1922: Francisco Murguia

Add comment November 1st, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1922, Mexican General Francisco Murguia was shot at the Tepehuanes cemetery in Durango.

A photographer who found martial glory in the Mexican Revolution, Murguia (FindAGrave.com entry | Spanish Wikpiedia entry) was ally to revolutionary president Venustiano Carranza against rivals like Pancho Villa. He spent the late 1910s as Carranza’s military governor of Durango and Chihuahua where Jamie Bisher in The Intelligence War in Latin America, 1914-1922 denounces him “a brute” distinguished by “ruthlessness that stood out even in the Mexican Revolution … Murguila’s Chihuahua would be remembered for the corpses strung up in silent ranks along the roads.”

His loyalty to the Carranza cause after its namesake was deposed and assassinated in 1920 caused Murguia to flee to Texas for a time. He found his way into these dark pages by returning to lead a planned constitutionalist revolt against dictator Alvaro Obregon; anticipating the support of a coordinated rising, he was supported in the moment only by scanty fractions of the anticipated forces, leaving him nothing but the doomed bravado of a man before the muzzles.

“I have been granted the honor of directing my own execution, and I have sufficient fortitude to command it, but I shall not do it because I do not wish to commit suicide. For — and hear me well — they are not executing me; they are assassinating me. Viva Carranza!”

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Mexico,Power,Shot,Soldiers,Treason

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1917: Otilio Montaño, Zapatista

Add comment May 18th, 2017 Headsman

One hundred years ago today, Otilio Montaño Sánchez was shot as a traitor to the Mexican Revolution.

Montaño was a rural schoolteacher who came to mentor Emiliano Zapata via Zapata’s cousin.

Montaño had the distinction of helping Zapata draw up his movement’s “sacred scripture,” the egalitarian Plan of Ayala, and rose with his protege to become Secretary of Public Instructions in the Zapatista governing junta.

This association was destined to be displaced by a different (ex-)revolutionary, Venustiano Carranza, who would break with Zapata and emerge from the Revolution as Mexico’s president. Montaño suffered the fate Carranza’s former allies would have wished to impose upon him: being accused of supporting a pro-Carranza revolt, a revolutionary tribunal had him shot (dishonorably, shot in the back) wearing a defamatory sign reading “So die all traitors to the fatherland.”

A small town in Morelos is named for Montaño.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Intellectuals,Mexico,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1913: Antonio Echazarreta, defending Matamoros

3 comments June 4th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1913, constitutionalist troops in the Mexican Revolution consolidating control over the border town of Matamoros shot a 23-year-old colonel who helped lead the city’s volunteer resistance.

Garrisoned by fewer than 50 regular soldiers, Matamoros put up only brief resistance to Gen. Lucio Blanco‘s June 3-4 attack, many of its government officials and wealthy denizens bolting over the Rio Grande to adjacent Brownsville, Texas.*

But some of the young guns in town had an overdeveloped sense of heroic machismo and sold their lives dearly to postpone the inevitable.

Groups of young Matamoros men, some of them fourteen and fifteen years old, volunteered for service under irregular huertista officers. They fought stubbornly until early in the morning of June 4. A number of them were captured and executed by Blanco’s men. (Source.)

Echazarreta’s leadership of these ill-fated guerrillas saw him up against the wall this day, but also saw him into the revolution folk song about the city’s conquest, “Corrido de la toma de Matamoros”. Nor was the revolution yet finished with Matamoros, or its martial prowess.

In 1915, as the rival revolutionary factions openly broke with one another, carrancistas loyal to President (and Villa rival) Venustiano Carranza inflicted a signal defeat on Villa at Matamoros that began Villa’s march into political and literal wilderness. It’s commemorated in yet another revolutionary corrido, here sung by Jose Suarez (via the U.S. Library of Congress):

[audio:Corrido_villesta_de_la_toma_de_Matamoros.mp3]

* An interesting photo album covering this battle is available here.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Arts and Literature,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Guerrillas,History,Mexico,No Formal Charge,Power,Public Executions,Shot,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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1919: Felipe Angeles

12 comments November 26th, 2007 Headsman

On this date in 1919, Mexican hero General Felipe Angeles was shot at dawn in Chihuahua, hours after a military tribunal condemned him for rebellion.

Angeles, a humane and cosmopolitan socialist, had tacked a unique course through the dangerous Mexican Revolution. The career artillerist’s military counsel was a high card in the hands of the revolutionaries, and helped to make the coruscating career of Pancho Villa. Crucially, Angeles advised Villa to seize the mines of Zacatecas, dealing a mortal blow to the putschist Huerta government by throttling its currency at the source.

But that brilliant maneuver countermanded an order of the Revolution’s moderate political face, Venustiano Carranza, and both personality conflicts and support for more radically redistributionist measures soon sundered the Villa factions’ alliance with Carranza.

Angeles hitched his destiny to Pancho Villa and is historically recalled as the “angelic” opposite number to the famed guerrilla’s other top military henchman, the murderous Roberto Fierro. The three lend themselves almost implausibly to allegorical literature — “the decisive biographical proof of Villa’s duality … found in the two men closest to him, equidistant and extreme extensions of his nature.” (Enrique Krauze)

Angeles aimed, perhaps, at a statesmanship that might have remembered him the father of his country.

‘It was the recurrent dream of the impotent revolutionary intellectual: to play Plato to some powerful but pliant popular caudillo.’ This may well be an accurate analysis of Angeles, who probably had ambitions to be president of Mexico, with Villa as the power behind the throne but based in Chihuahua, allowing Angeles free rein to implement radical reforms in the capital

… Angeles probably saw Villa as a tabula rasa on which he could imprint his ideology. The problem was that Villa had no taste for abstract thought; as [John] Reed remarked ironically: ‘You had to be a philosopher to explain anything to Villa.’

To the grief of both, Villa neglected Angeles’ expertise when the Villists faced Carranzo at arms. Against advice, Villa abandoned Mexico City, failed to attack when the constitutionalists were tenuous, then spurned guerrilla operations for a frontal assault into the teeth of a foe with numerical superiority and lethal tactical advances culled from the slaughterhouse of World War I.

All was postscript after the Battle of Celaya — Villa maintaining for a few years as a bandit force and famously raiding New Mexico while his strategist drifted into exile in Texas before returning to Mexico on a quixotic peacemaking mission that led him instead to a show trial.

Angeles’ end came with the all the dignity of his romantic age. Before his judges — before all the world — he gave “full and clear expositions of his history and his ideas about everything from politics to ontology. It was clear that he knew this was his end, and he seems to have written a kind of intellectual memoir in the protracted answers … he was not defeated morally so much as physically.”

Angeles himself arranged particulars of his own execution with the Carranza men detailed to shoot him. He enjoys posthumous esteem commensurate with his qualities in life:

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,Guerrillas,History,Martyrs,Mexico,Notable Participants,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Treason,Wartime Executions

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