THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
"I was twenty-three years old," recalled a chronicler of the peninsula, Santiago Burgos Brito, long after the hostilities had ceased, "when, fifty years ago, there came to Merida a superior man, an exceptional revolutionary called Salvador Alvarado."
Alvarado, a committed Socialist and the Military Commander of the Southeast, had been appointed as Governor of Yucatan over the furious objections of the American agent John Silliman and his bosses, Secretary Bryan and President Woodrow Wilson. W. C. Young, the Consul in Merida, telegraphed Wilson asking Yucatan be recognized as "neutral", pointing out that Carranza had already raised henequen prices and would doubtless continue to do so. As if to express his opinion of the United States, Carranza had sent two gunboats to Yucatan in January; he now ordered them to blockade the port of Progreso. One of the vessels, fittingly, was also called the Progreso, the other, even more ironically, the Bravo.
The Constitutionalist cause continued its decline. Obregon continued issuing denials that he was about to quit Don Venus, Pancho Villa signed a treaty with the American General Hugh Scott and marched on Tampico, whose petroleum fields Carranza had closed, along with those of Panuco. The British... enraged by the oil embargo at the height of their European war, showered Villa with congratulations (if not troops, nor funds).
Italy had been shaken from the battlefield by an earthquake killing twenty six thousand. Germany threatened to declare war on Rumania and its airmen bombed the U.S. Consulate at Dunkirk. Eight hundred thousand Russians massed to march on Hindenberg's stronghold of Mlawa in Poland.
And, so, the influence of don del Muerte must have been riding the winds when Alvarado telegraphed the First Chief to determine the limits, if any, that he faced in pacifying the rebellious state. Carranza, on the fifteenth of February, authorized a total war. "Take whatever action you believe suitable," Don Venus responded and, with that, the First Chief, like Pilate, washed his hands of Yucatan, a place he never had set foot upon to date, nor would for the remainder of his life.
The leader of the conspiracy in Campeche was Jorge Cordova, the old superintendent of youthful revels grown fatter and richer... a man of considerable importance, although set back in recent months for the sugar estates from which he drew his revenues had fared even worse than the henequen estanciónes. As Alvarado's party traveled over the waves from Ciudad del Carmen, Cordova presented himself at the offices of Carranza's Governor, Colonel Joaquin Mucel to plead the cause of separation.
"The Constitutionalists are lost," Cordova declared, a sentiment with which Mucel could not rationally disagree. "He is maintained by the force of Obregon and the wealth of the peninsula... if the one were to be withdrawn the other would be crushed. We have maintained order while Mexico exhausted itself; how is it we are to be roped into the madness?"
"Because I have only nine hundred men and how many will Alvarado bring. Fifteen hundred? Two thousand? Even if it is only half of that, Campeche could not hold out... Carranza has seen to it that Alvarado will be well supplied. If the Campecheños and Yucatecos had foreseen this, and begun to set aside a portion of their wealth towards a fund for defense, years ago, their combined militias might be able to hold off Alvarado and I would consider your argument but... as it stands..."
The Colonel shook his head and Cordova resorted to a lie, the first of many in the peninsular campaign.
"A great sum of money has been made available to the cause of the Patria Chica," the old Caballero said, referring to the little fatherland of the Southeastern states before giving the names of some of those supporting separation in Merida in order to impress Mucel. "As soon as arms arrive from Havana, Commander Martinez and Governor Argumedo will combine their forces and drive south. This Alvarado isn't much of a soldier... he may, however, have the discretion to surrender his troops to us, which would finish off Carranza's meddling."
"Yes," the Governor admitted, "if that were so the cause of the Constitutionalists would be lost and we'd be better off alone than under Zapata or Villa. But, don Jorge, what of Carranza's gunboat? If arms are to be brought in by sea, any transport from Havana is certain to be intercepted. Unless Progreso were to be rid of its Progreso, the Yucatecans would be at a disadvantage, for which Campeche would pay. Unless they have been smuggling their carbines in from Belize, mule by mule, like indios," Mucel added.
The Colonel had served with Huerta and Blanquet some years ago and, thus, knew all about the way that things went in the Territory.
"If the Progreso can be removed, may I, then, count on your support?" Cordova asked.
"Perhaps," replied Governor Mucel.
And so... because lies, like certain snakes, are faithful creatures, never found at great distance from their mates... Jorge Cordova assured the Hermano Mayor of Merida, Urzaiz, that the support of Campeche had been secured pending removal of Carranza's gunboat, and Urzaiz communicated this intent to Rigoberto Macias.
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