THE INSURGENCE of CHAN SANTA CRUZ
BOOK EIGHT: THE SECOND of the BOOKS of CHANGE
CHAPTER TWENTY SIX
Ignacio Bravo had governed Quintana Roo twelve years but, in the two years following, no less than four commanders had arrived and, just as quickly, made their exits.
The first of these was the aged General Rivera, who had no ambitions other than to secure the territory for Madero's revolutionary government. He was followed by Egealiz, who opened negotiations with the sublevados, but could not fulfill their expectations. To the credit of this General, the first humiliating failures did not deter his attempts to reach accord with the jefes of Quintana Roo and, if he did not leave having improved relations between Mexico and the tribes he, at least, did not worsen them. That was the fate of his successor, Vincente Moron, the Huertista representative. No indian would speak to the creature of "El Chacol"... nor was it safe to travel anywhere in the Territory... so Moron barricaded himself in Santa Cruz del Bravo, making no opposition when the Constitutionalists asked for his resignation but, rather, escaping with the pittance he had been able to steal.
The fourth Governor, Arturo Garcilazo, was a farmer, a native of Tamaulipas and a devout Carrancista. As much the businessman as General, this officer was one of those who fell under the influence of Argumedo, seeing, perhaps, a better future for the territory as part of an independent peninsular government than as a backwards colony of quarreling Mexico. Perhaps, if Carranza had advanced in the summer of 1914, Garcilazo might have evidenced different loyalties, but the First Chief, by the end of that year, possessed the smallest influence of the four principle revolutionary leaders and, while Carranza and Obregon had joined in a marriage of convenience, neither was able to exert influence over events in far off Quintana Roo.
Garcilazo was as capable and resolute a General, a collector of revenues and a businessman, as Quintana Roo had known since Bravo, and the war of pacification, and commercial enterprises in and around Santa Cruz were pursued with a pre-Revolutionary vigor. The price of chicle had increased again and the enterprising Garcilazo had encouraged the development of small enterprises in the territory, reducing dependence on costly imports. The Mexican population of the territory had reached forty thousand, greater than that... even... under Bravo, and fewer of these were in bondage by law (although, it must be acknowledged, many chicleros had been trapped by debt as had the henequeros to the northwest). The famines that had swept the Republic had produced legions of desperate souls contracted as cheap labor and, if these were not prisoners of law in the sense of those who’d once filled Bravo’s church, they were prisoners, at least, of the poverty and chaos that comprised much of Mexico. Garcilazo had made no objection to impressing Zapatistas, and his objection to holding the Villista prisoners was only slight but, following these, came prostitutes, gamblers and other sorts who chafed under Alvarado's liberation and other, uninvited visitors also made their presence felt; smallpox, syphilis and fever.
And over all the territory the smell of blood, aguardiente and bubbling chicle sap hovered like a zopilote.
Alvarado despised the territory which, but for the humidity, reminded him of his pueblo of birth - a dirty, dusty place. Although inclining himself as an "iron surgeon" excising some "rotten organs" from the Territory, he moved slowly against Garcilazo for the man was nominally loyal to Carranza, hence allied to Obregon.
The Territorial Governor's conduct during the separatist insurgency had been questionable... some students of the University had invited him to Merida where, on the twenty fourth of February, the territorial governor addressed his student supporters as no less than patriotism's "fragrant flowers" from the balcony of the Government Plaza. But, subsequent to Halacho, Garcilazo's sentiments had remained confusing. Carranza, apparently thinking the man still loyal, ordered Alvarado to let him return to Santa Cruz with the explanation that the Tamaulipeño had only been attempting to mediate between the First Chief and the Argumedistas. Alvarado would, of course, hear nothing of this... and while it would take three months to bend Don Venus around to his way of thinking, he would still have the territory, if not by force than by strategy.
The instrument through whom Carranza and Alvarado settled upon to remove Garcilazo was one Carlos Plank who, at the advanced age of eighty nine, had somehow remained only a Colonel in a divided nation of hundreds, even thousands of Generals. When Alvarado entered Yucatan, Plank... as Commander of the port of Payo Obispo... had quickly allied himself with the Marxist against his vacillating superior in Santa Cruz del Bravo. The old enmity between the southernmost port and the capital of Quintana Roo remained integral... its origins shrouded in pre-Conquest antiquity. On Alvarado's order, Plank sent word to Santa Cruz that Garcilazo's wife had fallen grievously ill, and that a steamship waited in Payo Obispo to take the Governor back to Tamaulipas. Fearing nothing for himself but concerned for his family, Garcilazo was briefly taken prisoner, but learned of the treachery. His forces rallied, turning the tables on Plank and the duplicitous old Colonel was hauled back to Santa Cruz, bound in good Yucatacan rope.
The capital stayed drunk on this triumph for three days but, on the fourth, Garcilazo recognized the premature nature of celebration. Alvarado, learning of the failure of his scheme, now had no course but to denounce the Territorial jefe and send his army towards Peto, with the Governor himself at its head. Those forces the Governor could spare (without leaving Yucatan vulnerable to incursions from such rivals as allies of Zapata now surfacing in Chiapas and Tabasco) were no greater, in number, than those of the territory, but this was an experienced, fighting army, while the soldiers of Santa Cruz... except for the occasional potshotting of chicleros who'd withheld their taxes or an occasional indian in the monte... remained prison guards, policemen, many of them moonlighting as merchants or speculators in wood and chicle.
These... save for a few traffickers in human depravity of the Corralista sort, who had already been driven from Merida... were loyal to no jefe nor interest save their own skins and, as Alvarado marched, reports began arriving of desertions among the small garrisons in the vicinity of Peto.
And, now, the lunatic spirits of the territory gathered into Garcilazo, a proud man who, after hearing applause from Alvarado's own men in Merida and capturing the Colonel that Alvarado had sent against him in treachery, adjudged himself protected by divinities. He raged, then penned a lengthy compilation of threats against Alvarado, then went in search of the sublevados to make a temporary peace. Against a force of indian snipers, Alvarado's advance would be a nightmare. But the Maya neither feared nor trusted Garcilazo and they withdrew to their villages; only the half-witted custodian of a small monteria, a fellow whom both the whites and indians derided as Sapo, the toad, placed himself at Garcilazo's service... and, then, only with the promise of a case of tinned beef and a new Texas hat. The toad followed him back to Santa Cruz and appeared at the General's side, babbling that the territory would be under the protection of the "gato de monte" but Garcilazo grew weary with Sapo and pitched him into jail.
Those who had fled to Quintana Roo from the defeated and hungry places of Mexico began to make new plans; those soldados under Garcilazo began making their peace with God.
The Devil, meanwhile, had set sail from Aleceras in Spain, bound, as he said, for Cuba... although he had a ticket to New York in his pocket. Victoriano Huerta had packed his favorite hat, his pair of little pistols and numbered accounts worth seven million pesos. Before departure he had fired off more than a score of telegrams... to Generals, including Bravo and Orozco in El Paso, to Felix Diaz in Cuba, to Mexico's leading ranchers and industrialists squirming under the thumb of the contending armies of revolution, to the church and, finally, to a man also heading towards New York, the one he called his Jackal.
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