The Rise and Fall of the Cristeros (Conclusion, Part IV)

 Poor Mexico! So far from God and so close to the United States. (Mexican proverb)

The bodies of the two Pro brothers were taken back to the humble dwelling that had been their hide-out, but now everyone seemed to know where Father Miguel was. Mourners formed lines for blocks to pay their respects to, and touch, the bodies of the murdered brothers. Late that night the home’s owner, Don Miguel Panuco, attempted to lock the door and discovered half a dozen government police officers at his entrance. More trouble, he assumed.

The officers asked permission to see the bodies, and Don Miguel reluctantly let them in. To his surprise, “before the coffins they all fell upon their knees and prayed respectfully. When they arose, one of them said to me, ‘If there is anything we can do for you, please count on us.’”1

The next morning lines formed again. Many waiting outside the Panuco home had been helped by Father Pro, and it is likely a number of Cristeros braved arrest and execution to enter Mexico City to pay their respects for favors received from Padre Pro. Traffic came to a standstill, and vehicles had to be rerouted. There were no riots or vandalism in protest of the unjust execution, but neither were Catholics intimidated. The huge turnout “didn’t seem to be (a manifestation of) mourning, but of jubilation. Sorrow ran silently in the tears, yes, but more than that were they (tears) of tenderness and devotion.”2

Calles had ordered the executions to be photographed and publicized, expecting to capitalize politically on the event. Once more the Turk’s plans backfired. Instead of being cowed, Mexicans captured all the pictures as objects of veneration and prayer. The pictures were publicized worldwide, and gained Calles no honor.

The main problem Catholics had was getting the bodies of the Pro brothers out of the house and to burial, because for blocks around the house there was literally no room to move. Even so,

“”When it was announced that the coffins were coming out, a spontaneous cry: ‘Make way for the martyrs!’ was followed by a sudden deep quiet, and phenomenally, a clear space opened before the door. For a breathless moment the silence held. And then – as the priest’s coffin was glimpsed in the portal – an instantaneous, unanimous, thunderous shout went up to reverberate through the thoroughfares and across the roofs of an ancient Christian stronghold: ‘VIVA CRISTO REY!”3

Before this cry the government fell silent, a silence that lasted throughout the day long procession and burial. No attempts were made to break up the ‘illegal’ procession, or arrest priests who publicly wore their cassocks. It must have been evident even to the atheists who ran Mexico that the people had spoken.

It was in this charged atmosphere that the new American ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow, arrived in Mexico to meet President Calles. He attended a formal luncheon given by the government on November 23, the day the Pro brothers were executed.4 This was not a move calculated to ingratiate himself to Mexico’s Catholics, but more to the point, Calles and Morrow seemed to hit it off. Morrow was invited by Calles to accompany him on a week long train trip to – well, anywhere but Mexico City. Entertainer Will Rogers accompanied the two, adding some much needed levity. The following month Charles Lindbergh, at the height of his fame, flew his plane The Spirit of St. Louis non-stop from Washington D.C. to Mexico City to symbolize America’s desire for good relations with the Mexican government.5

Mexicans muttered about Morrow’s train trip with Calles, and his silence regarding the Pro executions. There was also a fear – shared by many in Mexico’s government – that “After Morrow come the Marines.” Calles was a worldwide disgrace for his latest misdeed, and the Cristero rebellion was draining government coffers (military expenses counted for nearly forty per cent of government revenues). Without U.S. support his government was likely to fall. Yet Calles had that support, and he rubbed the point in to his people by squiring Morrow around in the wake of the Pro executions: don’t expect help from the United States. Not many Mexicans were holding their breath in anticipation that the United States would do the right thing, but they needn’t have worried about the Marines either, for Ambassador Morrow was not paving the way for another invasion – at least, not an invasion of troops.

American Influence

A century had not lessened American incomprehension towards their southern neighbors. True, United States ambassadors to Mexico no longer formed revolutionary Masonic lodges,6 but on the whole they were viewed as blights upon the national dignity of Mexico. Mexicans remembered “successive humiliations” against their country by various American ministers, who seemed littlle more than a group of “cantankerous and incompetent rascals.”7

On the other hand, when Mexicans seemed unable to develop a stable, liberal-Protestant form of government, United States officials took it as a sign that they were constitutionally inferior to Anglos. Repeated efforts to mold Mexico in the image of the United States only increased the incomprehension – and mistrust – between the two nations. A classic example of this was the diplomacy of President Woodrow Wilson, who

“placed the weight of the United States behind a continuous, sometimes devious, effort to force the Mexican nation to meet his ill-conceived specifications. Though he oozed sympathy, good will, and idealism, his basic misunderstanding of the main elements of life in the southern republic brought disaster in its train.”8

The disaster in question was a near war between the two countries, brought on in large part by President Wilson’s intense dislike of interim dictator Adolfo de la Huerta (whom many Mexican Catholics supported, if only as a lesser evil). When American navy personnel were arrested in Tampico for unauthorized use of a dock, an American Admiral insisted the Mexicans atone for the deed by court-martialing those responsible for the (lawful) arrest, and hoisting the American flag above Tampico for a twenty-one gun salute. The Admiral’s demand was seconded by Wilson, who also ordered a naval blockade of all Mexican ports.

Huerta refused to salute the American flag, and the matter actually went before Congress, with Wilson penning a resolution “giving him permission to use the armed forces against Huerta to secure his ‘recognition of the dignity of the United States.’”9 Mexican citizens and naval cadets began fighting American marines and sailors in Vera Cruz, and American guns pulverized the naval academy. Finally the ambassadors of three South American countries mediated difficulties between the United States and Mexico to a bloodless conclusion, and President Wilson moved onto intervening in the Great War in Europe, once more insisting on democracy, American style.

President Calles ran afoul of the United States when he began seizing American oil interests in Mexico. American oil companies began a drum beat for intervention and invasion. American Catholics complained loud and long over Calles’ treatment of the Church in Mexico, but President Calvin Coolidge was more sympathetic to the oil companies than to the Church.10 In fact, a well attended Eucharistic Congress in Chicago made Coolidge “reflect on the dangers should the Church be allowed too much power…”11

Rather than handle diplomacy with Mexico personally, as Wilson had done, Coolidge appointed as American ambassador to Mexico his old friend Dwight Morrow. The two met at Amherst College, on their way to becoming lawyers. Morrow went on to be a successful banker for J.P. Morgan, until he was tapped by his former classmate, now President, for the Mexico job. Coolidge’s instructions to his friend were characteristically brief: “Keep us out of a war.” The American press assumed that Morrow would be serving the interests of the Morgan House through his appointment, but this proved incorrect; he was tired of banking and wanted to be a Senator. The best way to fulfill this ambition was to solve the Mexican problem.12

To this end Morrow made a point of ingratiating himself to President Calles. Although Morrow was able to bend Calles’ position on the oil question in rather short order, he invariably presented Calles’ position regarding the Church as non-negotiable, putting subtle but continual pressure on the Mexican episcopate to give in. Morrow’s eventual victory in Mexico is usually hailed as a triumph of evenhandedness. It was a triumph of sorts, but Morrow, despite his appealing ways, was not evenhanded.

“Morrow consistently contended that the Vatican’s silence was responsible for a continuation of the religious controversy, while at the same time he seemed to ignore the possibility that the adjustment could be expedited if the Vatican had some concrete evidence of Calles’ sincerity in the pending negotiations with the Church, some alleviation in the current application of the religious laws. No such change occurred, however. On the contrary, both Morrow and Calles adopted the attitude that Calles was the injured party.”13

Nor was Morrow’s government evenhanded, a fact pointed out by former Ambassador Sheffield, who, shortly before he was replaced by Morrow, wrote to his employer:

“Surely there must be some way…we could point out and protest the folly of denying to children the right of religious education and to those of older years the comfort of spiritual life and religious teaching…Kept in power by the aid of the United States, we have, at least, some moral responsibility for men in government in Mexico whose official existence depends in large part on our friendly acquiescence and support.”14

The support included generous military aid. Unlike the Cristeros, “Calles was abundantly supplied with arms by the newly inaugurated Hoover administration.”15 Hoover (Coolidge’s successor) also upheld an existing arms embargo on any southbound war material not going to the Calles government,16 squeezing out any hope for the Cristeros receiving badly needed military support from the north. Vatican Secretary of State Gasparri criticized this policy as “favoritism to the enemies of the Church.”17

Despite Calles’ repeated public declarations that there was no religious controversy in Mexico, the American consul reported that “the Cristeros were the greatest threat to the existing government.”18 Consequently, Liga members who ventured north of the border asking for aid were trailed by Department of Justice officials.19

It is an open question why the United States was so fond of the Turk – perhaps he was preferable to the possibility of militant Catholics taking over the Mexican government. In any event, the influence of the United States on the Cristero rebellion would prove to be the tail that wagged the dog. In this the United States had the apparent support of the American episcopate who, despite a 1926 pastoral letter decrying the persecution in Mexico,

“continued to persuade their fellow Catholics to deny moral and material supports to the religious rebels in Mexico, while at the same time they took steps to reduce Catholic criticism of the Department of State policy in Mexico.”20

One can be hard on our bishops in hindsight, but it should be remembered that concerning the Cristero rebellion, even the Vatican would defer to American influence.

Three Leaders

But that would come later. In early 1928, very few Cristeros had an inkling that the Church and the government had begun negotiating. This was so because neither party informed the Cristeros of the negotiations – even though it was the peasant rebellion that had forced Church and State to speak to each other. Without the Cristeros there would have been no conversation.

As talks continued the Cristeros carried on as they had before, their fighting an extension of their lives, which were devoted to religion.

“The religion of the Cristeros was, with a few exceptions, the traditional Roman Catholic religion, strongly rooted in the Hispanic Middle Ages. The catechism…was known by heart, and the practice of the Rosary…provided these people with a basic theological knowledge which was surprisingly soundly based.”21

Sound enough to cause quarrels when starving Cristeros stole food. As Cristero leader Ezequiel Mendoza explained to his soldiers:

“We must be as brave as lions in the face of the enemy, but not tyrannical, as they are towards us. We must be honest at all times; we will take, from their goods, what we need to live and fight, but we must not steal other men’s goods; all worldly goods come from God and we must not make bad use of them.”22

There was developing, mostly from within ranks, a leadership among the Cristeros that was responsible in 1928 for a remarkable series of victories that left the federales reeling and disheartened. The Cristeros were now attacking federal strongholds in larger numbers, using military tactics instead of guerilla warfare. “Conditions have grown steadily worse,” the American consul reported, adding that federal troops were “hysterical and ineffective,” and concluding: “It seems unlikely that the state can be successfully pacified in spite of every effort on the part of the President and the local military authorities until the settlement of the religious question.”23

In Mexico City “highly placed revolutionaries began for the first time to consider the possibility of defeat.”24 One senator asked whether it was necessary to “kill thirty thousand Cristeros …to convince them that the Revolution tries to bring material and moral betterment to the people.”25

By 1929 the Cristeros were fifty thousand strong26, or about half the size of the federal army. Some of their leaders had military backgrounds, most did not. Perhaps the three most interesting Cristero leaders were Father Aristeo Pedroza, Father Jose Reyes Vega, and General Enrique Gorostieta.

In 1923 the Holy See gave Pedroza permission to take his ordination vows at age twenty-two instead of twenty-four because of his brilliance. He became a country priest known for his lucid sermons. His interests included mathematics, literature, geography, and military studies. When the churches closed Pedroza went through an agony of conscience before deciding armed rebellion was theologically lawful. A master at everything he turned to, he now mastered war.

Father Pedroza was fearless in battle and irreproachable away from it. A tireless campaigner, he was respected, even venerated by his troops. “If he wasn’t a saint, I don’t know who could be one,” said Cristero Jeronimo Gutierrez. When a young Cristero panicked and deserted, he returned to Pedroza in tears. “Father,” the lad said, “I ask you to readmit me to the ranks, because I want to die for Cristo Rey. And if you refuse to admit me I want you to confess me and shoot me because I don’t want to die with this sin on my soul.”27 Pedroza readmitted him.

A fellow seminarian of Pedroza’s was Jose Reyes Vega. Like Pedroza, Father Vega had no military background, but was a masterful soldier and commander of men. Unlike the impeccable Father Pedroza, Vega’s morals occasionally lapsed after he took to war, and he developed a tendency for for tequila and female company. Unlike Father Pedroza, who fired only one shot in three years of battle, Father Vega didn’t seem to mind killing, and usually did not take prisoners: “War had the effect of liberating a genie of ferocity and cruelty that had until then been bottled up by the conventions of priestly life.”28 Pedroza and Vega were as alike and as unlike as two men can be. While Father Pedroza did not abide Father Vega’s lapses, he would seek Vega out and – perhaps in an attempt to keep him out of the bordellos – engage Vega in a mutual passion: chess.

The third leader became the chief of the Cristeros. Enrique Gorostieta owed this position to an appointment by the Liga in early 1928, and to his own distinguished background. Descended from war heroes,29 Gorostieta graduated with high honors from Mexico’s military academy, and rose to the rank of general under President Victoriano Huerta, being one of the soldiers to contest President Wilson’s naval intervention at Vera Cruz.

After Huerta lost power and was assassinated, Gorostieta went into exile. He despised all of Huerta’s successors, especially Calles – not for religious reasons, but because by temperament and belief he was more like Porfirio Diaz – seeking to restore order, not generate more chaos. Also, Gorostieta was not without his own ambitions to rule.

He had been out of military life for several years when the Liga contacted him. At the outset there was only one thing Gorostieta had in common with the Cristeros – a desire to topple Calles. The religious irreverence of their new leader scandalized many Cristeros. Gorostieta, you see, was a Freemason, and had little time for any organized religion, particularly Catholicism. Yet he developed an instant respect for Father Pedroza, and named him second in command.30

As for Father Vega, when Gorostieta heard Vega was coming to join him, snapped, “If I see that priest I’ll kill him.” Vega arrived and the two met privately. No shots were fired. At the end of the meeting – no one knows what was said – Father Vega remained, and his military ability would win General Gorostieta’s respect, even admiration. Vega proved a foil for Gorostieta as well, for when a Cristero would approach him on matters of faith, the General would snort: “Whom would you have me confess to? Father Vega?”31

The general was not one to hold his tongue, and had a terrible temper. One Cristero recalled a certain battle:

“In this action our people for the first time received orders given in a harsh and despotic tone, orders which he (Gorostieta) always gave with a pistol in his hand, threatening to kill anybody who wouldn’t carry them out. This was a thing to which our soldiers were not accustomed…”32

Others complained that any victories achieved by Gorostieta (and there were a great many) were tainted by his associations with Masonry, and that his presence tainted the purity of the Cristero rebellion. No doubt it did, but over time Gorostieta underwent a transformation. He began wearing a crucifix into battle, and came to love, in his rough way, the simple sturdy peasants he commanded.

“As a soldier and a man, he was won over by the Cristeros; he who had so often cursed the mediocrity of the Federal army, who had only known inefficient officers bullying miserable troops, was astounded by the miracle he was witnessing:

“Soldiers in sandals and dressed in white linen, still filled with the communal spirit of their village, of their field…of their family, held steady under fire, did not hesitate to respond to supreme demands, and before his eyes crossed that line beyond which one no longer loves oneself, beyond which one no longer thinks of preserving one’s life. He saw them stand up and march calmly to the battle, hurl themselves machete in hand on the Federal machine-guns, and scale heights at the summit of which simple peasants begin to appear to us as great warriors.

“Gorostieta, the agnostic Freemason, became a Christian after his own fashion in the midst of those Cristeros whom he admired without any trace of indulgence…”33

The man American military advisors called “a formidable fighter,” eventually pledged to the Cristeros: “I am now responsible to you for the final success of our struggle…”34

The Cristeros were familiar with pledges. One wrote before dying, “We are going to perish. We will not see the victory, but Mexico needs all this blood for its purification…Christ will receive the homage that is due him.”35 A student, Manuel Bonilla, wrote in his diary, “I well know that, to do great things, God uses littler ones, and that help does not come whence we were expecting it…I trust in God’s goodness: all these sacrifices will not be in vain.” Manuel’s sacrifice occurred on Good Friday, at 3:00 in the afternoon. In 1942 his body was dug up and found perfectly intact.36

Cristero Gabino Alvarez faced a firing squad. He asked for a glass of water, and they served it to him hot. Gabino threw it in the face of a federale, who told him, “You are only hastening your death.” “It has been delayed too long already,” Gabino snapped back, then turning to his friend, said softly, “Don’t be downhearted, for we were born to die.”37 A seventeen year old Cristero named Tomasino was offered his freedom if he turned informant. “You would be making a mistake,” he told his captors. “Free, I would continue to fight for Christ the King. For us, the fight for our freedom of worship is not optional.” He was hung for his decision.38

The Arreglos

1929 began grimly for the Mexican government: A large offensive against the Cristeros was launched, the expense of which caused all government officials salaries to be cut by thirty per cent. The offensive, which included squadrons of planes and the latest military intelligence, failed to even find the Cristeros, who seemed to melt away, then return unexpectedly to rake the enemy. Thousands deserted from the federal army39, who resorted to conscripting criminals and the unemployed. Federal officers described the situation as “very serious for the Federal troops, who are constantly on the defensive and are often defeated.”40 A group of renegade generals began a revolt against Calles, which was ruthlessly suppressed with the help of American bombers.41 By Spring of 1929

“The Cristeros were successful in every sector of the combat zone, the Federals were completely unable to control the rebellion, and the American State Department and a majority of the Mexican hierarchy were in virtual alliance with the embattled government.”42

In the end the government, led now by interim President (and Freemason) Portes Gil43, saw that the only way to defeat the Cristeros was to reopen the churches. With the encouragement of the United States, Church and State in Mexico closed ranks and began serious negotiations for a reopening of the Church. Their efforts were watched anxiously both by government radicals and militant Catholics, neither of whom were invited to the bargaining table.

Gorostieta said to his troops, “As soon as they open the churches, you will all leave me.”44 Deciding to take the offensive with the time left to him, he sent Father Vega and nine hundred Cristeros to engage three thousand federal troops near Tepatitlan. Using his superior knowledge of the terrain, Vega entrapped the larger force, wore them down with sniper fire, then launched cavalry charges from two directions that sent the federales flying.

Father Vega, leading a charge at the head of a column, caught a bullet in the head and was mortally wounded. He was carried into town and lived long enough to make a final confession before he died. Called “a black-hearted assassin” by some, and “an angel” by others, Father Vega’s passing so disheartened his troops that they left the town they had just won.

Meanwhile, President Portes Gil and the Mexican bishops were complimenting each other in the press, as negotiations neared their completion. The essence of the deal was this: the government would not change any of its anticlerical laws, the Church would reopen her doors, and both parties would work with each other in a “spirit of good will.”

Gorostieta wrote the bishops a blunt letter saying that it was unworthy of the hierarchy, even treacherous, to attempt to make peace independently of the Cristeros. “Had they,” he wrote, referring to the bishops in the third person, “lived among the faithful; had they, like good pastors, run the risks that their flocks ran; had they even adopted a firm attitude, they would be truly worthy representatives of our people. But this was not so…”45

The general never received a reply to his broadside. The bishops and Portes Gil had finished negotiations and sent their deal to the Holy See for final approval. “They are selling us out,” Gorostieta said helplessly. He was riding to meet a renegade federal officer who had offered his assistance to the cause. On the way his small party was ambushed as they rested in a small chapel in the countryside. Surrounded by a superior force, Gorostieta’s men asked him what to do. “Fight bravely and die like men,” he snapped. He burst out the door into a small orange orchard, his guns blazing, and was shot dead.46 Later, Enrique Gorostieta was buried with a rosary in his hand.

Pope Pius XI added two stipulations to the deal between Mexico’s Church and State. First, that the government return all the churches they had confiscated; second, that any Cristero who surrendered his weapon would be granted complete amnesty. On June 21 the parties agreed to these new terms, and the Vatican approved what came to be known as the Arreglos, or “Agreements,” which was basically a return to the status quo of 1926 – except of course for the thousands who had lost their lives. The American press hailed the agreement, and Dwight Morrow returned to a hero’s welcome.47 On Sunday, June 30, 1929, for the first time in three years church bells pealed. The war was over.

The day before, Jesus Degollado, the new commander in chief of the Cristeros48, addressed his troops:

“His Holiness the Pope, by the intermediary of the most excellent Apostolic Nuncio, has decided, for reasons which are unknown to us but which as Catholics, we accept, that public worship will be resumed tomorrow without the law being changed. This arrangement has wrested from us that which is most noble and most holy on our flag, at the moment when the Church has declared that she will resign herself to what she has obtained…

“Consequently, the National Guard (as the Cristeros were called) assumes responsibility for the conflict…As for ourselves as men, we have a satisfaction that no one can take from us. The National Guard does not disappear defeated by its enemies, but rather abandoned by the very ones who were to be the first to receive the fruit of our sacrifices and abnegation!

“Ave, Christ! Those who for You are going to humiliation, to exile, and perhaps, to an unglorious death…with the most fervent love salute You, and once more proclaim You as King of our country.”49

About fourteen thousand Cristeros surrendered their arms immediately. Others did not. Still others simply melted away. Two days after the churches reopened, Father Pedroza made an informal agreement with a federal general that both sides would cease hostilities. Then Pedroza was arrested, and taken to a local graveyard. Protesting that he had not been allowed to make a final confession, he was shoved through the graveyard gate. Pedroza rose and was shot in the chest, then clubbed to death with rifle butts. He was twenty-eight.50

Most of the Cristero leadership suffered a similar fate. They were systematically hunted down and executed. After a slight waiting period, the government began persecuting the Church again, reapplying the anti-clerical laws without the “spirit of good will” it had promised. Pius XI protested in vain.

* * *

Had the Cristeros been allowed to fight on, it is unlikely they could have won decisively enough to force a change from a Masonic government to a Catholic one. They never had enough bullets, for one thing; and no friends in high places, for another. Their rebellion could not be suppressed, but it could not have completely prevailed, either. In the realpolitik between Church and State, a small ‘faction’ like the Cristeros is used as leverage, and then discarded when the leverage was no longer necessary. Or as one Vatican official put it, “It was providential that there were Cristeros, and providential that they ceased to exist.”51

The overriding supernatural reality is that the Church exists to bring God’s grace to His people, and in the countless battles the Church has had with Masonic and other atheistic governments over the last two centuries, the continued operation of the Church for the benefit of the faithful has been the bottom line for most popes, starting with Pope Pius VI’s Concordat with Napoleon. Pius XI in all likelihood knew the Masonic Mexican government would not keep its end of the bargain – just look at history – but after three years he wanted the churches reopened for the faithful, and used the opportunity given him by the Cristeros to do just that.

One might wonder, however, why Pius XI ordered them closed in the first place, and left them closed for so long, without anticipating a violent reaction by fervent Catholics, a reaction that he took the lead in condemning. The Church provoked the Cristero rebellion by closing the churches in 1926. As Jean Meyer notes,

“”It would be to underestimate the convictions of the Christian people to suppose that they would suffer the suspension of public worship and the consequent suspension of the Sacraments…it was ill treating the people to use their war as a trump card in negotiations, and sto sign the peace without consulting them, abandoning them to the butcher’s knife by obliging them to lay down their arms without guarantees.”52

If history shows anything, it is that the Church’s path in dealing the Masonic and atheistic State is truly the way of the cross. There is no perfect solution to the dilemma, but there are more noble, and less noble, ways of meeting it. Nobility is found in honoring our dead, and in recent years (1992, 2001, and 2005) the Church has advanced the canonization causes for dozens of the Mexican martyrs. Many of these causes are for martyred Cristeros, and it is heartening to see the Church publicly recognize that, yes, these too are faithful sons of the Church, perhaps the most faithful, as they have poured out their blood for Christ the King. May the very stones upon which this blood fell echo forever the cry of the Cristeros:

Viva Cristo Rey

1 Royer, op. cit., p. 236.

2 Ibid., p. 237.

3 Ibid., p. 238.

4 Rice, op. cit., p. 113.

5 It was in Mexico City that Lindbergh first met Dwight Morrow’s daughter, Anne, who he would later marry.

6 Like Joel Poinsett, America’s first Ambassador to Mexico – see Part I.

7 Harold Nicolson, Dwight Morrow, Harcourt, Barce and Company, New York, 1935, p. 300.

8 Howard F. Cline, The United States and Mexico, Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 141.

9 Ibid., p. 158.

10 Robert Sobel, Coolidge: An American Enigma, Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington D.C., 1998, pp. 346-347.

11 Rice, op. cit., p. 93.

12 Ron Chernow, The House of Morgan, An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1990, p. 297

13 Rice, op. cit., pp. 138-139.

14 Ibid., p. 95.

15 Ibid., p. 166.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid., p. 168. Also quoted is a magazine article that described the United States’ attitude as “malevolent, since it was supplying ammunition to a government that adopts draconic measures of oppression. It is perfectly comprehensible that Washington should not take sides with the revolutionists (although it has in the past taken a different attitude)…For a great democratic nation it would be a splendid task to say a good word for the vanquished, instead of being guided entirely by political and economic self-interests.”

18 Ibid., p. 165. A direct quote from the report: “the Mexican government is much more concerned with the present activities of the ‘Cristeros’, a name given the religious fanatics who are fighting the government, and from all accounts they have grave reasons to be concerned.”

19 Ibid., p. 137.

20 Ibid., p. 169.

21 Meyer, op. cit., pp. 195-196.

22 Ibid. p. 121.

23 Tuck, op. cit., p. 120, 124.

24 Ibid., p. 123.

25 Ibid., p. 124.

26 In 1926 there were an estimated twelve thousand Cristeros. Their number increased significantly every year of the conflict.

27 Ibid., pp. 51-52.

28 Ibid., p. 52.

29 One fought in the Spanish Independence War against Napoleon.

30 “On one occasion, displeased with how his orders had been executed, the general angrily convoked his staff. ‘All of you, except for Father Pedroza, are a breed of insubordinates,’ he thundered. ‘I am ready to end this state of affairs by reducing in rank, or, if necessary, shooting any officer who does not submit to discipline. And you should know right now that, if I die before him, Father Pedroza will by my successor as commander in Los Altos.’” Tuck, op. cit., p. 113.

31 “He went on to explain that he wasn’t even talking about Vega’s ‘great sins’ but simply the ‘habitual state of his unrestrained passions.’ Gorostieta, devoted family man and father of three, lived chastely in the field and spurned the advances of a love struck altena named Josefina Carmona.” Tuck, op. cit., pp. 52-53. Altena is a term for a maiden from Los Altos.

32 Tuck, op. cit., pp. 112-113.

33 Meyer, op. cit., p. 53.

34 Ibid., p. 54.

35 The Angelus, January 2002, The Cristeros, 20th Century Mexico’s Catholic Uprising, by Olivier Lelibre.

36 Ibid.

37 Meyer, op. cit., p. 173.

38 The Angelus, op. cit.

39 An estimated 30,000 men deserted from the federal army during the three year war. It is likely this is a conservative estimate.

40 Meyer, op. cit., p 55.

41 Ibid., p. 56.

42 Tuck, op. cit, p. 124.

43 Calles had stepped down at the end of 1928, preferring to control the government behind the scenes. His handpicked successor, Alvaro Obregon, was assassinated in 1928, and Portes Gil took his place as interim President.

44 Meyer, op. cit., p.58.

45 Tuck, op. cit., p. 171. Gorostieta’s anti-clericalism was allegedly echoed by a number of Cristeros, one of whom said, “Just tell us what to do, General, if the fathers go against us we’ll shoot them down.” (Ibid.)

46 Ibid., p. 173. There is some evidence that Gorostieta was set up by the federal officer he was trying to meet.

47 Morrow quickly became a Senator of New Jersey, but died unexpectedly of a cerebral hemhorrhage in 1931, only two years after his diplomatic coup in Mexico. His first biographer, Harold Nicolson hinted that a serious drinking problem may have contributed to Morrow’s untimely demise. (See Chernow, op. cit., pp. 300-301.

48 The Liga appointed him as Gorostieta’s replacement, vetoing the general’s order that Father Pedroza take command.

49 The Angelus, op. cit., emphasis supplied.

50 In 1960 his remains were exhumed and reburied in the Templo de San Jose in Aranda.

51 Meyer, op. cit., p. 210.

52 Meyer, op. cit., p. 210. Jean Meyer was an anticlerical leftist historian who disliked the Cristeros before he began researching them; afterwards he became as close as they have come to having an intellectual champion.

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