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2: Cananea

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    A flyer posted on a store on June 11 in 1993 said that the mining festival was going to be from June 15-20. Tours of the mine were going to be conducted on Friday, June 18, and Saturday, June 19. The branch of the library in the Casa de la Cultura was open in the afternoon on Fridays.

    One week from when I was there before, I was back. After I fumbled my question in Spanish, the guide told me in English that tours were being done in the brown buses belonging to the mine. With five other people, the bus I got on pulled away from the cultural center. Before going to the mine, the bus went in the opposite direction, and climbed the hill to the primary school near the downtown area. It picked up 30 children, who appeared to be in the sixth grade, and a teacher.

    The tour went through every part of the mine accessible from the main road. It stopped at the old open pit now being used as a tailings pond. As children in Globe, Kearney, and Morenci would do when they tour the mines there, they oohed and aahed when they saw the old open pit, and again when they saw the ore trucks with tires 13 feet in diameter.

    One thing was missing from the tour. There was no narration or printed guide of any kind in Spanish, English, or any other language. Nothing said by the tour guide, except for a few words in English to me when we stopped at the pond. Nothing said by the teacher.

    There were many signs along the road in the mine. One said that it was Mexico's largest mine. I had a Spanish-English dictionary, so I could look up the words I did not know. I had driven past most of the mines in Arizona in years of going around the state, so I had an idea of what the copper mining process is.

    After the tour, I walked up the hill past the school, and visited the historical sites that had been closed the week before. Close to them was the other library branch, which I revisited. Nearby, children were starting to swim in the municipal pool, operated by the local Lions Club. The library branch in the Casa de la Cultura was closed for the day of the festival. I left town earlier than I had expected to. At the east end along Highway 2, there was an ore truck, as the ones that had awed the children at the mine. It was parked there, to entice motorists to stop in town for the festival.

    As I stopped along the highway between Cananea and Naco on the way back, I wondered who would be more lost on the tour, me, for whom Spanish was distinctly a second language, or a motorist coming from somewhere like Mexicali or Chihuahua, who did not know anything about the copper mining process.

    Certainly, the motorists had heard about Cananea's history, in classes as the ones the children had been in before going on the tour. Down the hill before leaving town, a man was wearing a cap saying, Cananea--Cuna de la Revolución Mexicana.

  This is a look at what Cananea is like, and why it is called the Cradle of the Mexican Revolution.

   The origin of the name Cananea is unclear. Some say that the origin is unknown, but it is not from the land of Canaan in the Bible. Others say that it comes from the Apache words "can", for meat, and "enta", for horse. Other than mining, the predominant activity in the area of Cananea is ranching. In 1986, the number of people in the municipality of Cananea was counted as 29,509. The population was estimated to be 35,000 in 1989.

   When Coronado visited in 1540, and Father Kino visited in 1696, the site of Cananea was inhabited by Pima people. Spanish authority first came in 1760. For reasons given as "lack of security" and "benefits not certain", Cananea was abandoned in 1762. In this brief time, mining activity was attempted.

   Various other people endured Apache raids, and tried to work the mines through 1860, when General Ignacio Pesqueira acquired a controlling interest in them. Pesqueira, the strongman of Sonora, held power in the state for as long as he could against Porfirio Díaz. In 1883, control of mines in the area passed to Americans George Perkins and B. Benham.

   By 1896, William Greene had taken control of the mines in Cananea. He had just been acquitted of killing a neighboring rancher in revenge in Tombstone, after his daughter drowned in a flood caused when his dam near the San Pedro River was blown up in an explosion. He established the Cananea Consolidated Copper Company, or 4 Cs. Once Greene became an honorary colonel, he used the title frequently. The camp rapidly grew, and temporary buildings became permanent. By 1906, there were 21,000 Mexicans, and 2,000 Americans, in town.

   To attract Americans with the mining experience that he needed, Greene paid them $5.00 for a day of 8 hours. Mexicans were paid 3 pesos and 50 centavos, or $1.75 at the exchange rate of the day, for a day of 10 hours. This was much more than the 50 centavos a day, which ranches and industries in nearby cities and the surrounding area were paying their workers. As people left them for Cananea, these employers complained to the governor of Sonora, Rafael Izabal. Greene cut Mexican wages to 3 pesos a day.

   Revolts in Sonora and Chihuahua against Díaz in the 1890s had been crushed. After their newspaper, Regeneración, was suppressed in 1905, the Flores Magón brothers of the Mexican Liberal Party, Ricardo and Enrique, escaped to St. Louis and printed it there. Copies were smuggled into Mexico, and Regeneración soon became more popular than it had been when it was published south of the border.

   Inspired by Regeneración and other liberal thought on both sides of the border, miners in Cananea formed two secret clubs early in 1906. One was the Liberal Humanity Union, whose president was Manuel Diéguez, and whose secretary was Esteban Baca Calderón. The other was the Liberal Club of Cananea, led by Lázaro Gutiérrez de Lara. Both groups came together to sponsor the Cinco de Mayo celebrations. At the celebrations, Baca Calderón exhorted workers to stand up for their rights. Excerpts from Baca Calderón's speech are printed in Mexican history books today.

   On May 30, an American saloonkeeper was killed by the Cananea municipal police, for no apparent reason. The incident was included by both the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Daily Citizen in their reports on the strike.

   On May 31, workers were told in public that the 4 Cs could lay off "a good part" of their number, and give more work to those who were left. Hastily, some workers met in secret. An informer told Greene about this meeting. He immediately wired the Copper Queen store in Bisbee. The store stayed open until Greene could get there and purchase all available weapons. As word of possible trouble spread in Bisbee that night, a crowd of 2,000 people gathered. It was not dispersed until the city of Bisbee ordered all saloons to be closed. The stage was set for what both the Star and Citizen called a race war.

   By 5 A.M. on Friday, June 1, 400 miners blocked the entrance to the shaft of the 4 Cs' Oversight Mine. Baca Calderón later reported that Diéguez had not wanted to strike. Whether or not the Liberal Humanity Union had wanted to strike, it put together a negotiating committee. Its four demands were: pay Mexican workers a minimum wage of 5 pesos for an 8-hour day, employ three Mexicans for every American, give Mexicans the right to be promoted, and replace some supervisors with others who had "noble sentiments"who would not degrade them for their national origin. Other miners wanted half the supervisors to be Mexican, and complained of high prices at the company store.

   By 10 A.M., a formal meeting was held between company and union negotiators, in the Ronquillo district of the city. Greene was an amiable man, and was cheered by some in the crowd of 2,000 that had gathered outside. Greene, citing Mexican government pressure, refused all demands. He pointed out that wages were the highest of any paid to miners in Mexico.

   By 2 P.M., miners gathered in Ronquillo to march. All sources agreed that they wore their best Sunday suits. They carried banners reading " Ocho horas, cinco pesos", and carried Mexican flags. Two thousand joined them at the Oversight mine and at Buenavista, another 200 joined them at the concentrator, and 1,000 more joined them at the smelter. The marchers then went to the lumberyard, run by the brothers George and Will Metcalf. While George Metcalf had the responsibility of moving miners from their temporary shacks to good company houses as they were built, he was still disliked for his arrogance.

   Leaders of the marchers demanded to talk to the workers at the lumberyard. George had Will turn a firehose on the marchers, soaking them, as well as their banners, suits, and flags. After initial surprise, miners with candlesticks for seeing as they worked underground rushed and killed George Metcalf. Shots from the lumberyard drove off miners who attempted to kill Will. The miners set fire to the lumberyard.

When Greene saw the smoke from the lumberyard, he rushed in a carriage to the Cananea police station. Finding no one there, he rushed in an automobile to his home, hitting people along the way. With those Americans who had not fled into the hills, Greene set up a defense. After his general manager made a last-ditch attempt to calm the streets of Cananea that almost cost him his life, he joined Greene at his house on the mesa. Four Americans who had molten ladles of copper thrown at them in a mine, and 35 other Americans, joined them. There, they were besieged by strikers who had 300 guns and ammunition taken from the pawn shops of Ronquillo, and explosives that they had taken from the mines a few days before.

   Col. Greene made a telephone call to Bisbee, asking for volunteers to relieve him and the other Americans. During a lull in the fighting, he went to the nearby railroad station and telegraphed Gov. Izabal in Hermosillo. The American consular official sent one to the State Department in Washington, asking for help as "American citizens are being murdered", and one to President Theodore Roosevelt.

   The telegraphs to Washington brought Buffalo Soldiers from Ft. Huachuca to Naco, where they awaited orders to cross the border that did not come. Izabal contacted Díaz in Mexico City, and then took the train from Hermosillo to Nogales. Crossing the border, he took the train to Naco. Díaz then ordered 1,500 of his regular army troops from Arizpe to Cananea. He also ordered Emilio Kosterlitzky, the commander of the rurales in northern Sonora, to take them from Magdalena to Cananea.

   The call to Bisbee brought 30 volunteers led by the local YMCA physical instructor, and 275 volunteers led by Arizona Ranger Captain Thomas Rynning, all acting on their own initiative. The YMCA volunteers got to Naco first, and were repelled by Mexican border guards. When Rynning's larger party arrived in Naco around 1 A.M. June 2, the mayor tried to surrender Naco, Sonora to him. Rynning refused, and waited for Gov. Izabal.

   Soon, the governor arrived. To get around the impression that his men were an American force invading Mexican territory, Rynning persuaded Izabal to allow them to march across the border as individuals. Izabal then swore Rynning into the Mexican army as a colonel, and Rynning then formed the volunteers into ranks and swore them in as his regiment. Rynning and the volunteers, with Izabal, then boarded the train to Cananea. They relieved Greene after dawn. Izabal and Greene made speeches, in an attempt to calm the town down. Miners attempted to make another march that day, and were met by gunfire. By the time the afternoon's gunfire ended, six Americans and 35 Mexicans were counted as dead.

   At dusk, Kozterlitzky arrived from Magdalena with 75 rurales. Kozterlitzky had jumped a Russian ship in Venezuela in 1872, and had become a lieutenant in the Mexican cavalry by 1880. He gained respect and fear for his dealings with common bandits, Yaquis in southern Sonora, the last of the Apache raiders in the north, and opponents of Díaz. When he arrived, he put Cananea under martial law, and the rurales killed 56 men in two groups. Then they seized and hanged 7 of the strikers' leaders, and displayed their bodies in public. He ordered Rynning's volunteers to leave Mexico. After delay, they took the train to Naco at 10 P.M.

    The regular army troops arrived in the morning on Sunday, June 3. Immediately, their commander, Luis Torres, assembled 2,000 of the miners. He told them that anyone not at work the next day would be inducted into the army and sent to southern Sonora to fight the Yaqui Indians. When Greene announced that he knew which American miners had sympathized with the strike, and would begin dealing with them, 300 left immediately.

   Greene stayed in Cananea until his death in a carriage accident in 1913, two years after rebels led by Juan G. Cabral came to power. All other Americans left soon afterwards, except for experts retained by Anaconda and Atlantic Richfield.

    Dieguez, Baca Calderón, and six others were sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in the fortress of San Juan de Ulloa, in the port of Veracruz, about 250 miles east of Mexico City. They stayed there until they were released by Francisco Madero after the Revolution replaced Díaz with him as president of Mexico in 1911. However, they were not released immediately; Madero did not release them until he received political pressure from leaders of Sonora. Gutiérrez de Lara escaped. Posing as a Spanish interpreter for John Turner, who posed as a salesman of supplies to the henequen plantations of southern Sonora, he secretly returned to help Turner compile material for his book. Turner wrote Barbarous Mexico in an effort to counter the part of the press in the United States that praised Díaz. Dieguez would become a capable general in the Revolution in Sonora and its neighboring state of Sinaloa. He always fought for Alvaro Obregón and his political leader, Venustiano Carranza. Baca Calderón fought for Obregón and Carranza in Guadalajara against supporters of Pancho Villa in 1915. The next year, he participated in the convention that wrote Mexico's Constitution. It is not known what happened to Gutiérrez de Lara for certain, but the best guess is that he fell in the mountains southwest of Nogales in 1918 fighting Carranza.

guada.jpg (33725 bytes)  

The Metropolitan Cathedral in Guadalajara. The main part was built in the 16th century; the tower was added in the 19th.


   Kozterlitzky opposed Madero in late 1910 and early 1911, but did not fight him. Díaz fell from power quickly after forces led by Villa and Pascual Orozco, swearing allegiance to Madero, took Juárez in 1911. When Madero came to power, Kozterlitzky resigned from the armed forces. Madero would recall him to service. After Madero was overthrown by Victoriano Huerta in 1913 and killed, Kozterlitzky would meet Obregón in Nogales.

Even though the federal congress in Mexico was handpicked by Díaz, it thought that the actions of Izabal, particularly in letting Rynning and his volunteers go to Cananea, were disrespectful enough to Mexican sovereignty to summon him to Mexico City. Izabal was exonerated, and he returned to Sonora as governor. However, Torres soon took over for him. Successes of the Revolution brought Pesqueira's grandson, also called Ignacio, to the governor's chair in 1913.

   The events of the strike in Cananea were highlighted in the next issues of Regeneración. More strikes broke out in Mexico: textile mills in Río Blanco near Veracruz and near Mexico City, and railroads based in the central Mexican city of San Luis Potosí. The strike at Rio Blanco was suppressed more brutally than the one at Cananea. Wealthier people, as Madero, began to think of ways they could run the country better than Díaz.

   Cananea endured many skirmishes in the Revolution: Orozco's failed rebellion against Madero, Obregón's taking of the town from Huerta in 1913, and continual fighting between Obregón and Villa in 1914 and 1915. Obregón's forces finally took Cananea for good in 1915. The rebellion of José Escobar came to Cananea in 1928. For a short time, Escobar held the town, but his forces left it quickly after he was defeated in Naco. Soon after Greene died, Anaconda took control of the mines in Cananea. Even after political pressure from many within Mexico, the Greene family's properties in the area surrounding Cananea were not completely bought by the federal government until 1958. The government did not buy Anaconda out completely until 1961.

   With Atlantic Richfield as a minority partner, the mines of Cananea remained nationalized as Compañia Minera de Cananea until 1989. At the time, they were the second-largest producing copper mines in Latin America. In August, one week before the union contract was supposed to expire, the government declared the mine bankrupt, and closed it. The closure was backed by 3,000 army troops, all of whom remained inside the mine, and did not come out except to go through town to take the road to Hermosillo. There was a march by 6,000 in protest which blocked the road, but there was no violence. Miners received food from Sierra Vista.

   In December, the mines were reopened. Workers resumed getting $300-400 a month in wages, plus benefits which were said to be the best in industry in Mexico. They also got half the money they would have received if the mines had stayed open. By September 1990, the mines were sold to a consortium led by Mexican investor Jorge Larrea, known as Mexicana de Cananea. Despite the fears of workers, Section 65 of the National Miners' Union still represents them at Cananea. However, 1,500 of them were let go, when Mexicana de Cananea gained control.

  The interior customs check was moved from northeast to southwest of Cananea, so the city is now within Mexico's border zone. For Americans, this means that they can now drive to Cananea without a car permit, and be there for a short period of time without a tourist visa. Cananeans can now drive cars imported from the United States and elsewhere legally, and use imported appliances and other goods, without paying duties in addition to Mexico's value-added tax. Another purpose of bringing Cananea into the border zone was to encourage it to diversify its industries by adding maquiladoras, or twin plants.

There is no significant maquiladora activity today, though. There is still soreness about the events of 1989 and 1990, and about economic conditions in general today. This was demonstrated again by the events of 1999. Even so, there is still enough activity in Cananea to support about 25,000 people, today in 2000.

  Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari went to Cananea to speak about NAFTA, the day after he, George Bush, and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney simultaneously announced in their capitals that negotiations on the free trade agreement had been completed, in August 1992. The visit by Salinas marked the deep significance Cananea holds in the history of all of Mexico. With respect to its international commercial relations, Cananea holds more significance to Mexico than any other spot there.

  More people go to Cananea from Sierra Vista than ever before now, but still, people from Sierra Vista go to Tucson more often than Cananea. Cananea is the same distance as Tucson by road from Sierra Vista, 75 miles.

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