THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ

 

BOOK EIGHT:  THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE

 

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

 

          "And so," declared Armando Feliz on don Antonio's steps, "this devil Carranza has sent a general here to bring back the old days of slavery. The half day of rest which was declared under Madero and Pino Suarez will be rescinded. You shall again work twelve hours a day... fourteen during the busiest season, but the wage must be cut further, maybe even to a peso, even less... and the worst of it is that not only your pay but your credit must be in Carranza's money."

          "Why the Syrians in the stores say that is only worth ten centavos gold!" declared Tomas Kwek, a young man who had shared a carretera from Idznacab with Esteban Chan. Some threescore of the mazehualob rounded up for battle with the Constitutionalists recoiled from Armando's dire prophecy.

          "Whereas, in the Republic Sudoriental, every veteran will receive five honest pesos, and there will be a bonus for those who kill the most Mexicans," the mayordomo promised.

          "Will we keep our guns?"

          "That will be decided later," Feliz said, wiping his brow. Neither Cuban arms nor money from José Macias having arrived, the irregulars had been armed with old shotguns and rifles from the haciendas with a few pistols... more than half had nothing but machetes with which to defend themselves against Alvarado's experienced Constitutionalists.

          "I remember these fellow did pretty well with machetes when I was a boy," don Antonio told Rigoberto as they watched from the library. "I hope your generation is not repeating the mistakes of your grandfathers."

          "Why how could that be?" Rigoberto sneered, "this is the twentieth century, father. Besides, although Yucatan has been spared the worst of the fighting, it is our privilege to deliver the death blow to Carranza. It will be an epochal struggle."

          "I hardly think history will put great credence in victory when we are so many," the Patron said, "and the forces of Alvarado so few."

          "Well... that's true, still... there are other aspects," Rigoberto stammered. He and the rest of the conspirators knew how many Constitutionalists were coming, also, how the faithless Mucel had turned against the Patria Chica. Argumedo had ordered that no Yucatecan beyond the inner circle be apprised of the desperation of circumstances... it was a matter of morale, the Governor had said. Besides, Argumedo was certain that the Americans would soon step in and Professor Salazar presented an editorial as evidence.

          The Americans considered Obregon "... the worst kind of tyrant, simply because he lacks capacity for civil government." He represented "all the futility and incapacity of the revolutionary movement," just as Villa, the "rude guerrilla chieftain of the North represents, in his, nearly all its force and sagacity." While the Americans dismissed Zapata as a murderous, illiterate outlaw, their editorialists allowed him "a sort of rude, constructive instinct... when he saw confusion in the capital, he set out to put things in order his way, which was better than no way." Lastly... certainly least, in the eyes of the North... Carranza was deemed "the personification of megalomania".

          "Any moment now," the Licenciado boasted, "there shall be a message from don Andre to the Governor." Old Barzon, although unable to fight, had offered his services to Argumedo and been sent to New Orleans with two others, where they had purchased round trip tickets to Washington, home of Wilson and Bryan. Barzon carried letters from consul Young, from representatives of International Harvester... who warned of certain famine in America should twine not be obtained... and from other capitalists in Merida. Each assured President Wilson that the subjection of Yucatan would result in no less calamitous a situation as the Boxer Rebellion fifteen years earlier. "After all, the Americans have already sent five battleships to Mexico," Rigoberto told his father.

          "I rather think they are for the benefit of their own people in the capital, rather than us."

          But, within days, the American battleship Des Moines was reported lurking off the still-blockaded port of Progreso, raising further the hopes of Yucatecans. Something had been appended to the air with its dust and dried dung... exhilaration! Among the montes, even old enemies embraced in the streets with cries of "Brother!" Master and slave drilled side by side, and shouted in a common tongue... "Viva Yucatan! Viva Argumedo! Muera a la Dictadura Carrancista!"

          Only Rigoberto, Baroja and a few officers knew, with Argumedo, that the first skirmishes at Hecelchakan had ended disastrously for the Yucatecans... of a force of 2,000 patriots, half were killed and seven hundred captured. Professor Salazar had left Merida at the head of a company of shopkeepers and cobblers, engineers and policemen and such... Ricardo also going, with a student contingent. Roberto Urzaiz had ridden off with a score of waxy-faced, big bellied old Caballeros... one last time the campana was inverted, filled and drained, one last time the grito: "...al campaña!"

          "Carranza's mad!" were the last sentiments of Major Navarette as he prepared to lead his regiment south towards Campeche. "He's sent the warships Ocampo and Zaragoza to reinforce the blockade of Progreso. If that doesn't provoke the United States, nothing will! And he's depopulated the south... Chiapas, Oaxaca... there's nothing to prevent Zapata from turning his armies south and marching all the way to Villahermosa."

          And it was perhaps here that Rigoberto Macias felt the breath of don del Muerte and knew the First Chief held the stronger hand. "Not mad," he replied, "obsessed. He knows Zapata won't attack because he is obsessed with holding Mexico City... think of it as a poor bandit would, a nobody from Morelos who has claimed the Crown Jewels or maybe something more like a fine horse. Zapata won't be leaving anytime soon. All that can save Carranza is his money and... my friends... we're it. A few more weeks and Alvarado's thousands will desert... what can Carranza pay them with?  His money is worth ten cents on the dollar if that. If only José would respond..."

          "Macias?" called out a Cabo attached to the Merida telegraph station. "Rigoberto Macias!"

          "That's me!" The Licenciado accepted an envelope, tore it open and Navarette, Baroja and Argumedo read, in his face, the fall of the Republic Sudoriental.

          "My brother's still in Havana with Felix Diaz," Rigoberto told the conspirators. "Victoriano Huerta was seriously wounded in a quarrel in Barcelona. Some saloon, no doubt. Anyway, his return's been pushed up, sometime in the summer, José thinks, and Huerta's not releasing any money. Thoughtful of him."

          "That is all?" responded an astonished Major Navarette. "Nothing more."

          "He is sending me a package through Vigia Chico. José still has his auxiliaries in the Territory," the Licenciado sighed. "Probably another courtesy box of his cigars."

          "We're finished," Baroja exhaled.

          "Not necessarily," objected Abel Argumedo. "There are, still, the Americans."

 

But…

 

          On March 11, 1915, Secretary Bryan made the following observation to the Washington press and to the world: "Zapata troops occupied Mexico City at 9 AM this morning in perfect order and amid popular enthusiasm represented by all classes."

          The dispatch was filed along earlier statements by Pancho Villa, some chiding the hovering Americans. "Foreigners who, owing to the lack of street cars have to walk to their homes in the suburbs two or three miles distant from the city's center, meet people of the poorer class and, though there are no police, they are not molested in any way."

          Villa's armies announced Guerrero taken and fighting broke out again in the north. The heavyweight boxing match between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard, scheduled to take place in Juarez, was postponed and moved to Havana; another cause for the sportsmen among the Yucatecan montes to begin planning their vacations.

 

 

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