Nemesio García Naranjo once told this reviewer that he always had been a man of passion. His physical and intellectual faculties unhindered by his more than three score and ten years, he still is a holder of strong views. However, his viewpoint is well known, his preconceptions are clear, and his partisanship undisguised. The chapters of his memoirs first appeared serially, between 1953 and 1961, in various periodicals. This seventh volume in book form, with minor emendations and additions, details his association with Huerta’s government in which he held the portfolio of Minister of Public Instruction.
After a brief, but interesting sketch of Huerta’s earlier career, the author plunges into the politics of the troubled years of the counter-revolutionary regime. While most of the important internal events and international episodes are touched upon, there are a number of topics which are of particular interest to scholars of the period: the attitudes of and relations between the various conservative factions; Dr. Urrutia’s anticipation of the break between the felicistas and huertistas; García Naranjo’s authorship of the apochryphal Mondragón to Félix Díaz letter; the abortive efforts of the “quadrilateral” members to achieve reconciliation with the maderista deputies; the author’s conversation with German diplomat Von Hintze relative to a proposal to nationalize petroleum transport with the aid of German capital, and his account of educational efforts during his tenure in the Ministry of Public Instruction; and the analysis of the character and personality of Victoriano Huerta.
For García Naranjo Huerta was a singular man of very complicated psychology. “The qualities of Huerta were so great that they could be surpassed only by his defects” (p. 343). While conceding his subject’s “grave defects” and charging that conservative and revolutionary propaganda has clouded his image, the author portrays Huerta as a one hundred percent Mexican of exceptional qualities—a very masculine man of steel, possessor of a vigorous body which seemed impervious to fatigue, and master of his nerves. Here is Huerta the heavy drinker, but not the incorrigible drunkard some have portrayed. “Although political passions and hatred have pictured him as an ogre of grim visage, filled with resentments and bitternesses, I always saw him full of optimism and disposed to laugh. A happy Indian” (p. 351).
At times the author’s analysis is superficial, his analogies lack exactness and his interpretations are open to question. His defense of the Federal Army against charges of sedition, his excusing Huerta’s first cabinet for not resigning after Madero’s assassination, his view that the dissolution of Congress was “inevitable” and his assignment of almost exclusive responsibility for Huerta’s downfall to the United States are of such a nature. He is bitter and impassioned in his denunciations of Carranza, Wilson, Bryan, and Lind. Despite these shortcomings, García Naranjo’s views and his first-hand recollections will provide raw material for the scholars who will strive to place Huerta and his regime in proper perspective.
With this volume the author concludes the account of his “active political career.” The succeeding volume will deal with his “memoirs of an exile,” less political only in the sense that the author had ceased to occupy a public post and was living outside of Mexico. The importance of those recollections lies in their representation of the viewpoint of the critics of revolutionary Mexico between 1915 and 1920.