Wednesday, December 2

Mexican Revolution: the letter in which Pancho Villa proposed to Zapata to invade the United States (and that he never reached his destination)

What would have happened if Mexicans Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata had joined forces to invade the United States?

The idea was put on paper. This is how it reads in one of the at least 30 letters they exchanged two of the most iconic leaders of the Mexican Revolution, whose beginning marks 110 years this November 20.

The long armed conflict (1910-1917) that began as a struggle against the perpetuation in power of General Porfirio Díaz, left more than a million dead in the country.

Villa, claiming that the US was supporting the Mexican constitutionalist government during the conflict, tried to achieve the support for Zapata to move the fight to the other side of the border writing him a letter:

The common enemy for Mexico is currently the United States and the integrity and independence of our country is about to be lost if before all honest Mexicans do not unite and with arms in hand we prevent the sale of the Homeland from being a fact.

The missive, however, it never came into the hands of the Caudillo del Sur.

Carranza and USA

January 8, 1916. Mexico is bleeding to death as differences grow between the different revolutionary factions that one day united against the Porfiriato.

A year and a half earlier, Venustiano Carranza had managed to unite the main revolutionary leaders to get the coup president Victoriano Huerta to leave power.

Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza turned out to be the victorious revolutionary leader after Huerta’s departure and had the government under his command until 1920. (Photo: Getty Images)

However, he soon disagreed with Villa’s claims. and Zapata. It was then that a “guerrilla war” began between groups and the bloodiest stage of the Mexican Revolution.

It is in this context that Villa wrote the letter to Zapata in which he showed his anger at having been defeated when he tried to invade the state of Sonora from Chihuahua “Because the enemy had the undue and shameless support of the government americano ”.

In addition, he assured that Carranza intended to sign a collaboration agreement with Washington that, according to the revolutionary, it put Mexico’s sovereignty at risk.

With the two US invasions of the country still recent (in 1914 and 1847, in which Mexico lost half of its territory), the Northern Centaur considered in his letter to Zapata that a joint invasion was the best way to stop the advance of the “enemy”.

(…) Finding ourselves in the vicinity of Agua Prieta and on the eve of attacking it, the enemy arrived through American territory and in trains, a reinforcement of five thousand Carrancistas that the United States Government allowed to pass.

Can there be a greater act of offense for the Mexican people and an attack on their National Sovereignty?

(…) You must already know the treaties that Carranza signed with the Government of Washington.

(…) dWe decided not to burn one more cartridge with the Mexicans our brothers and to prepare and organize ourselves properly to attack the Americans in their own burrows and to let them know that Mexico is a land of the free and the tomb of thrones, crowns and traitors.

Pancho Villa
Villa explained in his letter to Zapata the need to attack the United States to “let them know that Mexico is a land of the free.” (Photo: Getty Images)

In order to make the people aware of the situation and to organize and recruit as many people as possible for the indicated purpose, I have divided my Army into guerrillas and each Chief will travel to the different regions of the country that he deems appropriate, while the A term of six months, which is the one designated to meet all of us in the State of Chihuahua with the forces that have been recruited and make the movement that will bring about the union of all Mexicans.

As you are an honored and patriotic Mexican, an example and pride of our soil, and Indian blood like ours runs through your veins, I am sure that you will never allow our soil to be sold and you will also prepare yourself to defend the Homeland.

As the movement that we have to make to the United States, it can only be carried out by the North, in view of not having ships, I beg you to tell me if you agree to come here with all your troops and in what date, to have the pleasure of going personally to meet him and together undertake the work of reconstruction and aggrandizement of Mexico, challenging and punishing our eternal enemy, who must always be fomenting hatred and causing difficulties and quarrels among our race.

How did the letter appear?

However, everything seems to indicate that this proposal was never read by Zapata.

Two months after it was written, the letter was found among the clothes of one of the dead Mexicans in the led attack by Villa to Columbus, in New Mexico.

The revolutionary, who is therefore considered the only Latin American who has led an invasion of the United States, therefore ended up fulfilling his plan alone and waiting to receive a response from Zapata to his invitation. that never came.

The historian Armando Ruiz Aguilar, Author of the book “We ignorant men who make war” that compiles the correspondence between the two insurgents, recognizes the “unknown” around the fact that the document was found in that place and two months after being written.

“It is not known if the dead Villista was actually discovered there, as wounded in the battle (of Columbus); or if they had already located him before and there was a skirmish before they killed him, “he tells BBC Mundo.

“Some information suggests that (the messenger) could never have left Chihuahua,” he says.

Emiliano Zapata
Emiliano Zapata never received the letter in which Villa proposed to invade the United States (Photo: Getty Images)

Several experts believe that the letter could have been “seeded” in some way by the US as part of a strategy or even question its veracity, based for example on the fact that calligraphy no I know corresponds with Villa’s.

Ruiz Aguilar, however, defends its historical importance and downplays this detail, recalling that at that time “people with leadership dictated letters to other people.”

After its discovery, the letter was sent to the United States, where was not rediscovered and came to light solo until 1975. Currently, it is kept in the General Archives of Washington.

What if Zapata had read it?

Asked what would have happened if Zapata had received the letter, the historian believes that probably he would not have accepted the proposal to invade US territory.

“It was very, very risky and Zapata would have to be monitoring his action front at the same time, which was in the center of the country. In addition, moving north would have been very expensive, “he says.

Letter from Villa to Zapata
The letter was not written by Villa in his own handwriting. (Photo: Armando Ruiz Aguilar)

For Ruiz Aguilar, one of the most interesting conclusions from having studied this and dozens of other letters sent between the two leaders is to be able to know in a much more personal and intimate way the type of relationship they had.

“They were never compadres, in fact they did not meet until 1914 in Mexico City. The first letters are very short, diplomatic and with many greetings, but their texts are later warmer and you can see how a friendship is being strengthened, ”he highlights.

From their reading it is extracted, says the expert, that they are two men who love Mexico, who know that they have differences but who are united in their goal of ending Carrancismo.

“His letters make it clear that behind his fight there was a vision that went further. They show their true ideals, which they had a political opinion and a national project ”, concludes.

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