Tomás Garrido Canabal
Tomás Garrido Canabal (September 20, 1891 in Playas de Catazajá, Chiapas – April 8, 1943 in Los Angeles, California) was a Mexican politician and revolutionary and atheist activist. Garrido Canabal served as dictator and governor of the state of Tabasco from 1920 to 1924 and again from 1931 to 1934, and was particularly noted for his Anti-Catholicism. During his term he fiercely persecuted the Church in his state, killing many priests and laymen and driving the remainder underground.
Tomás Garrido Canabal was born in the hacienda Catazajá in the northernmost part of the Mexican state of Chiapas. During the Mexican Revolution, he was drawn into politics. He was named interim governor of Tabasco for a brief spell in 1919 (and then of the Yucatán in May and June 1920) until in December 1920 "Garrido again became provisional governor of Tabasco. From this point until August 1935 (except for a brief hiatus during the de la Huerta rebellion) he controlled the state." Garrido's rule, which marked the apogee of Mexican anti-clericalism, was supported by the Radical Socialist Party of Tabasco (PRST) of which he was the leader.
Called an "atheist and a puritan" by Peter Godman, fervent anticlericalist and anti-Catholic, he supported President Plutarco Elías Calles's war against the Cristeros, a popular rebellion opposed to the enforcement of anticlerical laws. He founded several organizations "that terrorized Roman Catholics", most notably the so-called "Camisas Rojas" or "Red Shirts", and as a result some have labeled him a "fascist"; however, he named one of his sons after Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist and anti-fascist and also considered himself a Marxist Bolshevik. The anthem of his Redshirts was The Internationale, widely considered to be the socialist anthem. Some scholars have argued that his authoritarian policies were more akin to European right-wing dictatorships, though he wished to turn the traditionally conservative state of Tabasco into a socialist model and fought for socialist causes and Tabasco has been called a "socialist tyranny" by Martin C. Needler, Dean of the School of International Studies at the University of the Pacific in California. He also invited the First Congress of Socialist Students to meet in the state of Tabasco and created a form of socialist education which he termed "Rationalist".
Garrido Canabal's revolutionary fervor was reflected in the names of his children: Lenin and Zoila Libertad. He even had a farm with a bull named God, an ox and a hog named Pope, a cow named after Mary, and a donkey named Christ. In Tabasco, satirical plays were also organised, with for instance "the parading of a stud bull called 'the bishop' or an ass labeled 'the pope.'”
Roberto Hinojosa, the Bolivian revolutionary, described Garrido's Tabasco as "the Bethlehem of the Socialist dawn in America" and Garrido as an "academic and farmer, intellectual and rancher, a guide and soldier of socialism".
Garrido Canabal's administrative achievements included stimulating the social development of the state of Tabasco by means of agricultural and social policies and his support for the enfranchisement of women. In 1934, he introduced women's suffrage to Tabasco, making him the second governor to do so after Felipe Carrillo Puerto of the Yucatán twelve years earlier. In Mexico, Garrido Canabal's Tabasco was one of several "vying with one another for the title 'Laboratory of the Revolution'." As Governor, however, he also issued rigid decrees against corsets and alcohol and outlawed tombstones.
When Lázaro Cárdenas was elected president in 1934, his first cabinet was hand-picked by his patron, Plutarco Elías Calles, the "Jefe Máximo" and power behind the presidency. Calles named fellow anticlerical Garrido Canabal as Secretary of Agriculture to Lázaro Cárdenas's cabinet. Garrido Canabal brought the Red Shirts to Mexico City. Soon after Cárdenas took office, he turned against Garrido Canabal. In 1935, after Garrido Canabal ordered his Red Shirts to kill Catholic activists in Mexico City seeking to return to Tabasco, Cárdenas forced Garrido Canabal to step down and into exile in Costa Rica. Dismissing Garrido Canabal was part of Cárdenas's political maneuvering against Calles, who had expected to continue to be the power behind the presidency. Politically, eliminating Garrido Canabal and Calles gained Cárdenas the grudging support of the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico. Garrido Canabal's paramilitary groups were subsequently disbanded. He was allowed to return to Mexico in 1941 and died two years later of cancer in Los Angeles, California.
The lieutenant in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory is clearly based on Garrido Canabal, though his name is never mentioned. The novel's protagonist is an (also unnamed) "whisky priest", a theme often used in Garrido Canabal's antireligious propaganda.
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