Weird facts you didn’t know about Mexico’s revolution and Baja California during the revolution (November 20th 1910 – 1920-28-40)?

Did you know that there was a movement (controversial version) during the 1911 revolution days in Baja California, where the objective was to “create an independent State and then annex it to the United States? And did you know that during those turbulent years the US was “invaded” by Mexico? Only the 2nd time that has ever happened? And DID YOU KNOW that there was once a plot by Germany to ally itself with Mexico to entice the US into WW1 with the promise of recovering Texas, Arizona and New Mexico BACK TO MEXICO????

Oh yes, if that caught your attention, there is more where that came from, read on….

To speak of the Mexican revolution is so vast that it would take years and years to completely tell the story, but it is so full of history’s first, and so I will just concentrate on the weird facts.

The start of the Mexican revolution was also the beginning of the end of Mexico’s era of the Porfiriato, an era of 35 years at the power of Porfirio Diaz, which eventually forced him into exile to France, in fact his remains are still at Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. Diaz exile was rumored to haul 16 horse carts full of Gold. He departed Mexico from the port of Veracruz; being from Veracruz, I remember my grandfather telling me about how his relatives did see the gold when they were hired to load Diaz’s family luggage onto the German ship “Ypiranga” which sailed towards Spain on May 31st 1911; and then eventually settled in France. By the way, he is universally credited with the saying “Pobre Mexico, tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos” (Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States).

Speaking of first times and The ONLY TIME the US was invaded by “another country”: actually, it was a short lived raid by Pancho Villa in a move that has been argued throughout the years, that either was a revenge for the US backing of then Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, and/or the need for the military supplies to carry on the fight against Carranza. What is true is that then President Woodrow Wilson sent a small regiment of 5000 soldiers, which grew to 10,000 in a move called “the punitive expedition”, what ended up being a fruitless campaign to apprehend Villa. This was the FIRST TIME in US history when aircraft and trucks were used by the military.

Speaking of first times and The ONLY TIME the US was invaded by “another country”: actually, it was a short lived raid by Pancho Villa in a move that has been argued throughout the years, that either was a revenge for the US backing of then Mexican President Venustiano Carranza, and/or the need for the military supplies to carry on the fight against Carranza. What is true is that then President Woodrow Wilson sent a small regiment of 5000 soldiers, which grew to 10,000 in a move called “the punitive expedition”, what ended up being a fruitless campaign to apprehend Villa. This was the FIRST TIME in US history when aircraft and trucks were used by the military.

FACT: Three sitting Mexican Presidents were assassinated during the Mexican revolution: Alvaro Obregon, Venustiano Carranza and Francisco I. Madero.

Now coming back to Baja California to what is called “Magonista rebellion of 1911”. It was an uprising against the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz by the Liberal Party of Mexico (PLM) but also the movement distanced itself from the democratic revolution against Diaz by Gustavo Madero. It was only successful in northern Baja California. It is named after Ricardo Flores Magón, one of the leaders of the PLM.

The Magonistas controlled Tijuana and Mexicali for about six months, beginning with the “liberation” of Mexicali on January 29, 1911. The rebellion was launched against the rule of Porfirio Díaz but was put down by forces loyal to Francisco I. Madero. Acting on a tip from Madero’s agents, leaders of the Magonista movement were arrested in the United States. The rebellion was planned and coordinated by the Organizing Board of the Mexican Liberal Party from Los Angeles, California, to create a liberated and libertarian territory in Mexico, as the basis for extending a social revolution to the rest of the country.

Here is where it turns interesting; the PLM formed many alliances with many groups, including the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) which was their main ally from LOS ANGELES California. The organizing board of the PLM sent Fernando Palomares and Pedro Ramírez Caule to get in touch with the indigenous Camilo Jiménez and Antonio Cholay, with the objective of preparing maps of the land and organizing indigenous groups for armed struggle, gaining the support of the Cocopah, Paipai, Kumeyaay, and Kiliwa people.

FACT: In 1911 the number of inhabitants in the towns of northern Baja California were 1027 in Ensenada, 300 in Mexicali, 100 in Tijuana, less than 100 in Los Algodones and less than 100 in Tecate. I think we have come a long way in populating Baja, wound’t you agree?

The PLM campaign took the town of Mexicali without resistance. Later during the year, they clashed and and defeated federal “Porfirista” troops. The victory increased the morale and number of the rebels; by the end of February there were already about 200 men (both Mexicans and foreigners) up in arms.

FACT: In total, the Magonista forces reached 500 men, of which approximately 100 were Americans, including the wobblies Frank Little and Joe Hill.

For its part, the US government in Calexico and Yuma had offered military support to the Mexican government to protect the hydraulic works that American engineers had carried out in the Colorado River since December 1910 with the authorization of the Porfiriato. The British sent the HMS Shearwater and the HMS Algerine to invade and occupy San Quintín to protect British interests and assets from the Magonistas. But then on May 8, 1911, the Second Division of the Mexican Liberal Army led by Pryce, took Tijuana and on the 13th, the town of San Quintín from the British.

The number of foreigners who then composed the Liberal Army was higher than that of Mexicans; in fact, The Board appointed Carl Ap Rhys Pryce a Welshman a soldier of fortune from British India, and ordered him to fight the feds. But Francisco Leon Barra (36th interim Mexican President from May 26th to November 1911) who also was an ambassador to the United States for two years, had organized a spying network to pursue and sabotage the activities of the PLM.

After this, the revolution stalled due to lack of volunteers, lack of ammunition and heavy weapons. The insurgents were pushed back after an engagement south of Tijuana, and the rebellion finally died out when Mexican Federal forces under Colonel Celso Vega retook the city.

Now, the main dish: THE ZIMMERMANN TELEGRAM, which was as a secret diplomatic communication issued from the German Foreign Office in January 1917 that proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico if the United States entered World War I against Germany. With Germany’s aid, Mexico would recover Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The telegram was intercepted and decoded by British intelligence. Revelation of the contents enraged Americans, especially after German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann publicly admitted on March 3 that the telegram was genuine. It helped to generate support for the American declaration of war on Germany in April.

The decryption was described as the most significant intelligence triumph for Britain during World War I, and one of the earliest occasions on which a piece of signal intelligence influenced world events.

The Zimmerman Telegram was part of an effort carried out by the Germans to postpone the transportation of supplies and other war materials from the United States to the Allies, which were at war against Germany. The main purpose of the telegram was to make the Mexican government declare war on the United States in hopes of tying down American forces and slowing the export of American arms.

The German High Command believed that it could defeat the British and French on the Western Front and strangle Britain with unrestricted submarine warfare before American forces could be trained and shipped to Europe in sufficient numbers to aid the Allies. The Germans were encouraged by their successes on the Eastern Front to believe that they could divert large numbers of troops to the Western Front in support of their goals.

Mexican President Venustiano Carranza actually did consider it at first and assigned a military commission to assess the feasibility of the Mexican takeover of their former territories contemplated by Germany. The generals concluded that it would not be possible or even desirable to attempt such an enterprise mainly because Mexico was in the midst of a huge civil war (the revolution) and Carranza’s position was far from secured, among many other things.

The United States took a step ahead and recognized Carranza’s government on August 31, 1917, as a direct consequence of the Zimmermann Telegram to ensure Mexican neutrality during World War I. After the US military invasion of Veracruz in 1914, Mexico did not participate in any military excursion with the United States in World War I. That ensured that Mexican neutrality was the best outcome that the United States could hope for, even if it allowed German companies to keep their operations in Mexico open. Just think about what would have happened if Carranza would have gone against the advise of this commission….history and Mexico’s landscape would have been a lot smaller, some claim.

Did you like my blog?

I LOVE history and Mexico has a huge trove of untold facts, and many hailing from Baja. I love my community, and I am sure you can tell. If you ever need to sell or buy real estate in Baja California, please allow me the honor to guide you towards your goal.

My name is Edgar R. Alpuche and I am a licensed and certified professional realtor in Rosarito. Call me at (52) 661-119-3325 for all of your real estate needs. Thank you.

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