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The Mexican Revolution and the Cristeros

The Mexican Revolution is a sensitive subject. Without blaming it on one individual, I view it as a great tragedy, as all revolutions indicate a breakdown of civic discourse. The Mexican Revolution was especially long and bloody. It should be of interest to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace. It began in 1910. Franciscoo Madero was the Liberal candidate for the presidency, but Porfirio Díaz, using strong arm tactics, was reelected. Madero was imprisoned and then went into exile in the US. He called on the Mexican people to rise on November 20 in defense of the Plan de San Luis Potosí (the city where he had drafted it), which called for the deposition of Porfirio Díaz and the restoration of democracy. Madero crossed into Mexico, but finding little support, soon returned to the US. Since the revolt was a total failure, the date was not celebrated until this year, when President Fox staged a big, peaceful parade of the Zócalo, Mexico City's main square. I wondered why? Perhaps it was to show that he represented the heritage of the Mexican Revolution, which gave the former official Party (PRI), Institutional Revolutionary Party, its legitimacy. I wonder if Mexicans give that interpretation to Fox's gesture?

Lurking behind this is the religious issue, embodied in Articles 3, 5, 27 and 130 of the 1917 constitution. In 1926, the Archbishop of Mexico, José Mora y del Río, declared that the Church could not abide by the restrictions they imposed. President Plutarco Elías Calles retorted by imposing them more heavily. A bloody Civil War broke out between army troops and the Catholic rebels, whose cry was "¡Viva Cristo Rey!" and who thenceforth were called Cristeros. The fighting was bloody. One photograph show cristero corpses hanging from every post along a railroad track. The Cristeros were crushed. Avila Camacho became president in 1940, and in the following decades the restrictions on the Church were slowly relaxed. A large church dedicated to Cristo Rey was built on a mountain in central Mexico. Last year, Pope John Paul II canonized a number of the clergy killed during the Cristero war. Some anticlericals were displeased.

Another factor became know to me on Sunday November 11, thanks to the mass at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio. It is the last Sunday before advent, when the ecclesiastical year begins. Incidentally, Advent, the four weeks before advent (coming of Christ, Christmas) has a Spanish origin. Being the final Sunday of the ecclesiastical year, it is called in Mexico the Feast of Cristo Rey , Christ the King. Christ was mockingly crowned King of the Jews by the sceptics who put a crown of thorns on his head. That crown has been transformed into a real crown. It is the last, crowning day of the year, a joyful day. In my experience, this is only a Mexican phenomenon. The Church has won the Cristero war. I have not heard of it elsewhere. Have any of you?

Ronald Hilton - 11/25/01