(The MEXICAN REVOLUTION – continued)

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The Huerta Presidency and Civil War in 1914


Victoriano Huerta. Like Diaz, he was ashamed of his Indian heritage.


Venustiano Carranza.

Madero had made mistakes, and now it was Huerta's turn. It would be difficult to put back into the tube the sense of freedom that had been released with Madero's rebellion. Huerta had the obedience of Mexico's federal army, but he mistakenly believed that with the strength of his army he could control Mexico.

Huerta sent a message to all state governors demanding their allegiance. Governor Venustiano Carranza of the state of Coahuila defied Huerta, and his army joined those of Villa and Zapata against Huerta. Carranza and Villa recruited greater armies from among the poor, the poor believing that they were fighting for food and for land. And elsewhere across Mexico, guerrilla bands arose that harassed Huerta's forces.

European powers had given quick recognition to the Huerta regime, and from Europe Huerta acquired loans. The United States reacted differently. Its new president, Woodrow Wilson, had taken office just eleven days after Madero's murder, and he was appalled by Huerta's usurpation of power and Huerta's political executions. He saw Huerta as a scoundrel and a drunkard. President Wilson sacked the ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson. President Wilson sympathized with Mexicans opposed to Huerta, and arms began to flow from the United States to Carranza, which Carranza paid for with cattle.

In February 1914, after months of civil war, the Huerta regime made prisoners of some unarmed US sailors at the port of Tampico, and this inspired President Wilson to send the US fleet to Mexico's gulf coast. Wilson hoped to hasten Huerta's fall by cutting off the arms shipments to Huerta from Germany to the port of Veracruz. In April, the US moved to seize Veracruz, bombarding the city as it landed Marines. In the fighting between the Marines and Huerta's forces, nineteen Americans died and seventy were wounded. Mexican deaths were 193 and an estimated 600 were wounded. To the surprise of Wilson he had aroused Mexican nationalism. Wilson's invasion outraged many in Mexico and elevated Huerta, who was perceived as fighting against "the gringos." Carranza denounced the invasion. Mobs in Mexico City were assaulting American businesses. Only Pancho Villa held back from criticizing the United States.

Huerta tried to enhance his status as a hero by vowing to invade Texas. But Huerta's days as "president" were numbered. The US Marines continued to hold ground in Veracruz as a minor sideshow while the armies of Carranza, Villa and Zapata were converging on Mexico City. On July 14, 1914, Huerta resigned and went into exile on a German ship that took him to Spain.

The armies of Villa, Carranza and Zapata occupied Mexico City, and to the surprise of its citizens, Zapata's soldiers, reputed to be barbarous, conducted themselves with gentility, humbly begging for food at the homes of the well-to-do. Villa's troops were another matter. Villa did not smoke or drink, but he did not control the drinking of his troops. They made a poor impression on the people of Mexico City with their unrestrained drinking and their wild and merry gunfire, and it was a time when impressions mattered.



Copyright © 2004-2014 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.