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37th President of Mexico
1 May 1917 – 21 May 1920
|Preceded by||Francisco S. Carvajal|
|Succeeded by||Adolfo de la Huerta|
|Head of the Executive Power
First Chief of the Constitutionalist Army
14 August 1914 – 30 April 1917
28 December 1859|
Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila, Mexico
|Died||21 May 1920
Tlaxcalantongo, Puebla, Mexico
|Political party||Democratic Party of Mexico & Constitutionalist Liberal Party|
José Venustiano Carranza Garza (Spanish pronunciation: [benusˈtjano kaˈransa]; 28 December 1859 – 21 May 1920) was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution. He ultimately became President of Mexico following the overthrow of the dictatorial Victoriano Huerta regime in the summer of 1914, and during his administration the current constitution of Mexico was drafted. He was assassinated near the end of his term of office at the behest of a cabal of army generals resentful at his insistence that his successor be a civilian.
- 1 Early years, 1859–1887
- 2 Introduction to politics, 1887–1909
- 3 Personality
- 4 Supporter of Francisco I. Madero, 1909–1911
- 5 Governor of Coahuila, 1911–1913
- 6 Primer Jefe of the Constitutional Army, 1913–1915
- 7 Head of the Preconstitutional Government, 1915–1917
- 8 President of Mexico, 1917–1920
- 9 Mexican neutrality in WWI
- 10 Legacy
- 11 In Popular Culture
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Bibliography
- 15 External links
Early years, 1859–1887
Carranza was born in the town of Cuatro Ciénegas, in the state of Coahuila, in 1859, to an upper middle-class cattle-ranching family. His father, Jesús Carranza, had been a rancher and mule driver until the time of the Reform War (1857–1861), in which he fought against the Indians and on the Liberal side. During the Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), Jesús Carranza became a colonel and was Benito Juárez's main contact in Coahuila. Jesus Carranza's connection to Juarez caught the attention of Venustiano, who would idolize Juarez.
Because of his family's wealth, Venustiano was able to attend excellent schools in Saltillo and Mexico City. Venustiano studied at the Ateneo Fuente, a famous Liberal school in Saltillo. In 1874 he went to the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School) in Mexico City. Carranza was still there in 1876 when Porfirio Díaz issued the Plan of Tuxtepec, which marked the beginning of Porfirio Díaz's rebellion against President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada under the slogan "No Re-election" (Tejada had served one term as president). Díaz's troops handily defeated Tejada's, and Díaz and his armies marched into Mexico City in triumph.
Upon completion of his studies, Carranza returned to Coahuila to raise cattle with his family. He married Virginia Salinas in 1882, and the couple had two daughters.
Introduction to politics, 1887–1909
The Carranzas had high ambitions for Venustiano, who would use the family money to advance his political career. In 1887, at age 28, he became municipal president of Cuatro Ciénegas. Carranza remained a Liberal who idolized Benito Juárez. At the same time, he grew disillusioned with the increasingly authoritarian character of the rule of Porfirio Díaz during this period.
In 1893, 300 Coahuila ranchers organized an armed resistance to oppose the "re-election" of Porfirio Díaz's supporter José María Garza Galán as Governor of Coahuila. Venustiano Carranza and his brother Emilio participated in this uprising. Porfirio Díaz quickly dispatched his "man in the north", Bernardo Reyes, to defuse the situation. Venustiano Carranza and his brother, who had now gained power and influence in the area, were granted a personal audience with Reyes in order to explain the justification for the uprising and the ranchers' opposition to Garza Galán. Reyes agreed with Carranza and wrote to Díaz recommending that he withdraw support for Garza Galán. Diaz accepted this request and appointed a different governor
The events of 1893 allowed Carranza to make some friends in high places, including Bernardo Reyes. After winning a second term as municipal president of Cuatro Ciénegas (1894–1898), Reyes had Carranza "elected" to the legislature. In 1904, Bernardo Reyes's protégé Miguel Cárdenas, Governor of Coahuila, recommended to Porfirio Díaz that Carranza would make a good senator. As such, Carranza entered the Senate of Mexico later that year. Although Carranza was sceptical of the Científicos whom Porfirio Díaz was relying on to run Mexico, Carranza was a dutiful Porfirian senator.
By 1908, it was widely assumed that Carranza would be the next governor of Coahuila. In 1909, Carranza received Porfirio Díaz's permission to declare himself as candidate to replace Miguel Cárdenas as Governor of Coahuila. Miguel Cárdenas supported Carranza's candidacy, as did the wealthiest landowner in the region, Evaristo Madero (grandfather of Francisco I. Madero). However, for reasons never made entirely clear, Porfirio Díaz ultimately did not support Carranza in this race, with the result that Carranza lost the election. This left Carranza angry with Porfirio Díaz.
Carranza was a large, tall man, standing a full 6'4"(198 cm), and he looked very impressive in his later years with his long white beard and glasses. He was intelligent and stubborn, but had very little charisma. A dour man, his lack of sense of humor was legendary. He was not the sort to inspire great loyalty, and his success in the revolution was mainly due to his ability to portray himself as a wise, stern patriarch who was the nation's best hope for peace. His inability to compromise led to several severe setbacks. Although he was personally honest, he seemed indifferent to corruption in those who surrounded him.
Supporter of Francisco I. Madero, 1909–1911
Carranza followed Francisco Madero's Anti-Re-election Movement of 1910 with interest, and after Madero fled to the US and Díaz was reelected as president, Carranza traveled to Mexico City to join Madero. Madero named Carranza provisional Governor of Coahuila. The Plan of San Luis Potosí, which Madero issued at this time, called for a revolution beginning 20 November 1910. Madero named Carranza commander-in-chief of the Revolution in Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. Carranza, however, failed to organize a revolution in these states, leading some of Madero's supporters to speculate that Carranza was still loyal to Bernardo Reyes. Nevertheless, following the revolutionaries' decisive victory at Ciudad Juárez, Carranza travelled to Ciudad Juárez and Madero named Carranza his Minister of War on 3 May 1911, despite the fact that Carranza did not contribute much to Madero's rebellion. The revolutionaries were split on how to deal with Porfirio Díaz and Vice-President Ramón Corral. Madero favored having Díaz and Corral resign, with Francisco León de la Barra serving as interim president until a new election could be held. Carranza disagreed with Madero, arguing that allowing Díaz and Corral to resign would legitimate their rule, while an interim government would merely be a prolongation of the dictatorship and would discredit the Revolution. Madero's view prevailed, however.
Governor of Coahuila, 1911–1913
Carranza returned to Coahuila to serve as governor, shortly holding elections in August 1911, which he won handily. As governor, Carranza began to reform the judiciary, the legal codes, and tax laws. He introduced regulations to prevent mining accidents, to rein in abusive practices at company stores, to break up commercial monopolies, to combat alcoholism, and to rein in gambling and prostitution. He also made large investments in education, which he saw as the key to societal development. At the same time, he was concerned to promote law and order in the countryside, and had Porfirio Díaz's rurales re-enlist into his security forces. Carranza also did not favor reform the way Madero and most of army did and felt that a firmer hand (preferably his) was needed to rule Mexico.
The relationship between Carranza and Madero deteriorated in this period. Carranza, who had opposed Madero's plan to have an interim presidency, now criticized Madero for being a weak and ineffectual president. Madero in turn accused Carranza of being spiteful and authoritarian. Carranza believed that there would soon be an uprising against Madero, so he formed alliances with other Liberal governors: Pablo González Garza, Governor of San Luis Potosí; Alberto Fuentes Dávila, Governor of Aguascalientes; and Abraham González, Governor of Chihuahua.
Carranza was unsurprised in February 1913 when Victoriano Huerta, Bernardo Reyes, and Félix Díaz overthrew Madero during La Decena trágica (the Ten Tragic Days). Carranza offered Madero refuge in Coahuila, but he was unable to prevent Madero's execution.
A passionate student of history, Carranza believed that Madero had made the same mistakes in 1912 that Ignacio Comonfort had made in 1857-58: by being weak and overly humanitarian, Madero had allowed conservative reactionaries to seize power. Carranza now believed that he could fill the role that Benito Juárez had played in the years after Comonfort's downfall. Seeing an opportunity to gain power, Carranza soon rebelled against Huerta
In late February 1913, Carranza asked the legislature of Coahuila to declare itself formally in a state of rebellion against Huerta's government. Carranza, however, only had a small number of troops who largely sat out during the early part of the rebellion. In his first battle with federal troops, in early March 1913, Carranza was defeated and forced to retreat to Monclova. On the way, he stopped at his Guadalupe hacienda. There he found a group of young officers—Francisco J. Múgica, Jacinto B. Treviño, and Lucio Blanco—who had drawn up a plan modeled on the Plan of San Luis Potosí that disavowed Huerta and called on Carranza to become Primer Jefe ("First Chief") of the Constitutional Army.
Carranza felt that it had been a mistake to include promises of social reform in the Plan of San Luis Potosí because this had created unrealistic expectations in the populace, and had resulted in them growing disillusioned with the Revolution after it failed to deliver on its promises. He then drafted a different constitution, the Plan of Guadalupe. This new proposed constitution only promised to restore the 1857 Constitution of Mexico without the promised social reforms of the Plan of San Luis Potosí. A few weeks after Carranza had issued the Plan of Guadalupe, he met a delegation from Sonora headed by Adolfo de la Huerta in Monclova, and the Sonorans agreed to support the Plan of Guadalupe. Álvaro Obregón, a local teacher and farmer, would also raise an army for Carranza in Sonora.
Primer Jefe of the Constitutional Army, 1913–1915
Carranza initially divided the country into seven operational zones, though his Revolution was really launched in only three: (1) the northeast, under the command of Pablo González Garza; (2) the center, under the command of Pánfilo Natera; and (3) the northwest, under the command of Álvaro Obregón. The Revolution, launched in March 1913, initially did not go well, and Huerta's troops marched into Monclova, forcing Carranza to flee to the rebels' stronghold of Sonora in August 1913. However, Carranza's army would later grow remarkably. In March 1914, Carranza was informed of Pancho Villa's victories and of advances made by the forces under Pablo González and Álvaro Obregón. Carranza determined that it was safe to leave Sonora, and traveled to Ciudad Juárez, which served as his capital for the remainder of his struggle with Huerta.
Although Pancho Villa was a skilled commander, his tactics throughout the 1913-14 campaign created a number of diplomatic incidents that were a major headache for Carranza in this period. Villa had confiscated the property of Spaniards in Chihuahua and had allowed his troops to murder an Englishman, Benton, and an American, Bauch. At one point, Villa arrested Manuel Chao, the Governor of Chihuahua, and Carranza had to personally travel to Chihuahua to order Villa to release Chao. In Tampico, nine U.S. Navy sailors were arrested by Mexican troops over a misunderstanding about fuel supplies. In response to the Tampico Affair, the United States government sent 2,300 Navy troops to occupy Veracruz, Veracruz. The fighting ended with 22 Navy troops and almost 200 Mexican soldiers being killed, and Veracruz taken. Carranza, in order to keep his nationalistic credentials threatened war with the United States. In his spontaneous response to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Carranza asked “…that the president withdraw American troops from Mexico and take up its complaints against Huerta with the Constitutionalist government.” The situation became so tense that war seemed imminent. On April 22, 1914, on the initiative of Felix A. Sommerfeld and Sherburne Hopkins Pancho Villa traveled to Ciudad Juarez to calm fears along the border and asked President Wilson's emissary George Carothers to tell “Señor Wilson” that he had no problems with the American occupation of Veracruz. Carothers wrote to Secretary William Jennings Bryan: “As far as he was concerned we could keep Vera Cruz [sic] and hold it so tight that not even water could get in to Huerta and …he could not feel any resentment.”  Whether trying to please the U.S. government or through the diplomatic efforts of Sommerfeld and Carothers, or maybe as a result of both, Villa stepped out from under Carranza’s stated foreign policy.
The uneasy alliance between Carranza, Obregon, Villa and Emiliano Zapata would eventually lead the rebels to victory. The fight against Huerta formally ended on 15 August 1914, when Álvaro Obregón signed a number of treaties in Teoloyucan in which the last of Huerta's forces surrendered to him and recognized the Constitutional government. On 20 August 1914, Carranza made a triumphal entry into Mexico City. Carranza (supported by Obregón) was now the strongest candidate to fill the power vacuum and set himself up as head of the new government. This government successfully printed money, passed laws, etc.
The Convention of Aguascalientes: Break with Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata
Zapata, in his Plan of Ayala, demanded sweeping social reforms of the type which Carranza had specifically excluded from the Plan of Guadalupe. When it became clear that Carranza was not willing to introduce these social reforms, Zapata broke with Carranza, formally breaking off all connection on 5 September 1914.
As noted in the section above, tensions between Carranza and Pancho Villa were high throughout 1913-14 over both Governor Chao and the diplomatic incidents which Villa provoked. Before Huerta was overthrown, Villa defied Carranza's orders and successfully captured Mexico's strategic silver-producing city of Zacatecas, Zacatecas; Villa's successful capture of the city broke the back of Huerta's regime. In addition, Carranza also feared Villa would beat him to Mexico City. In August, Carranza refused to let Villa enter Mexico City with him, and refused to promote Villa to major-general. Villa formally disavowed Carranza on 23 September 1914.
On 8 July 1914, Villistas and Carrancistas had signed the Treaty of Torreón, in which they agreed that after Huerta's forces were defeated, 150 generals of the Revolution would meet to determine the future shape of the country. This Convention proceeded to meet at Aguascalientes on 5 October 1914. Carranza did not participate in the Convention of Aguascalientes because he was not a general (but several Zapatista civilian intellectuals were allowed to join the Convention).
At the Convention, the young philosopher José Vasconcelos argued that Article 128 of the 1857 Constitution provided that the revolutionary army now constituted the legitimate government of Mexico; the assembled generals quickly agreed with him. The Convention called on Carranza to resign. Carranza responded with a message sent on 23 November 1914. He agreed to resign, but only if he could be assured that a truly constitutional government would be put in place following his resignation. He listed three preconditions to be met before he would resign: (1) the establishment of a pre-constitutional regime that would make necessary social and political reforms before the re-establishment of constitutional government; (2) the resignation and exile of Villa; and (3) the resignation and exile of Zapata.
A week later, the Convention's joint commissions of war and of the interior (a group which included Álvaro Obregón, Felipe Ángeles, Eulalio Gutiérrez, and Francisco I. Madero's brother Raúl) agreed in principle to Carranza's conditions. The Convention elected Eulalio Gutiérrez as provisional President for 20 days until his position could be ratified, and called on Carranza to resign immediately. Carranza moved his government to Córdoba, Veracruz and sent the Convention a telegram in which he said he would not resign until his conditions had been fully met, noting they had not: Villa remained in control of the División del Norte; Zapata had not resigned; and Gutiérrez was only granted power for 20 days, which hardly made him an effective pre-constitutional government.
With Carranza's withdrawal, Carrancistas controlled only the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas. These states, however, gave Carranza an advantage, as they held Mexico's two main ports. Because he held these two ports, Carranza was able to collect more revenue than Villa. The rest of the country was under the control of the various generals represented by the Convention. Carranza negotiated the withdrawal of American troops from Veracruz, Veracruz in November 1914 following payment for damages, and set up his government there.
Álvaro Obregón and Pablo González remained loyal to Carranza and fought on. Although Villa had a more formidable army, Obregón was a better tactician. With Obregón's help, Carranza portrayed Villa as a sociopathic bandit in the press. In April 1915, Obregón scored a decisive victory over Villa in the Bajío at the Battle of Celaya, in which 4,000 of Villa's soldiers were killed and another 6,000 captured. In May 1915, González began a campaign against the last-remaining Zapatistas. In July 1915, Francisco Lagos Cházaro surrendered, who was the last interim president appointed by the Convention of Aguascalientes. In August 1915, Carranza's troops entered Mexico City a second time. The United States recognized Carranza as President of Mexico in October 1915 and by the end of the year, Villa was on the run.
Head of the Preconstitutional Government, 1915–1917
With the defeat of the División del Norte and the Zapatistas, by mid-1915, Carranza was President of Mexico as head of what he termed a "Preconstitutional Government." Carranza formally took charge of the executive branch on 1 May 1915.
On 12 December 1914 Carranza had issued his Additions to the Plan of Guadalupe, which laid out an ambitious reform program, including Laws of Reform, in conscious imitation of Benito Juárez's Laws of Reform.
Reforms were carried through in many areas
- Judicial reform - Carranza introduced important reforms to ensure an independent judiciary for Mexico.
- Labor - in February 1915, the Constitutionalist Army signed an agreement with the Casa del Obrero Mundial ("House of the World Worker"), the labor union with anarcho-syndicalist connections which had been established during Francisco I. Madero's presidency. As a result of this agreement, six "Red Battalions" of workers were formed to fight alongside the Constitutionalists against Villa and Zapata. However, after the defeat of Villa and Zapata, relations between Carranza and organized labor soured. In January 1916, the Red Battalions were dissolved, and throughout 1916, Carranza opposed workers who tried to exercise their right to strike, seeing their actions as disruptive. In August 1916, the Casa del Obrero Mudial was forcibly disbanded by the police, and an 1862 law was reinstated that made striking a capital offense.
- Struggle against foreign companies for natural resources - under the presidency of Porfirio Díaz, foreign mining and oil companies (chiefly United States companies) had received generous concessions from the government in order to develop natural resources. On 7 January 1915, Carranza issued a decree declaring his intention to return the wealth of oil and coal to the people of Mexico. The two largest oil companies exploiting Mexico's natural resources were the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company, an English company led by Lord Cowdray and operating mainly in the region of Poza Rica, Veracruz and Papantla, Veracruz; and Mexican Petroleum, an American company led by Edward L. Doheny and operating in the region of Tampico, Tamaulipas. Carranza was constrained in his actions because the region of La Huasteca where they operated was under the control of General Manuel Peláez, who protected the oil companies' interests in exchange for protection money from the oil companies. In terms of mining, Carranza implemented the Calvo Doctrine. He raised taxes on the mining companies, and removed the right of diplomatic recourse for mining companies, declaring their actions subject to the Mexican courts. (Both policies were opposed by the United States and delayed several times at the request of United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing).
Constitutional Convention of Querétaro, 1916–1917
In September 1916, Carranza convoked a Constitutional Convention, to be held in Querétaro, Querétaro. He declared that the liberal 1857 Constitution of Mexico would be respected, though purged of some of its shortcomings.
When the Constitutional Convention met in December 1916, it contained only 85 conservatives and centrists close to Carranza's brand of liberalism, a group known as the bloque renovador ("renewal faction"). Against them were 132 more radical delegates who insisted that land reform be embodied in the new constitution. These radical delegates were particularly inspired by the thought of Andrés Molina Enríquez, in particular his 1909 book Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales (English: The Great National Problems). Molina Enríquez, though not a delegate to the Convention, was a close advisor to the committee that drafted Article 27 of the constitution: it declared that private property had been created by the Nation and that the Nation had the right to regulate private property to ensure that communities that had "none or not enough land and water" could take them from latifundios and haciendas. Article 27 went beyond the Calvo Doctrine, declaring that only native-born or native Mexicans could have property rights in Mexico. It said that although the government might grant rights to foreigners, these rights were always provisional and could not be appealed to foreign governments.
The radicals also exceeded Carranza's program on labor relations. In February 1917, they drafted Article 123 of the Constitution, which established an eight-hour work day, abolished child labor, contained provisions to protect female and adolescent workers, required holidays, provided a reasonable salary to be paid in cash and profit-sharing, established boards of arbitration, and provided for compensation in case of dismissal.
The radicals also established more radical reform of the relationship of church and state than that favored by Carranza. Articles 3 and 130 were strongly anticlerical: the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico was denied recognition as a legal entity; priests were denied various rights and subject to public registration; religious education was forbidden; public religious ritual outside of the churches was banned; and all churches were nationalized as the property of the nation.
In short, although Carranza had been the most ardent proponent of constitutionalism and led the Constitutional Army, the 1917 Constitution of Mexico was more radical than the liberal constitution that Carranza had envisioned. The Carrancistas gained some important victories in the Constitutional Convention: the power of the executive was enhanced and the power of the legislature was diminished. The post of Vice-President was eliminated. Judges were given life tenure to promote judicial independence.
President of Mexico, 1917–1920
The new constitution was proclaimed on 5 February 1917. With Villa and Zapata on the run, Carranza had no strong opposition to his election as president. In May 1917, Carranza became the constitutional President of Mexico.
Carranza achieved little change while in office, and those who wanted to see a new, liberal Mexico after the revolution were disappointed. Mexico was in desperate stress in 1917. The revolutionary fighting had decimated the economy, destroyed the nation's food supply, and the social disruption resulted in widespread disease.
Carranza also faced many internal enemies: Emiliano Zapata continued his rebellion in the mountains of Morelos; Félix Díaz had returned to Mexico in May 1916 and organized an army that he called the Ejército Reorganizador Nacional (National Reorganizer Army), which remained active in Veracruz; the former Porfirians Guillermo Meixueiro and José María Dávila were active in Oaxaca, calling themselves Soberanistas (Sovereigntists) and insisting on local autonomy; General Manuel Peláez was in charge of La Huasteca; the brothers Saturnino Cedillo, Cleophas Cedillo, and Magdaleno Cedillo organized an opposition in San Luis Potosí; José Inés Chávez García led the resistance to Carranza's government in Michoacán; and Pancho Villa remained active in Chihuahua. After Carranza became president, Obregon retired to his ranch. The fighting continued, particularly against Zapata in the south. The only two rebel leaders captured by Carranza were Pancho Villa's supporter Felipe Ángeles and Emiliano Zapata. (Carranza's bounty on Zapata's head resulted in his assassination).
Carranza maintained Mexican neutrality throughout World War I. He briefly considered allying with the German Empire after German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann sent Mexico the famous Zimmermann Telegram in January 1917, inviting Mexico to enter the war on the German side. Zimmermann promised Mexico German aid in re-capturing territory lost to the United States during the Mexican–American War, specifically the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Carranza assigned a general to study the possibility of recapturing this territory from the U.S., but ultimately concluded that war to recapture territory from the U.S. was not feasible. He believed that aid from Germany for such an effort could not be guaranteed due to the blockade by the British Royal Navy.
Carranza remained lukewarm about the anti-clerical Articles 3 and 130 of the Mexican Constitution, both of which he had opposed at the Constitutional Convention. He proposed a constitutional amendment to mollify these constitutional provisions, but his proposal was rejected by the state legislatures and 2/3 of the Mexican Congress.
Public corruption was a major problem of Carranza's presidency. A popular saying was that "The Old Man doesn't steal, but he lets them steal," and a new verb, carrancear was coined, meaning "to steal".
Carranza decided against running for re-election in 1920. His natural successor was Álvaro Obregón, the heroic Carrancista general. Believing that Mexico should have a civilian president, Carranza endorsed Ignacio Bonillas, an obscure diplomat, for the presidency. As government supporters suppressed and killed those for Obregón, the general decided that Carranza would never leave the office peacefully. Obregon and allied Sonoran generals (including Plutarco Elías Calles and Adolfo de la Huerta), who were the strongest power bloc in Mexico, issued the Plan of Agua Prieta. This repudiated Carranza's government and renewed the Revolution on their own.
On 8 April 1920, a campaign aide to Obregón attempted to assassinate Carranza. After the failure, Obregón brought his army to Mexico City and drove Carranza out. Carranza set out towards Veracruz to regroup but was betrayed; he was killed on 21 May 1920 while sleeping in Tlaxcalantongo in the Sierra Norte de Puebla mountains. His forces were under attack there by General Rodolfo Herrero, a local chieftain and supporter of Carranza's former allies. According to General Francisco L. Urquizo, Carranza's last words after being awoken by gunshots were: "Licenciado, ya me rompieron una pierna" ("Lawyer, they have already broken one of my legs"). (Carranza was referring to his partner, Licenciado Aguirre Berlanga, when he was ambushed and shot). Obregón afterward prosecuted Herrero for Carranza's murder, but the general was acquitted.
Historian Aguirre Berlanga has suggested that Carranza committed suicide rather than was assassinated. Critics of the assassination theory say that the holes in Carranza's shirt were too small to have been due to carbine shots, which were the weapons of the attackers. It was reported that Carranza suffered bullet holes in his chest, as well as a bullet wound to two fingers of his left hand. Suicide theorists think he wounded and killed himself by shooting himself in the chest after having had his leg fractured by a carbine shot. The Mexican historian Enrique Krauze has analyzed the facts and concludes that suicide is the most probable cause of death. But his view has not achieved consensus among historians, and the truth will probably never be known.
Mexican neutrality in WWI
The Great War in Europe was in the trench warfare part when Venustiano Carranza was elected president of Mexico. He decided to keep Mexican neutrality in the war, but this neutrality reflected a hostility toward the USA, due to several interventions in Mexican internal affairs. Victoriano Huerta had conspired with the American ambassador Henry Lane Wilson in February 1913, to takeover the presidency of Mexico and to assassinate the democratically elected President Francisco I. Madero and his vice president José María Pino Suárez, during a coup d'état known as La decena trágica. Woodrow Wilson also ordered the invasion of Veracruz in 1914, resulting in the death of 170 Mexican soldiers and an unknown number of civilians. The assassination of the democratically elected President Francisco I. Madero and his vice president José María Pino Suárez, triggered a civil war that ended when the Constitutional Army won the Battle of Celaya in April 1915. The partial peace allowed a new liberal constitution to be drafted in 1916 and proclaimed on February 5, 1917.
The international relationship between the Presidents Venustiano Carranza and Woodrow Wilson was very difficult after the proclamation of the new constitution and it marked the participation of Mexico in the Great War. Nevertheless, Venustiano Carranza was able to make the best of the situation.
- Carranza government was de jure recognized by Germany at the beginning of 1917 and by the USA on August 31, 1917, the latter as a direct consequence of the Zimmermann telegram and in order to ensure Mexican Neutrality in the Great War. After the United States occupation of Veracruz in 1914, Mexico would not participate with the USA in its military excursion in the Great War, so ensuring Mexican neutrality was the best deal.
- Carranza granted guarantees to the German companies for keeping their operations open, specifically in Mexico City but he was at the same time selling oil to the British fleet. Moreover, 75 percent of the fuel used by the British fleet came from Mexico.
- Carranza rejected the proposal of a military alliance with Germany, made via the Zimmermann Telegram but he was at the same time able to prevent a permanent military invasion from the USA, who wanted to take control of Tehuantepec Isthmus and Tampico oil fields. Mexico was producing 55 million barrels of petroleum by 1917, since 75 percent of the fuel used by the British fleet came from Mexico, Carranza threatened to set in fire the oil fields in case of an American invasion. As historian Lester Langley wrote: "Carranza may not have fulfilled the social goals of the revolution, but he kept the gringos out of Mexico City".
The ambitious Carranza made himself one of the most important figures in the Mexican Revolution because he truly believed that he knew what was best for the country. He was a planner and organizer, and succeeded through clever politicking where others relied on strength of arms. His defenders point out that he brought some stability to the country and provided a focus for the movement to remove Huerta, who was a monster.
He made many mistakes, however. During the fight against Huerta, he was the first to declare that those who opposed him would be executed, as he considered his to be the only legitimate government in the land after the death of Madero. Other commanders followed suit, and the result was the death of thousands who might have been spared. His unfriendly, rigid nature made it difficult for him to retain his hold on power, especially when some of the alternatives, such as Villa and Obregón, were much more charismatic.
Today, he is remembered as one of the “Big Four” of the Revolution, along with Zapata, Villa and Obregón. Although for most of the time period between 1915 and 1920 he was more powerful than any of them, he is today probably the least remembered of the four. Historians point out Obregón's tactical brilliance and rise to power in the 1920s, Villa's legendary bravery, flair, style and leadership and Zapata's unwavering idealism and vision. Carranza had none of these.
Carranza's legacy also bears the stain of driving Emiliano Zapata to his untimely and unglorious death to the hands of assassins in 1919; indeed Zapata still remains to this day, along with Villa, the most beloved figure of the Mexican Revolution in popular culture, and the only one whose name has been revived and carried by a socio-political movement in recent times.
Still, it was during Carranza's watch that the Constitution still used today was ratified and he was by far the lesser of two evils when compared to the man he replaced, Victoriano Huerta. He is remembered in the songs and legends of the North (although primarily as the butt of Villa's jokes and pranks) and his place in the history of Mexico is secure.
In Popular Culture
In the novel The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996), by James Carlos Blake, Carranza is a major character.
In Young Adult Novel (1982), by Daniel Pinkwater, the leader of the Wild Dada Ducks employs the pseudonym "The Honorable Venustiano Carranza, President of Mexico".
- Margaret Maud McKellar, Dolores L. Latorre, "Life on a Mexican ranche", Lehigh University Press, 1994, pg. 227, 
- Profile of Venustiano Carranza - Venustiano Carranza Biography
- Michael S. Werner, "Concise encyclopedia of Mexico", Taylor & Francis, 2001, pg. 68, 
- Carothers to Secretary of State, April 22, 1914, Wilson Papers, Ser. 2, as quoted in Haley, The Diplomacy of Taft and Wilson with Mexico, 1910-1917, p. 135.
- Heribert von Feilitzsch, In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914, Henselstone Verlag, Virginia, 2012, p. 359
- Pancho Villa - Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa - Francisco Villa in Mexico
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Francisco S. Carvajal
|Revolutionary Commander of Mexico
Francisco Lagos Cházaro
|Revolutionary Commander of Mexico
self (as Revolutionary Commander of Mexico)
|President of Mexico
Adolfo de la Huerta