ÁLVARO OBREGóN SALIDO (Spanish pronunciation: ; February 19, 1880
– July 17, 1928) was a general in the
Mexican Revolution , who
President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He supported Sonora's
decision to follow Governor of
Obregón's presidency was the first stable presidency since the
Revolution began in 1910. He oversaw massive educational reform (with
Mexican muralism flourishing), moderate land reform, and labor laws
sponsored by the increasingly powerful Regional Confederation of
Mexican Workers . In August 1923, he signed the
In 1924, Obregón's fellow Northern revolutionary general and hand-picked successor, Plutarco Elías Calles , was elected president, and although Obregón ostensibly retired to Sonora, he remained influential under Calles. Having pushed through constitutional reform to once again make reelection possible, Obregón won the 1928 election, but was assassinated by José de León Toral , a Mexican offended by the government's anti-religious laws, before he could begin his second term. Toral's subsequent trial ultimately led to his execution by firing squad, and it also involved a Capuchin nun named Madre Conchita, who was thought to be the mastermind behind Obregón's murder.
* 1 Early years, 1880–1911
* 2 Military career, 1911–1915
* 2.1 Early military career, 1911–1913 * 2.2 Struggle against the Huerta Regime, 1913–1914 * 2.3 Break with Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, 1914 * 2.4 Battle with the Conventionists, 1915 * 2.5 Obregón\'s arm
* 3 Early political career, 1915–1920
* 3.1 Minister of War in Carranza\'s Preconstitutional Regime, 1915–1916 * 3.2 Break with Carranza, 1917–1920
* 4 President of Mexico, 1920–1924
* 4.1 Educational reforms and cultural developments * 4.2 Labor relations * 4.3 Land reform * 4.4 The Mexican Catholic Church during Obregón\'s presidency * 4.5 Mexico-U.S. relations * 4.6 The de la Huerta rebellion, 1923–24
* 5 Later years, 1924–1928
* 5.1 Re-election and assassination
* 6 Honors * 7 Legacy and posthumous recognition * 8 In popular culture * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 Further reading * 12 External links
EARLY YEARS, 1880–1911
Obregón was born in Siquisiva,
During his childhood, he worked on the family farm and became acquainted with the Mayo people who also worked there. He attended a school run by his brother José in Huatabampo and thus received an elementary education. He spent his teenage years working a variety of jobs, before finding permanent employment in 1898 as a lathe operator at the sugar mill owned by his maternal uncles in Navolato, Sinaloa .
In 1903, he married Refugio Urrea and in 1904, he left the sugar mill to sell shoes door-to-door , and then to become a tenant farmer . By 1906, he was in a position to buy his own small farm, where he grew chickpeas . The next year was tragic for Obregón as his wife and two of his children died, leaving him a widower with two small children, who were henceforth raised by his three older sisters. In 1909, Obregón invented a chickpea harvester and soon founded a company to manufacture these harvesters, complete with a modern assembly line . He successfully marketed these harvesters to chickpea farmers throughout the Mayo Valley .
MILITARY CAREER, 1911–1915
EARLY MILITARY CAREER, 1911–1913
Obregón entered politics in 1911 with his election as municipal
president of the town of
Huatabampo . Obregón expressed little
sympathy for the Anti-reelectionist movement launched by Francisco I.
Madero in 1908–1909 in opposition to President
Madero succeeded in defeating
Obregón became a supporter of Madero shortly after Madero became
President of Mexico. In March 1912,
Pascual Orozco , a general who had
fought with Madero during the Mexican Revolution, but had grown
disaffected with Madero, launched a revolt against Madero's regime in
Chihuahua with the financial backing of
In April 1912, Obregón volunteered to join the local Maderista
forces, the Fourth Irregular
Obregón was quickly promoted through the ranks and attained the rank
Obregón had intended to return to civilian life in December 1912,
but then in February 1913, the Madero regime was overthrown in a coup
d\'état (known to Mexican history as
La decena trágica
Obregón immediately traveled to
Hermosillo to offer his services to
the government of
STRUGGLE AGAINST THE HUERTA REGIME, 1913–1914
The Sonoran government was in contact with the government of Coahuila
, which had also refused to recognize the Huerta regime and entered a
state of rebellion. A Sonoran delegation headed by Adolfo de la Huerta
In November 1913, Obregón's forces captured
Obregón and other Sonorans were deeply suspicious of Carranza's
Secretary of War,
In spite of his demotion, Ángeles formulated the rebel grand
strategy of a three-prong attack south to
Obregón began his march south in April 1914. Whereas Pancho Villa
preferred wild cavalry charges, Obregón was again more cautious.
Villa was soon at odds with Carranza, and in May 1914, Carranza
instructed Obregón to increase the pace of his southern campaign to
ensure that he beat Villa's troops to
In early July, Obregón moved south to Orendaín, Jalisco, where his
troops defeated federal troops, leaving 8000 dead, and making it clear
that the Huerta regime was defeated. Obregón was promoted to major
general . He continued his march south. Upon Obregón's arrival in
He also believed that the rich had been pro-Huerta, and he therefore
imposed special taxes on capital , real estate, mortgages , water,
pavement , sewers , carriages , automobiles, bicycles, etc. Special
measure were also taken against foreigners. Some of these were
deliberately humiliating: for example, he forced foreign businessmen
to sweep the streets of
BREAK WITH PANCHO VILLA AND EMILIANO ZAPATA, 1914
Tensions between Carranza and
Pancho Villa grew throughout 1914, as
Villa created a number of diplomatic incidents that Carranza was
worried would invite outside intervention in the Mexican Revolution.
On 8 July 1914, Villistas and Carrancistas had signed the Treaty of
Torreón , in which they agreed that after Huerta's forces were
defeated, 150 generals of the Revolution would meet to determine the
future shape of the country. However, Carranza disliked Villa's
insubordination so much that he refused to let Villa march into Mexico
City in August. In September, Villa and Carranza formally split, and
during this time Obregón paid a visit to Villa that nearly resulted
in Villa's having Obregón shot. Eulalio Gutiérrez
(1881–1939), flanked by Francisco "Pancho" Villa (1878–1923) and
The Convention that the Carrancistas and Villistas had agreed to in
the Treaty of
Torreón went ahead at Aguascalientes on 5 October 1914.
Carranza did not participate in the Convention of Aguascalientes
because he was not a general, but, as a general, Obregón
participated. The Convention soon split into two major factions: (1)
the Carrancistas, who insisted that the Convention should follow the
promise of the
Plan of Guadalupe
Eventually, it became clear that the Villistas/Zapatistas had
prevailed at the Convention; Carranza, however, refused to accept the
Convention's preparations for a "preconstitutional" regime, which
Carranza believed was totally inadequate, and in late November,
Carranza rejected the authority of the regime imposed by the
Convention. Forced to choose sides, Obregón naturally sided with
Carranza and left the Convention to fight for the Primer Jefe. He had
made many friends amongst the Villistas and Zapatistas at the
Convention, and was able to convince some of them to depart with him.
On December 12, 1914, Carranza issued his Additions to the Plan of
Guadalupe, which laid out an ambitious reform program, including Laws
of Reform, in conscious imitation of
BATTLE WITH THE CONVENTIONISTS, 1915
Once again, Obregón was able to recruit loyal troops by promising
them land in return for military service. In this case, in February
1915, the Constitutionalist Army signed an agreement with the Casa del
Obrero Mundial ("House of the World Worker"), the labor union with
anarcho-syndicalist connections which had been established during
Francisco I. Madero 's presidency. As a result of this agreement, six
"Red Battalions" of workers were formed to fight alongside the
Constitutionalists against the Conventionists Villa and Zapata . This
agreement had the side effect of lending the Carrancistas legitimacy
with the urban proletariat . General
Obregón's forces easily defeated Zapatista forces at
The armies of Obregón and Villa clashed in four battles,
collectively known as the
Battle of Celaya , the largest military
Latin American history before the
Falklands War of
1982. The first battle took place on 6 April and 7 April 1915 and
ended with the withdrawal of the Villistas. The second, in
Villa made a last attempt to stop Obregón's army in Aguascalientes on 10 July, but without success. Obregón distinguished himself during the Battle of Celaya by being one of the first Mexicans to comprehend that the introduction of modern field artillery , and especially machine guns , had shifted the battlefield in favor of a defending force. In fact, while Obregón studied this shift and used it in his defense of Celaya, generals in the World War I trenches of Europe were still advocating bloody and mostly failing mass charges.
President Obregón in a business suit, showing that he lost his
right arm fighting
Pancho Villa in 1915. It earned him the nickname of
El Manco de
During the battles with Villa, Obregón had his right arm blown off. The blast nearly killed him, and he attempted to put himself out of his misery and fired his pistol to accomplish that. The aide de camp who had cleaned his gun had neglected to put bullets in the weapon. In a wry story he told about himself, he joined in the search for his missing arm. "I was helping them myself, because it's not so easy to abandon such a necessary thing as an arm." The searchers had no luck. A comrade reached into his pocket and raised a gold coin. Obregón concluded the story, saying "And then everyone saw a miracle: the arm came forth from who knows where, and come skipping up to where the gold azteca was elevated; it reached up and grasped it in its fingers--lovingly--That was the only way to get my lost arm to appear." The arm was subsequently embalmed and then put in the monument to Obregón on the site of where he was assassinated in 1928. Obregón always wore clothing tailored to show that he had lost his arm in battle, a visible sign of his sacrifice to Mexico.
EARLY POLITICAL CAREER, 1915–1920
MINISTER OF WAR IN CARRANZA\'S PRECONSTITUTIONAL REGIME, 1915–1916
In May 1915, Carranza had proclaimed himself the head of what he
termed a "Preconstitutional Regime" that would govern
As Minister of War, Obregón determined to modernize and professionalize the Mexican military thoroughly. In the process, he founded a staff college and a school of military medicine . He also founded the Department of Aviation and a school to train pilots. Munitions factories were placed under the direct control of the military.
BREAK WITH CARRANZA, 1917–1920
In September 1916, Carranza convoked a Constitutional Convention, to
be held in
However, when the Constitutional Convention met in December 1916, it contained only 85 conservatives and centrists close to Carranza's brand of liberalism, a group known as the bloque renovador ("renewal faction"). Against them were 132 more radical delegates who insisted that land reform be embodied in the new constitution.
Obregón now broke with Carranza and threw his considerable weight behind the radicals. He met with radical legislators, as well as the intellectual leader of the radicals, Andrés Molina Enríquez , and came out in favor of all their key issues. In particular, unlike Carranza, Obregón supported the land reform mandated by Article 27 of the constitution. He also supported the heavily anticlerical Articles 3 and 130 that Carranza opposed.
Shortly after swearing his allegiance to the new Constitution, Obregón resigned as Minister of War and retired to Huatabampo to resume his life as a chickpea farmer. He organized the region's chickpea farmers in a producer's league and briefly entertained the idea of going to France to fight on the side of the Allies in World War I. He made a considerable amount of money in these years, and also entertained many visitors. As the victorious general of the Mexican Revolution, Obregón remained enormously popular throughout the country.
By early 1919, Obregón had determined to use his immense popularity
to run in the presidential election that would be held in 1920.
Carranza announced that he would not run for president in 1920, but
refused to endorse Obregón, instead endorsing an obscure diplomat,
Obregón began to campaign in earnest in November 1919.
In the meantime, Carranza seemed determined to stop Obregón. At Carranza's behest, the Senate stripped Obregón of his military rank, a move which only increased Obregón's popularity. Then, Carranza ochestrated a plot in which a minor officer claimed that Obregón was planning an armed uprising against the Carranza regime. Obregón was forced to disguise himself as a railwayman and flee to Guerrero , where one of his former subordinates, Fortunato Maycotte, was governor . When the election was held, Bonillas defeated Obregón.
On 20 April 1920, Obregón issued a declaration in the town of
On 23 April, the Sonorans issued the
Plan of Agua Prieta , which
triggered a military revolt against the president. Obregón's Sonoran
forces were augmented by troops under General
Benjamín G. Hill and
the Zapatistas led by
The revolt was successful and Carranza was deposed. On 20 May 1920,
Carranza was killed in the state of
For six months, from 1 June 1920 to 1 December 1920, Adolfo de la
Huerta served as provisional president of
PRESIDENT OF MEXICO, 1920–1924
Obregón's election as president essentially signaled the end of the violence of the Mexican Revolution. The death of Lucio Blanco in 1922 and the assassination of Pancho Villa in 1923 would eliminate the last remaining obvious challenges to Obregón's regime. He pursued what seem to be contradictory policies during his administration.
EDUCATIONAL REFORMS AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENTS
José Vasconcelos (Rector of the National
Autonomous University of
Vasconcelos was also interested in promoting artistic developments
that created a narrative of Mexico's history and the Mexican
Revolution. Obregón's time as president saw the beginning of the art
Mexican muralism , with artists such as
Obregón also sought to shape public perceptions of the Revolution
and its place in history by staging elaborate celebrations in 1921 on
the centenary of Mexico's independence from Spain. There had been such
celebrations in 1910 by the Díaz regime, commemorating the start of
the insurgency by
Obregón kept his August 1919 agreement with Luis Napoleón Morones and the Regional Confederation of Mexican Workers (CROM) and created a Department of Labor, installed a labor-friendly Minister of Industry and Commerce, and issued a new labor law. Luis N. Morones in 1925
Morones and CROM became increasingly powerful in the early 1920s and it would have been very difficult for Obregón to oppose their increased power. Morones was not afraid to use violence against his competitors, nearly eliminating the General Confederation of Workers in 1923.
CROM's success did not necessarily translate to success for all of
Mexico's workers, and Article 123 of the Constitution of
Land reform was far more extensive under Obregón than it had been under Carranza. Obregón enforced the constitutional land redistribution provisions, and in total, 921,627 hectares of land were distributed during his presidency. However, Obregón was a successful commercial chickpea farmer in Sonora, and "did not believe in socialism or in land reform" and was in agreement with Madero and Carranza that "radical land reform might very well destroy the Mexican economy and lead to a return to subsistence agriculture."
THE MEXICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH DURING OBREGóN\'S PRESIDENCY
Many leaders and members of the Roman Catholic Church in
Although Obregón was suspicious of the Catholic Church, he was less anticlerical than his successor, Plutarco Elías Calles , whose policies would lead to the Cristero War (1926–29). For example, he sent Pope Pius XI congratulations upon his election in 1922 and, in a private message to the pope, emphasized the "complementarity" of the aims of the Catholic Church and the Mexican Revolution.
In spite of Obregón's moderate approach, his presidency saw the
beginnings of clashes between Catholics and supporters of the Mexican
Revolution. Some bishops campaigned actively against land distribution
and against the organization of workers into secular unions . Catholic
Action movements were founded in
The most serious diplomatic incident occurred in 1923, when Ernesto
Filippi , the Apostolic Nuncio to
As president, one of Obregón's top priorities was securing US
diplomatic recognition of his regime, to resume normal Mexico–United
States relations . Although he rejected the U.S. demand that Mexico
rescind Article 27 of the constitution, Obregón negotiated a major
agreement with the United States, the
THE DE LA HUERTA REBELLION, 1923–24
Adolfo de la Huerta
In 1923, Obregón endorsed
Plutarco Elías Calles for president in
the 1924 election (in which Obregón was not eligible to run). Finance
Adolfo de la Huerta
De la Huerta then organized an uprising against Obregón. Over half of the army joined De la Huerta's rebellion, with many of Obregón's former comrades in arms now turning on him. Rebel forces massed in Veracruz and Jalisco.
In a decisive battle at
Following the crushing of the rebellion, Calles was elected president
LATER YEARS, 1924–1928
Following the election of Calles as president, Obregón returned to
Obregón remained in close contact with President Calles, whom he had
installed as his successor, and was a frequent guest of Calles at
Obregón returned to the battlefield for the period October 1926 to April 1927 to put down a rebellion led by the Yaqui people. This was somewhat ironic because Obregón had first risen to military prominence commanding Yaqui troops, to whom he promised land, and the 1926–27 Yaqui rebellion was a demand for land reform. In all likelihood, Obregón participated in this campaign in order to prove his loyalty to the Calles government, to show his continued influence over the military, and also to protect his commercial interests in the Yaqui Valley, which had begun to suffer as a result of the increasing violence in the region.
Obregón formally began his presidential campaign in May 1927. CROM and a large part of public opinion were against his re-election, but he still counted on the support of most of the army and of the National Agrarian Party.
Two of Obregón's oldest allies, General Arnulfo R. Gómez and General Francisco "Pancho" Serrano, opposed his re-election. Serrano launched an anti-Obregón rebellion and was ultimately assassinated. Gómez later called for an insurrection against Obregón, but was soon killed as well.
RE-ELECTION AND ASSASSINATION
Obregón won the 1928 Mexican presidential election, but months
before assuming the presidency he was assassinated. Calles's harsh
treatment of Roman Catholics had led to a rebellion known as the
Cristero War , which broke out in 1926. As an ally of Calles, Obregón
was hated by Catholics and was assassinated in La Bombilla Café on
July 17, 1928, shortly after his return to
LEGACY AND POSTHUMOUS RECOGNITION
Although Obregón was a gifted military strategist during the
Revolution and decisively defeated
Pancho Villa 's Division of the
North at the
Battle of Celaya and went on to become President of
Mexico, his posthumous name recognition and standing as a hero of the
Revolution is nowhere near that of Villa's or Emiliano Zapata's. As
president, he successfully gained recognition from the United States
in 1923, settled for a period the dispute with the U.S. over oil via
His assassination in 1928 before he could take the presidential office created a major political crisis in Mexico, which was solved by the creation of the National Revolutionary Party by his fellow Sonoran, General and former President Plutarco Elías Calles .
An imposing monument to
In Sonora, the second largest city,
IN POPULAR CULTURE
In the novel The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996) by James Carlos Blake , Obregón is a major character.
Obregón is also featured in the novel Il collare spezzato by Italian writer Valerio Evangelisti (2006).
Obregón's legacy and lost limb are the subjects of Mexican-American
* List of heads of state of
* ^ Cline, Howard F. The United States and Mexico. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press 1961, p. 208.
* ^ A B Cline, U.S. and Mexico, p. 208.
* ^ Heilman, Jaymie. "The Demon Inside: Madre Conchita, Gender, and
the Assassination of Obregon". Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos,
18.1 (2002): 23–60.
* ^ Krauze, Enrique (1997). Mexico: Biography of Power, p. 374, p.
* ^ A B C Krauze, p. 375, p. 375, at
* ^ A B C Krauze, p. 377, p. 377, at
* ^ A B Krauze, p. 378.
* ^ A B C D E Krauze, p. 379.
* ^ Slattery, Matthew (1982).
* Buchenau, Jürgen (2004) "The Arm and Body of a Revolution:
Remembering Mexico's Last Caudillo, Álvaro Obregón" in Lyman L.
Johnson, ed. Body Politics: Death, Dismemberment, and Memory in Latin
America. Albuquerque: University of New
* Admiring essay on the
Battle of Celaya with a focus on the tactics
used by General Obregón.
* Priestley, Herbert Ingram (1922). "Obregón, Alvaro".
Preceded by Adolfo de la Huerta