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Excellent General or Terrible Tyrant?
by Josh Burnham
Victoriano Huerta, a native of Colotlán, Mexico, was born on March 23, 1854. Victoriano, born of a mestizo father and an Indian mother, was neither prestigious nor influential by birth. In the 20th century and the 19th century, being an Indian often made life hard. Most Indians were poor and very few made a name for themselves. However, Huerta grew up in school and was educated at a young age. He was a very bright student and excelled in his fields of study when he was young. According to one source, "he excelled in astronomy and mathematics at the Military College and was also skilled as an engineer, cartographer, surveyor and railroad specialist" (Jim Tuck). Even compared to today's society, Victoriano was well educated. Being of Indian decent did not affect his intelligence or education in the slightest way. For most of his life, Huerta had been infatuated with the military. When he was just fifteen years of age, Huerta volunteered, as a personal secretary for a general, Donato Guerra in the Mexican army. With the help of General Guerra, Huerta was enrolled at the Military College of Chapultepec (Kohout). While a cadet at the military academy, Huerta quickly distinguished himself from the other cadets (Kohout). Also upon his graduation in 1877, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and assigned to head a team of engineers building and repairing fortifications.
Huerta began to establish himself as a great military mind and great leader among his troops. Later, Porfirio Diaz promoted Huerta to General. This was very gratifying for Huerta who greatly admired Diaz, who was also of Indian decent. While serving for Porfirio Diaz, Victoriano met a lovely lady by the name of Emilia Aguila. They ended up falling in love and eventually had eleven children together. While a general under Diaz, Huerta once again distinguished himself from the rest of his peers by his victories in numerous campaigns against local indigenous groups. Victoriano, being of Indian decent, did not prevent him from suppressing local indigenous uprisings with the utmost ruthlessness
Victoriano was a great general and military leader. By studying other great leaders in history he became a brilliant military genius. By 1890, Huerta had achieved the rank of colonel. He was promptly sent to Mexico City and received a permanent staff position there. Just three years later, being the military genius that he was, Huerta was sent to the city of Guerrero to put down a rebellion there. After the rebellion was suppressed Huerta returned to Mexico City. In 1900, seven years after the rebellion in Guerrero, Victoriano was sent to again put down a rebellion of Indians in the city of Sonora. One year later he was called upon to suppress the Maya Indians. While engaged with the Mayans, Huerta developed cataracts, which never went away. While achieving a high rank in the military, and becoming very influential, Huerta was still not satisfied with the power he had.
In 1913, Huerta "overthrew president Madero and assumed control of the government" (Mexico connect). Huerta then placed the former president Madero on trial but never had the chance to try him because Madero was mysteriously gunned down while being transferred to prison. Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the government established by Huerta after the execution. The state of Mexico under Huerta was one of rebellion and terror. While acting as president, Victoriano was constantly fighting rebellions in North headed by Pancho Villa. Huerta's rule was a very bloody one, "eighty-four congressmen were imprisoned, several were murdered, and a courageous federal senator from Chiapas, Belisario Dominguez, was taken into a garden and shot after denouncing Huerta's tyranny" (Tuck). Huerta kept himself in power by destroying all uprisings that would occur. He also controlled the local people by installing a police force that would carry out his orders and dispel any rebellions that might happen. These so-called "police" force were notorious for using force and flood shed against the locals. Along with the many uprising from northern Mexico, Huerta also had another enemy. The United States government never liked the government under Huerta. They asked Huerta to give an open election to ensure democracy. Conceding to their demands an election was held but Victoriano declared the election void and appointed himself president. Woodrow Wilson was opposed to Huerta being the ruler of Mexico and allied himself with the enemies of Huerta. The U.S. blocked the export of weapons to Mexico. The United States even "dispatched U.S. troops to occupy the key Mexican port of Veracruz in April 1914, cutting off Huerta from an important source of revenue and a location for importing arms" (MSN Encarta). Later the U.S. partially lifted the blockade of weapons but only to the adversaries of Huerta. Feeling pressure from the United States and other rebellions headed by Pancho Villa Huerta resigned on July 15, 1914.
Victoriano Huerta was then exiled from Mexico and moved to his family to Barcelona, Spain. In 1915 Huerta moved to the United States, the very country that was opposed to his rule. This was during World War I but the U.S had not yet entered the conflict. While in the U.S, Huerta began to conspire with the German government. Germany promised Victoriano Huerta around $900,000 and arms to try to set up a pro-German government in Mexico. Huerta and his associates then moved their regime to Texas to be closer to Mexico and closer to implementing their plans. But the United States intercepted the conspiracy plans of Huerta and Germany. Huerta was arrested and placed in a jail near El Paso. Huerta's influence on politics and Mexico was all but finished.
Victoriano Huerta had a long history of alcohol abuse. Pancho Villa, a long time enemy of Huerta referred to him as "El Borrachito" or little drunkard (Tuck). Also "a joke circulating was that Huerta's two best foreign friends were named Hennessy and Martel" (Tuck). After his imprisonment by the United States, Huerta's drinking became more profuse. During a routine gall-bladder operation, it was found that he had cirrhosis of the liver. On January 13, 1916, Victoriano Huerta died of complications due to cirrhosis of the liver. After many years of drinking, his habit had finally taken its toll on his body.
Victoriano Huerta was a brilliant military mind. Born of a poor mestizo family, through many opportunities and circumstances he overcame many obstacles in making himself a prominent general and eventually president. Growing up, Huerta was well educated and very opportunistic. An excellent professional soldier, he also excelled in mathematics and was a highly trained engineer. Although a better general than a president, his life left a lasting impression on the history of Mexico. Sometimes called a villain and other times called a drunk, no one can deny the brilliance of Huerta.
"Mexican Revolution," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2003
© 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Jim Tuck,"USURPER: THE DARK SHADOW OF VICTORIANO HUERTA," 1999.
Martin Donell Kohout, "Victoriano Huerta," Dec. 4, 2002. The Texas State Historical Association.