On January 23rd, author Raymond Caballero brings us his Orozco: The Life and Death of a Mexican Revolutionary, a rare look at a little understood but major player in the Mexican Revolution. We couldn’t wait for the big event, so we finagled a preview…
Eric Larkin – What’s your background, and what brought you to study Pascual Orozco and the Mexican Revolution?
Raymond Caballero – By profession, I’m a lawyer, but I’ve always been interested in Mexican history with a focus on the revolution in Chihuahua. Chihuahua was the hot spot for the first or Madero phase of the revolution. It was natural that I would be interested since I grew up in El Paso, which was an important site for the revolution, and my parents’ families emigrated from Chihuahua during that time.
EL – The Mexican Revolution is really complex. Can you compare it in scope to other revolutions, like in France and the U.S.? How much did it change the country?
RC – Like the French and Russian, the Mexican revolution was political, economic, social, and clerical, thus, it implicated great change, and violence. Mexico had substantial reforms in the mid-1800s, in the time of Benito Juárez, but many of those reforms were rolled back during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz. Mexico, in fact, underwent several revolutions during its fight for independence from Spain, during the Juárez reform era and finally in the revolution of 1910. So, Mexico underwent huge changes in each of those. Perhaps the most enduring change has involved becoming a secular state which meant that the state became involved in education. Another would be civilian control over the military. Of course, there were other large changes.
EL – Is it true that Chihuahua was especially important as a place of origin for some of the more significant leaders?
RC – Chihuahua was the first place where the revolution was fought to success and that ended the dictatorship. Thus, it was natural that homegrown Chihuahua leaders were the most important military leaders of that phase of the revolution. They included Pascual Orozco and Pancho Villa to name just two.
EL – Without giving away all the gritty details you’ve included in Orozco, can you tell us briefly who Pascual Orozco was and why he was important?
RC – Orozco started out as a mule skinner, a transporter of goods in the rugged Sierra Madre, where he developed a regional reputation for valor. He was a natural leader who attracted a large following. He hated the abusive local political leadership and was quick to get involved in the revolution to depose not only the national government but the local jefes as well. From a small nucleus of friends and family in his home village, his army grew to one of thousands, then defeated the dictator in key battles in Chihuahua. Deposing the Díaz dictatorship made him a national hero and idol.
EL – Why is Orozco less well-known than some of the other significant leaders, like Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata?
RC – One reason would be that in one year he went from being an idol to a traitor when he rebelled against President Madero in early 1912. So, he was a hero for a little over a year and a traitor for the rest of his brief life that ended in August 1915. Villa and Zapata lasted longer, and neither betrayed the revolution the way Orozco did. Once he was branded as traitor, history seems to have ignored Orozco as a subject for biographies, although he is often mentioned in the literature.
We’ll see you Tuesday, January 23rd at 8pm.