Excellent General or Terrible Tyrant?
by Josh Burnham
Victoriano Huerta, a native of Colotlán, Mexico, was born on March 23, 1854.
Victoriano, born of a mestizo father and an Indian mother, was neither prestigious nor
influential by birth. In the 20th century and the 19th century, being an Indian often made life
hard. Most Indians were poor and very few made a name for themselves. However, Huerta
grew up in school and was educated at a young age. He was a very bright student and
excelled in his fields of study when he was young. According to one source, "he excelled in
astronomy and mathematics at the Military College and was also skilled as an engineer,
cartographer, surveyor and railroad specialist" (Jim Tuck). Even compared to today's society,
Victoriano was well educated. Being of Indian decent did not affect his intelligence or
education in the slightest way. For most of his life, Huerta had been infatuated with the
military. When he was just fifteen years of age, Huerta volunteered, as a personal secretary
for a general, Donato Guerra in the Mexican army. With the help of General Guerra, Huerta was enrolled at the
Military College of Chapultepec (Kohout). While a cadet at the military academy, Huerta
quickly distinguished himself from the other cadets (Kohout). Also upon his graduation in
1877, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and assigned to
head a team of engineers building and repairing fortifications.
Huerta began to establish himself as a great military mind and great leader among his
troops. Later, Porfirio Diaz promoted Huerta to General. This was very gratifying for Huerta
who greatly admired Diaz, who was also of Indian decent. While serving for Porfirio Diaz,
Victoriano met a lovely lady by the name of Emilia Aguila. They ended up falling in love and
eventually had eleven children together. While a general under Diaz, Huerta once again
distinguished himself from the rest of his peers by his victories in numerous campaigns against
local indigenous groups. Victoriano, being of Indian decent, did not prevent him from
suppressing local indigenous uprisings with the utmost ruthlessness
Victoriano was a great general and military leader. By studying other great
leaders in history he became a brilliant military genius. By 1890, Huerta had achieved the rank
of colonel. He was promptly sent to Mexico City and received a permanent staff position
there. Just three years later, being the military genius that he was, Huerta was sent to the city
of Guerrero to put down a rebellion there. After the rebellion was suppressed Huerta returned
to Mexico City. In 1900, seven years after the rebellion in Guerrero, Victoriano was sent to
again put down a rebellion of Indians in the city of Sonora. One year later he was called upon
to suppress the Maya Indians. While engaged with the Mayans, Huerta developed cataracts,
which never went away. While achieving a high rank in the military, and becoming very
influential, Huerta was still not satisfied with the power he had.
In 1913, Huerta "overthrew president Madero and assumed control of the
government" (Mexico connect). Huerta then placed the former president Madero on trial but
never had the chance to try him because Madero was mysteriously gunned down while being
transferred to prison. Woodrow Wilson refused to recognize the government established by Huerta after the execution. The
state of Mexico under Huerta was one of rebellion and terror. While acting as president,
Victoriano was constantly fighting rebellions in North headed by
Pancho Villa. Huerta's rule
was a very bloody one, "eighty-four congressmen were imprisoned, several were murdered,
and a courageous federal senator from Chiapas, Belisario Dominguez, was taken into a
garden and shot after denouncing Huerta's tyranny" (Tuck). Huerta kept himself in power by
destroying all uprisings that would occur. He also controlled the local people by installing a
police force that would carry out his orders and dispel any rebellions that might happen.
These so-called "police" force were notorious for using force and flood shed against the
locals. Along with the many uprising from northern Mexico, Huerta also had another enemy.
The United States government never liked the government under Huerta. They asked Huerta
to give an open election to ensure democracy. Conceding to their demands an election was
held but Victoriano declared the election void and appointed himself president. Woodrow
Wilson was opposed to Huerta being the ruler of Mexico and allied himself with the enemies
of Huerta. The U.S. blocked the export of weapons to Mexico. The United States even
"dispatched U.S. troops to occupy the key Mexican port of Veracruz in April 1914, cutting
off Huerta from an important source of revenue and a location for importing arms" (MSN
Encarta). Later the U.S. partially lifted the blockade of weapons but only to the adversaries
of Huerta. Feeling pressure from the United States and other rebellions headed by Pancho
Villa Huerta resigned on July 15, 1914.
Victoriano Huerta was then exiled from Mexico and moved to his family to Barcelona,
Spain. In 1915 Huerta moved to the United States, the very country that was opposed to his
rule. This was during World War I but the U.S had not yet entered the conflict. While in the
U.S, Huerta began to conspire with the German government. Germany promised Victoriano
Huerta around $900,000 and arms to try to set up a pro-German government in Mexico.
Huerta and his associates then moved their regime to Texas to be closer to Mexico and closer
to implementing their plans. But the United States intercepted the conspiracy plans of Huerta
and Germany. Huerta was arrested and placed in a jail near El Paso. Huerta's influence on
politics and Mexico was all but finished.
Victoriano Huerta had a long history of alcohol abuse. Pancho Villa, a long time
enemy of Huerta referred to him as "El Borrachito" or little drunkard (Tuck). Also "a joke
circulating was that Huerta's two best foreign friends were named Hennessy and Martel"
(Tuck). After his imprisonment by the United States, Huerta's drinking became more
profuse. During a routine gall-bladder operation, it was found that he had cirrhosis of the
liver. On January 13, 1916, Victoriano Huerta died of complications due to cirrhosis of
the liver. After many years of drinking, his habit had finally taken its toll on his body.
Victoriano Huerta was a brilliant military mind. Born of a poor mestizo family,
through many opportunities and circumstances he overcame many obstacles in making
himself a prominent general and eventually president. Growing up, Huerta was well
educated and very opportunistic. An excellent professional soldier, he also excelled in
mathematics and was a highly trained engineer. Although a better general than a president,
his life left a lasting impression on the history of Mexico. Sometimes called a villain and
other times called a drunk, no one can deny the brilliance of Huerta.
"Mexican Revolution," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2003
© 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Jim Tuck,"USURPER: THE DARK SHADOW OF VICTORIANO HUERTA,"
Martin Donell Kohout, "Victoriano Huerta,"
Dec. 4, 2002. The Texas State Historical Association.