Santiago Vidaurri

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Santiago Vidaurri, c.1867

José Santiago Vidaurri Valdez (1808–1867) was a controversial and powerful governor of the Mexican state of Nuevo León between 1855 and 1864. His tenure was marked by secessionist ambitions and an unparalleled commerce with the Confederate States of America. Originally a supporter of president Benito Juarez until broke with Juarez who he thought was supporting his own selfish motives.

Early life[edit]

Vidaurri was born in Villa Punta de Lampazos, New Kingdom of León on July 24, 1808, being the oldest of the 4 sons of Don Pedro José Vidaurri de la Cruz and María Teodora Valdéz Solís.

Paradoxically, Vidaurri began his public career in jail. The oldest reference of his presence in Monterey is the January 12, 1832 consignment against him made by the chief commander of the state to the mayor of the city. The young Vidaurri, 24 years old, was accused of having severed the left hand of the soldier Juan Olivares Lampazos Company with a knife during a fight.

He was at a bar with friends when Juan Olivares, an unruly soldier began causing trouble. The soldier started harassing the town drunk – who was defenseless and belligerent. Santiago seeing the situation escalate stepped in – knowing that if he stood by and watched the soldier would end up killing the poor belligerent man.

The brawl between Santiago and the soldier was hard-fought and grueling. Santiago’s intention was not to kill the soldier but to simply render him powerless. Santiago did not believe in wasting human life and struggled not to injure the soldier. The soldier had other intentions – he wanted to kill Santiago. Santiago was given no choice but to sever the soldier’s hand – it was in self-defense. There were men at the bar that evening that disliked Santiago and testified otherwise.

During a conversation, Santiago overheard the prison guard’s debate over a letter the warden dictated to them. Offering his services, mainly because he was bored Santiago wrote their letter. Once Santiago was released he was given the job of chief clerk in the municipal jail. It did not take long for Santiago to receive more responsibility; he started signing off on official documents for Dn. Pedro de Valle.

Political career[edit]

In 1837 Santiago was promoted to secretary-general to Joaquin Garcia – Mexico found herself once again in turmoil, in 1841 a group of Generals ousted President Busamantes and replaced the Governor of Nuevo León with Manuela Maria Llano – Santiago then became his secretary and was chosen by General Arista to spy for the Santa Fe expedition. This expedition was sponsored by President Mirabeau B. Lamar. The purpose was to divert the Santa Fe Trail into Texas and establish control over New Mexico. Santiago proved to be very efficient as he was in everything he undertook.

The revolution of Ayutla began in the early months of 1855 – it was a movement based on the declaration of independence and the liberal constitution of 1824. It was written by Juan Alvarez and Ignacio Commonfort.

It was during this time that Santiago developed influence over a group of political newcomers – he often met in secret with Antonio Rosales and other liberal leaders. Their group included Ignacio Zaragoza, Jose Silvestri Aramberri, Lazaro Garza Ayala, Francisco Naranjo and Juan Zuazua. The reason for these secret meetings was because everyone was tired of the unstable government that plagued the northern states. Their chief aim was to rid Mexico of the negative influences that took advantage of the poverty-stricken population. Santiago was a leader by birth – he was appointed the groups political chief.

The momentum for Ayutla began slowly as Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was desperately clinging to his position. He was hoping to discredit the liberals with anticlericalism. The revolution of Ayutal then gained the necessary speed it needed when it was joined by Santos Degollado and Manuel Doblado.

Santiago never to miss an opportunity along with Juan Zuazua issued out a plan “Restaudor de la Libertad.” On May 22, 1855 Santiago was proclaimed Governor and military commander of Nuevo León and Juan Zuazua was appointed Colonial of the states army. This became the beginning of El Vidaurrismo, it was more than just a political movement, and it was a way of thinking a way of life.

Santiago’s aim was to bring la restaurdor de the libertad to all of Mexico – he proceeded to establish himself in local and national politics. With the victory of the northerners – the people of Nuevo León were now guaranteed property, security and a stable and enlightened government. Los Vidaurristas infiltrated Tammaulipas and Santiago annexed Coahuila in Feb 12 1856.

Santiago grew up to have more power than anyone including his family would have ever imagined. He had sole control of Coahuila, Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua and Durango. And on February 19, 1856, he annexed Coahuila into that of Nuevo León. He had complete power over Northern Mexico – more than any man hoped to ever have H. Once Ayutla was established he began his attention on frontier politics. He was a political and economic liberal, which was unheard of. In the 19th century most liberals were usually one or the other. Santiago was progressive and favored federalism and admired the government of the United States and used it as a role model for his Northern States.

He knew that trade with Texas was easier and more profitable than with the interior of Mexico City. He believed in taking individual initiative and free economy from government interference. If Nuevo León was going to be prosperous he needed a free hand – this being the real reason he banned the church from any interference.

During the French Intervention[edit]

Re-elected for a new constitutional term in February 1863, Santiago Vidaurri ruled Nuevo Leon almost completely independent of the center. In fact his estrangement with the federal government are famous .

The Juarez government was on the run to the north, pursued by the Conservatives and imperialists, and installed the Presidency of the Republic in San Luis Potosi. There was a big lack of resources, the army , became something more likely of a series of guerilla groups than a regular force, that was under pressure on all fronts .

Rupture with Juarez[edit]

Juárez asked Vidaurri to support the Federation with money from the Customs of Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, that the governor had been holding. Vidaurri opposed on the grounds that it "would bring ruin to the state" and is alleged that he also threatened the republican government of Juarez.

Juarez, forced to follow retreating, reached Saltillo and finally met Vidaurri in Monterey on February 12, 1864. Juarez had come with his cabinet and Vidaurri was presented with a crowd.

Indalecio Vidaurri, son of Santiago, pulled out his gun, and broke all dialogue declaring mutiny. Lerdo had prevented a similar outcome and had the car ready, and with great haste Juarez and his cabinet got in the car. Then the mob followed the car, shooting their guns. Colonel Guiccione, with a few men, stopped the angry mob.

The assassination attempt on President Juárez was celebrated by Vidaurri and his friends with the ringing of bells, firing a cannon and other demonstrations of joy. And as to leave no doubt about the path he had taken, the governor gave a circular letter insulting the government attempting to demoralise the state; at the same time he warned the authorities of the state to not obey the government of Juarez, to apprehend its agents and to ignore its authority.

Juarez responded by mobilizing troops of Francisco Naranjo and Mariano Escobedo to Monterrey. He could not allow an open flank during the offensive from the imperialists. After that incident, the government of the Republic and its administration ignored Vidaurri. And Vidaurri, in his quest to retain power, started a bloody battle against Juarista troops who eventually defeat him.

Having taken refuge in Texas, Santiago Vidaurri returned to Nuevo León Monterrey once was occupied by the French and subjected himself to the Empire; recognized Maximilian I as Emperor of Mexico and promised to be loyal, giving his back to the government he had sworn allegiance before. During this period he was appointed imperial counselor and became finance minister. he was shot in Mexico city for treason and he was positioned in front of a sewer ditch falling face first.

Capture and execution[edit]

After the triumph of the Republic, Vidaurri was hiding in Mexico City. There, porfirio Diaz set a deadline for the surrender of those who had served the Empire; otherwise, they would be executed. Vidaurri did not comply with such an order, so he was arrested and killed by a firing squad, shot in the back, as a traitor to the Fatherland, on July 8, 1867, in the Plaza de Santo Domingo. His last words were: "I wish my blood to be the last shed and to Mexico to be happy." His remains were moved to Candela, Coahuila and rest in a private chapel at the la meseta ranch near Villa Punta de Lampazos, Nuevo Leon where he was born.

Family Legacy[edit]

His daughter, Prudenciana Vidaurri, married on April 23, 1857 with businessman Patrick Milmo O'Dowd, of Irish descent, from whose marriage Patricio Milmo Vidaurri was born, who would marry Patricia Hickman Morales, and together become the parents of Laura Milmo Hickman, wife of Emilio Azcarraga Vidaurreta, pioneer of Mexican television and one of the founders of the company Televisa; both were parents of famous Mexican entrepreneur Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, father of the current president of the board of Grupo Televisa, Emilio Azcarraga Jean.[1]

Bibliography[edit] (Vidaurri Family portal)

  • Guillermo Prieto - Lecciones de historia Patria