The Mexican Revolution: Conflict and Consolidation, 1910-1940

The Mexican Revolution: Conflict and Consolidation, 1910-1940

by Douglas W. Richmond

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In 1910 insurgent leaders crushed the Porfirian dictatorship, but in the years that followed fought among themselves, until a nationalist consensus produced the 1917 Constitution. This in turn provided the basis for a reform agenda that transformed Mexico in the modern era. The civil war and the reforms that followed receive new and insightful attention in this


In 1910 insurgent leaders crushed the Porfirian dictatorship, but in the years that followed fought among themselves, until a nationalist consensus produced the 1917 Constitution. This in turn provided the basis for a reform agenda that transformed Mexico in the modern era. The civil war and the reforms that followed receive new and insightful attention in this book.

These essays, the result of the 45th annual Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures, presented by the University of Texas at Arlington in March 2010, commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of the revolution.

A potent mix of factors—including the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few thousand hacienda owners, rancheros, and foreign capitalists; the ideological conflict between the Diaz government and the dissident regional reformers; and the grinding poverty afflicting the majority of the nation’s eleven million industrial and rural laborers—provided the volatile fuel that produced the first major political and social revolution of the twentieth century. The conflagration soon swept across the Rio Grande; indeed, The Mexican Revolution shows clearly that the struggle in Mexico had tremendous implications for the American Southwest. During the years of revolution, hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens crossed the border into the United States. As a result, the region experienced waves of ethnically motivated violence, economic tensions, and the mass expulsions of Mexicans and US citizens of Mexican descent.

Editorial Reviews

Doctor - Samuel Brunk
“Plainly written and full of interesting detail, this book, produced in commemoration of the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, distills a great deal of valuable scholarship. It is especially strong on the borderlands region and Mexican-U.S. relations, but it has something for everyone interested in the revolutionary process, from the origins of the conflict through the trials of institutionalization.” – Samuel Brunk, Professor of History at the University of Texas, El Paso and author of The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata: Myth, Memory, and Mexico’s Twentieth Century
Doctor - Andrew Grant Wood
“Paying special attention to the northern borderlands perspective, The Mexican Revolution keenly interrogates Greater Mexican society at a time of formidable change. Richmond and Haynes have assembled a sterling collection.”—Dr. Andrew Grant Wood, Rutland Professor of American History at the University of Tulsa
Dr. Samuel Brunk

“Plainly written and full of interesting detail, this book, produced in commemoration of the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, distills a great deal of valuable scholarship. It is especially strong on the borderlands region and Mexican-US relations, but it has something for everyone interested in the revolutionary process, from the origins of the conflict through the trials of institutionalization.”–Samuel Brunk, Professor of History, University of Texas--El Paso, and author, The Posthumous Career of Emiliano Zapata: Myth, Memory, and Mexico’s Twentieth Century
Dr. Andrew Grant Wood

“Paying special attention to the northern borderlands perspective, The Mexican Revolution keenly interrogates Greater Mexican society at a time of formidable change. Richmond and Haynes have assembled a sterling collection.”—Andrew Grant Wood, Rutland Professor of American History, University of Tulsa
Choice Magazine - J. B. Kirkwood

" [The Mexican Revolution] is highly recommended. The breadth of issues will appeal to graduate students and professionals" -- J. B. Kirkwood, Colby-Sawyer College

Product Details

Texas A&M University Press
Publication date:
Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures, published for the University of Texas at Arlington by Texas A&M University Press , #44
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.00(d)

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The Mexican Revolution

Conflict and Consolidation, 1910â"1940

By Douglas W. Richmond, Sam W. Haynes

Texas A&M University Press

Copyright © 2013 University of Texas at Arlington
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60344-955-7


Decade of Disorder

The Execution of León Martínez Jr. and Mexican/Anglo Race Relations in Texas during the First Four Years of the Mexican Revolution

Nicholas Villanueva Jr.

I listened again to this list with a profound interest at the mixture of names, for the names bear the marks of the several national stocks from which these men came. But they are not Irishmen or Germans or Frenchmen or Hebrews any more. They were not when they went to Veracruz; they were Americans, every one of them, and were no different in their Americanism because of the stock from which they came.

On May 11, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson read this tribute to the nineteen servicemen who had been killed in action at the Mexican port of Veracruz weeks earlier. A memorial procession bearing the dead soldiers traveled through the streets of New York City. The parade of vehicles passed one million onlookers, and cities across the country conducted their own ceremonies of honor. In concluding statements Wilson announced, "We have gone down to Mexico ... to serve mankind."

In Pecos, Texas, on that very day, a ceremony of a different type occurred. Citizens came to the county seat to witness the execution of León Martínez Jr., a Mexican teenager, for the murder of Emma Brown, a young Anglo woman. Newspaper reporters across Texas had followed the case for nearly three years. Citizens had voiced concerns about the inferiority of Mexican migrants and the increasing number of undesirable aliens entering the country. A racial order that privileged Anglos over Mexicans had long existed in Texas, but new developments were threatening to further reduce the number of Mexicans. The presence of anarchists and "un-American activity" among some people of Mexican descent increased Anglo hatred during the decade of the Mexican Revolution. Anglos viewed these men and women as uncivilized and intellectually inferior. The influx of more migrants into Texas during this decade further intensified Anglo abhorrence of Mexicans, who became increasingly vulnerable to verbal and physical attacks. This case study of León Martínez Jr. provides a window into the life of one such ill-fated Mexican.

Wilson's speech identified the Irish and the Jewish soldiers as US citizens who had given their lives at Veracruz, and he welcomed them into the North American family. The status of Mexican immigrants, by contrast, remained uncertain. Large numbers of Mexican laborers came to the United States in the first two decades of the twentieth century and became more visible to Anglos in border states like Texas. During the 1910s, Mexican refugees fled to the United States, particularly Texas. When the United States verged on war with Mexico in 1914, US troops along the border clashed with rebels, and Texas Rangers, border patrolmen, and North American servicemen lost their lives. At odds with native-born Texans, Mexicans during these tumultuous years appeared dangerous, and many questioned their national allegiance.

After the murder of Emma Brown, Anglos considered Martínez a sexual predator of Anglo women, one who could not control himself because of his savage roots. The jury dehumanized Martínez Jr. and convicted him of murder. In the local papers, journalists portrayed Martínez as a brute. His father, deemed a Mexican radical, linked the family with anarchist factions of the revolution, which threatened people both in Texas and abroad. During the final weeks of Martínez's life, US and Mexican diplomatic relations became strained, and newspapers posted warnings in border towns that Mexican rebels posed a threat to the locals. This study of the Martínez case raises more questions about the fate of ethnic Mexicans living in Texas during the early years of the Mexican Revolution: Were Mexicans falsely accused of crimes? Did they receive equal treatment under the law? Was Martínez innocent but unable to receive a fair trial in this hostile environment? To Anglo Texans, Martínez appeared as an enemy, and over the course of three years his image worsened as the Mexican Revolution intensified.

The Murder of Emma Brown

Martínez was born in the state of Durango, Mexico, in 1896. His parents, León Sr. and Sidra, also had a younger son named Manuel. As a youth, Martínez Jr. attended El Paso public schools. His father spoke English and Spanish and reared his son in Texas, while Sidra and Manuel remained in Durango. Neither father nor son applied for naturalization papers. The Martínezes left El Paso when young León became old enough to work. They moved to Toyah, a West Texas town in Reeves County eighty miles north of the US and Mexico border. Toyah was "a typical railroad town composed almost entirely of saloons and restaurants ... a rendezvous for gamblers ... a town in which six-shooters, shotguns and dirks [long, straight-bladed daggers] were standard equipment and carried ready for use at any time." Martínez Sr. worked for a Spanish-language newspaper, and his son was employed in a neighboring town at the Saragossa Mercantile Company, owned by Floyd Crenshaw. The mercantile company hosted a warehouse, a US post office, a Western Union office, and a general store. An intelligent youth who spoke Spanish and English, Martínez Jr. worked in both the general store and the post office. His appearance was that of a lighter-skinned Mexican, not that of most Mexican migrants, who had darker complexions. The week before the murder, the young boy met twenty-six-year-old schoolteacher Emma Brown.

Brown had traveled from her home in Austin, Texas, to Saragossa in June 1911 to spend the summer with her sister, Mrs. H. C. Cooper. On the afternoon of July 22, 1911, after picking up supplies from the Saragossa Mercantile Company, she traveled back to her sister's home, east of Saragossa. Her four-mile trip stretched alongside the limestone foothills of the Davis Mountains. Her path crossed a pasture belonging to "Stump" Robbins, a pioneer rancher of Reeves County, who later found her body. Beyond the pasture the path entered a valley with fields of grass four to five feet high. Travelers of this half-mile stretch were hardly visible from the surrounding area, and it was here that Brown's murder occurred.

The physical evidence collected at the scene provided enough information to retell the events as follows. Hoofprints from the murderer's horse indicated that the attacker came toward her from the east, not from Saragossa. The tracks from her buggy reached almost to the top of the valley, where they collided with those of the single horse. An abrupt change in the direction the buggy took indicated that something or someone had startled the woman. The tracks ran back and forth throughout the hidden valley. Bullet holes punctured the rear of the buggy, and one had pierced Brown. After falling from her only means of escape, her attacker had stabbed her several times in the chest. Emma Brown died in that field, lying face up to the stars all night, until ranchers discovered her body the following morning.

The discovery of the young woman's body shocked the townspeople and prompted an immediate search for the killer. Several people had seen an unusual individual having an intimate conversation with the young woman on the morning of the murder. That person was León Martínez Jr., who became the first and only suspect of this crime. Martínez owned a pistol, had the use of his employer's horses, and, most damaging of all, was seen by shoppers at the general store speaking with Brown on the day of her murder. Someone alleged that the two were planning a private rendezvous. Both legal and extralegal forces began hunting for Martínez. He was easy to find, as he did not run or hide. He continued his weekly routine, and on Sunday afternoon, the day after the murder, he saw his boss, Floyd Crenshaw, traveling toward town. Crenshaw stopped Martínez and informed him that a young woman had been found murdered several miles from Saragossa. When Crenshaw asked whether he knew anything about the murder, Martínez denied any knowledge of it. The boy continued on his way to a watermelon patch, and while he was eating a melon, a group of men surrounded him.

Pecos merchant Jim Mayfield led the posse, which grew in number as the evening progressed. The men demanded that the boy confess to the crime. When Martínez protested his innocence, the angry mob threatened to hang him if he did not confess. The distraught boy cried for his mother and father to help him, and Mayfield responded, "You are not worthy of it." Martínez confessed after the men promised not to hang him until Sheriff Brown arrived. Upon his arrival, Brown took the boy to the Pecos jail, where he ordered Martínez to confess, failing which the sheriff would release him to the men waiting for him outside. As dawn approached, District Attorney Will P. Brady held up a written confession to the crowd outside the jail. The events of that evening were not introduced at Martínez's trial as evidence, only the signed confession.

Two conflicting stories developed from the written confession and an interview with an El Paso reporter. The first story came from Martínez's signed confession, made on the night of his arrest. It stated that on Saturday morning, the previous day, Martínez and Brown had met at Crenshaw's shop. He was working at the time, and the two had had a conversation in which the young Anglo woman had promised Martínez sex, an unusual move for a young lady of that time. Later that afternoon around 4:00 P.M., they met two miles outside of town. Martínez, the confession claimed, had asked her to keep her promise, but she refused his advances and shouted, "You son-of-a-bitch, I am going to have you arrested." He said that was not necessary and that he only wanted her to do what they had planned. She stood up in her buggy, told him she would kill him, and then reached for her hip. Alarmed by this, Martínez pulled his weapon out and shot her in the chest. He returned to Saragossa, ate supper, and went back to Crenshaw's shop to do his evening stocking.

It is difficult to determine the validity of a confession by someone who was the target of a lynch mob one hundred years ago. Quite often an alleged criminal who was sought by a posse of men believed that a confession to the sheriff was the only option for safety. Since Martínez was a young boy, this might have been the case. Historian Paul J. Vanderwood provides a rich analysis of the making of a Mexican folk saint in Tijuana, Mexico, who may have suffered the same fate. In his account of the execution of Juan Soldado, Vanderwood states, "It was said that more than anything else he feared being turned over to the mob, of literally being torn apart, limb by limb, kicked and trampled, by enraged townspeople." Only six months prior to Martínez's arrest, a young Mexican migrant worker was burned alive by a mob for allegedly killing a rancher's wife. This story made local, national, and international news because of subsequent riots in Mexican cities. Martínez knew that, if handed over to the mob, death would be certain.

The second story developed from an interview by an unnamed reporter who accompanied Sheriff J. F. Franks of Caldwell County, where Martínez was moved in late August 1911. In this interview Martínez stated, "It is not true that I am eighteen years old. I was born in 1896. I did not kill Emma Brown." He reported that he had first learned of the murder from a Mexican man shortly before the authorities arrived and arrested him. He knew Brown from the store and admitted to loading her buggy with her purchases. However, he argued that he could prove he was not with her that afternoon. If time permitted before his trial, he could have found witnesses who saw him at Crenshaw's shop all day. When the reporter asked Martínez how he felt about his death sentence, he replied, "Gee whiz, I felt bad." The interviewer commented that the accused was "small in stature, about four feet ten inches in height, weighs 116 pounds, and seems very youthful ... smiles often, and answers readily all questions. He speaks English perfectly." These two conflicting stories went unresolved, and the majority of Anglos preferred the confession over the interview.

Shortly before midnight on Sunday, Reeves County Court Judge S. J. Isaacks learned of the murder of Miss Brown and the arrest of the young Mexican boy. The county court had recessed, and Judge Isaacks was at his home in Midland, about one hundred miles east of Pecos. Sheriff Brown informed Isaacks that, because anger toward the murderer was growing, Isaacks needed to depart immediately. In the early morning hours Isaacks boarded a train for Pecos, where he arrived shortly after dawn. He went directly to the Oriental Hotel, which was owned by his friend F. W. Johnson and a gathering spot for the county's elite. Isaacks and Johnson met with the district attorney and two of the wealthiest men in Pecos, W. D. Cowan and B. R. Stein, vice presidents of the local bank and financiers of the newly chartered Pecos Valley Southern Railroad. Their order of business was to discuss the "excited condition" and "threatening attitude of the citizenship" toward Martínez and to determine what would be in the best interest and promote the safety of the town. They decided that Sheriff Brown should escort Martínez to a jail in Midland, where the latter would remain until the trial began. This was the only time in his official career that Isaacks sent a prisoner from his own county jail to another for protection.

On Monday, July 24, 1911, Isaacks convened a special session of the court in Pecos. The order he issued stated that the unusual and urgent procedure was necessary because "a horrible murder had been committed." By the end of the day, he had summoned a grand jury and secured an indictment for murder. Isaacks notified Sheriff Brown that a murder trial would take place on Friday, July, 28 1911. Confined in the Midland jail, Martínez did not meet with his defense attorneys until hours before the trial. Two attorneys were selected by Isaacks to defend the Mexican boy: George Estes, a former district attorney from El Paso, Texas, and R. L. Parker, a former Reeves County judge and friend of Judge Isaacks. The trial began Friday morning, with Martínez entering a plea of not guilty. The prosecution read Martínez's signed confession but omitted the statement that indicated that the accused was only fifteen years old. Before noon on Saturday, July 29, 1911, the jury returned a guilty verdict and sentenced Martínez to death.

Judge Isaacks gave the defense until 3:30 P.M. to prepare a motion for a new trial. Isaacks ordered Texas Rangers to escort Martínez back to the county jail in Midland while his attorneys went to Parker's office and prepared an appeal. Since the irate citizens wanted an execution, it is unclear what prompted Estes and Parker to appeal. The court documents have no record of a request by Martínez, but months later the boy stated that his father had asked for an appeal because there should have been a change of venue. Martínez's Anglo attorneys possibly believed they had to do everything in their power to defend their client; Parker was a former judge and Estes a former district attorney. The news that these men were attempting to save the convicted teen spread rapidly. Shortly before 3:30 P.M. Estes and Parker left for the courthouse to file an appeal with Judge Isaacks. Meanwhile, F. W. Johnson, Jim Mayfield, and Sheriff Brown met with Cowan and Stein at the bank to gather up a group of men whose purpose was to prevent an appeal. Johnson reported that from the front door of the bank he could see Parker and Estes going toward the courthouse. The angry men shouted for the attorneys to stop. The mob met them "one hundred and fifty feet from the court house door." Fifty men, including several that had served on the jury, stood between Martínez's attorneys and the courthouse. Jim Mayfield, who had been present the night of the arrest and had also threatened to hang Martínez personally if he did not confess, was one of the many elite citizens of Reeves County challenging the attorneys.

The local justice of the peace, A. W. Hosie, stepped up onto a box and shouted that the crowd would not permit an appeal. Hosie, born of Scots-Irish immigrants, had a reputation in Reeves County as roughneck fighter. Parker became concerned about the safety of the people of Pecos. Months later he stated, "I felt that if they undertook to take the Mexican from the rangers, some of them [citizens and Rangers] would get killed ... and we could not well scrap a whole county, or what looked like a whole county to us at the time."


Excerpted from The Mexican Revolution by Douglas W. Richmond, Sam W. Haynes. Copyright © 2013 University of Texas at Arlington. Excerpted by permission of Texas A&M University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

DOUGLAS W. RICHMOND is professor emeritus in history at the University of Texas at Arlington. He received his PhD from the University of Washington.
SAM W. HAYNES is a professor of history and director of the Center for Greater Southwestern Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. His PhD is from the University of Houston.

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