In the broad field of Latin American history few topics have drawn the interest of more scholars than the Mexican Revolution. From Frank Tannenbaums Mexican Agrarian Revolution (1929) to Ramon Ruíz’ Great Rebellion (1980) to Alan Knight’s Mexican Revolution (1986) and John Hart’s Revolutionary Mexico (1987), historians have explored and argued questions about the nature of this great conflict.1 Was it the epic agrarian revolution that Tannenbaum celebrates? Or was it, as revisionists such as Ruíz suggest, only a series of lesser revolts with significant elite and middle-class direction and participation and with agrarian radicalism confined to specific areas like Morelos?

Resolution of this historiographical impasse awaits the completion of studies of localized revolutionary movements in northern Mexico, where the revolution began in 1910 and where its main thrust originated during most of the revolutionary decade. Historians have studied exhaustively the prominent leaders (Madero, Zapata, Carranza, Obregón, and others), but until recently have displayed less interest in the anonymous doings of more ordinary agrarian revolutionaries who usually have minimal historical visibility outside their own communities.2 Similarly, scholars have produced many detailed studies of Mexican rural estates extending from the colonial period to the nineteenth century, but only rarely have they published significant works on late Porfirian haciendas in this particularly critical region.3

Much more needs to be known about the economic background and social origins of agrarian protest in northern Mexico. Why did people in small rural communities in Chihuahua and Durango rebel after 1910? How important was the agrarian question? Did efforts by rural people to gain access to local economic and political resources produce lasting change? What was the relationship between revolutionary struggles and political outcomes at the national level and those that were more localized? Until questions such as these are answered, larger judgments about the nature and meaning of the Mexican Revolution must remain tentative.

Works published during the past decade by Friedrich Katz, Alan Knight, John Tutino, and others have begun to explore these and other concerns.4 They argue forcefully for the notion of important agrarian-based insurrections in the region after 1910. They associate the origins of rural insurgency with the rapid commercialization of northern agriculture after the 1880s, a process synonymous with a conflictive, progressive erosion of local access to land and power. They emphasize also the special character of two groups that were most negatively affected by economic and political modernization: small landholders living in more or less traditional rural communities, and recently arrived landless wage laborers employed on the large estates. Especially significant among the small landholders were the descendants of military colonists from the colonial era, whose properties often were taken over by large landowners during the Porfiriato.

The sharpest point of divergence in this developing regional historiography is the difference in notions about how local agrarian protest related to larger national revolutionary processes. Knight argues that agrarianism underlay both the Villista and the Carrancista movements. Katz, Tutino, and others claim that rural constituencies in Chihuahua and Durango constituted the essential social base of the Villista movement, at least in its early phases, and that the Carrancista movement (and to some extent perhaps even the Maderista movement) represented the antithesis of agrarian radicalism.

In their search to identify those elements that nurtured agrarian radicalism, historians of the revolution in the north focus attention on population makeup, labor systems, and other, uniquely northern patterns of social relations. Intuitively, Katz was the first to anticipate the significance of a breakdown in the traditional, patriarchal relationship between estate owners and estate residents in the north.5 Along with him, Tutino notes the implications of labor arrangements where sharecroppers, who often related antagonistically to estate owners and managers, were the principal source of seasonal labor. Tutino identifies as particularly significant the subjective (as opposed to objective or material) perceptions of disaffected rural populations in facilitating agrarian revolution.6 Taken as a whole, this body of recent work suggests that perhaps the northern hacienda was not as effective an agent of social control as its institutional counterparts in southern and central Mexico.

This essay hopes to give empirical content to these kinds of insights and concerns by exploring a localized agrarian movement that took place on and around the Hacienda Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas in eastern Durango from 1897 through 1913. An area of burgeoning commercial agriculture during the Porfiriato, eastern Durango was not unlike other rural settings, such as Morelos in central Mexico, where very large estates prospered at the expense of land-hungry towns and villages and where absentee, urban-based owners maximized profits by modernizing hacienda social relations.7

Hacienda managers in eastern Durango increased productivity by reducing wages, eliminating surplus employees, charging higher rents to tenants, extracting maximum advantage from sharecroppers, and enclosing hacienda land and collecting fees from local residents for the use of water, wood, pastures, and other resources. Although the profitability of these estates rose sharply, the precipitous modernization of labor and property relations carried hidden costs. To build a following for his revolt against Díaz in 1910, Francisco Madero’s agents tapped the historical enmity of town and hacienda residents toward these estates. Mobilization in the armed struggle against Díaz was the prelude to a homegrown agrarian revolution that by 1913 had dramatically changed the political and economic landscape of eastern Durango.

The Estate and Its Denizens

Although he acquired the Hacienda Santa Catalina del Alamo cheaply in 1897 for only £40,000 from its bankrupt British developers, Pablo Martínez del Río eventually invested more than five hundred thousand pesos in improvements: the Mercedes dam and a network of canals and ditches to irrigate wheat and cotton fields; purebred cattle and sheep to improve meat and wool production; wells and windmills to water 16,000 head of cattle, horses, and mules and 100,000 head of goats and sheep; stone and barbed-wire fences to keep livestock in and trespassers out; houses for administrators and peons; barns and storerooms for hacienda produce; and machinery to thresh wheat and gin cotton.8

To protect his investment, the new owner exploited his acquaintance with Mexico’s president and strongman, Porfirio Díaz, and used his own prominence as a highly rated corporate attorney in Mexico City to cultivate cooperative relationships with powerful politicians in Durango, such as General Juan Manuel Flores and Esteban Fernández.9 To manage his estate, the absentee owner of Santa Catalina del Alamo recruited one of Durango’s leading citizens, Francisco Gómez Palacio. A capable if sometimes overbearing administrator, Gómez Palacio s network of acquaintances in state and local politics was invaluable in protecting and advancing the owner’s interests in Durango.10

The hacienda in his charge was a product of the gradual amalgamation of many smaller haciendas, ranchos, and labores in the colonial era. Santa Catalina del Alamo in 1897 sprawled across most of the district of Cuencamé and extended into the adjacent districts of Nazas and San Juan del Río as well. When Martínez del Río purchased the adjacent Hacienda del Sobaco five years later and combined its lands (Guadalupe and Cruces) with those of Santa Catalina del Alamo, the latifundio—Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas—expanded to its maximum size, 418,193 hectares.11 For administrative purposes, the owner divided his estate into six sections: the “haciendas” of Santa Catalina, Alamo, El Pasaje, Covadonga, Mercedes, and Guadalupe y Cruces, each managed by a resident manager, each fiscally separate from the others, but all subordinate to Gómez Palacio, whose office remained in Durango city.

Alamo and Covadonga raised cattle, horses, mules, goats, and sheep; Santa Catalina cultivated corn and beans; the irrigated fields of Mercedes and Guadalupe y Cruces were planted in cotton and wheat; Pasaje had a mixed economy. The livestock-producing units supplied oxen and mules to clear and plant the lands of the cereal-producing units, and in turn were supplied with grains to feed livestock and workers alike. All produced marketable surpluses: horses and mules for mining and agricultural enterprises across the republic; meat for markets in Durango, Torreón, and Mexico City; corn and beans for haciendas in the Laguna district; and wool and cotton destined for factories in northern and central Mexico. Because of a critical shortage of rainfall and water for irrigation and because much of the hacienda was situated in rugged, mountainous terrain, 97 percent of the estate’s lands were unsuitable for farming and could only be used for grazing. These arid wastelands, however, contained the property’s most valuable resource: guayule, a wild desert shrub that produced a rubber latex exported to markets in the United States and Europe.

The estate’s permanent residents included two broad groups of workers: acasillados, who were paid a daily wage for casual labor, and acomodados, assigned a monthly salary for performing specialized tasks.12 Until 1911, acasillados earned a daily wage (raya) of $0.37. During the planting and harvest seasons, when the demand for labor increased sharply, the estate suspended the raya and paid piece rates. Daily wages were supplemented with free housing and access to small plots of land to grow corn and vegetables or to pasture animals, but workers paid for these extras by contributing monthly several days of free labor called fatigas. Santa Catalina’s acomodados included vaqueros and pastores as well as artisans such as carpenters and blacksmiths. Salaries for shepherds and cowboys ranged from $10 to $25 monthly, including daily rations of corn, beans, and meat. Schoolteachers received $20 a month plus access to free land to raise cash crops of corn or beans. Other employees, such as coach drivers, received most of their salary in the form of rent-free land.

The tienda de raya, the hacienda store through which many employees received all or most of their wages as food, clothing, or utensils, lowered real labor costs for the estate (by exchanging wages for goods delivered at retail prices) and eliminated the need to maintain a large cash supply for the estate payrolls.13 Though useful and profitable for the owner and his managers, the tienda de raya aggravated relations between management and estate residents. In emotionally charged circumstances, peons and sharecroppers came into personal contact with hacienda managers, who tended the stores and shared in the profits. Although the tienda de raya itself was never the grossly exploitative institution denounced by polemicists after 1910, it was the focus of nearly everything residents saw as wrong in their economic relations with the hacienda. The prices charged for goods were not appreciably higher than those charged in stores in nearby towns, but in the tienda de raya the effects of static or falling wages and successive crop failures could be measured tangibly in deepening indebtedness and in the rising costs of “candles, matches, blankets, soap, sugar, cotton cloths, cutlery, tools, enamelled-ware and what-not” that the stores marketed.14

Acasillados and acomodados, as well as sharecroppers, made their purchases on credit. Wages at Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas were low by regional standards, and employees accumulated large debts. Although local hacienda owners and administrators cooperated in refusing to hire laborers indebted to other estates, there is no evidence of physical restraints on the mobility of labor in the region.15 Intense competition between employers seeking laborers made debt peonage unworkable in any event. Instead, indebtedness functioned as a disguised salary that discouraged the formation of a more competitive labor market. Wages remained low even though labor was scarce. The threat of ending a peon’s access to credit served as a useful tool to discipline the work force.

The absence of debt peonage should not be taken to suggest that labor relations were harmonious. On the contrary, conflict, not collaboration, characterized relations between employer and employees at Santa Catalina del Alamo. The disaffected workers included not only the acasillados, but also the more privileged acomodados. Evidence of discontent included movements to resist low wages and recurring episodes of theft and sabotage.16

When peons, shepherds, and cowboys at Pasaje demanded higher wages in November 1906, Gómez Palacio ordered Eduardo Trigüeros to fire “the agitators of the people . . . and let them agitate somewhere else.”17 Because Pasaje was short of workers to tend livestock, the general administrator also instructed his manager to appease the acomodados by promising to pay more of their salary in cash; but Trigüeros was to make it clear to the cowboys and shepherds that they should abandon the “dream that they will be paid entirely in money.”18 Two years later, when Antonio Herrán succumbed to pressure from cotton pickers at Mercedes, who demanded a raise in piece rates from $0.015 to $0.02 per kilogram, Gomez Palacio reduced rates to their old level and scolded his manager for permitting labor costs to rise.19

When manager Miguel Soto discovered corn thefts at Santa Catalina in June 1905, Martínez del Río ordered him to implement “with all energy the means that may be necessary to end the abuses. . . . I want at any cost to maintain order and morality on the Hacienda, and I prefer not to have new residents than to have bad ones.”20 Despite such admonitions, and even with constant vigilance and the application of harsh punishments, livestock rustling by cowboys, shepherds, and foremen and the pilferage of food and equipment by peons remained chronic problems. After successive scandals in 1905, Gómez Palacio complained: “It seems that in all parts the shepherds are taking from their own flocks, and one has to watch them more than the outsiders.”21

What accounts for the conflict and disorder that plagued the residents of Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas in the years immediately before the revolution? In part, it was a product of economic pressures. While nominal wages remained static or even declined, the cost of living rose sharply after 1906. The shift by this estate and other local haciendas away from subsistence crops such as com and beans and toward cash crops such as wheat and cotton, along with a succession of poor harvests because of floods, droughts, and frosts, combined to raise the price of corn and beans almost beyond the reach of peons without access to rations. Before 1906, these commodities wholesaled for $2 to $4 per hectoliter. After 1906, prices tripled. So serious were the corn shortages that in 1908 and 1909 Gómez Palacio ordered his managers to ration corn to reduce the peons’ consumption. Manager Thomas Fairbairns commented in February 1909 on the precarious economic situation of Cruces’ workers: “So far we have been unable to take advantage of the fatigas the peons owe, as they are barely living as it is on the 38 centavos a day they get, and if they don’t work, they don’t eat.”22

Cushioned from the worst effects of the rise in food prices, acomodados were subject to inflationary prices for other goods marketed by the estate’s stores and in nearby towns. Like the less privileged workers, acomodados enjoyed little job security. Managers deducted from the salaries of shepherds and cowboys for animals lost or stolen while in their care. Carpenters, blacksmiths, shepherds, cowboys, and even foremen faced the threat of periodic layoffs and salary reductions as management sought to increase profits by lowering overhead. In 1907 and 1908 Gómez Palacio ordered Herrán at Mercedes to fire carpenters, dismiss the blacksmith’s helper, chop the woodcutters’ pay to 75 centavos daily, and reduce his assistant’s salary to $1.50 daily.

The drive to rationalize labor management produced higher profits but destabilized social relations on the estate. In a more traditional regime, an estate owner formed durable social bonds with resident workers, especially the acomodados. Compadrazgo (ritual kinship) and clientelism (the exchange of goods and services between patron and client—patrón and peón) retarded the development of conflicts of the sort that afflicted Santa Catalina. The patriarchal owner and his workers constituted an extended family, united in their defense of hacienda interests against hostile outsiders. The patrón cared for workers and their families even when they were redundant. He lent them money not only to patronize the tienda de raya but also to celebrate births, marriages, and burials—money that neither side expected would be repaid. He served as godfather to his workers’ children. On traditional haciendas, bonds between masters and servants might reach back several generations.

In contrast, Martínez del Río, who was not the descendant of previous owners, lived with his family hundreds of miles away in Mexico City. Fully occupied attending to his law practice, he seldom visited the estate. Gómez Palacio, the general administrator, resided in faraway Durango city. Martínez del Río refused to employ local residents as hacienda managers; he distrusted anyone with ties to nearby communities.23 Antonio Herrán, the manager at Mercedes after 1906, maintained a family in Saltillo. Eduardo Trigüeros, at Pasaje from 1902 to 1906, had ties of compadrazgo with the Martínez del Río family in Mexico City. Herrán and Antonio Martínez, who was at Pasaje after 1906, were Spaniards. Wentworth S. Conduit, Thomas Fairbairns, and Patrick O’Hea, at Cruces from 1904 to 1912, were American, Canadian, and English, respectively. Neither the owner, the administrator, nor the managers customarily extended ties of compadrazgo to subordinates. Gómez Palacio’s philosophy of hacienda social relations revealed the great social void that separated sirvientes from owners and managers.

Our Peons, by defect of education or be it an absolute lack of elucidation, do not have any trace of moral sentiment, and the only control of their evil passions is the fear of punishment. Lacking this . . . one must fear every class of excesses.24

Martínez del Río understood that workers expected the owner to be “a sort of living providence to supplement and relieve the shortcomings of their [the peons’] own improvidence.”25 Both the owner and his general administrator recognized the usefulness of providing services such as free housing and medical care to induce workers to migrate to the hacienda. In practice, however, market forces guided labor relations, and financial considerations diluted the hacienda’s capacity to deliver welfare services. Managers seldom found teachers willing to staff the estate’s schools for salaries less than those paid to cowboys. Church services on the estate were irregular and sometimes discouraged, because they distracted employees from their duties. Once a visiting bishop refused to say mass in one of the hacienda’s capillas because of its poor state of repair. On another occasion, the general administrator refused a priest’s request for funds to buy wax for the candles used in church services.26 To minimize housing costs, the general administrator instructed managers to construct only one-room houses. Workers who wanted houses with kitchens had to make up for the extra cost by furnishing their own doors or doing without.

Although the hacienda conscientiously provided free medical treatment for its workers—in one case sending children bitten by a rabid dog to a special clinic in Monterrey—even here misunderstandings sometimes arose. In October 1906 Gómez Palacio scolded Valente Vargas for giving Ascención García $10 after the peon had injured himself with an ax. The general administrator reminded the manager of Alamito rancho that hacienda policy was to provide the injured with free medicine and to offer loans but not to give them gifts of money—that “neither you nor I can be charitable with someone else’s money.”27

Without a traditional patrón to give residents a sense of community, labor-management relations sometimes were mediated by third parties, usually artisans or professionals in nearby towns. For example, Gómez Palacio’s directive in 1903 that managers should withhold wages and rations from those who did not report for work provoked a strong letter of protest from Jesús Doras, a Peñón Blanco shoemaker, on behalf of Pedro Ceniceros (the stable attendant for the shepherds’ horses, who was ill with a syphilitic lesion), Silverio Roza (a vaquero thrown from a horse who did not work for a week), and Isabel Ramírez de Espinoza (whose husband died suddenly after a painful illness).28

Of equal if not greater importance in hacienda labor relations were the sharecroppers. Cultivating five-sixths of the cotton, wheat, corn, and beans marketed by Santa Catalina del Alamo, sharecroppers, not wage laborers, were the essential productive element. The system of share-cropping that evolved on this estate adapted uniquely to the agricultural conditions of the region. It provided a way around the chronic labor shortages that plagued estates in and adjacent to the highly commercialized Laguna district in eastern Durango and western Coahuila. Share-cropping also served as a mechanism to recruit casual labor.29

To receive an allotment of land, medieros (sharecroppers paying rent with one-half of their harvest) worked a fixed number of days of paid and unpaid labor. Tercieros (sharecroppers paying rent with one-third of their harvest) often brought their own peons to work the allotted lands. Share-cropping reduced the capital needed to work the estate, because tercieros furnished not only labor but also all draft animals, tools, seeds, rations, and other essentials. Share-cropping shifted the risks of farming in often hostile climatic conditions onto the medieros and tercieros while reserving most of the profits for the estate. A crop failure meant the loss of a year’s rent for the hacienda and an increase in debt for sharecroppers, who lost their own labor and investment.

In exchange for the use of land, draft animals, seed, water, and credit, medieros delivered one-half of their harvest in kind, with an additional obligation to sell their remaining harvest to the estate at low prices. In 1906, medieros in wheat were obliged to sell their half of the harvest to the hacienda for $4 per hectoliter (after the hacienda had first deducted, from this half, debts owed to the tienda de raya). If the hacienda threshed wheat for the sharecropper, it received all the wheat straw free. The hacienda sold wheat for up to $0.10 per kilogram and made an additional profit by selling the straw as fodder. Medieros in cotton sold their half of the harvest to the hacienda for $0.87 to $1.00 per arroba of unginned cotton until they had repaid all credit extended. They could sell whatever remained for $1.25 per arroba. The hacienda sold ginned cotton for $35 per quintal and cotton seed for $37 per ton. The hacienda determined which crops would be grown. At Mercedes, management refused after 1909 to provide fully irrigated land for corn, preferring cash crops such as wheat or cotton.

Successive crop failures brought relations between the hacienda and its sharecroppers close to the breaking point by 1910. Especially hard hit were those who sharecropped corn and beans on dry or semi-irrigated lands. Floods in July 1906 destroyed Nazas’ corn and bean crops, drowning many fields under five or more feet of water. A drought the following year reduced the bean harvest by one-half and the corn harvest by two-thirds. In 1908 the hacienda sacrificed the last remaining water in the Mercedes reservoir to irrigate corn, only to lose that crop to an early frost. Conditions were such that many sharecroppers simply abandoned their fields. The frost returned the following year to claim one-fourth of the corn crop and one-half of the beans. The year 1910 brought another drought; one-third of the com crop and one-half of the beans were lost. The hacienda gained the consolation of selling at high prices the products harvested in bad years; indebted sharecroppers surrendered all their produce to the hacienda at low fixed prices. For example, in 1908 the estate paid sharecroppers $6 per hectoliter for beans it marketed for $12.

Isolated protests had taken place on Santa Catalina in 1906, but in 1909 the hacienda faced an avalanche of complaints, demands, and threats of walkout from demoralized sharecroppers at Cruces, Mercedes, and Pasaje. In May the medieros of Cruces addressed a collective letter to the general administrator protesting the manager’s attempt to deduct from the current wheat crop the cash and credit advances from the failed crop of 1907. Management had taken all of their harvest in 1908, and the sharecroppers felt that this squared it for them. Gómez Palacio advised Thomas Fairbairns: “I don’t suppose they [the medieros] will carry out their threat to abandon the cultivations; but in case some of them should do it, let them go and do the harvesting with hired labor, which I suppose will not be hard to get at the present time.” The medieros stayed and reluctantly accepted the deductions.30

In August the general administrator received an anonymous letter signed by “Various Pasajeños” denouncing abuses by their manager, Antonio Martínez. Rejecting pleas by an intermediary, Julio Fierro, that the situation be investigated, Gómez Palacio characterized the charges as the work of troublemakers and instructed Martínez to identify and punish the letter’s authors.31 Two months later, sharecroppers at Mercedes refused to clean irrigation canals and ditches without pay. Stating “I do not wish to establish a bad precedent,” Gómez Palacio instructed Antonio Herrán to deliver an ultimatum to the protesters—clean ditches or surrender their lands.32 This time all but one sharecropper abandoned their fields and moved off the estate.

Relations with Surrounding Towns

Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas was ringed by small towns and villages. The municipio of Peñón Blanco lay sandwiched between Alamo on the east and Covadonga on the west; the municipio of Nazas extended north above Covadonga and Guadalupe y Cruces; the congregaciones (unincorporated villages) of La Uña and El Conejo squatted on the western perimeter of Guadalupe y Cruces; and the congregación of Sauces pressed against the eastern limits of Santa Catalina. The town of Cuencamé did not border the estate, but as cabecera its courts had jurisdiction over those parts of the hacienda lying within the partido (district) of Cuencamé. Conflicts with the residents of each of these communities festered in the period 1897-1910.

Although the hostility flourished from disputes over property rights, it intensified through contests between the hacienda and local non-estate residents to control town governments. The estate sought to protect its property rights by using its influence with the state government to remove hostile or indifferent local officials and by maintaining the acordada, a mounted rural police force commissioned by the state and financed by local hacendados. Because local leaders and middle-class town residents challenged these political and economic controls, the estate’s power was never hegemonic; its owner and managers sometimes lost political skirmishes to individuals with more social standing in their communities.

After purchasing Santa Catalina del Alamo in 1897, Pablo Martínez del Río acted resolutely to assert his property rights. Disputes with local residents occupying hacienda land extralegally were resolved by force, litigation, stealth, and negotiation. In most of these encounters, the hacienda won and local communities lost. Although they held no title, the people of Sauces, El Pasaje, Covadonga, Peñón Blanco, Cuencamé, and La Uña claimed ownership of land their families had lived on for generations. Many were descendants of military colonists who had garrisoned presidios in the area until the eighteenth century.33 When extensive estate agriculture in northern Mexico broke down after independence, Santa Catalina del Alamo was virtually abandoned by its absentee owners. No one questioned the gradual occupation of scattered farms and ranches belonging to the estate until an English company attempted to take possession of these properties after 1888.

When the residents of Sauces, El Pasaje, and Covadonga refused to acknowledge its ownership of these lands and to pay rent, the English company tried to evict them in 1895. Counseled by what the company charged were “agitators,” the community of Sauces obtained court injunctions to prevent the evictions and appealed to President Díaz for protection. Although Díaz refused to intervene (after Martínez del Río protested a concurrent attempt to make Sauces a municipio) and instead referred the matter to the governor of Durango, the residents did win a partial victory—they were not evicted by force.34 Instead, however, Martínez del Río turned their town into a no man’s land. To demonstrate his property rights, the hacendado constructed a fence cutting across the center of the congregación along the property line with the adjacent hacienda of Juan Pérez. To speed up the dismantling of the community, the owners of the two haciendas signed a pact in 1903, pledging not to employ residents of Sauces or to permit them to collect wood or pasture their animals on hacienda lands until the residents agreed to vacate their homes and move into hacienda housing at a different location. Competition for scarce labor resources, however, made it impossible for the two estates to cooperate. Each accused the other of hiring peons from Sauces. After a year, Santa Catalina del Alamo’s owner abandoned the scheme and devised more subtle tactics to use against Sauces.

The residents of El Pasaje and Covadonga were even less successful in maintaining their identity as rural communities. Witnesses charged that in 1898 Martínez del Río, “assisted by the public forces of the Acordadas of Durango, and taking advantage of the dissimulation and complicity of the superior authorities of the same State,” evicted Pasaje residents and seized their land, livestock, crops, and homes.35 Some Pasajeros stayed on the hacienda, where, as workers and sharecroppers, they continued to resist the demands of the owner and managers. Displaced families took refuge in the barrio of Pasajito in Cuencamé and waited for an opportunity to recover their lands. Relations between this town and the estate worsened in 1905, when Martínez del Río completed construction of fences to keep livestock from Cuencamé out of hacienda pastures. Frequent incursions took place nonetheless, and as late as 1909 Cuencamé residents still invaded hacienda lands to graze their animals. In retaliation, the estate refused to employ Cuencamé residents, “given the hostile attitude that the majority of these people have assumed against Santa Catalina.”36

Residents of the rancho of Covadonga and nearby lands said to belong to Peñón Blanco’s ejidos alleged that Martínez del Río, aided “with armed men,” had evicted them and committed “every class of depredations.”37 Townspeople appealed their evictions to the Supreme Court, but lost an October 1900 judgment. In 1903 Martínez del Río enclosed the disputed lands around Peñón Blanco and posted guards to charge fees to residents who collected wood or pastured animals on hacienda land. In June 1906 town officials attempted to persuade the estate to honor a pledge by the English company to cede lands in the Mesa del Peñón to the community, but Martínez del Río insisted that the “vague promise” had no legal value and instructed his general administrator: “What is best is to give a full and energetic refusal in order to put an end to gossip.”38

The estate s conflicts with the congregaciones of La Uña and Conejo began after the purchase of the Sabaco lands in 1902 and the organization of the new hacienda of Guadalupe y Cruces. Gómez Palacio outlined his strategy for doing away with the villages in 1904:

The way is none other, in my judgment, than that which I have in mind for Sauces; that is to say, to build houses on Guadalupe and bring the people there. I have recommended much prudence and have not let it be known that this is an attempt to end the congregación . . .. I have indicated . . . the convenience of not angering the people by refusing them pasture for their animals, but on the contrary, by providing them with everything, by means of a contract, to go about obtaining recognition of the property [rights] . . ..39

Here the plan worked less effectively than in Sauces. Villagers refused the bait. Four years later, on the eve of the revolution of 1910, La Uña’s people were building new adobe houses, expanding their village, and ridiculing attempts by hacienda managers to exercise control.

La Uña and Conejo survived and flourished as independent rural communities because they had powerful friends like Mariano Arce, the owner of the Rancho de San Agustín across the Nazas river from Guadalupe y Cruces. Arce s friendly relations with villagers enabled him to buy guayule cut clandestinely on Cruces’ land. The estate also found it difficult to contend with the resistance of community leaders like Eduardo Franco, José García, and Cipriano Molina. The last presented so many problems that Martínez del Río counseled his manager, Conduit, in April 1905: “[Molina] has been quite a troublesome element to us for some time . . . [I] wonder if you could not get around him with perhaps a little money.”40

Gómez Palacio, himself the owner of the Hacienda de San Lorenzo near Durango city, appreciated the need to cultivate peaceful relations with local men of substance. By offering generous rental terms on an adjacent rancho in 1903, he pacified the cacique of Sauces, Jacinto de la Joya. The administrator warned his manager at Pasaje to use tact when collecting rent owed by José Bori, “because this is one of the most considerable and influential persons in Nazas, and it is not convenient for us to break ties with such caciques.41 When the hacienda enclosed its pastures in Peñón Blanco, it did not attempt to fence lands claimed by local hacendados like Juan Francisco Flores.

Despite these attempts by the hacienda to please individuals it deemed consequential, many residents of small towns and villages in eastern Durango came to believe that their interests were prejudiced by the estate and its extensive control of the land and other natural resources in the region. In two separate proceedings, in 1907 and 1908, Pedro Sosa and Severino Ceniceros of Cuencamé and Simon Yiverino of Peñón Blanco respectively denounced Santa Catalina del Alamo’s lands as baldíos (vacant and subject to claim) and promised to share them with townspeople if they won possession. Gómez Palacio beat off the legal challenges in court, but he could not silence a growing public clamor among all segments of the population for a division of the hacienda’s lands.

Nowhere did the hacienda find relations more difficult than in the town of Cuencamé, where the owner and his managers engaged in constant battles with local residents for the control of the town hall and the municipal courts. In November 1904 Gómez Palacio advised Martínez del Río that because the jefe politico of Cuencamé supported the congregación of Ocuila in its dispute with the estate and with the neighboring hacienda of Sombretillos, “we must procure the placement of . . . a jefe who will be our creature, and if you approve the idea, I will set to work on this when Esteban Fernandez [the governor] returns.”42 The governor promptly fired the incumbent, who already had angered Gómez Palacio by refusing to deal harshly with Ocuila residents accused of taking livestock from the estate. The new jefe, Miguel Breceda, announced his desire to serve Santa Catalina del Alamo by organizing an armed search of houses in Ocuila and recovering two mules taken from the hacienda. The following year Gómez Palacio rewarded Breceda with generous terms in the rental of the rancho of Marqueseña. In 1906, Angel Morales, a former Durango city police chief, succeeded Breceda. Morales proved disappointing. When the new jefe showed too much sensitivity to townspeople caught cutting fences, rustling livestock, and stealing wood, the administrator sought his removal.

The estate experienced similar problems in its attempts to dominate the judges of Cuencamé. There were repeated episodes—in 1904, 1905, and 1909—in which municipal courts freed hacienda residents accused of rustling or other crimes against property. In February 1909 Gómez Palacio sought to prosecute the juez conciliador of Cuencamé after he released pastores from the hacienda of Alamo who had been caught stealing cattle. Convinced that “with this class of people hardness is what works best,” the administrator had Judge Bocanegra fired and replaced by a more pliable judge, Guillermo Castillo. The administrator conceded this was only a temporary victory: “From here [Durango city] there is not much one can do to counteract the influences of the tinterillos [“pen pushers”—scribes and notaries] with the local judges, who generally move to their whims in the small towns.”43

Given these conflicts, why were urban investors in Porfirian Mexico eager to own rural estates like Santa Catalina del Alamo? They were responding to the appeal of the bottom line—profit. In 1911, Gómez Palacio estimated the market value of Santa Catalina at $5.3 million.44 Apart from appreciating 700 percent in value over the simple costs of acquisition and improvements ($743,379.76) since 1897, it was the principal income producer in the portfolio of properties inherited by Martínez del Río s wife and children. In the nine months between December 1910 and August 1911, Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas contributed 85 percent ($401,027.13) of the family’s gross income ($473,991.25), earned from diversified investments of $3.7 million. By contrast, while the Durango estate generated a 54 percent return on capital, $30,000 in shares of the Compañía Cemento de Hidalgo, another Martínez del Río holding, provided an 18 percent return. The family’s $18,436.73 in shares of a tobacco company, El Buen Tono, paid 4 percent; $19,047.50 in the Compañía Expendidora de Pulques produced dividends of less than 2 percent; and $25,020 in a mining company, Soledad de Pachuca, returned 6 percent. Huge investments in Mexico City land, rental housing, and mortgage loans gave returns averaging 6 to 9 percent.45

Examined more closely, Santa Catalina reveals a steady growth rate of about 10 percent annually in net profits for the years between 1903 and 1911. Profits for the 1903 fiscal year totalled $57,964.09; profits for the 1911 fiscal year totalled $657,400.35. Contributing heavily to the upward trend were sales of guayule, which in 1911 totaled $743,913.82, compared to $92,828.76 from all other operations. In normal years, when sales of livestock, grains, and cotton were not disrupted by revolutionary violence, non-guayule operations yielded gross revenues ranging from $150,000 to $227,000 annually.

Following the general pattern, Guadalupe y Cruces’ net profits, based on the sale of wheat and cotton, increased fourfold from $7,294.08 in 1907 to $28,399.77 in 1909. Similarly, the success of the Compañía Aparcera, formed by relatives and friends of Pablo Martínez del Río to work lands on Santa Catalina, demonstrated that under the right conditions share-cropping by tercieros returned good profits. This company paid $1,400 and $600 dividends on each of the six $1,000 shares subscribed for the 1906 and 1910 harvests, respectively. Even the mundane operations of the tienda de raya at Guadalupe y Cruces produced higher net returns (10 to 12 percent) than many mining or manufacturing establishments in Porfirian Mexico.46

Not itemized on the books of Santa Catalina’s accounts (nor listed in the ledgers of any of the great estates in Porfirian Mexico) were the hidden social and political costs incurred as this vast agricultural enterprise conducted its affairs in an impersonal and businesslike fashion with the residents of rural Durango. These cumulative costs—the grassroots reaction of country people against the forced modernization of labor and property relations—came due beginning in 1911.

The Madero Revolt and the Prelude to Revolution

A popular reaction against the Porfirian regime was so slow to manifest itself in the area around Santa Catalina del Alamo that as late as December 1910, Thomas Fairbairns dismissed the Madero Revolt as a failure: “Everything is quiet here as to the revolution, and I expect it is mostly history, now.”47 Not until mid-January 1911 did small bands of rebels led by Calixto Contreras begin to menace the countryside. Nationally, the Madero Revolt ended triumphantly with the capture of Ciudad Juárez in May 1911 and Diaz’ subsequent abdication of power. Locally, the Madero Revolt brought a political revolution to eastern Durango as residents seized and retained control of municipal governments in Cuencamé, Peñón Blanco, and Nazas.48

Although the armed revolt was short-lived, Madero’s movement exposed the ineptness of the security forces that formerly had kept the region pacified. Fairbairns described the acordada raised in Cuencamé to fight the rebels in January 1911: “I do not think that most of them have even fired a rifle, and altogether it is a mess that the Government should be ashamed of . . . [they] are ready to run, and who could blame them.” Nor were the rurales, the famous mounted rural police of the Porfiriato, likely to inspire terror. Armed with “old pistols,” the four rurales assigned to defend Peñón Blanco were themselves described as “old and unserviceable. ”49

In February, larger rebel groups moved into the area and proceeded to arm and equip themselves with guns, ammunition, food, and livestock taken from local haciendas. Cruces was attacked first. A band of 40 rebels cut telephone and telegraph wires and then took cash and supplies valued at more than $3,400 before joining 130 other rebels to loot stores, free prisoners, and burn the town hall in Peñón Blanco. During the next two months, rebels visited Cruces frequently to demand money, arms, and horses. By early March they controlled the countryside around Santa Catalina del Alamo.

A rebel offensive in April thoroughly crushed the demoralized, poorly led, and heavily outnumbered federal army units brought into eastern Durango. Cuencamé, defended by a small detachment of soldiers, fell on April 1. Two weeks later, six hundred rebels, many of them local people, overwhelmed the main federal force based in Nazas.

Materially, the attacks and extortions associated with the Madero Revolt cost Santa Catalina del Alamo about $80,000. More serious, however, were its intangible social and political losses. A social revolution was born in eastern Durango as the Maderista agents mobilized the rural population in the struggle against Díaz. The tutelage begun during the late Porfìriato by small-town artisans and professionals like lawyer Severino Ceniceros ripened into bold campaigns by armed revolutionaries to indoctrinate and politicize hacienda residents, who, like the townspeople and villagers, joined Madero’s cause to settle longstanding grievances against Santa Catalina del Alamo. The first band of rebels to attack Cruces included peons and sharecroppers fired from the hacienda for stealing or for striking. They were joined in February 1911 by villagers from La Uña and Conejo and workers from Cruces. Acomodados like Severo García, a former mechanic at Cruces, headed rebel bands visiting the hacienda in March 1911. Through their families, these workers kept the hacienda manager informed about rebel plans, but they also knew where money, arms, and supplies were hidden on the estate. As rebel forces gained military superiority in eastern Durango during April 1911, many more workers (especially from Pasaje) enlisted in the Maderista cause.50

The Madero Revolt affected even those workers or sharecroppers who did not take up arms. Fairbairns, the manager at Cruces, complained in mid-March 1911: “They [the peons] seem to be getting out of hand worse every day . . . they see these Revoltosos coming and getting what they want and seem to think the Golden Age is here, and they will have to work no more.” A day earlier, he reported:

The worst side of the whole affair is the way the peons are taking the opportunity to do what they wish without anyone to say to them nay. This morning they all refused to go to the fatigas, and said they would not give any fatigas in the future, and what can one do? If they make more demands, all one can do is grant them with the best grace possible. . . . If they demand unreasonable pay, I do not know what we can do, as if this keeps up they will certainly refuse to pay the Hda. [hacienda] what they owe, and run things to suit themselves.51

By mid-April 1911, as the revolution took on a more local character, hacienda managers became favorite targets of vengeance. Fausto Rodríguez, a Cruces foreman accused of brutalizing subordinates, resigned and fled the area in the face of repeated death threats. Raiders at Alamo beat Dionisio Salas senseless with machetes and then dragged him behind their horses. Other managers avoided persecution by taking refuge in Durango city.

From June 1911 to January 1912, militancy continued to grow. Peons and sharecroppers staged numerous strikes that summer. Unlike their earlier efforts, the strikes called after the Madero Revolt won improved wages and working conditions. Far from relieving discontent, however, these strikes prepared the way for more combative tactics against the hacienda.

Labor troubles surfaced first at Pasaje and Covadonga, which had a history of strife and bad feeling.52 In mid-June 1911, acasillados harvesting wheat at Pasaje struck for a one-peso workday ending at 2:00 p.m. The workers returned to the fields when management increased wages from $0.37 to $0.50 for a full day’s work, but these concessions bought only temporary peace. In September 1911 Pasaje’s sharecroppers refused to sign any new contracts. Two months later, the general administrator complained: “The situation of the workers at Pasaje is such that we . . . cannot find anyone who will patrol the cornfields, and the result is that they [the peons] are stealing all of it.” Sharecroppers at nearby Mercedes signed contracts, but only after making new and costly demands on management.53

The protests at Pasaje and similar ones at Covadonga spread to Santa Catalina, whose laborers usually were more docile. Peons at Santa Catalina likewise demanded one peso a day and abolition of the tienda de raya. Although the owner, Pablo Martínez del Río’s widow, promised through management to increase wages (raya) from $0.37 to $0.50 a day, more than half the workers at Santa Catalina held out, believing that Calixto Contreras, who commanded Maderista forces in Cuencamé, would force the hacienda to pay the peso a day as promised during the revolt against Díaz. The peons ended their strike in late July only after Contreras visited Santa Catalina and instructed them to return to work.54

It was a hollow victory for management. Contreras’ intervention helped avoid further economic concessions, but reinforced the tendency of hacienda workers to use townspeople as intermediaries and mediators. In Contreras and Ceniceros, the local Maderista leadership, Santa Catalina del Alamo s workers had begun to find the patrón who was always absent on the estate. Another of the strikers key demands was resolved by outsiders when the interim state government ordered the abolition of all tiendas de raya in Durango. As labor unrest continued to fester nevertheless, the estate’s owner and managers were dumbfounded by the hostile attitude of the peons and sharecroppers. Gómez Palacio complained:

There is an animosity against the hacienda that I cannot explain and it would seem to me to be incredible, and not only because it is occurring every moment. Many of the servants whom we believed faithful have deceived us; and that is because of the promises made by the revolutionaries that they will divide the land . . . and now [the workers] do not think of anything more than to see realized that beautiful dream. Some of those who owe the hacienda the most for the services rendered to them are those that show the most desire for the division [of the hacienda].55

Cruces escaped the unrest that summer, but labor trouble crippled its operations in early December. Cruces’ new manager, Patrick O’Hea, sounded the alert: Things have been bad this week, the people for the most part refusing to work and a spirit of insubordination abroad.”56 To proceed with the essential task of cleaning and preparing the irrigation system for the next year’s crops, O’Hea offered one peso a day for work that formerly had been performed free by sharecroppers who owed fatigas. The manager’s scheme to hold down labor costs by deducting old debts from the new, higher wages was met by “grave difficulties, denials of the debts, and discontent,” and O’Hea conceded that it might be impossible to recover debts that for some individuals exceeded $150.57

On December 23 the situation worsened as the sharecroppers and laborers of Cruces combined in a general strike, demanding $0.75 for a six-hour workday, increases in hacienda payments for their corn and cotton, and reimbursement by the hacienda for harvesting costs. After the strikers refused O’Hea’s offer to pay $0.50 a day and to settle sharecroppers’ accounts by paying up to one-half of the current market price for corn, beans, or cotton, the manager appealed for help to Calixto Antuña, newly installed as the jefe politico of Nazas through the influence of Gómez Palacio. Sanctioned by Antuña, O’Hea forcibly evicted the striking sharecroppers and their families and brought in outsiders to replace them. Cruces’ manager boasted in late January 1912, “Now I feel my position stronger and more secure.”58 He was wrong.

The first manager to fall victim to an attack by aroused hacienda residents was the unfortunate Antonio Herrán, the young Spaniard in charge of Mercedes. Late one Saturday night in early October 1911, a group of armed men led by the blacksmith of Mercedes, Pedro Hernández, opened fire on Herrán’s house. Before the manager could raise his rifle to defend himself, he was felled by a bullet to the heart. No witness could or would give conclusive evidence, and officials in Cuencamé quietly dropped charges against the alleged attackers.59

Twenty riders attacked the casco (main house) of Santa Catalina on the night of November 11, 1911. Miguel Soto escaped with his family, but the hacienda was heavily damaged. Santa Catalina’s workers and sharecroppers helped attackers pillage the principal house, the store, barns, and warehouses. Record books and documents in the manager’s office were piled up and burned to destroy share-cropping contracts and to erase evidence of indebtedness. When a detachment of rurales later searched the peons’ houses, 23 hacienda residents caught with stolen goods were arrested and taken to Cuencamé for trial. Other sharecroppers at Santa Catalina were not intimidated by the arrests and, claiming the protection of Calixto Contreras, they threatened to keep for themselves the hacienda s share of the com and bean harvests. Management was able to regain control only because Emilio Madero, the head of the military district in Torreón, intervened and permanently stationed a detachment of 26 soldiers on the estate to prevent new attacks.60

Concern over these incidents had hardly subsided when there was another assault, in early December 1911 against Antonio Martínez at Pasaje. Twenty-five angry workers and sharecroppers began the attack at about 9:30 in the evening. Shouting “Viva Madero,” they fired pistols and rifles and tossed explosives at the manager’s residence. Armed with a rifle, Martínez fought back until he was seriously wounded in the chest. Relatives in the house kept up the gun battle until after midnight, when reinforcements arrived and routed the attackers.61

The townspeople of Peñón Blanco also exploited the opportunities created by the Madero Revolt. In early June 1911 they forcibly occupied lands in the Mesa del Peñón belonging to Santa Catalina del Alamo.62 Faced with a new political reality, the estate’s only recourse was ineffectual litigation in the municipal courts. Peñón Blanco s success inspired others. Cuencamé residents circulated a petition that month asking authorities to grant them title to Pasajes lands as promised during the Madero Revolt. Gómez Palacio explained:

The general opinion among the pelados [the poor] is that the revolution has been made to despoil the rich of their properties in favor of them, they dare to have the most absurd pretensions; and I will not be surprised to learn that authorities in Cuencamé will take some part of these lands under any pretext, since one must keep in mind that the present jefe político placed in office by the Maderistas is none other than . . . Severino Ceniceros.63

In the world turned upside down that was now eastern Durango, a smalltown scribe and lawyer turned revolutionary, and one of Santa Catalina del Alamo’s most vocal critics, that June had taken charge of political affairs in Cuencamé.

Although it had drastic effects locally, the Madero Revolt did not radically change Santa Catalina del Alamo s relationship with the state government. Through Governor Alonso y Patiño’s private secretary, Carlos Patoni (who previously had worked as an engineer and surveyor for Santa Catalina del Alamo), Gómez Palacio continued to enjoy easy access to the governor’s office. Unlike the days before the Madero Revolt, however, the sympathies of state officials now could not so easily be transformed into concrete action in the municipios of eastern Durango. In June 1911, when Gómez Palacio tried to impose his choice for jefe politico of Nazas, townspeople accused the new appointee of being “a despot that oppressed the people to benefit the rich” and, with the help of Contreras and Ceniceros, secured his removal and replacement with a jefe “designated by all the people.”64

Ceniceros became jefe político of Cuencamé over the protests of Gómez Palacio, who complained of the state government’s inability to impose its will in the country towns where “ideas of socialism prevail among the [military] chiefs who control the situation.”65 In the partido of Cuencamé the most powerful military jefe was Calixto Contreras, who commanded a militia of more than two hundred. Only slightly less threatening, Antonio Castellanos commanded one hundred armed riders in Peñón Blanco. In such an environment, law and order, charged Gómez Palacio, were at the mercy of the multitude of Maderistas, who “popped out of the earth like the small frogs that appear at the beginning of the rainy season.”66

Initially, Gómez Palacio tried to employ the militia as guards to protect Santa Catalina del Alamo from thefts and assaults, as he did after the episode at Mercedes. Unhappy with the results, Gómez Palacio complained: “Instead of imposing order the guerrilleros gave bad advice to the workers, and the jefe presumed to have authority that he lacked, meddling in subjects related to the administration of the hacienda.”67 The guards encouraged the peons to strike and attempted to dictate how land should be divided among sharecroppers. Finally the administrator fired them and sent them back to their homes in the towns.

Gómez Palacio lobbied continuously in Durango city to remove Contreras, Ceniceros, and other officials judged hostile to Santa Catalina del Alamo. But momentarily, in the summer of 1911, an accommodation between ambitious local leaders and the estate seemed possible. In late July, Ceniceros led a posse that captured 29 rustlers from Ocuila who had stolen cattle from the hacienda. Gómez Palacio showed his appreciation by donating to the poor people of Cuencamé the carcasses of cows slaughtered by the thieves. This gesture of good will was followed by another: Gómez Palacio lent the town several young bulls used in Cuencamé s annual celebration honoring the Señor de Mapimí, thereby reviving a traditional practice that had been suspended in the last years of the Porfiriato as a cost-cutting measure. An appreciative Ceniceros reciprocated with a promise to protect the interests of Santa Catalina del Alamo. And while Ceniceros pursued rustlers, Contreras visited Santa Catalina to order strikers back to work.

The new partnership soured, however, when Contreras asked Gómez Palacio for an interest-free loan of $1,500. Although the administrator reluctantly delivered this (the second such loan to Contreras), he refused additional favors to that Indian from Ocuila, and relations between Santa Catalina del Alamo and Contreras and Ceniceros gradually returned to their more normal state of mutual hostility. Antonio Castellanos, Pedro Zamora, and other leaders in Peñón Blanco remained consistently bellicose, boasting that they soon would use rifles and dynamite to force Santa Catalina del Alamo to surrender lands claimed by townspeople.68

When state and local officials failed to keep order, the general administrator summoned spiritual authorities.

Since our civil resources are exhausted and not having at our disposition military resources, I have thought about recourse to the religious ones. Already I have begun taking the necessary steps with the Archbishop so that missionaries will come to the hacienda and nearby towns. The idea has been well received and essential preparations are being taken to put it in practice. I do not imagine that the missions can make the usurpers of the lands return them, but I do believe that they can serve to moralize a bit the people in other senses and make the robberies of animals diminish at least, since no one can expect they will cease altogether.69

Finally, having little faith in God s servants or none in those of the Madero government, Gómez Palacio organized a private defense force to protect Santa Catalina del Alamo against its internal and external enemies. Arming and equipping the guards was not a simple task. After the Madero Revolt, private arms sales had been banned, and Gómez Palacio could not persuade his friends in government to grant a waiver for Santa Catalina del Alamo. Emilio Madero volunteered to help by sending Gómez Palacio a shipment of used carbines, but these were so old and useless that the administrator returned them to Torreón.70 When sufficient arms were finally located, the new police force of 12 mounted riders made its first rounds, in late September 1911. Residents of Nazas and Peñón Blanco characterized the guards as “a menace for the innocent and peaceful” and vigorously protested their deployment. Using Calixto Contreras as an intermediary, they attempted unsuccessfully to pressure Gómez Palacio into disbanding the unit.71

As conditions worsened throughout the period after the Madero Revolt, Bárbara Martínez del Río and her children tried desperately to sell the property. Although sales of guayule generated handsome profits in 1911 ($743,913.42), the external and internal threats made the estate an increasingly risky investment. Rubber companies that had been eager to buy the property in 1910 refused to consider it in 1911. Foreigners anxious to acquire Santa Catalina del Alamo before the Madero Revolt now demurred; moreover, many of them, especially the Spanish and Germans, began leaving the region.

One potential buyer, however, was not discouraged by political conditions. Ernesto Madero—uncle of Francisco and secretary of the treasury—inquired in October 1911 about the owner’s terms of sale, proposing that the Madero family take possession of the estate’s guayule lands and that its other, less valuable portions be divided by Francisco Madero s government among landless residents in the area. Negotiations dragged on without resolution until August 1912, when the Maderos announced that they no longer wanted the property because most of its guayule already had been harvested. By 1913 the estate was in such a “pitiful” condition that no buyer could be found, even though the owner had reduced the asking price from $5 million in 1910 to less than $1 million in 1913.72

Through their guayule company, the Compañía Exportadora Coahuilense, S.A., the Madero family in 1911 and 1912 harvested hundreds of tons of the latex-bearing shrubs that grew wild on the arid wastelands of Santa Catalina del Alamo. Aided by the guayule connection, Bárbara Martínez del Río and Gómez Palacio persuaded the Madero government to intervene forcibly on the hacienda s side in its struggle with the peons, sharecroppers, and townspeople.73

To clear the area around Cruces and the nearby towns of guayule thieves in October 1911, Emilio Madero dispatched two detachments from Torreón to the partido of Nazas. The officer in charge of each 40-man patrol carried written orders to shoot anyone captured armed. As they rode into Cruces, the troops captured a resident who was “pressured” to reveal the location of weapons and accomplices. Then, with the enthusiastic approval of Cruces manager, Patrick O’Hea, soldiers marched the suspect away with every facility and preparation for the application of the Ley Fuga.”74 As more government soldiers were brought in, Calixto Contreras’ superiors ordered him to withdraw his militia from its posts in Cuencamé and to report for a new assignment in Torreón.75

After the November 11 attack at Santa Catalina and the stationing there of 26 rurales, additional troops reinforced Cruces, raising the size of its garrison to 50. The next month the government dispatched 3 squads of 25 rurales each to garrison Cuencamé, Pasaje, and Peñón Blanco. Gómez Palacio boasted that these energetic actions were the result of his discussions with President Maderos brother, Gustavo. Once it had disarmed Contreras followers, the state government ordered the replacement of the jefes politicos in Nazas and Cuencamé. Calixto Antuña was imposed as the new jefe in Nazas, but the state backed down in Cuencamé after the townspeople threatened to revolt.76

The Revolution in Full Flower

As the price for their continued loyalty in 1912, the residents of Pasaje and Cuencamé demanded that state authorities recognize their ownership of Pasaje and Mercedes and elevate the community of Pasaje to municipio status. Peñón Blanco continued to occupy the Mesa del Peñón and made new claims that the hacienda s guayule lands in the Sierra de Yerbanís also belonged to the town. Altogether, Peñón Blanco stipulated that 25 sitios of land would be the price for peace. The municipio of San Juan del Río claimed timber and other rights on hacienda land in the Sierra de Gamón. Seeking valuable guayule lands and irrigated fields, Nazas, La Uña, and Conejo pressed new claims against Cruces.

Old grievances and new aspirations weighed heavily. When troops stationed at Santa Catalina del Alamo and in the nearby towns were abruptly removed in late January 1912 to aid a campaign in Chihuahua, the area exploded in violence. Patrick O’Hea at Cruces anticipated the disaster to follow with the complaint, “Just as I have begun to feel my position firm, and the people well in hand, all armed support is withdrawn, leaving me exposed to the double peril of open discontent amongst my people and attack from the outside.”77

Cuencamé declared itself in rebellion in early February 1912. Warned of an attack from the town, Gómez Palacio instructed guards at Pasaje to repel the invasion with force, “come what may.”78 But the guards demurred, turned in their arms, asked for their back pay, and left the hacienda on February 10. Unprotected, Antonio Martínez, the resident manager, fled Pasaje the following day. On February 12, facing no resistance, Pasaje’s workers and sharecroppers joined their Cuencamé neighbors in taking possession of the hacienda’s lands, buildings, equipment, supplies, and livestock.79

Even as Pasaje fell, another, more violent uprising began at Cruces. Julian Martínez, the foreman (caporal) in charge of workers who tended the herds of mules and work horses (the mulada) as well as a member of the hacienda’s guard force, led workers and sharecroppers in an assault on the manager’s house. When Patrick O’Hea’s personal servant shouted insults at the attackers, he was shot down on the spot. After surrendering arms, money, and horses, O’Hea escaped the attackers by hiding in a bin of unginned cotton. The manager watched from his hiding place as Cruces’ workers and sharecroppers methodically emptied the hacienda’s casco, tienda de raya, and barns. They searched frantically for the hacienda’s contract and account books, but a prudent O’Hea had moved these records to safety in the house of the British consul in Torreón.80

As peons and sharecroppers razed Cruces, Aurelio Gonzalez, the former military jefe of Nazas dismissed because of Gómez Palacio s complaints, revenged himself with a devastating attack on Covadonga on February 12. His followers destroyed or carried away everything, leaving “not a grain of corn or wheat” and clearing the pastures of all mules, horses, and cattle. As Covadonga smoldered, Antonio Castellanos led two hundred armed riders from Peñón Blanco in a savage raid against Alamo on February 13. Screaming “Down With the Rich” and “Viva Zapata,” the attackers looted the principal house, store, and barns and carried away all the sheep, goats, horses, and cattle pastured there. Searching the manager’s office, they burned every document they could find.81

The only portion of Santa Catalina del Alamo spared from the orgy of violence which lasted until the final week of February—was Santa Catalina, whose detachment of troops had not been withdrawn. After receiving reinforcements, the federales counterattacked Peñón Blanco. Caught by surprise, the rebels sustained heavy losses—more than 30 dead—and their leader, Castellanos, was forced to flee into hiding. The Durango government pacified the area by offering concessions. A new governor, Emiliano Saravia, appointed Calixto Contreras as jefe politico of Cuencamé with broad authority to effect a reconciliation. The rebels accepted amnesty for acts committed in the February revolt—and kept the money, arms, land, livestock, and equipment stolen from Santa Catalina del Alamo. They also retained the option to rebel again in 90 days if still unsatisfied.82 In mid-March, Saravia and other officials visited Gómez Palacio to urge that the estate cede disputed lands as “the only means” to pacify the area; but they extracted no new concessions from the hacienda.

The peace did not last. On April 25, 1912, Febronio Salas, Calixto Contreras subordinate, pronounced in support of Pascual Orozco’s rebellion against Madero. Commanding what was formerly the rural detachment at the Pedriceña railroad station, Salas led his band on a foraging expedition, taking horses and arms from tenants and sharecroppers on the hacienda of Mercedes. The following day, José María Herrera, a leader in the takeover at Pasaje, declared for Orozco and, with 15 armed riders, joined Salas in new raids on Covadonga. The raiders found little left to carry off. Their principal victims were the manager and the vaqueros, whose personal clothing, saddles, and horses they took.83

Two weeks later, hundreds of Orozquistas began moving into the area from the north. By May 13 more than two thousand rebels, mostly from Chihuahua, were camped in the Canon de Fernandez near Nazas. To feed this army, scavengers took animals, feed grain, and other supplies from nearby haciendas. Cruces lost its stored com and hay and most of its remaining mules and wagons. On May 14 and 15 the Orozquistas fought federal troops at Pedriceña and Velardeña. Badly beaten, the federales fled in disarray to Durango city, tearing up railroad tracks behind them to keep the rebels from following. The Orozquista plan to concentrate a large army at Santa Catalina del Alamo in preparation for an assault on the strategic rail center of Torreón went awry, however, when General Victoriano Huerta’s federal army defeated the other element in Orozco’s main force at the Second Battle of Rellano on the Chihuahua border. Outflanked, most of the rebels retreated slowly toward Chihuahua, but small bands remained in the area, visiting Santa Catalina del Alamo to steal supplies and to propagandize among the hacienda’s peons and sharecroppers. Gómez Palacio complained that sharecroppers responded with “broad approval” to their advice not to surrender a share of the wheat harvest to the estate.84

Orozquistas returned in large numbers less than a month later. On June 13, 1912, 1,500 rebels moved from Nazas through Cruces to establish their main camp at Santa Catalina. Again the plan was to combine with other Orozquista forces, but again the plan was disrupted—this time by General Aureliano Blanqueťs defeat of an Orozquista army at the Hacienda de Purísima. Disastrous for Orozco, the defeat came too late to save Santa Catalina del Alamo from staggering new losses. Beleaguered Cruces was stripped bare, and Santa Catalina, undisturbed since the attack in November 1911, was sacked. Santa Catalina’s workers and sharecroppers enthusiastically joined in the pillage. Gómez Palacio concluded: “Sad it is to say it, but it is a fact without any doubt that the worst enemies that this hacienda has are its own workers.”85

Advised by Santa Catalina’s manager that rebel forces were massing there, Gómez Palacio telegraphed a warning to Salvador Madero, the current military jefe in Torreón, who immediately dispatched troops based in Pedriceña. Beginning their attack on the morning of June 14, the federales faced strong resistance from rebels hidden in the main house, the church tower, and the peons’ houses. After several hours of indecisive combat, the federal commander brought in artillery and forced the rebels from their positions. With more than one hundred dead, the Orozquistas retreated to the mountains above Santa Catalina and waited for the federales to withdraw. Taking with them the loot the rebels had left behind (including seven hundred goats), the rested and well-fed federal troops left Santa Catalina before nightfall, boarding trains at the nearby Gabriel station. As they departed, the rebels came back down the mountains to camp at Santa Catalina and continue the pillaging at a more leisurely pace.86

As Orozco’s revolt sputtered out in June 1912, the rebels in Durango dispersed. Orozco was beaten, but the agrarian ideology espoused by his followers was not forgotten. Invoking the Orozquista slogan “Land and Justice,” Cuencamé residents occupied irrigated fields at Mercedes in early July 1912. Squatters planted corn and beans and resisted all attempts by the manager to force them to leave.87

Bárbara Martínez del Río appealed to her contacts in the government for help. Gustavo Madero, brother of Francisco and a powerful, if informal, influence in the regime, was unable to defend the estate’s interests during the spring of 1912, but promised that at a more opportune time he would go personally to Santa Catalina del Alamo with machete in hand to throw out the troublemakers.88 The crackdown came in August. General Blanquet arrived in Durango with 350 federal troops. When Calixto Contreras refused orders from the Madero government to go to Mexico City, he was arrested and carried back in chains to be court-martialed for insubordination. The two hundred irregulars under Contreras’ command since the Madero Revolt were disarmed and the unit disbanded. Antonio Castellanos, the leader of Peñón Blanco during the February revolt, languished in the Torreón prison.89

The conservative reaction was reflected in Durango state politics with the inauguration in September 1912 of Santa Catalina del Alamo’s longtime friend, Carlos Patoni, who had defeated the agrarista candidate in the August gubernatorial election. Gómez Palacio exclaimed: “All the hacendados have great expectations that he will give us protection, or at least will permit us to arm to defend ourselves and put an end to such thieving. 90 Although Patoni commissioned a new, much larger acordada for Santa Catalina del Alamo, he tried to keep Durango peaceful by refusing to sanction the eviction of those occupying hacienda lands. Nevertheless, tensions between Santa Catalina del Alamo and townspeople continued to rise as Contreras’ demobilized followers began returning to their homes in early autumn. Periodic raids by hacienda guards to search the homes of townspeople suspected of hiding stolen guayule or booty from the February uprisings further inflamed local sensitivities.

It was with these portents that the agrarian revolution begun the previous February entered a new and destructive phase. Lured by residents into an ambush, 82 rurales were massacred at Cruces in circumstances that witnesses described as “true pandemonium.”91 Cruces itself was so devastated in an attack led by Cheche Campos, a former ranchero, that management was obliged to abandon it. Again the attackers’ cry was “Land and Justice.” They set fires that gutted the two principal houses at Cruces along with the warehouses, the cotton gin, the workshops, and the corrals. They stole or destroyed 30 tons of cotton and 20 tons of guayule, along with quantities of corn and beans. All implements, machines, combines, and plows they destroyed or carried away.92 Sharecroppers at Cruces kept all of the cotton and wheat harvests for themselves, turning nothing over to the hacienda.

Incidents such as one at Mercedes in mid-December further poisoned relations between the rural residents, the hacienda, and the Madero government. Manuel Alvarez, a squatter from Cuencamé, argued violently when Francisco Castellanos (who had succeeded Antonio Herrán as manager) tried to force him to work with other peons clearing an irrigation canal at Mercedes. A furious Castellanos sought the intervention of federal troops patrolling the area. The soldiers arrested Alvarez along with other squatters identified as subversives on a list furnished by Castellanos. After an angry exchange of insults, the federales shot Alvarez, hung him from a tree, and took the others as prisoners to the garrison at Pedriceña.93

Although federal commanders kept a watchful eye on Santa Catalina del Alamo and although Gómez Palacio increased his private force to more than 50 armed riders, the new year brought stronger attacks that completed the hacienda’s devastation. Covadonga was razed in mid-January 1913 and its operations suspended after its houses, storerooms, and equipment were destroyed.94 When the acordada based at Alamo killed two rustlers (one of whom was Calixto Contreras’ nephew) in a gun battle at Ocuila, two hundred local riders retaliated with a strike against Santa Catalina in early February, burning the main house and taking all the remaining equipment and stores. Explaining that “all are free men [and] owners of the soil they work,” the rebels assembled the peons and told them that the foremen, managers, and owner of the hacienda no longer possessed the land or had any power over its residents.95 They ordered the cowboys and shepherds to divide the livestock among hacienda residents, and they banished from Santa Catalina those who chose to remain employees.

With less and less of the latifundio left to protect, Gómez Palacio concentrated his guards at Alamo, using them mostly to stage surprise raids to recover stolen goods in nearby towns. The former head of Gómez Palacio’s acordada, the impetuous Fernando Martínez, exploited the new strategy by raiding the unprotected Mercedes hacienda. Fifty “bandits” (many of whom had once worked as guards) burned the manager’s house along with barns containing 75,000 pounds of cotton, 1,400 bales of hay, and 10 tons of guayule.96 This attack left Alamo as the last functioning hacienda in the partido of Cuencamé. Outside of Cuencamé, only a handful of haciendas in Durango were still working when Madero s government was overthrown by General Huerta’s military coup in mid-February 1913.

Conclusion and Epilogue

Soon after his resignation and exile from Mexico in 1911, Porfirio Díaz observed that in organizing his revolt Francisco Madero had unleashed a tiger that might devour him—popular forces that Madero might be unable to control. The remark was prophetic, especially in eastern Durango. There, Madero s agents recruited followers in 1911 by promising to redress historic grievances against the Hacienda Santa Catalina del Alamo. But his revolt helped start a little agrarian revolution that, even once in power, Madero s government could not stop.

The homegrown revolution was already complete when General Huerta deposed and murdered Madero in February 1913. Soon afterward, Calixto Contreras returned to Cuencamé to command a force of more than one thousand riders from Cuencamé, Peñón Blanco, and Nazas in the campaign against Huerta s government. Now the local revolution melded with the larger movement headed by the charismatic Pancho Villa. The support Villa received from the people of towns like Cuencamé and from the cowboys, shepherds, peons, and sharecroppers of Santa Catalina del Alamo facilitated Villas decisive victory over Huerta’s forces at Torreón and other key strongholds in Durango, Coahuila, and Zacatecas in 1913 and 1914. But Villa was unable to use those same locally based forces as a forward line of military power in his contest with Venustiano Carranza for control of the nation in 1914 and 1915.

Invincible at home, the agraristas of Cuencamé performed poorly on military missions abroad. In a crucial campaign to secure Jalisco for Villa in March 1915, Contreras’ army of Cuencamé fighters was routed by betterled and better-motivated Carrancistas. At the Battle of León in July 1915, the men from Cuencamé disappointed Villa and fled, defeated and demoralized, back home to Durango.97 To compensate for agrarista provincialism, Villa was obliged to rely increasingly on a paid professional army after 1913 and to make new alliances with diverse nonagrarian groups, classes, and interests. These amalgamations gave mature Villismo its characteristic heterogeneity, which set it apart from the purer agrarianism of Zapatismo in Morelos and disguised, and perhaps betrayed, its social origins in rural eastern Durango.

When Villa’s military campaign against Carranza faltered in 1915, it left the people of eastern Durango few reasons to continue their commitment to a doomed cause outside their patria chica. Contreras died fighting the Carrancista forces that swarmed into Cuencamé in 1916, but Ceniceros defected to Carranza, taking with him the support of many local people. Well-armed agrarian radicals continued to occupy the lands taken from Santa Catalina del Alamo even though Carranza formally returned the hacienda to its original owners, the Martínez del Río family, in 1916. When he deposed Carranza in 1919, Alvaro Obregón revived the pact with Ceniceros and began modest agrarian reforms intended to give formal government recognition to the occupations. In return, the agraristas of eastern Durango voted for Obregón and fought for his government during the De la Huerta revolt in 1922 and 1923.

Although this local movement to gain access to more political and economic resources was eventually undone by the outcome of the other, larger Mexican Revolution, the homegrown revolution changed forever the economic and political landscape of eastern Durango. Obregón’s successor, Plutarco Elías Calles, withdrew his patronage of the agraristas and used agrarian reforms after 1927 to take back the properties won by armed occupations in 1911, 1912, and 1913, but the owners of Santa Catalina del Alamo never were able to reconstitute the latifundio. Thus it was the homegrown revolution in eastern Durango—a movement born of the popular reaction to disruptive modernization in the decade before 1910 and carried to fruition in the eventful years between 1911 and 1913 (and not the more publicized, government-decreed agrarian reform of the sort praised by Tannenbaum and other observers in the 1920s)—that brought an irrevocable end to the Hacienda Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas and the modernizing rural regimen to which it belonged.

Reference is made in this article to the following archives: Archivo General de Notarías, Mexico City (AN); Archive of Carlos Martínez del Río y Fernández Henestrosa, Mexico City (CMRFH); Porfirio Díaz Collection, Mexico City (PDC); Archivo de la Secretaría de la Reforma Agraria, Gómez Palacio, Durango (SRA-GP).


Frank Tannenbaum, The Mexican Agrarian Revolution (New York: MacMillan Press, 1929); Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, The Great Rebellion: Mexico, 1905-1924 (New York: Norton, 1980); Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution, 2 vols. (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1986); John M. Hart, Revolutionary Mexico: The Coming and Process of the Mexican Revolution (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1987).


For a useful discussion of the new regional perspectives on the Mexican Revolution, see Mark Wasserman, “Provinces of the Revolution: An Introduction,” chap. 1 in Provinces of the Revolution, ed. Thomas Benjamin and Mark Wasserman (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1990), 1-13; and Thomas Benjamin, “Regionalizing the Revolution: The Many Mexicos in Revolutionary Historiography,” ibid., chap. 12, 319-58.


Important exceptions include the significant studies of Mark Wasserman, Capitalists, Caciques, and Revolution: The Native Elite and Foreign Enterprise in Chihuahua, Mexico, 1854-1911 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1984); María Vargas-Lobsinger, La hacienda de "La Concha”: una empresa algodonera de la Laguna, 1883-1917 (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1984); and William K. Meyers, “La Comarca Lagunera: Work, Protest, and Popular Mobilization in North Central Mexico,” chap. 9 in Other Mexicos: Essays on Regional Mexican History, 1876-1911, ed. Thomas Benjamin and William McNellie (Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1984).


Friedrich Katz, The Secret War in Mexico: Europe, the United States, and the Mexican Revolution (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1981); Knight, Mexican Revolution; John Tutino, From Insurrection to Revolution in Mexico: Social Bases of Agrarian Violence, 1750-1940 (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1986).


Katz, Secret War, 12.


Tutino, Insurrection, 303, 357-58.


For the Morelos case, see John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1969).


The 1888 sale is registered in Notary no. 4, 1888, fols. 91-100 (Mar. 27, 1888), AN. The 1897 sale is registered in Notary no. 4, 1888, fols. 199-208 (June 3, 1897), AN. The total investment in improvements from 1897 to 1911 was $501,110.83; in Notary no. 4, 1911, fols. 214-60 (July 24, 1911), AN. Unless otherwise noted, $ denotes currency in current Mexican pesos. For most of the period between 1898 and 1913, pesos were valued at about $0.45 U.S.


For Pablo Martínez del Río’s association with Porfirio Díaz, see David W. Walker, Kinship, Business, and Politics: The Martínez del Río Family in Mexico, 1824-1867 (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1986), 225-27.


The owner could count on his general administrator to be zealous in maximizing productivity on the estate because Gómez Palacio’s remuneration took the form of a 15 percent commission on annual profits up to $50,000 and 20 percent on profits in excess of $50,000. Contract terms for the administrator are described in a letter, Pablo Martínez del Río to Francisco Gómez Palacio, Mexico City, Oct. 28, 1904, CMRFH. Although expensive, the arrangement helped to ensure effective management. Pablo Martínez del Río’s sudden death from a heart attack during a visit to the United States in November 1907 did little to disturb the estate’s operations or jeopardize its profits. Gómez Palacio continued to administer Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas for the owner’s widow and children through 1913.


The purchase of the Hacienda del Sobaco was registered with the notary Manuel Puente in Lerdo, Durango, July 19, 1902; the price paid for the property was $21,258. See also the listing for Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas in John R. Southworth, The Official Directory of Mines and Estates of Mexico, 11 (Mexico City, n.p., 1910), 196-97.


For an overview of labor relations on Porfirian haciendas, see Friedrich Katz, “Labor Conditions on Haciendas in Porfirian Mexico: Some Trends and Tendencies," HAHR 54 (Feb. 1974), 1-47. For a comparison with conditions on a Zacatecas hacienda in the nineteenth century, see Harry E. Cross, “Living Standards in Rural Nineteenth-Century Mexico: Zacatecas 1820-80,” Journal of Latin American Studies 10:1 (May 1978), 1-19.


For the role of the tienda de raya in the hacienda economy, see also Cross, “Living Standards,” 16.


Patrick O’Hea, Reminiscences of the Mexican Revolution (Mexico City: Editorial Fournier, 1966). For the significance of subjective perception and insurrectional mentality, see Tutino, Insurrection, 357-58.


On the contrary, in some instances workers who left the estate owing money were invited to return, and the old debts were forgiven. Other workers who left owing debts as high as $480 were punished by being barred from returning to Santa Catalina del Alamo y Anexas. The absence of debt peonage on Santa Catalina del Alamo is consistent with Katz’s typology of regional variations in labor relations. See Katz, “Labor Conditions,” 31-37. For an extended discussion of the historiography of debt peonage, see Arnold J. Bauer, “Rural Workers in Spanish America: Problems of Peonage and Oppression,” HAHR 59 (Feb 1979) 34-63.


For parallel developments on other estates in the Laguna region, see Meyers, “Work, Protest, and Popular Mobilization,” 244-64.


Francisco Gómez Palacio to Eduardo Trigüeros, Durango, Nov. 19, 1906, CMRFH. For radical Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) activities in the Laguna region during the years 1906-1910, see Meyers, “Work, Protest, and Popular Mobilization,” 259-64.


Gómez Palacio to Trigüeros, Durango, Nov. 29, 1906, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Antonio Herrón, Durango, Jan. 4, 1908, CMRFH.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Miguel Soto, Mexico City, June 1, 1905, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Trigüeros, Durango, Jan. 21, 1905, CMRFH.


Thomas M. Fairbairns to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Durango, Feb. 13, 1909, CMRFH.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio, Mexico City, Feb. 13, 1905, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara V. Martínez del Río, Durango, Mar. 20, 1911, CMRFH.


Extract of a speech by Pablo Martínez del Río to the National Agricultural Congress, Ft. Worth, Texas, reported in the Mexican Herald (Mexico City), Dec. 18, 1898.


Gómez Palacio to Soto, Durango, Dec. 6, 1909, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Valente Vargas, Durango, Oct. 10, 1906, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Pablo Martínez del Río, Alamo, Durango, June 15, 1903, CMRFH.


For similar findings about the role of share-cropping on a cotton estate in the Laguna district, see Vargas-Lobsinger, “La Concha,"”52-58, 110-15; and Tutino, Insurrection, 303.


Gómez Palacio to Fairbairns, Durango, May 13, 1909; May 21, 1909, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Antonio Martínez, San Lorenzo, Durango, Aug. 7, 1909, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Herrán, Durango, Oct. 30, 1909, CMRFH.


For a discussion of the military colonists and presidios and a general overview of town-hacienda conflict in rural Porfirian Mexico, see Katz, Secret War, 7-10. For military colonists with similar problems in Chihuahua during the late Porfiriato, see Mark Wasserman, “Chihuahua: Family Power, Foreign Enterprise, and National Control,” chap. 2 in Benjamin and McNellie, Other Mexicos, 48.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Porfirio Díaz, Mexico City, Dec. 30, 1895, fols. 17621-17624, PDC.


Francisco O’Reilly to Comisión Nacional Agraria, Mexico City, Nov. 16, 1920, leg. 705-23 (724-1). fol. 705. SRA-GP.


Gómez Palacio to Antonio Alemán, Durango, Aug. 19, 1907, CMRFH.


J. Froilán Reyes to Governor of Durango, Peñón Blanco, Aug. 14, 1917, leg. 705-25 (724.1), fol. 714, SRA-GP.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio, Mexico City, June 2, 1906, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Pablo Martínez del Río, Durango, Jan. 15, 1904, CMRFH.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Wentworth S. Conduit, Mexico City Apr 27, 1905, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Trigüeros, Durango, May 20, 1903, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Pablo Martínez del Río, Durango, Nov. 29, 1904, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Herrán, Durango, Jan. 5, 1909, CMRFH.


“Valor estimativo de las Haciendas de SCA . . . ,” Oct. 15, 1911, CMRFH.


Calculated from data reported in Notary no. 4, 1911, fols. 214-60 (July 24, 1911), and Notary no. 25, 1913, fols. 226-33 (n.d.), AN. Appreciation of the estate’s market value is expressed in current pesos. Fluctuations in the absolute value of the peso during this period were not a significant factor in the estate s appreciation. A more probable explanation is its proven capacity to produce high levels of income, partly from the modernization of labor and property relations; partly from the rising prices paid for corn, beans, cotton, and other agricultural staples it cultivated; and partly from windfall profits from the guayule boom, especially in the period 1908–12.


Pablo Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio, Mexico City, Oct. 28, 1894; Gómez Palacio to Soto, Durango, July 3, 1907; Fairbairns to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Mar. 15, 1909, Apr. 6, 1910; Guadalupe y Cruces Account, Dec. 31, 1908; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, July 14, 1912, CMRFH.


Fairbairns to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Dec. 1, 1910, CMRFH.


For accounts of the attacks on Cruces and the Maderista offensive in eastern Durango, see Fairbairns to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Feb. 19, Mar. 13, 15, Apr. 1, 1911, CMRFH.


Fairbaims to Gómez Palacio, Jan. 14, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Feb. 26, 1911, CMRFH.


On enlistments by hacienda workers and villagers, see Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Feb. 17, Mar. 12, Apr. 3, 1911; Fairbaims to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Feb. 24, Mar. 13, 19, 1911; Saturnino Rodríguez to Fairbairns, Cruces, Apr. 14, 1911, CMRFH.


Fairbairns to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Mar. 14, 1911; Mar. 13, 1911, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, June 18, 1911, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Rafael Bustamante, Durango, Oct. 25, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Francisco A. Castellanos, Durango, Oct. 25, 1911, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, June 25, 27, July 2, 9, 30, 1911, CMRFH.


Ibid., July 21, 1911.


Patrick O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Dec. 1, 1911, CMRFH.


Ibid., Dec. 17, 1911.


Ibid., Jan. 2, 16, 28, 1912; quotation from Jan. 28, 1912.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Oct. 10, 13, 20, 1911, CMRFH.


Ibid., Nov. 12, 21, 26, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Gustavo A. Madero Duraneo, Nov. 14, 1911, CMRFH.


José Gómez Palacio to Francisco Gómez Palacio, Durango, Dec. 6, 1911 CMRFH; "Asunto de Pasaje,” leg. 705-23 (724.1), SRA-GP.


Francisco Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Duraneo June 6 1911 CMRFH.


Ibid., June 27, 1911.


Ibid., June 25, 1911.


Ibid., June 18, 1911.




Ibid., July 30, Sept. 3, 1911.




Ibid., July 13, 1911.


Gómez Palacio to Laureano López Negrete, Durango, Sept. 15, 1911, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Oct. ı, 1911, CMRFH.


Bárbara Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio, Mexico City, Oct. 5, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Nov. 9, 1911, CMRFH. “Pitiful” was Gómez Palacio’s word, to Thomas Fairbairns, Durango, Apr. 3, 1912, CMRFH.


This intervention seems to contradict the widely held view that the Madero regime was simply inept or ill advised about agrarian policy. For example, see William H. Beezley, “Madero: The ‘Unknown’ President and His Political Failure to Organize Rural Mexico,” chap. 1 in Essays on the Mexican Revolution: Revisionist Views of the Leaders, ed. George Wolfskill and Douglas W. Richmond (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1979).


O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Oct. 7, 1911, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Oct. 22, 1911, CMRFH.


For the Maderos’ role in attempting to throttle the developing local revolution, see Gómez Palacio to Guillermo Espejo, Durango, Oct. 20, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Oct. 22, Nov. 12, 22, 26, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Gustavo A. Madero, Durango, Nov. 14, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Domingo Valdez Llano, Durango, Nov. 17, 23, 28, 1911; O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Nov. 25, 1911; Gómez Palacio to Emilio Madero, Durango, Dec. 17, 1911; Bárbara Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio Mexico City, Dec. 21, 1911, CMRFH.


O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Feb. 4, 1912.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Feb. 9, 1912.


Francisco O’Reilly to Comisión Nacional Agraria, Mexico City, Nov. 24, 1920, leg. 705-23 (724.1), SRA-GP.


O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Cruces, Feb. 13, 1912; O’Hea to Gómez Palacio, Asarco, Durango, Feb. 16, 17, 21, Mar. 11, 1912; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Mar. 5, 17, 1912; O’Hea to British Consul Graham, Durango, Mar. 18, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Mar. 5, 17, 1912, CMRFH.


Telegram, Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Feb. 29, Mar. 5, 10. 17. 1912; O’Hea to Graham, Durango, Mar. 18, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Valdez Llano, Durango, Apr. 26, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Gustavo A. Madero, Durango, June 1, 1912; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, June 9, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, June 23, 1912, CMRFH. The general administrator’s complaints about the unrelenting hostility of many of the estate’s residents contrast sharply with the conclusions promoted in an apologetic work published by the owner’s son a quarter of a century later. In an effort to deflect criticism of the hacendado class, threatened with land reform during the Cardenas era, Pablo Martínez del Río y Vinent asserted, “The war against the hacendado was practically never carried out by the inhabitants of the hacienda (who in many cases remained loyal to it until the end) but by the inhabitants of neighboring villages (who wanted more land).” Pablo Martínez del Río, El suplicio del hacendado (Mexico City: Editorial Polis, 1939), 15, as cited in Katz, Secret War, 11.


Telegram, Gómez Palacio to Salvador Madero, Durango, June 13, 1912; letter, Gómez Palacio to Gustavo A. Madero, Durango, June 15, 1912; Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, June 16, 1912; Gómez Palacio to Valdez Llano, Durango, June 24, 1912; telegram, Gómez Palacio to Valdez Llano, Durango, July 11, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, July 3, 1912; Gómez Palacio to General Aureliano Blanquet, Durango, July 9, 1912, CMRFH.


Quoted by Bárbara Martínez del Río to Gómez Palacio, Mar. 23, 1912, reporting on four interviews with Gustavo Madero in February 1912, Mexico City, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Aug. 20, 1912, CMRFH; Knight, Mexican Revolution, 1:284.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Sept. 15, 1912, CMRFH.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Nov. 3, 1912, CMRFH; Knight, Mexican Revolution, 1:286–87.


Gómez Palacio to Bárbara Martínez del Río, Durango, Dec. 8, 1912, CMRFH.


Ibid., Dec. 15, 1912.


Ibid., Jan. 20, 1913.


Quoted by Gómez Palacio in his description of the incident, ibid., Feb. 9, 1913.




Knight, Mexican Revolution, 2:312.