Tomás Garrido Canabal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
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.[1] 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.[2]


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."[3] 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.

Ruins at the Convento de Oxolotan, bombed by order of Garrido Canabal.

A character thought to be based on Canabal, in the novel The Power and the Glory, was called an "atheist and a puritan" by Peter Godman.[4] Canabal was a fervent anticlericalist and anti-Catholic, who supported President Plutarco Elías Calles's war against the Cristeros, a rebellion opposed to the enforcement of anticlerical laws. He founded several organizations "that terrorized Roman Catholics",[5] most notably the so-called "Camisas Rojas" or "Red Shirts", and as a result some have labeled him a "fascist",[3][5] but he named one of his sons after Vladimir Lenin, a Marxist and anti-fascist,[6] and considered himself a Marxist Bolshevik.[7][8][9][10][11] 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,[12] though he wished to turn the traditionally conservative state of Tabasco into a socialist model and fought for socialist causes[13][14][15] 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.[16] 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".[17][18]

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.[6] 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.'"[19]

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".[20]

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'."[21] As Governor, however, he also issued rigid decrees against corsets and alcohol and outlawed tombstones.[22]

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.[23] Calles named fellow anticlerical Garrido Canabal as Secretary of Agriculture to Lázaro Cárdenas's cabinet.[24] Garrido Canabal brought the Red Shirts to Mexico City. Soon after Cárdenas took office, he turned against Garrido Canabal.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[22]

Literary portrayal[edit]

The lieutenant in Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory is clearly based on Garrido Canabal,[3][28] though his name is never mentioned. The novel's protagonist is a (also unnamed) "whisky priest", a theme often used in Garrido Canabal's antireligious propaganda.


  1. ^ Mexico 1910-1982: Reform or Revolution?, Zed Press, 1983, p. 245, ISBN 9783700303398
  2. ^ Kirshner, Alan M. "A Setback to Tomas Garrido Canabal's Desire to Eliminate the Church in Mexico". Journal of Church and State (1971) 13 (3): 479-492.
  3. ^ a b c Ridgeway, Stan (2001). "Monoculture, Monopoly, and the Mexican Revolution: Tomás Garrido Canabal and the Standard Fruit Company in Tabasco (1920–1935)". Mexican Studies. 17 (1): 143–69. doi:10.1525/msem.2001.17.1.143. ISSN 1533-8320. JSTOR 10.1525/msem.2001.17.1.143 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)
  4. ^ Godman, Peter. "Graham Greene's Vatican Dossier". The Atlantic Monthly 288.1 (July/August 2001): 85.
  5. ^ a b "Garrido Canabal, Tomás". The Columbia Encyclopedia Sixth Edition (2005).
  6. ^ a b Mabry, Donald J. "Garrido Canabal, Tomás" Archived 2007-10-30 at the Wayback Machine, at the Historical Text Archive.
  7. ^ World Vision Magazine. Volumes 10-11.
  8. ^ National Republic. Volumes 22-23.
  9. ^ Buchenau, Jürgen. The Last Caudillo: Álvaro Obregón and the Mexican Revolution, Volume 12 of Viewpoints/Puntos de Vista: Themes and Interpretations in Latin American History. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. ISBN 1405199032, 9781405199032. Length: 232 pages.
  10. ^ Bennett, Charles. Tinder in Tabasco: a study of church growth in tropical Mexico. Eerdmans, 1968 (Original from University of Texas). Length: 213 pages.
  11. ^ Ard, Michael J. "An eternal struggle: how the National Action Party transformed Mexican politics". Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. ISBN 0-275-97831-1, ISBN 978-0-275-97831-0. Length: 228 pages.
  12. ^ Austin, Ron. "Peregrino: A Pilgrim Journey Into Catholic Mexico". Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2010. ISBN 0-8028-6584-4, ISBN 978-0-8028-6584-7. Length: 219 pages.
  13. ^ Baird, David. Cristensen, Shane. Delsol, Christine. Hepp, Joy. Frommer's Mexico 2011, Volume 826 of Frommer's Complete, Edition 5, illustrated. John Wiley & Sons, 2010. ISBN 0470614331, 9780470614334. Length: 800 pages.
  14. ^ Beezley, William H. Meyer, Michael C. The Oxford History of Mexico. Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 0199731985, 9780199731985. Length: 675 pages.
  15. ^ Walker, Ronald G. Infernal Paradise: Mexico and the Modern English Novel. University of California Press, 1978. ISBN 0520031970, 9780520031975. Length: 391 pages.
  16. ^ Needler, Martin C. Mexican Politics: The Containment of Conflict. Edition 3, illustrated. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN 0275952517, 9780275952518. Length: 144 pages.
  17. ^ Brown, Lyle C. Copper, William F. Religion in Latin American life and literature. Markham Press Fund, 1980. University of Texas ISBN 0918954231, 9780918954237. Length: 426 pages. Page 113, "Tomas Garrido, always proud of the success his atheist teachers had achieved and desirous of winning student support for his political ambitions, invited the First Congress of Socialist Students to meet in Tabasco.", "Tomas Garrido termed this education "Rationalist", which in reality was a forerunner of the socialist education amended into Article III of the Constitution in 1934."
  18. ^ Gonzalez, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940, Dialogos Series, 12. UNM (University of New Mexico) Press, 2002. ISBN 082632780X, 9780826327802. Length: 307 pages.
  19. ^ Knight, Alan (1994). "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910-1940". The Hispanic American Historical Review. 74 (3): 408. doi:10.2307/2517891. ISSN 1527-1900. JSTOR 2517891 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |registration= (help)
  20. ^ Vaughan, Mary K. Lewis, Stephen E. The Eagle And the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920-1940. Duke University Press, 2006. ISBN 0822336685, 9780822336686. Length: 363 pages.
  21. ^ Gilbert M. Joseph (ed.), The Mexico Reader (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002): 411.
  22. ^ a b "Milestones, Apr. 19, 1943". Time. 1943-04-19. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  23. ^ Cline, Howard F. The United States and Mexico, second edition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1961, p. 219.
  24. ^ "MEXICO: Palm Down". Time. 1934-12-10. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  25. ^ "MEXICO: Ossy, Ossy, Boneheads". Time. 1935-02-04. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2017-02-02.
  26. ^ Krauze, Enrique. "THE TROUBLING ROOTS OF MEXICO'S LÓPEZ OBRADOR: Tropical Messiah". The New Republic. June 19, 2006.
  27. ^ Cline, United States and Mexico, p. 220.
  28. ^ Barbara A. Tenenbaum and Georgette M. Dorn (eds.), Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture (New York: Scribner's, 1996).