Ten Tragic DAYS

    On Sunday, February 9, 1913, citizens in Mexico City were awakened to the sounds of artillery fire. 

            Plans began for this day four months earlier when Generals Manuel Mondragón and Gregorio Ruiz, along with Cecilio Ocón, a citizen, conspired to overthrow the government of Mexico.  After numerous anti-Madero revolts failed as well as defeats with Félix Díaz were lost, Felicistas and Reyistas joined the three men in their plan.  Bernardo Reyes encouraged the contact between the group and Victoriano Huerta, a well-known enemy of Madero.  Huerta, however, did not become an ally because he was concerned about the timing of the event.  While agreeing that Madero should be replaced, he refused to participate at that point, partly as a result of wanting to be the leader of the group, not a supporter. 

            Mondragón sent two sets of troops out early on the morning of the 9th of November.  One group, with Mondragón as the lead, went to the Prison Militar de Santiago Tlaltelolco and the penitentiary of the Federal District, while the other group took over the National Palace.  General Lauro Villar, commander of the National Palace troops, woke with the news that the Palace had been taken by rebels.  After organizing his troops, he broke through on a side door of the Palace and disarmed the cadets before the President even knew the Palace had been taken over. 

            Mondragón’s troops continued their march towards the Palace, unknowing that the Palace’s troops had regained control.  They were expecting to place Reyes in as the provisional president but instead, they were met with fire from Villar’s troops.  After ten minutes, the rebels retreated from the city with Reyes and many others dead.  Under the lead of Mondragón and Díaz, the troops took over Ciudadela, the citadel where arms and ammunition was located, and set up their headquarters for the next ten days.  

            When President Madero was told of the events, he went to the Palace to find Villar injured.  With no other choice, Huerta, who had been inactive for several months, was placed in control of the troops and the order to kill Gregorio Ruiz, who had been captured, was confirmed.  This decision has discrepancy as to whether Huerta or Madero actually decided what to do.  Either way, Madero had to act quickly and once he did place Huerta into power, he stood his ground, despite the criticism he faced from friends, family, and supporters.

            By February 11th, both the Palace troops and the rebels received military support from the units surrounding Mexico City.  The downtown business district was used as a battlefield with the civilians seeing the horrors of violence and death. 

“Artillery fire from both sides reduced public buildings and private residencies to heaps of rubble.  As commercial establishments were forced to close their doors, consumer goods became scarce and prices skyrocketed.  The streets of the capital were strewn with burning cars, abandoned field pieces, and runaway horses.  All normal traffic in the heart of the city came to a halt as public transportation and communication facilities were almost fully interrupted.  Mobs sacked the leading metropolitan newspaper buildings and the owners were forced to suspend publication.  On one occasion in the middle of the week a barrage of federal artillery fire opened a breach in one of the walls of Belem prison and hundreds of prisoners escaped.”[1]

The number of civilian casualties hit into the hundreds but neither side gained clear advantage.  With the sanitation practices unable to work through this destruction, corpses were piled throughout the city. 

Yet it cannot be expected that Huerta was following the rules set forth by Madero.  There was always some underlying theme with his actions.  What he was doing now was to try and get Madero out and himself in as president.  Heurta was secretly meeting with Félix Díaz.  When Madero’s brother, Gustavo Madero heard of these conferences, he warned his brother who met with Huerta.  Huerta explained himself by saying he was trying to end the fight, not to do anything to undermine Madero.  Being the kind sole that Madero was, he believed Huerta and allowed him to continue leading the troops, ultimately leading to his demise.[2]  On February 17, several anti-Madero Senators and Huerta met and requested Madero’s resignation.  Madero refused but on February 19, General Aureliano Blanquet arrested Madero and Pino Suarez, his vice-president.  They were later carried to palace custody and on February 20, they formerly resigned and were prepared to go into exile.  United States Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, who was brought in to settle disagreements between the Madero and anti-Madero supporters and help settle the political argument, encouraged Huerta to “Do what was best for the peace of the country.”[3]  In saying so, Wilson sent Madero and Suarez to their death. 

Madero and Suarez, with the intention of going into exile, boarded a train, which would lead them to exile.  In front of Calle Lecumberri, the train doors opened in front of the penitentiary and both were pushed out.  Two guards began to shout insults at them and one man pulled a gun from his belt and shot Madero and Suarez, both in the back of their heads.  This man was later identified as Francisco Cárdenas.[4] 

 

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    [1] Ronald Atkin, Revolution! Mexican Revolution 1910-1920 (New York: John Day  Company, 1969), 50-51.

    [2] Samuel H. Mayo, A History of Mexico: From Pre-Columbia to Present (Englewood Heights, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1978), 312.

    [3] Ibid.

    [4] Ibid.