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 ?
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Lecture, Week 4, spring Term
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
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)
Mexican Cristero, 1934
19th C Spanish Carlist
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”
- 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 ?
- the Revolution, anti-clericalism and Catholic identity
- Church-State conflict and precipitants of war
- Cristero insurgency
- 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....
- 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.”
- 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
Feria Municipal de Tenosique, Tabasco, 1935
In 1920s: govt. felt politically weak in the face of :
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)
- 1924, Church support for the De La Huerta military revolt against Calles.
Luis Flores, founder, 1922
First Women’s Brigade, 1922
Women supplying ammunition
Women supplying food
Imprisoned Brigadistas sowing
Victoriano Ramirez (a) El Catorce
- Government broke many of the “arreglos” and state persecution of Catholics continued into the 1930s.
-approximately 500 Cristero leaders and 5,000 other Cristeros were shot, frequently in their homes in front of their spouses and children (WP)
- After peace in 1929, many thousands of Cristeros and sympathisers migrated to the US.
- Others received sanctuary on the estates of their erstwhile enemy, Saturnino Cedillo in San Luis Potosi (proof that Cristeros and Agraristas shared a common culture !)
Execution wall, Zamora, Michoacan