Escobar, General José Gonzalo
Mexican history is full of revolts and corruption and General José Gonzalo Escobar did his part. He was a "general de division," a very high
rank with many troops and a lot of clout. He was also an idealist for his time, and, just like any other
idealist, he was not going to give up until he got what he sought: change in the Mexican
government. There was a point where Escobar pledged his allegiance to the government and the
president, and he followed through with his promises. Then there was a point when he rebelled.
Escobar was an excellent general who led his troops to victory in several instances. One of
those was on February 10,1924 in Ocotlán. General Escobar led government troops in successfully squashing
a rebellion. He further demonstrated his loyalty to the Mexican government by
not supporting Francisco
Murguía's rebellion. With thousands of soldiers, General Escobar fell upon Murguía
and his men at Jaguia de Huaraché (near Indé, Durango), and Murguía barely escaped with his
life. Another example of General
Escobar's strength as a general is against General Hector Ignacio Almada. A group of men at Chapultepec Castle asked
General Escobar to combat a group that had revolted under Almada. Escobar took about 2,000
men with him in his pursuit. General Hector Ignacio Almada was making his way to Veracruz
with Escobar directly on his heels. Almada only had about 700 men (after October 5th), but he
insisted on heading for Perote to meet General Arnulfo R. Gómez. Escobar "hotly" pursued him, and by the 9th of
October, Escobar and associates defeated the troops of Gómez, Almada, and Aguilar (who fled
soon after) with little difficulty (Dulles 353).
Not only was General Escobar a very effective general, but he was also very resourceful.
When Gómez fled, Escobar used his resources and found someone who was providing Gómez
with food to tell him where Gómez was hiding. Escobar then captured Gómez in the mountains
where he had been hiding with his nephew. The problems started to surface when Calles' term
was up for Provisional President, and a new one was needed. Calles warned the military generals
who wanted the presidency that it would be a disaster for them, the institution, and the nation if
one of them took office. Still, several divisionarios like Escobar had their sights on the position
despite Calles' warnings of bloody rebellion (Lieuwen 101). When Calles gave this speech at the
inaugural address, Escobar made a point to show support for what the president was saying, and
squelch any suspicion against him. "'I think, frankly, we should all have absolute confidence in
the president. He knows that I do not have the intention of committing a servile act, but I do
consider that he has a political vision much superior to ours, for he is a specialist in political
questions. I feel that the president is completely right'" (Dulles 389). This statement was made in
response to Calles' remarks about who should secede him in the office. Furthermore, Escobar
assured the president that no rebellion would take place by saying the following: "'I wish to make
it clear…barrack uprisings have passed into history. The army has been definitely purged of such
shameless men'" (Dulles 390). Another action taken by Calles further angered the generals. On
his last day in office, December 1, 1928, Calles founded the Partido Nacional Revolucionario
(PNR). He wanted to establish a formal code of political succession. This infuriated many people
Also, during Calles' presidency, there were 21 divisions. Out of those twenty-one, Escobar
was one of the most powerful. Escobar was high on Calles' list of dangerous men (Lieuwen 91).
According to Calles, Escobar had already accumulated large sums of money in Torreón and
Monterrey banks that he ended up using in his revolt.
Even though General Escobar tried to make himself appear as innocent as possible, and
nonchalant about the Provisional President situation, people were still uneasy about his intentions.
Some people considered Escobar to be disappointed at the fact that he was not being named war
minister. To counteract these suspicions, Escobar went on a trip with the new president,
Portes Gil in early February to Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas and expressed his loyalty to Portes Gil. In
reality, Escobar was very busy planning a coup d'etat which means to overthrow the government.
Plans were starting to form in early December, but Escobar kept delaying because he felt
the opportunities were not good enough (Dulles 424).
Meanwhile, General Escobar and other political military officers were recruiting people to
join their rebel group. Escobar wrote General Abelardo Rodríquez (governor and military
commander of Baja, California) asking him to join, but he was turned down. General Rodríquez
said (in his return letter) that he knew Escobar was a "sound and intelligent person, who foresees
the sad consequences which a new revolution would have for the country" (Dulles 424). The
original plan, according to General Bonifacio Topete, was that Aguirre and Fox planned to go to Mexico
City on March 9th and capture Portes Gil, Calles, and Almada. Then they were going to put
Escobar in the place of Gil as Provisional President (Dulles 437).
Furthermore, the Plan of Hermosillo (Sonora) refused to recognize the presidency of Porte
Gil, or others, who opposed the plan. General Escobar was therefore declared "Supreme Chief of
the liberating movement and of the Ejercito Renovadora le Revolución" (Dulles 438). According
to Portes Gil's statistics, Escobar was in charge of 3,500 troops in Coahuila in March of 1929
when he revolted (Dulles 442). On March 3,1929, Escobar wired Portes Gil to prove his
"allegiance" once again. Afterwards, he took his men and attacked Monterrey. People thought
that he was fighting on behalf of the Mexican government and that General Juan Andreú Almazán
was actually the one who was rebelling. These instance shows how effective General Escobar
was at throwing off blame on other people by the way he carried out his plans. At this time,
Almazán was in Veracruz fighting the rebels, and Escobar took Monterrey easily.
In the beginning of the rebellion, Escobar and Topete said that their rebels had control of
nine states including the following: Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Nayarit, Zacatecas,
Jalisco, Veracruz, and Oaxaca (Dulles 443). As Supreme Chief of Ejercito Renovadora, Escobar
issued two decrees: 1. No re-election and 2. revocation of laws that regulated religious worship.
The second decree immensely pleased the clergy and the Cristeros. Escobar also established a
number of consulates in cities in the United States. This action, later, turned
into one of the
downfalls in his rebellion. The city of Jiménez was a big loss for the escobaristas (followers of
Escobar). Although they had successfully destroyed the railroad and made it very difficult for the
federal troops to cross the water, the rebels still lost about 6000 men. After this fight, Escobar
fled north, and on his way he picked up 2000 more men.
The Escobar Rebellion is also known as "the Railroad and Banking Rebellion." On May 22, 1929,
General Calles resigned his position from the War Department to return to private
life (Dulles 457). The results of this rebellion were devastating to the Mexican nation as a whole.
Portes Gil stated an estimate of the cost as 13,800,000 pesos. The destruction of railways and
trains, sacking of banks, etc. cost an additional 25 million pesos (Dulles 457). The nation
experienced a loss of about 2000 people to death, including 2-3 rebel generals. Porte Gil says the
rest, "'enriched at the cost of the nation and truly responsible for this new shame in our
history…'" (Dulles 457). Although Escobar's putsch was defeated, it paved the way for financial
catastrophe in Mexico. They started to experience a petroleum crisis, a textile crisis, political
uncertainty, and etc. (Meyer 64). Escobar's Rebellion cost the Mexican government an extra
100 million. Thirty million of those amounts went in additional payments to the army.
To conclude, the 1929 rebellion was far more serious than the rebellion of 1927. About
one third of the government's officers, and about 30,000 troops rebelled. All of these rebels were
under the command of General José Gonzalo Escobar. In two and half months, more than 2,000
people died. One reason why so many of the federal generals revolted is because they felt slighted
by Calles' appointments. The generals (rebels) opposed this and other forms of Calles' tyranny.
That is why they decided to launch a revolt (Lieuwen 103). The rebels might have had a good
victory if the United States had not aided the government with munitions and combat planes
(Magner 543). Even Portes Gil said the rebels had "almost 30,000 well-equipped men" (Dulles
442). To further emphasize how well-equipped they actually were, General Calles made the
following statement: "'When the rebellion broke out, 22 battalions, one regional fixed company,
and 21 Calvary regiments…were apparently removed from the authority of the government'"
(Dulles 442). In other words, Escobar did an outstanding job of recruiting experienced officials.
After this defeat, the political generals of the revolution were never again able to mount a serious
challenge to the central authorities (Lieuwen 103-104).
Dulles, John W. F. Yesterday in Mexico: A Chronicle of the Revolution, 1919-1936.
Lieuwen, Edwin. Mexican Militarism: The Political Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Army, 1910-1940.
Magner, James A. Men of Mexico.