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Mexican history is full of revolts and corruption and General José Gonzalo Escobar did his part. He was a "general de division," a very high
rank with many troops and a lot of clout. He was also an idealist for his time, and, just like any other
idealist, he was not going to give up until he got what he sought: change in the Mexican
government. There was a point where Escobar pledged his allegiance to the government and the
president, and he followed through with his promises. Then there was a point when he rebelled.
Escobar was an excellent general who led his troops to victory in several instances. One of those was on February 10,1924 in Ocotlán. General Escobar led government troops in successfully squashing a rebellion. He further demonstrated his loyalty to the Mexican government by not supporting Francisco Murguía's rebellion. With thousands of soldiers, General Escobar fell upon Murguía and his men at Jaguia de Huaraché (near Indé, Durango), and Murguía barely escaped with his life. Another example of General Escobar's strength as a general is against General Hector Ignacio Almada. A group of men at Chapultepec Castle asked General Escobar to combat a group that had revolted under Almada. Escobar took about 2,000 men with him in his pursuit. General Hector Ignacio Almada was making his way to Veracruz with Escobar directly on his heels. Almada only had about 700 men (after October 5th), but he insisted on heading for Perote to meet General Arnulfo R. Gómez. Escobar "hotly" pursued him, and by the 9th of October, Escobar and associates defeated the troops of Gómez, Almada, and Aguilar (who fled soon after) with little difficulty (Dulles 353).
Not only was General Escobar a very effective general, but he was also very resourceful. When Gómez fled, Escobar used his resources and found someone who was providing Gómez with food to tell him where Gómez was hiding. Escobar then captured Gómez in the mountains where he had been hiding with his nephew. The problems started to surface when Calles' term was up for Provisional President, and a new one was needed. Calles warned the military generals who wanted the presidency that it would be a disaster for them, the institution, and the nation if one of them took office. Still, several divisionarios like Escobar had their sights on the position despite Calles' warnings of bloody rebellion (Lieuwen 101). When Calles gave this speech at the inaugural address, Escobar made a point to show support for what the president was saying, and squelch any suspicion against him. "'I think, frankly, we should all have absolute confidence in the president. He knows that I do not have the intention of committing a servile act, but I do consider that he has a political vision much superior to ours, for he is a specialist in political questions. I feel that the president is completely right'" (Dulles 389). This statement was made in response to Calles' remarks about who should secede him in the office. Furthermore, Escobar assured the president that no rebellion would take place by saying the following: "'I wish to make it clear…barrack uprisings have passed into history. The army has been definitely purged of such shameless men'" (Dulles 390). Another action taken by Calles further angered the generals. On his last day in office, December 1, 1928, Calles founded the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR). He wanted to establish a formal code of political succession. This infuriated many people (Lieuwen 101).
Also, during Calles' presidency, there were 21 divisions. Out of those twenty-one, Escobar was one of the most powerful. Escobar was high on Calles' list of dangerous men (Lieuwen 91). According to Calles, Escobar had already accumulated large sums of money in Torreón and Monterrey banks that he ended up using in his revolt.
Even though General Escobar tried to make himself appear as innocent as possible, and nonchalant about the Provisional President situation, people were still uneasy about his intentions. Some people considered Escobar to be disappointed at the fact that he was not being named war minister. To counteract these suspicions, Escobar went on a trip with the new president, Emilio Portes Gil in early February to Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas and expressed his loyalty to Portes Gil. In reality, Escobar was very busy planning a coup d'etat which means to overthrow the government. Plans were starting to form in early December, but Escobar kept delaying because he felt the opportunities were not good enough (Dulles 424).
Meanwhile, General Escobar and other political military officers were recruiting people to join their rebel group. Escobar wrote General Abelardo Rodríquez (governor and military commander of Baja, California) asking him to join, but he was turned down. General Rodríquez said (in his return letter) that he knew Escobar was a "sound and intelligent person, who foresees the sad consequences which a new revolution would have for the country" (Dulles 424). The original plan, according to General Bonifacio Topete, was that Aguirre and Fox planned to go to Mexico City on March 9th and capture Portes Gil, Calles, and Almada. Then they were going to put Escobar in the place of Gil as Provisional President (Dulles 437).
Furthermore, the Plan of Hermosillo (Sonora) refused to recognize the presidency of Porte Gil, or others, who opposed the plan. General Escobar was therefore declared "Supreme Chief of the liberating movement and of the Ejercito Renovadora le Revolución" (Dulles 438). According to Portes Gil's statistics, Escobar was in charge of 3,500 troops in Coahuila in March of 1929 when he revolted (Dulles 442). On March 3,1929, Escobar wired Portes Gil to prove his "allegiance" once again. Afterwards, he took his men and attacked Monterrey. People thought that he was fighting on behalf of the Mexican government and that General Juan Andreú Almazán was actually the one who was rebelling. These instance shows how effective General Escobar was at throwing off blame on other people by the way he carried out his plans. At this time, Almazán was in Veracruz fighting the rebels, and Escobar took Monterrey easily.
In the beginning of the rebellion, Escobar and Topete said that their rebels had control of nine states including the following: Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, Coahuila, Nayarit, Zacatecas, Jalisco, Veracruz, and Oaxaca (Dulles 443). As Supreme Chief of Ejercito Renovadora, Escobar issued two decrees: 1. No re-election and 2. revocation of laws that regulated religious worship. The second decree immensely pleased the clergy and the Cristeros. Escobar also established a number of consulates in cities in the United States. This action, later, turned into one of the downfalls in his rebellion. The city of Jiménez was a big loss for the escobaristas (followers of Escobar). Although they had successfully destroyed the railroad and made it very difficult for the federal troops to cross the water, the rebels still lost about 6000 men. After this fight, Escobar fled north, and on his way he picked up 2000 more men.
The Escobar Rebellion is also known as "the Railroad and Banking Rebellion." On May 22, 1929, General Calles resigned his position from the War Department to return to private life (Dulles 457). The results of this rebellion were devastating to the Mexican nation as a whole. Portes Gil stated an estimate of the cost as 13,800,000 pesos. The destruction of railways and trains, sacking of banks, etc. cost an additional 25 million pesos (Dulles 457). The nation experienced a loss of about 2000 people to death, including 2-3 rebel generals. Porte Gil says the rest, "'enriched at the cost of the nation and truly responsible for this new shame in our history…'" (Dulles 457). Although Escobar's putsch was defeated, it paved the way for financial catastrophe in Mexico. They started to experience a petroleum crisis, a textile crisis, political uncertainty, and etc. (Meyer 64). Escobar's Rebellion cost the Mexican government an extra 100 million. Thirty million of those amounts went in additional payments to the army.
To conclude, the 1929 rebellion was far more serious than the rebellion of 1927. About one third of the government's officers, and about 30,000 troops rebelled. All of these rebels were under the command of General José Gonzalo Escobar. In two and half months, more than 2,000 people died. One reason why so many of the federal generals revolted is because they felt slighted by Calles' appointments. The generals (rebels) opposed this and other forms of Calles' tyranny. That is why they decided to launch a revolt (Lieuwen 103). The rebels might have had a good victory if the United States had not aided the government with munitions and combat planes (Magner 543). Even Portes Gil said the rebels had "almost 30,000 well-equipped men" (Dulles 442). To further emphasize how well-equipped they actually were, General Calles made the following statement: "'When the rebellion broke out, 22 battalions, one regional fixed company, and 21 Calvary regiments…were apparently removed from the authority of the government'" (Dulles 442). In other words, Escobar did an outstanding job of recruiting experienced officials. After this defeat, the political generals of the revolution were never again able to mount a serious challenge to the central authorities (Lieuwen 103-104).
Dulles, John W. F. Yesterday in Mexico: A Chronicle of the Revolution, 1919-1936.
Lieuwen, Edwin. Mexican Militarism: The Political Rise and Fall of the Revolutionary Army, 1910-1940.
Magner, James A. Men of Mexico.