The Catholic Revival and the Cristero Rebellion Modern Mexico, Lecture, Week 4, spring Term
“La Cristiada” Cristero Family Cristero Leader
Church-State Conflict Given the strength of Catholicism in Mexico, why did President Calles take on the Church in 1926 and lead Mexico into civil war ? The Cristero War “La Cristiada” -lasted for three years 1926-29 -claimed lives of some 90,000 people: 56,882 on the federal side, 30,000 Cristeros, plus numerous civilians and Cristeros who were killed in anticlerical raids after the war's end -resulted in a stalemate and peace accord brokered by US Ambassador Dwight Morrow
Armed conflict broke out again in 1934 in response to Narciso Bassols’ programme of Socialist Education By the 1930s Mexico was infamous in the Catholic world for state persecution of the clergy and Catholic religious belief Graham Greene, The Lawless Road and The Power and the Glory)
Catholic Rebels Mexican Cristero, 1934 19th C Spanish Carlist
Cristeros-Sinarquismo-PAN Later 1930’s: Catholic movement morphed into the proto-fascist Sinarquista movement that influenced the Revolution’s move to the Right, and relaxation of the more stringent anti-clerical laws after 1938. Yet, until the PAN’s defeat of PRI in 2000 , RC clergy and religion were invisible beyond church buildings and atria, a measure of Jacobin Mexico’s fear of the Church in a “Catholic Nation”
Religion and Revolution - Revolutions – especially in the 20th C – aspire to replace established religion with a secular “political religion”. Cultural “caudillos” sought to “De-sacralise” traditional spaces and “de-fanaticise” citizens, before “sacralising the secular” in revolutionary festivals, parades, etc.. - Liberal and Catholic Mexico had clashed in the mid 19th C . - Jacobin – “Bolshevik” - Mexico would surely therefore clash with resurgent Catholic Mexico during the 20th ?
Lecture - the Revolution, anti-clericalism and Catholic identity - Church-State conflict and precipitants of war - Cristero insurgency
Revolutionary anti-clericalism Sonoran Dynasty - Church much less powerful in the North: Obregon and Calles saw their mission as bringing Centre and South into the modern, secular world, like the US - Sense of social exclusion: Obregon, Calles and Adolfo de la Huerta: all from lower-middle class, sons of schoolteachers, bar and pool hall owners....
Revolutionary anti-clericalism • - resented hold of R Catholicism over minds of most Mexicans, especially the "common people", over whom they craved more direct control. • “Catholic ritual...(is)...a seductive trick designed to exploit ignorant peasants hallucinated by floats, adorned with clouds, little angles, chalices and all the artifices the clergy uses to cheat them out of their last penny”. Guanajuato petition, December 1934, • in Adrian Bantjes, Adrian, “Idolatry and Iconoclasm,” Mexican Studies Vol.13, 1997.
Revolutionary anti-clericalism - Revolutionaries not necessarily atheistic or anti-religious. Many were Spiritualists or had converted to Protestantism, a cause which they aspired to promote as a counterpoise to the Catholics. And many were practicing Catholics..... Letter from General Vargas, signed “Free man of the North”, to Cristero leader, Pedro Quintanar , Zacatecas, 1927, “I should be very much in favour of the Catholic sect if it were national, that is to say, if you appointed your own pope, a Mexican, and got rid of that immoral institution, confession, and of the celibacy of the clergy. I’m from the frontier, and in my village the Catholic Church is hardly known.”
Revolutionary anti-clericalism - Some revolutionaries, however, such as Governors Rodolfo Calles in Sonora and TomásGarridoCanabal of Tabasco, were aggressively antireligious and iconoclastic: - saint burning and the destruction of altars and confessionals, were necessary first acts in freeing the minds of the poor and ignorant from the clergy’s superstitious hold. See Adrian Bantjes, “Burning Saints, Moulding Minds: Iconoclasm, Civic Ritual, and the Failed Cultural Revolution”, in William Beezley ed. Rituals of Rule Rituals of Resistance
Revolutionary anti-clericalism • Tomás Garrido Canabal, Governor of Tabasco, referred in 1925 to the clergy: • “...the cassocked vultures have seized their prey, digging their talons into the heart of the Indian, who is less prepared than any other race to resist the seduction of the whole ritual farce.”
Tomás Garrido Canabal, Agrarian cacique of Tabasco Feria Municipal de Tenosique, Tabasco, 1935
Competing Nationalisms: Catholics • Catholics claimed to be more Mexican than the Revolutionaries: • revered Virgin of Guadalupe, Iturbide and Hidalgo (who was anti-French Revolution) • pointed to invasion of US Protestant missionaries (and to Prots and Masons in Calles’s Cabinet) • government “agraristas” carried the Black and Red Anarchist flag, Cristeros carried National colors (Green, White and Red) & Virgin of Guadalupe • Church made more rapid headway in the symbolic representation of a national culture and in the occupation of public space: flags,monuments, union and lay associations, demonstrations (purposeful processions/pilgrimages)
Reading on Catholic lay associations and pilgrimages • For modern Catholic lay associations see chapters/article on reading list by Robert Curley and Kristina Boylan on the seminar reading list for week 5 • For modern and “traditional” Catholic associational life in Oaxaca see • Edward Wright-Rios, Revolutions in Mexican Catholicism: Reform and Revelation in Oaxaca, 1887–1934 2009
Anti-clericalism and gender • The Revolution - and the future - were male creations: by Freemasons, military leaders, agraristas, workers..... • Heroic males were aided by women teachers and “ligas feminas....” (see Rivera mural of rural teacher) • Clergy “feminised”: priests lambasted as skirted, laden with lace, surrounded by women and children...
Anti-clericalism and gender • Church capitalised on the popular perception of the Revolution as male, violent, corrupt and opposed to the teachings of Christ: • Wright-Rios writes: • “Churchmen and laywomen frequently gendered modern error as male” p.33 • “Catholicism spoke to women at a time when secular elite at best talked about how to control them.” p.34 • Massive growth of Catholic women’s lay associations suggest women’s empowerment or at least growing presence in the public sphere.
Reading on anti-clericalism • The articles in the 2009 issue of The Americas are all dedicated to anti-clericalism in Mexico: • For example: Robert Curley, “Anticlericalism and public space in revolutionary Jalisco”, The Americas 65, 4, 2009, 511-33.
Timing of conflict • Heightened Church-State conflict coincided in late 20s and early 30s with decline in radical programmes of the Revolution. • Improved relations coincided with phases of radicalism: late 1910’s, early 1920s, mid to late 1930s. • Hence, was religion targeted as a substitute for social reform ? ... Church scape-goated as the Government’s chief political rival ?
Timing of conflict • 1919-1925 Sonorans were busy elsewhere: beating Constitutionalists, pacifying Zapatistas, Villistas and agraristas, developing close ties with labour, holding radicals at bay, gaining recognition from the US • 1925-26, mounting confrontation with the Church
Church provocation or insecure government ? In 1920s: govt. felt politically weak in the face of : • Catholic revival had been going on since the 1870s following Leo XIII’s 1890 Rerum Novarum & Diaz’s conciliation policy. • Madero’s revolution provided improved conditions for Catholic action and politics: National Catholic Party (PNC), approved by Madero, does well in 1912 election. Church coping with “modern” politics more successfully than the state (see Robert Curley’s chapter/article on Jalisco) • Catholic revival continues during the later 1910s and 20s: Catholics support National Democratic Party (PND), 353 Catholic Unions representing 80,000 workers by 1925.
Church provocation or insecure government ? In 1920s: govt. also felt politically weak in the face of : - strength of radical regional agrarian cacicazgos: Carrillo Puerto Yucatan), Saturnino Cedillo (San Luis Potosi), Adalberto Tejeda (Veracruz) , Francisco Mujica (Michoacan), Emilio Portes Gil (Tamaulipas), Jose Guadalupe Zuno (Jalisco) • - politics becoming more polarised: revolutionary “ligas campesinas” & “ligas femininas” faced their Catholic counterparts daily, in the streets and fields. • Calles sought order and central control
Church provocation ? • Activities of Church activists, even if not directly related to politics, appeared threatening: • - 1922, “Cubilete” monument to “Christ the King!” in Guanajuato attracted thousands of pilgrims • -1924, flamboyant Eucharistic conference organised by the Conference of Mexican Bishops - 1924, Church support for the De La Huerta military revolt against Calles.
State provocation ? Schismatic Church • February 1925, supported by Luis Morones and the CROM, ten Catholic priests established the Mexican Catholic Apostolic Church, a schismatic Church, receiving Calles’s approval. • A Morones construction, or something deeper ? • Matthew Butler, “Sotanas Rojinegras: Catholic Anticlericalism and Mexico’s revolutionary Schism”, The Americas 65,4, 2009, 535-58. • Mathew Butler, ,“God’s Campesinos ? Mexico’s Revolutionary Church in the Countryside,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 28, 2, 2009, 165-184.
Showdown: the Calles Law • June 1926 Calles decides to reform Article 130 of the Constitution of 1917. • Article 130: • - required "churches and religious groupings" to register with the state • - placed restrictions on priests and ministers of all religions: cannot hold public office, canvas on behalf of political parties or candidates, inherit property from persons other than close blood relatives. • In June 1926 Calles signed the "Law for Reforming the Penal Code“ providing specific penalties for priests and individuals who violated Article 130:
The Calles Law • - wearing clerical garb in public was punishable by a fine of 500 pesos (250 U.S. dollars); • - a priest who criticized the government could be imprisoned for five years. • - some states enacted further measures: Chihuahua enacted a law permitting only a single priest to serve the entire Catholic congregation of the state. • - using 19th C laws, Calles appropriated church property, expelled all foreign priests, and closed monasteries, convents, and religious schools.
Suspension of public worship, July 31 1926 • 31 July 1926 Church suspends public worship in “an attempt to put the sacraments and the clergy beyond the reach of the law” (Butler) • Government replies by commandeering many churches for secular use • Mathew Butler, “The Church in “Red Mexico”: Michoacán Catholics and the Mexican Revolution, 1920-1929”, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 55(3), July 2004, 531.
Catholic economic boycott • Catholics boycott government schools, stores, newspapers... • Particularly effective in west-central Mexico (Jalisco, Guanajuato, Aguscalientes and Zacatecas) where Catholics stopped attending movies and plays, using public transportation, while Catholic teachers stopped teaching in secular schools. • Boycott collapsed in October when Catholic elite, feeling the punch, withdrew support.
LNDLR (National League for the Defence of Religious Liberty) • 1925 LNDLR established (in absence of a party) to coordinate Catholic Youth, Women and Social Catholic associations. • 1 million members by Sept 1926, 200,000 in Mexico City • Mobilised Catholics in the US & Europe • Attracted politicians, journalists, intellectuals • middle class made up rank and file, appealed especially to the young.
Unión Popular (UP) • -Unión Popular (UP) – established in 1923 by Anacleto González Flores of Tepatitlán, Los Altos de Jalisco. • - led campaign of peaceful civil disobedience against the anti-clerical laws led by lay organization • inspired by Gandhi and the German Volksbund that opposed Bismark’s campaign against the RC Church in Germany • Much more popular and rural than LNRLR
Union Popular: Catholic Employer’s Union of Guadalajara Luis Flores, founder, 1922 First Women’s Brigade, 1922
Escalation of Violence • August 3 1926, 400 armed Catholics shut themselves up in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Guadalajara • involved in a shootout with federal troops • surrendered only when they ran out of ammunition, • resulted in 18 dead and 40 injured. • August 4, 240 government soldiers stormed the parish church of Sahuayo Michoacan, priest and his vicar killed in the ensuing violence.
Escalation of Violence • August 14, government agents purged Chalchihuites (Zacatecas) chapter of the “Association of Catholic Youth”, executing their spiritual adviser, Father Luis Bátiz Sainz. • action prompts band of ranchers behind Pedro Quintanar to seize the local treasury and declare themselves in rebellion. At the height of Brigada Quintanar held a region including the entire northern part of Jalisco.
Escalation of Violence • September: other armed movements launched in Guanajuato, Durango and northern Jalisco. • Meanwhile, rebels in Jalisco (particularly the region northeast of Guadalajara) gathered forces behind 27-year-old Capistrán Garza, leader of the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth. • This region became the main focal point of the rebellion. • 1 January 1927 official startt of hostilities with Capistrán Garza’s manifesto “A la Nación”.
Outbreak of War • Cristero battle cry: “¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! “ • Church hierarchy opposed the war, although supported boycott and strike • Parish clergy also, according to Jean Meyer, opposed the war, preaching peaceful resistance. 3,600 priests withdrew from villages to cities • Only 5 priests took up arms although over 40 died in conflict.
Cristero War: conflict between Church and State ? • Who then were the Cristeros ? • Was the Cristero War a struggle between Church and State ? • Or was this a religious crusade of the ordinary Mexican people ? • The view favoured by influential French historian Jean Meyer……