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Lost Memories of the Revolution

Telegrama de la paz

Telegrama de la paz

Porfirio Diaz

Juicio promovido por Paula Moya

Feliciano Camargo, responsable de incendio

Revolución Antonio Patlán

By Jesús Aguado

It was a time of typhus fever, leprosy, and rabies, a time when the livestock were easily confiscated by the government in the district of San Miguel Allende and when the Mexican revolution began against the dictatorial government of Porfirio Díaz.

Histories of gangsters, alcohol, riots, escape of inmates, and a fire at the municipal archive took place in 1911. That, however, was not to support the Mexican Revolution, or if it was, they just needed some “gas” to get courage.

What was Mexico?

This is the question that writer John Kenneth Turner used to introduce the book México Bárbaro (Barbarous Mexico). In 1909 Turner, an American pacifist and socialist writer (1879–1948), predicted a revolution in favor of democracy. Porfirio Díaz had been president of Mexico for almost 30 years in a row—from November 28, 1876, to May 25, 1911. This period is known as the Porfiriato, a time when the foreigners’ interests were privileged and the locals—mainly the peasants—were used as the cheap workers.

Turner wrote that he knew the real México, where there was a just constitution and law, but they were not fulfilled. It was, he wrote, “a country with no political freedom, with no freedom of press or liberty of expression, without free elections, without a judicial system, without political parties.” He wrote that Mexico was a country “without liberty to get happiness.”

Turner also noted that Mexico was a country where elections had not been held for a generation and where there had been no electoral race to occupy the presidency because the government ruled with the army on its side and political positions had a fixed price.

Porfirio Díaz is responsible for the introduction of the train and the construction of the rail tracks to connect the republic. They were not just paid for, but also put in place, by those most in need, who had helped to make those already rich, richer.

Diaz´s administration was always supported by Mexican aristocrats and foreign investors. The Porfiriato was also the time when the haciendas enjoyed their golden age, thanks to enslaving employees, who were always in debt to stores that granted credits for dairies to the workers. Turner wrote that in the Yucatán, the haciendas were so big that some of them were “small cities” with a population that went from 500–2500 people, “and the owners of these great extensions of land had their own slaves.” The people worked the land, but it did not belong to them.

The main reasons for the Mexican Revolution were to prevent the reelection of Porfirio Díaz, to have a democratic life in the territory and later to get control f the land.

Díaz was succeeded as president by Francisco I. Madero, who had planned the insurrection against the president. Díaz resigned on May 26, 1911, and fled to France. Madero was elected president but was murdered in 1913. Even now, historians do not have a certain date to point to as the end of the revolution—it may have been with the open declaration of the constitution of 1917 or with the emerging of the first political party in 1927. But it began with that uprising. Mexico has a democratic system now, and with the fall of the haciendas, the land was distributed to those who had worked it—the peasants.


The religious archive in the parish of St. Michael the Archangel is almost intact, according to historian Graciela Cruz.

The electronic page for the General Archive of San Miguel de Allende states that it was founded in 1870. During the Revolution, the archive was at risk of disappearing, and on May 18, 1911 (according to the website), a group of insurrectionists supporting Madero entered the city and set the city hall (where the archive was located) on fire.

Historian Cruz told Atención that the lack of documents in that archive is due to negligence, decisions that public servants in turn have made, and also the theft of some documents to protect bad administrations. “That is why civil memories are not complete in this city,” she stated.

When the building was set on fire

Maria Antonieta Camargo is the daughter of José Guadalupe Camargo, who was the nephew of Fidencio Camargo. In a talk with Atención, Antonieta told us the story that her father had told her dozens of times. In the early 1900s, there were three brothers: Fidencio, Melesio, and Rodrigo Zamora Camargo. They owned a maguey plantation on the road to Querétaro near the present Valle del Maíz. They traded in pulque.

According to Antonieta, the Camargo brothers were popular for their bravery. Fidencio used to go to the city center to sell his pulque and on his way back home, he would shoot off his gun. He was fined many times. One time, he had spent several days drinking and, when he was on his way home on horseback, he shot off his gun. Eventually some soldiers tried to chase him. He went home and later went back to the city hall and set it on fire, using petroleum. Antonieta notes that he was wounded in his right shoulder. “He was fleeing, but he asked our Lady of Guadalupe for a miracle. It has been said that he felt branches growing around him, and the police officers never caught him.” She finished by saying that he was never taken to prison or judged in a trial.

Documented version

In the archive are telegrams sent by the State Government to the District Political Chief of San Miguel Allende, assuring that the peace accord had been signed. However, the political chief had the instructions to attack any people refusing to acknowledge the agreement.

On June 8, 1911, a document was issued by the political chief, Jesús García, stating that he was handing over various people to a judge: Feliciano Camargo, Manuel Ramírez, Josué Muñoz, Felipe Ramírez, and María Vidal. They were “accused of having direct participation in the riot, releasing inmates, and setting fire to the city hall; [this] occurred on May 18,” of the same year.

Everything was because of the alcohol abuse

An amparo trial (for protection) was promoted by Paula Moya. The document dates from June 1911. It was issued by the district judge and addressed to the political chief. It first informs that a notice was delivered to all the cantinas and stores to control the sale of alcohol because alcohol “was mainly and perhaps the only reason of the unlikely criminal events perpetrated by the working class people in this city on May 18; it was uncontrolled drunkenness.”

After issuing the notice, “the police officers took a man to the municipal jail. He was almost in a coma. When he was interrogated, he said that the alcohol was provided to him by Paula Moya.” During the trial, according to the document, Moya physically assaulted the authority and the man who accused her. She ended up with a five peso fine, but after she cried and begged for a discount, the fine was reduced to 1.25 pesos.

The document states that the Revolution had succeeded. “Mrs. Moya is one of those persons who thinks that with the triumph of the revolution there is no more law to apply, [there is]no respect, but the freedom to do whatever she wants. And in that false idea, she considered that she could act however she wanted by selling alcoholic beverages.”

The Municipal Archive is at Plaza Primavera. It is open to the general public from Monday–Friday from 9am–4pm. Juan Antonio Patlán is in charge of that office. He commented that the most ancient document there dates from 1888.

Patlán does not perform particular searches. The interested person must personally go there. Patlán is always willing to look for the box with the information that the person needs, if it exists.



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