The Cristeros Lay Down Their Arms: June 27, 1929
The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To read earlier excerpts from our account of the Cristeros, please go here and here. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.
The Cristero rebellion would have died in the summer of 1927 but for one man — the guerrilla leader, Victoriano Ramirez. El Catorce (“the Fourteen”) men called him for a legendary feat — that after breaking out of jail, he single-handedly killed 14 members of a posse sent out to arrest him. With the fame of this legend and a keen grasp of guerrilla tactics, Ramirez rekindled the rebellion in the Los Altos region of Jalisco There he found ready followers; for, not only had Los Altos all along been been the center of the rebellion, but its people had suffered harsh repression by the government. Federal troops had forced the native population to leave their homes and go into concentration camps. In this way the government thought it could keep the peasants from supplying the Cristeros and, moreover, confiscate their food and livestock.
With the rebellion again in full swing, the Liga Defensora decided that the scattered Cristero forces needed coordination and military discipline. They turned thus to a retired general, Enrique Gorostieta y Velarde, to take on overall command of the rebellion. Gorostieta, however, did not embrace the aims of the Cristeros. The mercenary general (he demanded twice the salary a federal general would receive) was a Liberal and a Freemason and mocked the religion for which the Cristeros died. But Gorostieta opposed Calles. His dream, it seems was to establish a truly Liberal republic that enforced separation of Church and state but did not interfere with religious belief or practice.
Believer or not, Gorostieta was an able commander. He turned the ragged bands of Cristeros into a disciplined army. The rebellion that had seemed dead now took on new life. Cristero forces grew to between 40,000 and 50,000 men and throughout 1928 defeated federal forces time and again on the field of battle — and this, despite the fact that the United States was supplying the federals with arms. President Calles thus had no choice but to see the Cristeros for what they were: a serious challenge to his government….
….The year 1928 was an election year, and, as every election year, it witnessed military insurrections against the government. When Calles had crushed these, he proposed that Alvaro Obregón succeed him in the presidency; their plan, it seems, was to take turns holding the office. Obregón easily won the election in the summer of 1928 but never took office. While in a restaurant on July 17, 1928, Obregón agreed to have his portrait drawn. While sketching the president-elect’s portrait, the artist, José de León Toral, took out a gun and shot him in the face. (more…)