "in contrast with the image of an impotent Maximilian [writes Igler], a legend emerged of a gallant emperor, who had his secret romances and his illegitimate children, mostly from the frequent stays in Cuernavaca, where the emperor occupied the Borda ranch as a place of retreat." There, it is said, Maximilian had one of his great loves: Concepción Sedano, who passed into history with the nickname of the "Pretty Indian" who, apparently, was the daughter or the wife of one of the gardeners of the ranch. Thus, Maximilian and Carlota--without the reasons mattering--passed into history as a couple without children and, in consequence, it has always been affirmed that the throne of the Mexican empire remained vacant for a lack of heirs. However, this claim is a myth. THE EMPEROR CHILDREN Everybody knows that one of the principal obligations of ruling couples is to conceive an heir to the throne. Their marriages, outside of the romantic stories in the tabloid press, have precise goals: to guarantee the continuity of their reign, to avoid problems of transition thanks to a prince and to unite their marriage with the interests of the nobility and with politics. Love, if it exists, is something additional and contributes nothing to the basic objectives of their relationship. Thus it is that Maximilian and Carlota--at least in the eyes of their allies and of the ecclesiastical hierarchy--were not fulfilling one of their obligations. They knew it, and wrote letters about the matter. In August of 1864, as one reads in a letter that Maximilian sent to Carlota from Irapuato, he had brought a pleasant surprise from Querétero, where: they gave me a little indian, sent to me as a gift from the Sierra Gorda; no one knows who are his parents. In any case, they were too poor to baptize him. I took him and had him baptized, receiving the names of: Fernando Maximiliano Carlos José. I had a good nurse found and, for the time being, established him in Querétero, and later will have him sent to Mexico City. The news of the indigenous infant did not take long to cause quite a stir: on the 24th day of that month the newspaper La sociedad not only took note of the solemn baptism, but also maintained that the boy was adopted as the imperial prince. This news, surely false--as Konrad Ratz argues--was nothing more than a manifestation of the discontent and estrangement concerning the lack of an heir. The pressure was real: it pressed for Carlota to become pregnant quickly. Yet since this did not occur, in September of 1865 Maximilian made a critical decision: to adopt Agustín de Iturbide, the grandson of the liberator of México, so that he could be converted into an heir to the throne. The mother of the little Agustín, a United States pragmatist, was in agreement with that after some negotiations which guaranteed her a generous rent. For Carlota, however, this news was a slap, for it made public her incapacity to comply with her conjugal duty as empress, and also discredited her due to the certainty which this action provided about Maximilian's love affairs. Carlota, as we know, administered the empire, for which she had been duly trained in Belgium, while the emperor enjoyed the pleasures of the City of Eternal Spring, accompanied by his inseparable count Bombelles, with whom, it was said, he had long- standing amorous relations, in addition to those he maintained with other men and women in tropical México. Carlota, alone and abandoned in Chapultepec Castle, unable to confide with anyone the betrayals of which she had been victim. Furthermore from the state of abandonment in which she found herself, she began to have long conversations with colonel Alfred van der Smissen, nothing more and nothing less than her bodyguard, the one who her father had put there, king Leopold I of Belgium, to help her stay intact physically during what promised to be a long and difficult stay in México. The military attaché, also of Belgian origin, did not delay in having an intense carnal interchange with Carlota, the empress of México, who in 1866 became pregnant. Time passed while Carlota experienced the expansion of her waist, which very soon she could not hide from her husband and he, once the trespass was known, refused to recognize the child that his wife would have. Against such negativity, Carlota decided to absent herself from México with the pretext of negotiating with Napoleon III and with the pope Pius XI the withdrawal of the French troops quartered in México. She well knew that if Napoleon III withdrew his army from México, the second Mexican empire would collapse like a house of cards. Once in Europe, the second part of the strategy to hide her pregnancy consisted in showing signs of insanity that would allow her to be isolated and maintained incommunicado in the castle of Miramar. When her son was finally born, whose father was obviously Alfred van der Smissen, the had-been empress of México named him Maxime Weygand, who with time would be one of the architects of the French defense in the first world war. With Carlota closed in castle of Bouchot, she kept making the necessary decisions of a political and mercantile nature that at length would convert her into the richest woman on the planet until her demise in 1927. It is enough to compare the photographs of Alfred van der Smissen and Maxime Weygand to demonstrate the surprising lineage between the two men. It is thus that the supposed infertility of Carlota was left disproved with the birth of her son Maxime Weygand in January of 1867, for which she left México, pregnant. The myth of the lack of heirs and Carlota's inability to have children has remained refuted, yet nevertheless some loose ends still remain for us: what happened to the heirs to the throne. The indian from the Sierra Gorda disappeared from the pages of history after his bombastic baptism; the grandson of Agustín Iturbide returned to his mother and years later returned to our country to face Porfirio Díaz and be judged in 1890; and the son of Carlota, as already mentioned, was educated in the French military schools until becoming one of the great military leaders of that nation... Yet one remains: Rubén Darío, the poet, had as personal secretary a Mexican named Julio Sedano, who assured him that he was the bastard son of Maximilian of Austria and Concepción Sedano y Leguízamo, known as the Pretty Indian, a native of the city of Cuernavaca... Since infancy he had been taken to the city of Madrid, where he studied. [In the first world war] Julio Sedano fell prisoner in Paris [accused of being] a spy in the service of the Germans... Sedano first said that he was not a spy, but after an intense interrogation he broke down crying and finally confessed that out of hunger he had received a few francs from the Germans, but that he had not given them any more information than was available in the Paris newspapers and which was in the public domain. As expected, the Military Jury condemned him to die. It was ascertained that he had the same features as Maximilian of Austria, blue eyes and a dimpled chin, the same as his supposed father. In the Encyclopedia of the Towns of Mexico, in the part corresponding to the state of Morelos, section "Persons," we find the following: "Julián Sedano y Leguízamo (1866-1914). Born the 30th of August, son of Concepción Sedano Leguízamo and of Maximilian of Austria. Shot in Paris."
    THE MOST SORROWFUL MUTILATIONS OF OUR territory occurred with an astonishing rapidity: in little more than a decade México lost more than two million square kilometers. The Texas war and the United States intervention--in which we were defeated due to traitors to the nation and to the felonies of the clergy, who refused to contribute to the defense of the nation and supported rebellions that depleted the forces which battled the invaders--are two of the great traumatic facts in the history of Mexico, and to them, in good measure, we owe the psychological complexes which we inherit from said armed conflicts. Nevertheless, beyond the military questions, and the actions of the traitors and the sinister attitude of the ecclesiastical hierarchy--deeds which I have already covered in other chapters of this edition--there is a myth that should be refuted: according to some United States historians, we Mexicans held the blame for the war with the United States, for we did not respect the border limits and attacked the United States armed forces in the vicinity of the Nueces river, a confrontation which became the detonator of the war of 1846. THE FAULT WAS NOT OURS The Inquirer published an amazing, visionary and most revealing letter, drafted in 1812--that is to say 34 years before the United States invasion--by no one less than the ambassador himself of the Spanish empire in Washington and directed to the viceroy of New Spain during those years: The United States intends to establish its southern border starting from a line to the west of the mouth of the Rio Bravo, including Tejas, Nuevo México, Chihuahua, Sonora, and the Californias,.. This project might seem imaginary to many rational persons, but believe me, it certainly exists. The limits of Texas were defined by two rivers, one, in the north-east, the Sabina, according to the Adams-Onis treaties of 1819, as it pertained to the frontier with Louisiana, and the other, the Nueces, in the south, that established the contiguity with the state of Coahuila. This means that the border frontier between Coahuila and Texas was never the Bravo river, but the Nueces, and therefore when Texas was arbitrarily annexed to the American Union it necessarily had to do so respecting the original borders. One of the influential dailies of that era, the National Observer, published a column characteristic of a newspaper of liberal beliefs: Texas must be annexed with the same boundaries and dimensions. The exact size of the territorial extension enjoyed when it formed part of México. Not one acre more. The border between Texas and Tamaulipas, in terms of the laws and the political geography of México, was comprised, to the south, of the Nueces river, in no instance the Bravo, for which reason, if the North American army surmounts the Nueces river, the United States would be violating México's sovereignty and, ultimately, we would become not defenders of our legitimate patrimony, but instead freebooters, pirates, invaders, enemies of legitimacy, whom we have always criticized with all the strength of our truth and of our reason. In fact, the Democratic candidate in 1844 for the United States presidency, J, K. Polk, sustained a brutal expansionist program in his political platform which, obviously, included the annexation of Texas, whose independence had already been recognized by the "gringos" in 1837. Polk's project attained its goal and the Texan territory was converted into one more state in the American Union. As a result of this action, the Mexican government broke off relations with the United States and the diplomatic tension reached unsuspected limits... The war was something more than a possibility, as Jesús Velasco indicates in his essay The war with the United States: Mexican public opinion began to demand a declaration of war and the organization of a campaign to immediately recover Texas. The warlike spirit of the Mexican intellectuals was supported principally by the idea that the war would be the only way to stop the North American expansionism. It was also considered that war was the most effective means to awaken national sentiment and accelerate the reforms that society and the institutions needed. But Joaquín Herrera's government did not share those opinions. For they, following the advice of England, were disposed to recognize the independence of Texas. The Mexican government did not concede, resisted the threats of John Slidell, the North American ambassador, and refused to pay the absurd claims that the Americans made for supposed damages; for its part, Texas incorporated into the United States on the 4th of July in 1845. But the conflict was not solved, for according to the Texans and those from the United States there still remained one matter to resolve: the "actual" limits of Texas. This matter, always complex, was explained with great clarity by J. M. Roa Bárcenas: The province of Tejas had never extended south of the Nueces in the area contiguous with Tamaulipas and Coahuila, nor beyond the Red or the Colorado that divided it from Chihuahua and Nuevo México. When Santa Anna fell prisoner at San Jacinto, the desire to conserve his life...led him to sign the contract that the Texans imposed on him, and by virtue of which Santa Anna himself and the principal chiefs under his orders recognized the independence of Téjas and the extension of its frontiers to the Bravo, and they committed to procure confirmation of such a pact by the Mexican government which, as was natural and right, pronounced it null and of no value nor effect. That is to say, due to the proverbial cowardice of Santa Anna, he endorsed a document that enlarged the Texan territory down to the Rio Bravo, but this document was never ratified nor approved by the Mexican Congress, so that it had no value. However, in a unilateral manner and violating all the accords, on the 19th of December in 1836 the Congress of Texas published an act that extended the limits to the Rio Bravo. Evidently, this deed lacked a juridical foundation, for the borders are not a matter of voting, but instead of international agreements. Although the act of the Texan Congress lacked judicial efficacy, the United States government supported this decision and--under the auspices of the Monroe Doctrine and that of Manifest Destiny which assumed providential guidance for the United States to extend its dominion over territories from which other peoples obtained no advantage--ordered the advance of her troops towards the Rio Bravo. In this fashion, general Zachary Taylor arrived on the banks of the Bravo and constructed Brown's fort (now Brownsville) on Mexican territory, occasioning, as a justified response, an attack on the part of the Mexican forces. The army of the United States had crossed the border that the Nueces river marked and thereby had invaded México. In this manner, as Roa Bárcena well describes: The congress issued the relevant resolution on the 13th of May in 1846, with the existence of a state of war thus becoming officially recognized in the United States... It is well to warn that the United States government, subsequent to its capricious and absurd pretension of considering the Bravo as the border line, always alleged that the campaign had been begun by Mexico...and if by some sort of magic chance the limits of Tejas had been expanded...by more chance of the same sort we appear as invaders of the invaded. "Remove the intruders from the zone between the Nueces and the Bravo. The border zone where the spark occurs must remain blurred," an infuriated Polk would order. On the 12th of April in 1846 the general Pedro Ampudia has Taylor sent a peremptory note. We have here the last part of the text send by the Mexican officer: For Mr. Zachary Taylor: I apply to you in the broadest manner and in the imperative term of 24 hours, to dismantle your encampment and return to the east bank of the Nueces river while our Governments dispute the inconclusive question regarding Tejas. If you insist on remaining in the territory property of the state of Tamaulipas, this will result that arms, and only arms, will resolve this situation. If that were the case I assure you that we would accept the war which you had so unjustly provoked. The United States then commits the first act of war against México: its naval forces now blockade not the mouth of the Nueces river, but instead that of the Rio Bravo itself, obviously Mexican territory - more concretely, the waters and Tamaulipan soil. In this way the international border is ostensibly violated, and the anxiety leads to the loss of tempers. Polk decrees: Everyone is in agreement that if the Mexican forces found in Matamoros commit any act of hostility against general Taylor's forces, I should immediately send a message to Congress recommending the immediate declaration of war. I told the cabinet that, until the moment, as they already knew, he had not had notice of any open act of aggression on the part of the Mexican army; yet that there was immediate danger that such acts might occur. I added that, in my opinion, we had ample motives for war and that it was impossible for us to remain in the status quo, or for me to be silent any longer. It was my duty to very quickly send a very concrete message to Congress, recommending definitive measures. Only the colonel Ethan Hitchcock writes a few notes in his diary for history, while the plans of the White House are being executed: We do not have even a particle of right to be here, on Mexican territory. Our forces are very small to fulfill this mission of charity. It seems to be that our government sent an intentionally reduced armed force to provoke a war and be able to have a pretext for taking California and all that one chooses from the neighboring nation. President Paredes y Arrillaga, though being against an armed conflict, announces war with the United States on the 23rd of April in 1846, without having the legal authorization of the Mexican Congress. I solemnly announce that I do not declare war against the government of the United States because it falls to the august Congress of the nation, and not to the Executive Power, to decide what should be the exact reparation for these injuries. But the defense of Mexican territory that has been invaded by the troops of the United States is an urgent necessity and my responsibility before the nation would be immense if I did not order the repulsion of forces which are acting like enemies and thus I have ordered it. The defensive war commences on this date and every point in our territory that has been invaded or attacked will be defended by force. Curiously, on that 25th, when in Carricitos the first informal confrontation between the United States and México occurs, the governments of Washington and London celebrate a bilateral agreement to resolve the territorial problem of Oregon. The expansionism promoted by Polk is an alarming reality. General Taylor takes up paper and quill and writes a letter to president Polk: "Today, the 25th of April of 1846, hostilities can be considered to have begun. I urgently require that the governors of Texas and of Louisiana send me eight regiments, approximately 5,000 more men." News of the massacre at Carricitos reaches Polk--the "mendacious," the "opportunist," the "lying manipulator"--in Washington on the 8th of May. The White House chief addresses the Congress of his nation with this disgraceful text: After repeated threats, Mexico has trespassed the border of the United States, has invaded our territory and has spilled North American blood on North American land. Since war exists in fact and, despite all our efforts to avoid it, exists because of an act pertaining to Mexico, we are obliged, by every consideration of duty and patriotism, to decisively vindicate the honor, the rights and the interests of our country. Finally the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848, signed with a pistol pointed at the head of the nation, legalized the historic stripping of half our territory, whose recovery we should achieve when we come to be militarily superior to the United States...
    On the San Patricio Batallion Once the campaign began...a great number of desertions afflicted the troops of that country. For March of 1847, the adjunct general in Washington announced the offer of rewards to whoever would assist the capture of more than 1,000 deserters. The character as immigrants and Catholics of some conscripts led to bad treatment on the part of the American-born, causing them to cross over and augment the Mexican lines... Towards April of 1846, before the formal declaration of war, among the deserters was found an Irishman named John Riley, who organized a company with 48 of his compatriots. The following August, during the complete conflagration, he already had 200 men. There were some Mexicans born in Europe, immigrants of diverse nationalities from the old continent (such as Germans and Poles) as well as a numerous contingent of his compatriots.
    Carlos Betancourt Cid, The San Patricio batallion: heroes or traitors?
    DURING THE BIENNIUM 1911-1912 THE MADERIST government successfully confronted its opponents: the uprisings of Pascual Orozco, Félix Díaz, Emiliano Zapata, and the Vázquez Gómez brothers--among others--were defeated on the battlefield or, at least, succeeded in establishing some mechanisms for the peaceful negotiation of rifts, such as occurred in the Zapatista territory thanks to the labor of the general Felipe Ángeles who--according to Friedrich Katz in his essay "Felipe Ángeles and the Tragic Decade"--put an "end to the massive reprisals against civilians, such as the burning of villages and collective executions," which allowed the virulence of the peasants to diminish and the establishment of a sure contact with Zapata in order to solve the agrarian problems that were undoubtedly pending since Madero's arrival in Mexico City. In effect, at the end of 1912 the Maderist regime stumbled, yet still had possibilities of going forward. However, in February of 1913 Francisco I. Madero confronted his ultimate enemy and paid with his life for the political errors he committed during his government: let us not forget that his desire to achieve national unity led him to maintain the power of the Porfirians, to preserve whole the dictatorship's army and, above all, to pardon his two major opponents--Félix Díaz and Bernardo Reyes--at the same time as--to compound the evils--he also pardoned the "Jackal" Huerta and restored him to his post after the conflicts that the general had with the War secretary and with Gustavo Madero himself. Yet in that disastrous year misfortunes did not arrive singly: Madero's mortal enemies, the evil businessmen of Wall Street--with the "Jackal" at the head--allied themselves with the United States ambassador Henry Lane Wilson and with the Catholic church to forge his overthrow. The traitors, after some encounters, put their plans in march: thus the Tragic Decade began, an armed conflict organized to vanquish the troops loyal to the president and consummate the overthrow of the first democratic president of the Mexican 20th century. We all know that Madero and the vice-president Pino Suárez were assassinated, and that Victoriano Huerta occupied the presidency of the Republic after the crime; nevertheless, a question also exists to which almost no one wishes to give a reply: did Madero and Pino Suárez renounce their offices in order to deliver the nation to the "Jackal" Huerta? THE RESIGNATIONS: AN (ALMOST) IGNORED HISTORY On the 18th of February in 1913, in the midst of the Tragic Decade, Madero and Pino Suárez were apprehended by the minions of the "Jackal," who had also ordered the capture and assassination of Gustavo Madero, who still had certain possibilities of organizing a response against the blow thanks to his allies, who united in a group popularly known as "The Club." In this manner, while the president and the vice-president of the Republic were prisoners in the National Palace, Madero's family and the ambassador from Cuba, Manuel Márquez Sterling, initiated negotiations with the putschists to guarantee the life of the legitimate governors. The terms of agreement that they proposed were more or less precise: Madero and Pino Suárez would resign their offices in exchange for their lives and for the possibility of exiling in Cuba. Notwithstanding, the pressure of the putschists was merciless, and upon arriving at noon on the 19th of February both leaders yielded and, on a page without letterhead, wrote: Citizen secretaries of the Honorable Chamber of Deputies: In view of the events that unfolded yesterday here in the nation, and for her greater tranquility, we do formally resign our offices of president and of vice-president, respectively, to which we were elected. We protest this necessity. Mexico City, 19 February 1913. Francisco I. Madero. Jose Maria Pino Suarez. Madero and Pino Suárez signed their resignations with one condition: the document should only be delivered to the Congress--obviously controlled by the Porfiristas--once they had abandoned the country and were en route to Veracruz to board the cruiser Cuba which would take them from México. But Huerta and his followers also violated this last accord. In The last days of president Madero, the ambassador Márquez Sterling narrates that: Don Ernesto [Madero] arrived to strange news [at the place where Madero and Pino Suárez were]: --Mr. Lascuráin, the minister of Foreign Relations, will now announce "your" resignation... Madero jumped from his seat... --And why has Lascuráin not awaited the departure of the train? Bring him here, immediately...in the midst of the act; without delay, run; you go too, Mr. Vásquez, bring him here right away... Ernesto returns with worse news. "The resignation was already presented"... Slowly [Madero] was recapturing his habitual smile, and forcing his spirit into conformity. --Huerta has set a second snare for me, and with my resignation signed and delivered will not keep his word. Madero was right: the "Jackal" did not keep his word and some hours later ordered the murder and that of Pino Suárez. However, thanks to that document obtained through force of arms, the "Jackal" managed to reach the presidency of the Republic through a legalistic scheme: since Madero and Pino Suárez had renounced their posts, the only one who could occupy the most important office in the country was Pedro Lascuráin, the then secretary of Foreign Relations, who after protesting and swearing to defend the Constitution, took one sole decision: he signed the naming of the "Jackal" as the secretary for Governorship. In a second act, after 45 minutes of possessing title to executive power, he resigned, to cede the presidential sash to the only member of his cabinet: the murderer of Madero and Pino Suárez. Huerta became the constitutional president while the Mexicans, submerged in apathy, allowed the treason to be consummated and mark a terrible regression in our public life. It can be affirmed, then, that Huerta did not kill the head of the nation, because the latter had already resigned, although the abdication was vitiated to nullity by not being a free, spontaneous and voluntary act. We agree, yet Madero should have warned his victimizer: "You will not assassinate a citizen bereft of powers, but will take the life, and cover your hands with the blood, of the president of the Republic..." He should never have resigned...
    EVERYTHING SEEMS TO INDICATE THAT THE SENTENCE for Francisco Villa's demise was dictated stemming from the interview which he had with Regino Pagés Llergo, one of the most famous journalists of El Universal. A little before being murdered, the Centaur of the North asserted that "True son of Huerta, a good man with defects, alright, but they are due to his great kindliness, which would not appear bad in the Presidency of the Republic," in place of Plutarco Elías Calles... The Sonoran bosses never forgave him, although these declarations were unfamiliar to no one; we do not forget that some years previously Villa had agreed with Adolfo de la Huerta to lay down arms. Also, nor would it be mindless to assume that he did not suspect that Obregón and Calles would order him killed for declaring that he was a consummate Huertista... His words were practically obvious and he was almost retired in Canutillo. Francisco Villa spent the last three years of his life at his ranch in Canutillo, carrying out a social experiment which left compatriots and foreigners agape. That which occurred on those lands was the true revolution, a live example which should be re-traced by the whole nation. Effectively, thanks to the Treaties of Sabinas, the government awarded Villa the Canutillo ranch--in Durango--and allowed him to keep a squad of 50 men, whose pay remained a charge of the State. The rest of his famous division could be indemnified with a year's assets. In those conditions the Centaur began a new existence, for he attemped what he had always dreamed: and no one had the slightest doubt that he had been born for the fields. During the nights, around the campfire, battles were no longer planned but instead they spoke of the future, of the earth's productive capacity, of the repair of hooves, of the purchase of farm implements, of the contractual workforce, of work in community, of the production of exportable surpluses, of the distribution of revenues, of investment in liquid reserves, of education, of health facilities so that women might give birth without endangering their lives... Between 1920 and 1923 the ranch came to have a population that wavered between 400 and 800 persons, who worked in the pastures in raising the livestock for export. Not only the regional market was supplied from Canutillo, but also, in a small measure, that of the United States, and when the crops satisfied the needs of the ranch, the old soldiers sold its products in Parral, Torreón and other localities. There was no waste nor corruption. And the store in Canutillo furnished many neighboring towns. The accounts of the ranch were impeccable, because everyone knew: the bookkeepers did not want to be shot for misuse of funds. A good control system, no? Education was also a concern of Villa's, and thus he got José Vasconcelos, the then secretary of Public Education, to send a cultural mission to Canutillo to bring literacy to the inhabitants of his "little world." Villa even helped the teachers with additional pay and provided them lodging, food, clothes washing, arms for hunting, a horse and a budget for books. In this way the school "Felipe Ángeles" was founded, in honor of one of the soldiers most admired by the Centaur. Two facts would determine the final day of general Villa: the invitation to participate in a baptism in Parral and the statements that he made to Pagés Llergo. And indeed Villa not only publicly leaned towards Adolfo de la Huerta, the deadly enemy of Obregón and of Calles, but who also confessed the possibility of gathering 50,000 of his best--an unattainable goal at those heights--with only a snap of his fingers. Villa knew the resources of Obregón and of Calles, the aspirant to occupy the main office of the nation. He knew that they would hesitate at nothing in order to remain in power. Obregŗn, perhaps feigning indifference, cynically subsidized the Canutillo expenses through Miguel Trillo, Villa's last secretary. The Centaur, following these deeds, relaxed and undertook a last trip to the Florido river, without knowing that a group of thugs awaited the moment to execute him. There were some military and political possibilities that De la Huerta had with the support of Villa and others, very different if the latter were to disappear from the political scene. Francisco Villa was one of the few men who might oppose the plans of Obregón and Calles, and therefore had to be assassinated: his physical disappearance was unpostponable. Only the order to fire was lacking. On the morning of the crime Trillo vacillated: he did not know whether to bring the mounted squad or, for reasons of economy and of speed, select a small group of bodyguards who would go aboard general Villa's Dodge. It was decided for this last. Those on horseback would remain in Canutillo. On the eve of the exit from his ranch, a village woman asked to speak with Villa. She obtained that. Overcome with weeping she reported a plot to assassinate him. She was risking her life to reveal the plans to kill him. Villa thanked her for her words and sent her off giving her a few pats. At that moment his worry increased: he did not forget the declarations that he had made. It was impossible to hide the threat that his military presence implied for the president and for his political heir. On that 20th of July in 1923 Villa bade farewell to his family: Soledad and his children hugged him. She also asked him not to leave, to which he jokingly responded: "It is not bad to die in Parral." Obregón and Calles finalized the details of the crime in Chapultepec Castle. They had already analyzed all Villa's movements and statements. The work of espionage confirmed it: Villa had been dedicated to the tasks of the field until he decided in favor of Adolfo de la Huerta, his friend, to seek the presidential succession in 1924. To execute the crime and consummate the betrayal a group of nine individuals was contracted, all of them fierce enemies of Villa, among whom figured Melitón Lozoya, Librado Martínez, José and Román Guerra, José Barraza, Ruperto Vera, Juan López and the Sáenz Pardo brothers. No one doubted that Villa's assassination was orchestrated by Plutarco Elías Calles, in accord with general Obregón. The physical assassins had rented a house on Gabino Barreda street, where travelers who entered or left Parral to the northeast necessarily had to pass. They were hunting the Centaur, waiting for the best occasion not to miss the target. They meant to massacre him, to shoot from different angles so that the victim would not be able to return the fire. The action would be executed in the style of Villa's military campaigns: lightning fast, precise, overwhelming. It had to produce a rain of high-caliber bullets, exploding bullets, to end the life of one who had the audacity to contradict the desires of Obregón and Calles... The return to Canutillo where his wife was, ready for her part to give birth, was set for the 20th of July in 1923. On the tragic morning, the general drove his automobile. Trillo sat on his right side. There was no room left in the vehicle: it was occupied to full capacity by his personal guards, proof that the general knew his political rivals very well. Everything was perfectly organized. They left. A candy vendor removed his hat when Villa's automobile passed in front of him. He had to see him, witness his presence and make the gesture with the hat. That was the awaited signal. The assassins loaded their cartridges. They were sure that they could open fire at any moment. They posted themselves in their places. They allowed time to aim carefully. They did so, yet with pulse trembling. Not everyone dared to shoot at Pancho Villa. When at the final intersection the general's car turned the corner the triggers were activated. The discharge of weaponry was ferocious, imposing, deafening. The rifles spat fire. They made sure. They made sure again. They found a target from every point. They re-loaded. They resumed shooting until their index fingers swelled. A regiment fired from that ominous house so as to end the life of the general and that of his traveling companions. Not even a single one should live to recount it. The general's famous Dodge veered toward a tree and crashed against it. His motor was silent immediately and, at the same time, the mouths of the criminals' rifles became quiet. In the Parral dawn only isolated laments were heard, cries of pain that extinguished gradually. One of the assassins emerged from the house to fire point-blank the coup de grace to the temple of the general, who hung from the door of the vehicle with his right hand on his pistol, as if he wanted to unholster it to die fighting. The expanding bullets destroyed his chest and head. His macabre photograph would be added to those of Zapata and Carranza. Those of Madero and Obregón would be lost in the night of history. Ever since the president of the Republic thought for the first time of the assassination of general Villa until the crime was executed, it never passed through his mind that "I swear to defend the Political Constitution of the Mexican states united and the laws emanating from her, and if not that the nation dismiss me..." What did that which was affirmed by the Magna Carta promulgated only six years before matter to Obregón and to Calles, particularly that the Mexicans' maximum law established and commanded that "no one can be deprived of life, and of liberty...except through judgments pursued through previously established courts?" In the same manner, when president Carranza agreed to the assassination of Zapata, he did not think about article 14 either; and Calles and Obregón also ignored the oath when they ordered the capture and assassination of Serrano and Gómez and their followers in Huitzilac. What chance was taken during the history of political crime, almost always immune, by the material assassins of Madero and Pino Suárez and those of Zapata and those of Carranza and those of Villa and those of Field and Alvarado? The crimes and the betrayals were never sanctioned neither by the public power nor by the society. They did not even bury Villa with military honors, nor did they fire salvos in his memory nor did they organize a funeral procession. Only the people brought flowers to the cemetery. Yet Pancho Villa, as he himself predicted, was not to repose tranquilly even in his own tomb: three years after the crime someone returned to the tomb and removed the cranium of the general...
    LITTLE MORE THAN 100 YEARS after Cortás and his allies took Tenochtitlan, the Reyno Press, located in Madrid, published a voluminous book that attempted to provide the last word concerning the conquest of one of the jewels of the crown. Its author, who according to the title page was "one of the conquistadores," had put an ambitious title on his work: The true history of the conquest of New Spain. The name left no room for suspicion: Bernal Díaz del Castillo attempted to refute every one of the histories--from Five Letters of Relation by Hernán Cortés to Gómara's book--which gave an account of those deeds. The conquest of New Spain did not delay in becoming one of the principal sources about that era and, as opposed to the letters of Cortés and the History of the conquest of México by Francisco López de Gómara, have been re-published with great success for 400 years, gaining approval far and wide. Bernal is the mirror of the conquest and the conquest is Bernal's mirror. Thus, it is not strange that all the historians--official or not--and those readers interested in the facts which he narrates have approached his pages in order to discover the "truth." And at least in principle, they are not unreasonable to do so: Bernal was a witness and a protagonist, and many of the things that he says are beyond reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, I have the impression that, on more than one occasion, we have overvalued Bernal's book, for he wrote some falsehoods and, in certain cases, his affirmations are contrary to reality. To examine the work of Bernal with a critical gaze will permit us to judge it with impartiality and to assess it in its true measure, at the same time that we reveal as myth, that Bernal never lied. Hence, let us enter into The conquest of New Spain. THE "TRUTHS" OF THE "TRUE" HISTORY As an historical personage, Bernal Díaz del Castillo is elusive, we only having a handful of confirmed facts about his life: he was born in Medina del Campo, was the son of Francisco Díaz del Castillo--whom they nicknamed "The squire"--and of María Díez Rejón. In Mexico City he had a love affair with a maiden which Moctezuma gave him, who after being baptized as Francisca disappeared from history without leaving a trace; later he married Teresa Becerra, with whom he had several children. We know that after the conquest of México he settled in Guatemala, where he held some public offices and wrote his True history... Beyond those datums, all that we know is what he says about himself in his work. Curiously, Bernal is never mentioned by his companions in arms nor by the first historians of the conquest: Cortés did not dedicate him a single line in his Five Letters of Relation, nor did the other soldiers take note of him, and in Gómara's book he stands out by his absence. Therefore, many of the Bernal scholars --with Juan Miralles at the head--maintain that he wrote the True history... to "save his name from oblivion." This interpretation is not wrongheaded, for the chronicler prefaced the printing of his work claiming: "I am an oldster of 84 years and have lost my sight and hearing." Nevertheless, this did not cause him great problems, for he probably dictated his work to some scribe or to a friend of his. The book, as opposed to that by Gómara, was never conceived as a work of historical research, but instead as some memories, which explains the relative disorder that characterizes his exposition. The simple fact that the True history... is a book of memories and not the work of a researcher can explain for us some of its errors and falsehoods: he undertook the writing in solitude and never consulted his companions in arms about what they said, though some of them also lived in Guatemala. His great and perhaps only source was his memory, which he invoked various decades after the events that he narrated occurred. Yet time and the ability to remember are not the only problems that mark the True history... Bernal--like his companions in arms--was not present at each and every one of the events that he recounts, and thus his source of information was, at least in these instances, what was told him--at second-, third-, or fourth-hand--by the persons with whom he conversed during the conquest and the first years of colonial life. In this light, it should not surprise us that, for example, when the True history... refers to the resident's trial which Hernán Cortés confronted upon being accused of extracting gold from the royal quarters and distributing it among the conquistadores--to which was added the suspicion that he had poisoned his wife Catalina Juárez--it does not fit any of the facts which really occurred, for Bernal was not in Spain with the Conquistador and his words, in good measure, only show the hearsay that ran from mouth to mouth during those days. Likewise, it should not surprise us that Bernal would tell half-truths about the confrontation between Cortés and Diego Velázquez at the time of leaving Cuba, offer a strange version concerning the imprisonment and demise of Moctezuma, that he err on some details of the "Night of Sorrows," that he invents certain occurrences in relation to Narváez and with the expedition that came to those lands to apprehend Cortés and that, above all, he attributes a few feats to himself. Bernal lied on various occasions. Nevertheless, and despite his errors and falsities, the True history... continues to be a marvelous book, yet--like all works of history--one that must be read with caution, with suspicious eyes and open mind, for only so will we be able to discover its wealth and rid ourselves of its impurities. Such a reading, which should characterize all our approaches to the words that are written about the past and the present, is something that we should grant Bernal, the great memorioso of the conquest who confided too much on his memories and never went beyond that which his mind dictated.