THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK SEVEN: CUAHTENOTL EPACT
José, accordingly, arrived in Veracruz on the fifteenth of the month, just after don Porfirio's nephew, Felix Diaz, declared himself against Madero, but before he had actually taken up arms against the President. Doctors had announced that the American ex-President and Progressive candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, would likely survive the bullet placed into his chest by a lunatic in the city of Milwaukee... but the objectives and capabilities of the three principal candidates of the North had been further obscured. At any rate, military intervention seemed unlikely... at least until after the election. President Taft's vice-president, James Sherman, was, apparently, at death's door and, as it seemed, the American republic had come under siege as it had not been since the Civil War... that time during which France had seen its opportunity, taken it, and paid the price.
Ricardo "Rico" Malafonte resembled hundreds, if not thousands, of the crawling and flying insects of innuendo that had swarmed since the weakness of Porfirio Diaz became evident... a man one could not trust, a man whose esteem plummeted further for his acceptance of but half the blood money of two hundred pesos, the rest promised on José's return to Veracruz with the heads of his enemies. But this willingness to accept a deferred payment did not have the desired effect of calming José's suspicions - on the other hand, his temper worsened, and worsened further upon receipt of a coded telegraph from Bravo that Felix Diaz, supremely confident in his own abilities and those of José to secure all of the missing funds, would not wait for the completion of the Major's mission, but would immediately attack the Federals, and literally in José's backyard.
"His vanity is superseded only by his ignorance," José snarled to himself at the Bar Huasteca, a favorite of dockworkers and men who traded in oil... hence, a place where good information tended to drive out the bad. And it was the consensus, there, that don Porfirio's nephew would not wait until the American election but, rather, overthrow Madero at once and issue his terms to whichever of the three Americans prevailed... the wounded but still vigorous Roosevelt, President Taft, or the Democratic Governor of New Jersey and former schoolmaster, Woodrow Wilson.
On the following morning, the sixteenth, Felix Diaz and five hundred men took the municipal headquarters, Federal garrison and two gunboats in Veracruz harbor without significant opposition, validating the political wags of the Huasteca. At noon, José proceeded to the railway terminal with the intent to purchase a ticket to the capital, although he would be departing the train before arriving at such destination... the few additional pesos lost being well worth his leaving behind no clues for the Federals to follow. The stationmaster, however, replied to his inquiry with devastating news.
"No tickets on the Mexican line may be sold beyond Orizaba," this elderly gentleman informed José. "President Madero has decreed that trains may not pass the frontier... it is, after all, the beginning of war."
José fairly blew the smoke of his cigar out of his nose and ears. "Then book my passage on the Inter-Oceanic." This route, he realized, would deposit him at the north end of that location presumed to be the Jackal's hiding place, lengthening his search... but what could be done during wartime? He cursed the impatience and inexperience of Felix Diaz, but silently.
"The Inter-Oceanic line is closed beyond Jalapa," the stationmaster now informed José. "As is the Veracruz-Pacific, south of Tierra Blanca," he added, information of no use to the Major, who felt the eagle on his shoulder whispering to him to place several bullets into the man. The station was deserted, and the impulse strong, but José realized that another murder wouldn't bring the trains, and that he was likely to have to pass some days in Veracruz... so he tipped his hat and departed. And, therefore, he had the privilege of witnessing the entire tragicomedy of Felix Diaz in his rapid ascent, brief sovereignty and calamitous fall.
In marigold-bestrewn Veracruz, old men danced to the imminent removal of Madero and restoration of the old ways while Americans and Europeans dithered... calculating the probability of this latest revolt's success... and an empty-pocketed Felix Diaz, already crowned in his own mind, began to distribute offices and gratuities. No doubt to the silent distress of Bravo, don Porfirio's nephew appointed the imprisoned Bernardo Reyes as his Minister of War. He received a telegram of congratulations from Pascual Orozco, and news of new insurgencies in Pachuca and Jalisco. An entire detachment of one hundred twenty five Federals defected from Madero's beleaguered General Beltran, bearing tales of disease, dissent and restlessness among Madero's remaining loyal divisions to the ecstatic Felicistas, whose appreciation of the hospitality of Veracruz was all the sweeter for lack of salaries with which to pay their swelling tabs.
Quite reasonably, José endeavored to remain invisible during his short, involuntary sojourn in Veracruz, but too many people... he suspected Rico of informing the Felicistas of his progress, or lack of same... knew his face and his whereabouts. On Saturday evening, the nineteenth of October, an attaché to Colonel Diaz-Ordaz, the Felicista second-in-command, approached José at the Lorencillo (a taverna memorializing one French pirate remembered for locking fifteen hundred townspeople in a church to die of suffocation, disease and thirst in 1683) and requested his presence at an interview with Felix Diaz, himself, the following Monday morning.
Don Porfirio's nephew, holding court from the municipal police headquarters of Veracruz, was a man bubbling with ideas and, fortunately for José, more enamoured with the resonance of his own voice than upon eliciting concrete information on the whereabouts of Bravo's fortune
"My men have taken Tuxpan, Alvarado and Tampico," Diaz boasted, "and there is no editor nor politician in Mexico that will not admit Madero's finished. Even Flores Magon, that Socialist dirt, acknowledges that the President has shown himself to be a man of little talent. Nobody wants any part of him... except, perhaps, for his spirits and, until they have proven they can pick up a gun and fire it, we needn't have any worry about them. General Huerta, the great hero himself, has refused orders to transfer his battalions down from the Northwest, he is not so much the hero that some take him to be, or is he... perhaps... smarter than he seems? You were under his command in Quintana Roo, is that not so, Major?"
"I was," José replied, "and Victoriano Huerta, who may have been guilty of quite a number of things, never evidenced himself a coward. He and General Blanquet are en route to bolster the defense of the capital," José added, and Felix Diaz chose to assume, out of this intelligence, that the whole of Veracruz State, Puebla, and even those parts of Morelos not under the thumb of Zapata... perforce... were already his for the declaring.
"I would not fault them for taking measures to preserve the lives of citizens and their property so... when the time is right and resistance futile, I expect that they will do the proper thing. General Beltran has already displayed his weakness by sending me a communication that we retire to Cordoba or some such place to battle, and not tear up the streets of Veracruz. After all, I will need the port when I'm President... this very afternoon, to give you but one example of what lies on the other side of the Maderismo, I shall meet Commander Hughes of the American gunboat Desmoines. I am already certain that they will not intervene... with their election so close at hand and conditions what they seem in the Balkans and such... perhaps my agents in New York and Washington can convince them of the benefits to be obtained by public disavowal of Madero. Their President Taft has nothing but contempt for him... and that is a danger for all Mexicans. Why his brother, Gustavo, is sending out messages proposing that I step aside and allow Geronimo Trevino of Monterrey to assume an interim presidency. But he is too close to those Cientificos, who ruined my uncle's regime. I do not intend to make the same mistakes that don Porfirio did."
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