The Cristero War (or Revolution as some call it), also La Cristiada, is extremely significant to us because the causes and consequences of the conflict led to the downfall of the fortunes of the Martin-Del-Campo Clan and many of its closest relations. The family and its connections had been secure & very prosperous in Mexico for over three hundred years, and not even the great War of Independence (1810-1821) or La Revolución of 1910-1920 harmed the traditional family structure as did the Cristero War and the liberal-socialistic governments that followed.
Thus a grand old tradition came to an end, surviving only in individual cases to the present day, but it just isn't what it used to be. Furthermore, the descendants of Jose Martin-Del-Campo (1898-1936) had it the worst since he was deemed the pariah of the family, and his progeny were proscribed and humiliated for carrying his blood.
It is important therefore to read about this terrible civil conflict and understand the causes which led individuals like our grandparents and relations to choose up sides, thus incurring the consequences of being on the losing side:
The Cristero War (also known as the Cristiada) of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government of the time, set off by religious persecution of Catholics, specifically the strict enforcement of the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and the expansion of further anti-clerical laws. Regarding this period, recent President Vicente Fox stated, "After 1917, Mexico was led by anti-Catholic Freemasons who tried to evoke the anticlerical spirit of popular indigenous President Benito Juarez of the 1880s. But the military dictators of the 1920s were a more savage lot than Juárez. At first the Martins and other families adjusted to the new social order, but the secular-socialistic basis of reforms and changes then threatened the provincial way of life our antecedents were accustomed to.
After a period of peaceful resistance, a number of skirmishes took place in 1926. The formal rebellions began on January 1, 1927 with the rebels calling themselves Cristeros because they felt they were fighting for Christ himself. Just as the Cristeros began to hold their own against the federal forces, the rebellion was ended by diplomatic means, brokered by the U.S.Ambassador Whitney Morrow.
But not before calamity had befallen some of our relations who had sided, given aid and comfort to the rebels, which included Grandfather Jose.
The 1917 Constitution of Mexico, resulting from the Mexican Revolution and a previous constitution instituted by Benito Juárez in 1857 (1857 Constitution of Mexico), sought to secularize the country and remove the influence of the Catholic Church through restrictions on the clergy's political activities. Other policies included the expulsion of foreign clergy and the seizure of Church properties. This was very bad for our family because it had served, and had long-established relations with the Church going back centuries.
All religions, not only the Catholic Church, had their properties appropriated and these became part of government wealth. Article 27 prohibited any future acquisition of such property by the churches, and ordered the closing of all church-run primary schools (article 4). This second prohibition was sometimes interpreted to mean that the Church could not even give religious instruction to children within the churches on Sundays, effectively destroying the ability of Catholics to be educated in their own religion. This was particularly devastating to Jalisienses because it was the Church's main region of influence and support.
The Constitution of 1917 also closed and forbade the existence of monastic orders (article 5), forbade any religious activity outside of church buildings (now owned by the government), and mandated that such religious activity would be overseen by the government (article 24).
Again, this spelled calamity for our family because many members had taken vows, and were thus thrust unto a secular society they were unprepared to meet.
Article 130 of the new Constitution also allowed the government to restrict the number of functioning clergy. In some states, such as Michoacán, this power would be used to restrict the number of priests to the point that the Church effectively could not function.
The same article deprived priests and bishops of the right to vote, to criticize government policy, and to create any form of political organization. Oddly enough, many Martin-Del-Campos were involved in politics, and had always supported conservative causes.
The government's anti-Catholic position extended to secularizing place names, but this trend had begun in 1857.
When the anti-clerical measures were enacted in 1917, the President of Mexico was Venustiano Carranza. Carranza was eventually overthrown by his one-time ally Álvaro Obregón in 1919, who succeeded to the presidency in late 1920. Although he shared Carranza's anti-clerical sentiments, he applied the measures selectively, only in areas where Catholic sentiment was weakest.
This saved the family for the time being.
This uneasy "truce" between the government and the Church ended with the 1924 election of Plutarco Elías Calles, a strident atheist.
Calles applied the anti-clerical laws stringently throughout the country and added his own anti-clerical legislation. In June 1926, he signed the "Law for Reforming the Penal Code", known unofficially as the "Calles Law". This provided specific penalties for priests and individuals who violated the provisions of the 1917 Constitution. For instance, wearing clerical garb in public (i.e., outside Church buildings) earned a fine of 500 pesos (approximately 250 U.S. dollars at the time); a priest who criticized the government could be imprisoned for five years. Some states enacted oppressive measures. Chihuahua, for example, enacted a law permitting only a single priest to serve the entire Catholic congregation of the state. Calles seized church property, expelled all foreign priests, and closed the monasteries, convents and religious schools.
For the Martin-Del-Campos and their closest relations, this proved to be the ''apocalypse.''
In response to these measures, Catholic organizations began to intensify their resistance. The most important of these groups was the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, founded in 1924. This was joined by the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth (founded 1913) and the Popular Union, a Catholic political party founded in 1925.
On July 11, 1926, the Mexican bishops voted to suspend all public worship in Mexico in response to the Calles Law. This suspension was to take place on August 1. On July 14, they endorsed plans for an economic boycott against the government, which was particularly effective in west-central Mexico (the states of Jalisco, Guanajuato,Aguascalientes, Zacatecas). Catholics in these areas stopped attending movies and plays and using public transportation, and Catholic teachers stopped teaching in secular schools.
However, the boycott collapsed by October 1926, in large part for lack of support among wealthy Catholics, who were themselves losing money because of the boycott. The wealthy were generally disliked because of this, and their reputation was worsened when they paid the federal army for protection and called on the police to break the picket lines. Naturally, this directly affected our ancestors because this boycott denigrated their fortunes, and Grandfather Jose definitely chose business over religion to keep his entrprises going.
The Catholic bishops meanwhile worked to have the offending articles of the Constitution amended. Pope Pius XI explicitly approved this means of resistance. The Calles government considered the bishops' activism seditious behavior and had many churches closed. In September the episcopate submitted a proposal for the amendment of the constitution, but the Congress rejected it on September 22, 1926.
In Guadalajara, Jalisco, on August 3, 1926, some 400 armed Catholics shut themselves up in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were involved in a shootout with federal troops and surrendered only when they ran out of ammunition. According to U.S. consular sources, this battle resulted in 18 dead and 40 injured.
The following day, August 4, in Sahuayo, Michoacán, 240 government soldiers stormed the parish church. The parish priest and his vicar were killed in the ensuing violence. On August 14, government agents staged a purge of the Chalchihuites, Zacatecas, chapter of the Association of Catholic Youth and executed their spiritual adviser Father Luis Bátiz Sainz. This execution caused a band of ranchers, led by Pedro Quintanar, to seize the local treasury and declare themselves in rebellion. At the height of their rebellion, they held a region including the entire northern part of Jalisco.
Luis Navarro Origel, the mayor of Pénjamo, Guanajuato, led another uprising beginning on September 28. His men were defeated by federal troops in the open land around the town but retreated into the mountains, where they continued as guerrillas. This was followed by an uprising in Durango led by Trinidad Mora on September 29 and an October 4 rebellion in southern Guanajuato, led by former general Rodolfo Gallegos. Both of these rebel leaders adopted guerrilla tactics, as they were no match for the federal troops and airforce on open ground.
Meanwhile, the rebels in Jalisco (particularly the region northeast of Guadalajara) quietly began gathering forces. This region became the main focal point of the rebellion led by 27-year-old René Capistrán Garza, leader of the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth.
The formal rebellion began on January 1, 1927 with a manifesto sent by Garza on New Year's Day, titled A la Nación (To the Nation). This declared that "the hour of battle has sounded" and "the hour of victory belongs to God". With the declaration, the state of Jalisco, which had seemed to be quiet since the Guadalajara church uprising, exploded. Bands of rebels moving in the "Los Altos" region northeast of Guadalajara began seizing villages, often armed with only ancient muskets and clubs. The Cristeros' battle cry was ¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ("Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!"). The rebels were an unusual army in that they had no logistical supplies, and relied heavily on raids to towns, trains and ranches in order to supply themselves with money, horses, ammunition and food.
Thus the Martin-Del-Campos and their closest relations were involved up to their eyes in the resistance movement.
The Calles government did not take the threat very seriously at first. The rebels did well against the agraristas (a rural militia recruited throughout Mexico) and the Social Defense forces (local militia), but were always defeated by the federal troops who guarded the important cities. At this time, the federal army numbered 79,759 men. When Jalisco federal commander General Jesús Ferreira moved on the rebels, he calmly stated that "it will be less a campaign than a hunt."
However, these rebels, who had had no previous military experience for the most part, planned their battles well. The most successful rebel leaders were Jesús Degollado (a pharmacist), Victoriano Ramírez (a ranch hand), and two priests, Aristeo Pedroza and José Reyes Vega. At least five priests took up arms, while many more supported them in various ways.
Recent scholarship suggests that for many Cristeros, religious motivations for rebellion were reinforced by other political and material concerns. Participants in the uprising often came from rural communities that had suffered from the government's land reform policies since 1920, or otherwise felt threatened by recent political and economic changes. Many agraristas and other government supporters were also fervent Catholics.
At this point, Grandfather José, torn between Faith and material concerns, as the legend goes, made the fateful choice to play both sides; a decision which would have devastating consequences, and lead to his ruin and ultimate assassination.
Whether the Cristeros' actions were or were not supported by the episcopate or the Pope has been a subject of controversy. Officially, the Mexican episcopate never supported the rebellion, but by several accounts, the rebels had the episcopate's acknowledgement that their cause was legitimate. The episcopate did not, in any event, condemn the rebels. Bishop José Francisco Orozco of Guadalajara remained with the rebels; while formally rejecting armed rebellion, he was unwilling to leave his flock. Many modern historians consider him to have been the real head of the movement.
On February 23, 1927, the Cristeros defeated federal troops for the first time at San Francisco del Rincón,Guanajuato, followed by another victory at San Julián, Jalisco. The rebellion was almost extinguished, however, on April 19, when Father Vega led a raid against a train thought to be carrying a shipment of money. In the shootout, his brother was killed, and Father Vega had the train cars doused in gasoline and set afire, killing 51 civilians.
This atrocity turned public opinion against the Cristeros. The government began moving the civilians back into the population centers and prevented them from providing supplies to the rebels. By the summer, the rebellion was almost completely quelled. Garza resigned from his position at the head of the rebellion in July, after a failed attempt to raise funds in the United States of America.
The rebellion was given new life by the efforts of Victoriano Ramírez, generally known as "El Catorce" (the fourteen). Legend has it the nickname originated because during jailbreak he killed all fourteen members of the posse sent after him. He then sent a message to the mayor—his uncle—telling him that in the future he should send more men.
El Catorce was illiterate, but a natural guerrilla leader. He brought the rebellion back to life, enabling the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty to select a general, a mercenary who demanded twice the salary of a federal general. Enrique Gorostieta was so alienated from Catholicism that he made fun of his own troops' religion. Despite his lack of piety, he trained the rebel troops well, producing disciplined units and officers. Gradually, the Cristeros began to gain the upper hand.
So, after having sold out to the government forces, Grandfather José, according to the legend, got scared and thought to appease the rebels, which, in time, the government was to find out about.
Both priest-commanders, Father Vega and Father Pedroza, were born soldiers. Father Vega was not a typical priest, and was reputed to drink heavily and routinely ignore his vow of chastity. Father Pedroza, by contrast, was rigidly moral and faithful to his priestly vows. However, the fact that the two took up arms at all is problematic from the point of view of Catholic sacramental theology.
On June 21, 1927, the first brigade of female Cristeros was formed in Zapopan. They named themselves for Saint Joan of Arc. The brigade began with 17 women, but soon grew to 135 members. Its mission was to obtain money, weapons, provisions and information for the combatant men; they also cared for the wounded. By March 1928, there were some 10,000 women involved (including, it is likely, a few Martin-Del-Campo maidens). Many smuggled weapons into the combat zones by carrying them in carts filled with grain or cement. By the end of the war, they numbered some 25,000.
The Cristeros maintained the upper hand throughout 1928, and in 1929, the federal government faced a new crisis: a revolt within Army ranks, led by Arnulfo R. Gómez in Veracruz. The Cristeros tried to take advantage of this with an attack on Guadalajara in late March. This failed, but the rebels did manage to take Tepatitlán on April 19. Father Vega was killed in that battle.
However, the military rebellion was met with equal cruelty and force, and the Cristeros were soon facing divisions within their own ranks. Mario Valdés, widely believed by historians to have been a federal spy, managed to stir up sentiment against El Catorce leading to his execution before a rigged court-martial. Grandfather José and other members of the family were also condemned in absentia for having played both sides.
On June 2, Gorostieta was killed when he was ambushed by a federal patrol. However the rebels had some 50,000 men under arms by this point and seemed poised to draw out the rebellion for a long time.