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Venustiano Carranza
Seal of the Government of Mexico.svg
37th President of Mexico

In office
14 August 1914 – 21 May 1920
Preceded by Francisco S. Carvajal
Succeeded by Adolfo de la Huerta
Personal details
Born (1859-12-29)29 December 1859
Cuatro Ciénegas, Coahuila
Died 21 May 1920(1920-05-21) (aged 60)
Tlaxcalantongo, Puebla
Nationality Mexican
Political party Democratic Party of Mexico & Constitutionalist Liberal Party
Spouse(s) Virginia Salinas.

Venustiano Carranza de la Garza (29 December 1859 – 21 May 1920) was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution. He ultimately became President of Mexico following the overthrow of the dictatorial Victoriano Huerta regime in the summer of 1914, and during his administration the current constitution of Mexico was drafted. He was assassinated near the end of his term of office at the behest of a cabal of army generals resentful at his insistence that his successor be a civilian.

Early years, 1859–1887

Carranza was born in the town of Cuatro Ciénegas, in the state of Coahuila, in 1859,[1] to an upper middle-class cattle-ranching family.[2] His father, Jesús Carranza, had been a rancher and mule driver until the time of the Reform War (1857–1861), in which he fought against the Indians and on the Liberal side.[3] During the Franco-Mexican War (1861–1867), Jesús Carranza became a colonel[3] and was Benito Juárez's main contact in Coahuila. Jesus Carranza's connection to Juarez caught the attention of Venustiano,[2] who would idolize Juarez.[2]

Because of his family's wealth, Venustiano was able to attend excellent schools in Saltillo and Mexico City.[2] Venustiano studied at the Ateneo Fuente, a famous Liberal school in Saltillo. In 1874 he went to the Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory School) in Mexico City. Carranza was still there in 1876 when Porfirio Díaz issued the Plan of Tuxtepec, which marked the beginning of Porfirio Díaz's rebellion against President Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada under the slogan "No Re-election" (Tejada had served one term as president). Díaz's troops handily defeated Tejada's, and Díaz and his armies marched into Mexico City in triumph. Upon completion of his studies, Carranza returned to Coahuila to raise cattle with his family. He married Virginia Salinas in 1882, and the couple had two daughters.

Introduction to politics, 1887–1909

Bernardo Reyes (1850-1913), Porfirio Díaz's "man in the north". Carranza formed a personal friendship with Reyes, and Reyes' patronage was responsible for Carranza's election to the Mexican Congress in 1898.

The Carranzas had high ambitions for Venustiano,[2] who would use the family money to advance his political career.[2] In 1887, at age 28, he became municipal president of Cuatro Ciénegas.[3] Carranza remained a Liberal who idolized Benito Juárez. At the same time, he grew disillusioned with the increasingly authoritarian character of the rule of Porfirio Díaz during this period. In 1893, 300 Coahuila ranchers organized an armed resistance to oppose the "re-election" of Porfirio Díaz's supporter José María Garza Galán as Governor of Coahuila. Venustiano Carranza and his brother Emilio participated in this uprising.[2][3] Porfirio Díaz quickly dispatched his "man in the north", Bernardo Reyes, to defuse the situation. Venustiano Carranza and his brother, who had now gained power and influence in the area,[2] were granted a personal audience with Reyes in order to explain the justification for the uprising and the ranchers' opposition to Garza Galán. Reyes agreed with Carranza and wrote to Díaz recommending that he withdraw support for Garza Galán. Diaz accepted this request and appointed a different governor[2]

The events of 1893 allowed Carranza to make some friends in high places,[2] including Bernardo Reyes.[2] After winning a second term as municipal president of Cuatro Ciénegas (1894–1898), Reyes had Carranza "elected" to the legislature. In 1904, Bernardo Reyes's protégé Miguel Cárdenas, Governor of Coahuila, recommended to Porfirio Díaz that Carranza would make a good senator. As such, Carranza entered the Senate of Mexico later that year.[3] Although Carranza was sceptical of the Científicos whom Porfirio Díaz was relying on to run Mexico,[3] Carranza was a dutiful Porfirian senator. By 1908, it was widely assumed that Carranza would be the next governor of Coahuila.[2] In 1909, Carranza received Porfirio Díaz's permission to declare himself as candidate to replace Miguel Cárdenas as Governor of Coahuila. Miguel Cárdenas supported Carranza's candidacy, as did the wealthiest landowner in the region, Evaristo Madero (grandfather of Francisco I. Madero). However, for reasons never made entirely clear, Porfirio Díaz ultimately did not support Carranza in this race, with the result that Carranza lost the election. This left Carranza angry with Porfirio Díaz.


Carranza was a large, tall man, standing a full 6'4"(198 cm), and he looked very impressive with his long white beard and glasses. He was intelligent and stubborn, but had very little charisma. A dour man, his lack of sense of humor was legendary. He was not the sort to inspire great loyalty, and his success in the revolution was mainly due to his ability to portray himself as a wise, stern patriarch who was the nation's best hope for peace. His inability to compromise led to several severe setbacks. Although he was personally honest, he seemed indifferent to corruption in those who surrounded him.[2]

Supporter of Francisco I. Madero, 1909–1911

Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913), the father of the Mexican Revolution. Because Díaz refused to appoint him as Governor of Coahuila,[2] Carranza became an early supporter of Madero and the Mexican Revolution and in 1910, Madero named Carranza commander-in-chief of the Revolution in Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.

Carranza followed Francisco Madero's Anti-Re-election Movement of 1910 with interest, and after Madero fled to the US and Díaz was reelected as president, Carranza traveled to San Antonio, Texas to join Madero. Madero named Carranza provisional Governor of Coahuila. The Plan of San Luis Potosí, which Madero issued at this time, called for a revolution beginning 20 November 1910. Madero named Carranza commander-in-chief of the Revolution in Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. Carranza, however, failed to organize a revolution in these states, leading some of Madero's supporters to speculate that Carranza was still loyal to Bernardo Reyes. Nevertheless, following the revolutionaries' decisive victory at Ciudad Juárez, Carranza travelled to Ciudad Juárez and Madero named Carranza his Minister of War on 3 May 1911,[2] despite the fact that Carranza did not contribute much to Madero's rebellion.[2] The revolutionaries were split on how to deal with Porfirio Díaz and Vice-President Ramón Corral. Madero favored having Díaz and Corral resign, with Francisco León de la Barra serving as interim president until a new election could be held. Carranza disagreed with Madero, arguing that allowing Díaz and Corral to resign would legitimate their rule, while an interim government would merely be a prolongation of the dictatorship and would discredit the Revolution. Madero's view prevailed, however.

Governor of Coahuila, 1911–1913

Carranza returned to Coahuila to serve as governor, shortly holding elections in August 1911, which he won handily. As governor, Carranza began to reform the judiciary, the legal codes, and tax laws. He introduced regulations to prevent mining accidents, to rein in abusive practices at company stores, to break up commercial monopolies, to combat alcoholism, and to rein in gambling and prostitution. He also made large investments in education, which he saw as the key to societal development. At the same time, he was concerned to promote law and order in the countryside, and had Porfirio Díaz's rurales re-enlist into his security forces. Carranza also did not favor reform the way Madero and most of army did[2] and felt that a firmer hand (preferably his) was needed to rule Mexico.[2]

The relationship between Carranza and Madero deteriorated in this period. Carranza, who had opposed Madero's plan to have an interim presidency, now criticized Madero for being a weak and ineffectual president. Madero in turn accused Carranza of being spiteful and authoritarian. Carranza believed that there would soon be an uprising against Madero, so he formed alliances with other Liberal governors: Pablo González Garza, Governor of San Luis Potosí; Alberto Fuentes Dávila, Governor of Aguascalientes; and Abraham González, Governor of Chihuahua. Carranza was unsurprised in February 1913 when Victoriano Huerta, Bernardo Reyes, and Félix Díaz overthrew Madero during La Decena trágica (the Ten Tragic Days). Carranza offered Madero refuge in Coahuila, but he was unable to prevent Madero's execution.

Location of Coahuila in Mexico. Carranza served as Governor of Coahuila 1911-1913.

A passionate student of history, Carranza believed that Madero had made the same mistakes in 1912 that Ignacio Comonfort had made in 1857-58: by being weak and overly humanitarian, Madero had allowed conservative reactionaries to seize power. Carranza now believed that he could fill the role that Benito Juárez had played in the years after Comonfort's downfall. Seeing an opportunity to gain power, Carranza soon rebelled against Huerta[2]

In late February 1913, Carranza asked the legislature of Coahuila to declare itself formally in a state of rebellion against Huerta's government. Carranza, however, only had a small number of troops who largely sat out during the early part of the rebellion.[2] In his first battle with federal troops, in early March 1913, Carranza was defeated and forced to retreat to Monclova. On the way, he stopped at his Guadalupe hacienda. There he found a group of young officers—Francisco J. Múgica, Jacinto B. Treviño, and Lucio Blanco—who had drawn up a plan modeled on the Plan of San Luis Potosí that disavowed Huerta and called on Carranza to become Primer Jefe ("First Chief") of the Constitutional Army. Carranza felt that it had been a mistake to include promises of social reform in the Plan of San Luis Potosí because this had created unrealistic expectations in the populace, and had resulted in them growing disillusioned with the Revolution after it failed to deliver on its promises. He then drafted a different constitution, the Plan of Guadalupe.[2] This new proposed constitution only promised to restore the 1857 Constitution of Mexico without the promised social reforms of the Plan of San Luis Potosí. A few weeks after Carranza had issued the Plan of Guadalupe, he met a delegation from Sonora headed by Adolfo de la Huerta in Monclova, and the Sonorans agreed to support the Plan of Guadalupe. Álvaro Obregón, a local engineer and farmer, would also raise an army for Carranza in Sonora.[2]

Primer Jefe of the Constitutional Army, 1913–1915

Carranza initially divided the country into seven operational zones, though his Revolution was really launched in only three: (1) the northeast, under the command of Pablo González Garza; (2) the center, under the command of Pánfilo Natera; and (3) the northwest, under the command of Álvaro Obregón.[2] The Revolution, launched in March 1913, initially did not go well, and Huerta's troops marched into Monclova, forcing Carranza to flee to the rebels' stronghold of Sonora in August 1913. However, Carranza's army would later grow remarkably.[2] In March 1914, Carranza was informed of Pancho Villa's victories and of advances made by the forces under Pablo González and Álvaro Obregón. Carranza determined that it was safe to leave Sonora, and traveled to Ciudad Juárez, which served as his capital for the remainder of his struggle with Huerta. Although Pancho Villa was a skilled commander, his tactics throughout the 1913-14 campaign created a number of diplomatic incidents that were a major headache for Carranza in this period. Villa had confiscated the property of Spaniards in Chihuahua and had allowed his troops to murder an Englishman, Benton, and an American, Bauch. At one point, Villa arrested Manuel Chao, the Governor of Chihuahua, and Carranza had to personally travel to Chihuahua to order Villa to release Chao. In Tampico, nine U.S. Navy sailors were arrested by Mexican troops over a misunderstanding about fuel supplies. In response to the Tampico Affair, the United States government sent 2,300 Navy troops to occupy Veracruz, Veracruz. The fighting ended with 22 Navy troops and almost 200 Mexican soldiers being killed, and Veracruz taken. Carranza, in order to keep his nationalistic credentials threatened war with the United States. In his spontaneous response to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson Carranza asked “…that the president withdraw American troops from Mexico and take up its complaints against Huerta with the Constitutionalist government.”[4] The situation became so tense that war seemed imminent. On April 22, 1914, on the initiative of Felix A. Sommerfeld and Sherburne Hopkins Pancho Villa traveled to Ciudad Juarez to calm fears along the border and asked President Wilson's emissary George Carothers to tell “Señor Wilson” that he had no problems with the American occupation of Veracruz. Carothers wrote to Secretary William Jennings Bryan: “As far as he was concerned we could keep Vera Cruz [sic] and hold it so tight that not even water could get in to Huerta and …he could not feel any resentment.” [4] Whether trying to please the U.S. government or through the diplomatic efforts of Sommerfeld and Carothers, or maybe as a result of both, Villa stepped out from under Carranza’s stated foreign policy.[5] The uneasy alliance between Carranza, Obregon, Villa and Emiliano Zapata would eventually lead the rebels to victory.[2] The fight against Huerta formally ended on 15 August 1914, when Álvaro Obregón signed a number of treaties in Teoloyucan in which the last of Huerta's forces surrendered to him and recognized the Constitutional government. On 20 August 1914, Carranza made a triumphal entry into Mexico City. Carranza (supported by Obregón)[2] was now the strongest candidate to fill the power vacuum[2] and set himself up as head of the new government.[2] This government successfully printed money, passed laws, etc.[2]

The Convention of Aguascalientes: Break with Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

Pancho Villa (left), commander of the División del Norte (Division of the North), and Emiliano Zapata, commander of the Ejército Libertador del Sur (Liberation Army of the South). Villa is sitting in the presidential throne in the Palacio Nacional.

Although the revolutionaries Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata had fought against the Huerta government, they had never signed on to the Plan of Guadalupe. Zapata, in his Plan of Ayala, demanded sweeping social reforms of the type which Carranza had specifically excluded from the Plan of Guadalupe. When it became clear that Carranza was not willing to introduce these social reforms, Zapata broke with Carranza, formally breaking off all connection on 5 September 1914.

As we saw above, tensions between Carranza and Pancho Villa were high throughout 1913-14 over Governor Chao and over the diplomatic incidents which Villa provoked. Before Huerta was overthrown, Villa defied Carranza's orders and successfully captured Mexico's strategic silver-producing city of Zacatecas, Zacatecas;[6] Villa's successful capture of the city would break the back of Huerta's regime.[6] In addition, Carranza also feared Villa would beat him to Mexico City.[6] In August, Carranza refused to let Villa enter Mexico City with him, and refused to promote Villa to major-general. Villa formally disavowed Carranza on 23 September 1914.

On 8 July 1914, Villistas and Carrancistas had signed the Treaty of Torreón, in which they agreed that after Huerta's forces were defeated, 150 generals of the Revolution would meet to determine the future shape of the country. This Convention went ahead at Aguascalientes on 5 October 1914. Carranza did not participate in the Convention of Aguascalientes because he was not a general (several Zapatista civilian intellectuals were allowed to join the Convention, however).

At the Convention, the young philosopher José Vasconcelos argued that Article 128 of the 1857 Constitution provided that the revolutionary army now constituted the legitimate government of Mexico; the assembled generals quickly agreed with him. The Convention therefore called on Carranza to resign. Carranza responded with a message to the Convention sent on 23 November 1914. He agreed to resign, but only if he could be assured that a truly constitutional government would be put in place following his resignation. He therefore listed three preconditions that must be met before he would resign: (1) the establishment of a preconstitutional regime that would make necessary social and political reforms before the re-establishment of constitutional government; (2) the resignation and exile of Villa; and (3) the resignation and exile of Zapata. A week later, the Convention's joint commissions of war and of the interior (a group which included Álvaro Obregón, Felipe Ángeles, Eulalio Gutiérrez, and Francisco I. Madero's brother Raúl) agreed in principle to Carranza's conditions. The Convention then elected Eulalio Gutiérrez as provisional President for 20 days until his position could be ratified, and called on Carranza to resign immediately. Carranza responded by moving his government to Córdoba, Veracruz and by sending the Convention a telegram in which he said he would not resign until his conditions had been fully met and they had not: Villa remained in control of the División del Norte; Zapata had not resigned; and Gutiérrez was only granted power for 20 days, which hardly made him an effective preconstitutional government. With Carranza's withdrawal, Carrancistas now controlled only the Mexican states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas. These states, however, gave Carranza an advantage, as they held Mexico's two main ports.[2] Because he held these two ports, Carranza was able to collect more revenue than Villa.[2] The rest of the country was now under the control of the various generals represented by the Convention. Carranza was at least able to negotiate the withdrawal of American troops from Veracruz, Veracruz in November 1914 and set up his capital there. Álvaro Obregón and Pablo González remained loyal to Carranza, however, and fought on. Although Villa had a more formidable army,[2] Obregón was a better tactician.[2] With Obregón's help, Carranza was able to portray Villa as a sociopathic bandit in the press.[2] In April 1915, Obregón scored a decisive victory over Villa in the Bajío at the Battle of Celaya, which saw 4,000 of Villa's soldiers killed and another 6,000 captured,[6] and in May 1915, González began a campaign against the last-remaining Zapatistas. In July 1915, Francisco Lagos Cházaro, the last interim president appointed by the Convention of Aguascalientes, surrendered. In August 1915, Carranza's troops entered Mexico City a second time. The United States recognized Carranza as President of Mexico in October 1915 and by the end of the year, Villa was on the run.[2]

Head of the Preconstitutional Government, 1915–1917

President Carranza in Piedras Negras, Coahuila in 1915.

With the defeat of the División del Norte and the Zapatistas, by mid-1915, Carranza was President of Mexico as head of what he termed a "Preconstitutional Government." Carranza formally took charge of the executive branch on 1 May 1915.

On 12 December 1914 Carranza had issued his Additions to the Plan of Guadalupe, which laid out an ambitious reform program, including Laws of Reform, in conscious imitation of Benito Juárez's Laws of Reform. Reforms were carried through in many areas

  • Judicial reform - Carranza introduced important reforms to ensure an independent judiciary for Mexico.
  • Land reform - although Carranza had initially been sceptical about the need for land reform, his interactions with Zapata convinced him that the problem was real. Carranza's solution was the ejido system, by which formerly communal lands which had been privately expropriated were to be returned to villages. In practice, very few lands were returned.
  • Labor - in February 1915, the Constitutionalist Army signed an agreement with the Casa del Obrero Mundial ("House of the World Worker"), the labor union with anarcho-syndicalist connections which had been established during Francisco I. Madero's presidency. As a result of this agreement, six "Red Battalions" of workers were formed to fight alongside the Constitutionalists against Villa and Zapata. However, after the defeat of Villa and Zapata, relations between Carranza and organized labor soured. In January 1916, the Red Battalions were dissolved, and throughout 1916, Carranza opposed workers' who attempted to exercise their right to strike, seeing their actions as disruptive. In August 1916, the Casa del Obrero Mudial was forcibly disbanded by the police, and an 1862 law making striking a capital offense was reinstated.

President Carranza in La Cañada, Querétaro, 22 January 1916.

  • Struggle against foreign companies for natural resources - under the presidency of Porfirio Díaz, foreign mining and oil companies (chiefly American companies) had received generous rights from the government. On 7 January 1915, Carranza issued a decree declaring his intention to return the wealth of oil and coal to the people of Mexico. The two largest oil companies exploiting Mexico's natural resources were the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company, an English company led by Lord Cowdray and operating mainly in the region of Poza Rica, Veracruz and Papantla, Veracruz; and Mexican Petroleum, an American company led by Edward L. Doheny and operating in the region of Tampico, Tamaulipas. Carranza was largely unable to move against the foreign oil companies because the region of La Huasteca where they operated was under the control of General Manuel Peláez who protected the oil companies' interests in exchange for protection money from the oil companies. Carranza moved more successfully against the mining companies, implementing the Calvo Doctrine. He raised their taxes, and removed the right of diplomatic recourse for mining companies, declaring them now subject to the Mexican courts (both policies were opposed by the United States and delayed several times at the request of United States Secretary of State Robert Lansing).

The Constitutional Convention of Querétaro, 1916–1917

In September 1916, Carranza convoked a Constitutional Convention, to be held in Querétaro, Querétaro. He declared that the liberal 1857 Constitution of Mexico would be respected, though purged of some of its shortcomings.

However, when the Constitutional Convention met in December 1916, it contained only 85 conservatives and centrists close to Carranza's brand of liberalism, a group known as the bloque renovador ("renewal faction"). Against them were 132 more radical delegates who insisted that land reform be embodied in the new constitution. These radical delegates were particularly inspired by the thought of Andrés Molina Enríquez, in particular his 1909 book Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales (English: The Great National Problems). Andrés Molina Enríquez, though not a delegate to the Convention, was a close advisor to the committee that drafted Article 27 of the constitution which declared that private property had been created by the Nation and that the Nation had the right to regulate private property to ensure that communities that had "none or not enough land and water" could take them from latifundios and haciendas. Article 27 also moved much further than the Calvo Doctrine and declared that only native-born or native Mexicans could have property rights in Mexico, and that, though the government might grant rights to foreigners, these rights were always provisional and could not be appealed to foreign governments. The radicals also moved much further than Carranza approved on labor relations. In February 1917, they drafted Article 123 of the Constitution, which established an eight-hour work day, abolished child labor, contained provisions to protect female and adolescent workers, required holidays, provided a reasonable salary to be paid in cash and profit-sharing, established boards of arbitration, and provided for compensation in case of dismissal.

The radicals also established more radical reform of the relationship of church and state than that favored by Carranza. Articles 3 and 130 were heavily anticlerical: the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico was denied recognition as a legal entity; priests were denied various rights and subject to public registration; religious education was forbidden; public religious ritual outside of the churches was banned; and all churches became the property of the nation. In short, although Carranza had been the most ardent proponent of constitutionalism and led the Constitutional Army, the 1917 Constitution of Mexico was very different from the liberal constitution that Carranza had wanted.[7][8] However, the Carrancistas had gained some important victories in the Constitutional Convention: the power of the executive was enhanced and the power of the legislature was diminished. The post of Vice-President was eliminated. And judges were given life tenure to promote judicial independence.

President of Mexico, 1917–1920


Carranza, as depicted on the obverse of the former $100 Mexican peso.

The new constitution was proclaimed on 5 February 1917. With Villa and Zapata on the run,[2] Carranza had no opposition to prevent him from being elected president.[2] In May 1917, Carranza became the constitutional President of Mexico. Carranza, however, brought very little change and those who wanted to see a new, liberal Mexico after the revolution were disappointed.[2] Mexico was in desperate stress in 1917. The revolutionary fighting had decimated the economy, destroyed the nation's food supply, and led to widespread disease. Carranza continued to face many internal enemies: Emiliano Zapata continued his rebellion in the mountains of Morelos; Félix Díaz had returned to Mexico in May 1916 and organized an army that he called the Ejército Reorganizador Nacional (National Reorganizer Army) that remained active in Veracruz; the former Porfirians Guillermo Meixueiro and José María Dávila were active in Oaxaca, calling themselves Soberanistas (Sovereigntists) and insisted on local autonomy; General Manuel Peláez was still in charge of La Huasteca; the brothers Saturnino Cedillo, Cleophas Cedillo, and Magdaleno Cedillo organized an opposition in San Luis Potosí; José Inés Chávez García led the resistance to Carranza's government in Michoacán; and Pancho Villa remained active in Chihuahua. After Carranza became president, Obergon retired to his ranch.[2] The fighting, however, continued,[2] particularly against Zapata in the south.[2] The only two rebel leaders captured by Carranza were Pancho Villa's supporter Felipe Ángeles, and Emiliano Zapata (Carranza had put a bounty on Zapata's head, which led to his assassination). Carranza maintained Mexican neutrality throughout World War I. He briefly considered allying with the German Empire after German Foreign Secretary Arthur Zimmermann sent Mexico the famous Zimmermann Telegram in January 1917, inviting Mexico to enter the war on the German side. Zimmermann promised Mexico German aid in re-capturing territory lost to the United States during the Mexican–American War, specifically the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Carranza assigned a general to study the possibility of recapturing this territory from the U.S., but ultimately concluded that war to recapture territory from the U.S. was not feasible as aid from Germany could not be guaranteed due to the blockade by the Royal Navy.

Carranza remained lukewarm about the anti-clerical Articles 3 and 130 of the Mexican Constitution, both of which he had opposed at the Constitutional Convention. He proposed a constitutional amendment to mollify these constitutional provisions, but his proposal was rejected by the state legislatures and 2/3 of the Mexican Congress.

Public corruption was a major problem of Carranza's presidency. A popular saying was that "The Old Man doesn't steal, but he lets them steal," and a new verb, carrancear was coined, meaning "to steal".

Casa-Museo (Museum-House), federal district.

Carranza determined not to run for re-election in 1920. His natural successor was Álvaro Obregón, the heroic Carrancista general. Carranza, however, felt that Mexico should have a president who was not a general, and therefore endorsed Ignacio Bonillas, an obscure diplomat, for the presidency. Obregón supporters were repressed and killed and Obregón himself decided that Carranza would never leave the office peacefully.[2] In response, a group of Sonoran generals (including Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles, and Adolfo de la Huerta), who were the strongest power bloc in Mexico, issued the Plan of Agua Prieta, repudiating Carranza's government and renewing the Revolution on their own. On 8 April 1920, a campaign aide to Obregón attempted to assassinate Carranza. After the failed attempt, Obregón brought his army to Mexico City and drove Carranza out.[2] Carranza set out towards Veracruz to regroup[2] but was betrayed and he died in Tlaxcalantongo in the Sierra Norte de Puebla mountains while being attacked by the forces of General Rodolfo Herrero, supporter of Carranza's former allies and local chieftain,[2] on 21 May 1920 while he was sleeping.[2] According to General Francisco L. Urquizo, Carranza's last words, after the shots woke him up, were: "Licenciado, ya me rompieron una pierna" which translates as "Lawyer, they have already broken one of my legs". (Carranza was referring to his partner, Licenciado Aguirre Berlanga, when he was ambushed and shot).[9] Obregón afterwards put Herrero on trial for Carranza's murder,[2] but Herrero was acquitted.

Many people, including among them Aguirre Berlanga, have said that Carranza actually killed himself, rather that having been killed from the outside. It has been said that the holes in the shirt that Carranza was wearing when he died were too small to be due to carbine shots, which were the weapons the attackers were carrying. Besides the bullet holes on his chest, it was found that Carranza had a bullet injury in two fingers of his left hand which are supposed to have been inflicted when in darkness he used his fingers to point the gun to his chest, after having his leg fractured by a carbine shot. The Mexican historian Enrique Krauze analyses carefully the facts and concludes that it is the most probable alternative, although the truth will probably never be known with certainty since all witnesses are long dead. But as it has been mentioned, contemporary eye witnesses indicated that President Carranza committed suicide.[10]


The ambitious Carranza made himself one of the most important figures in the Mexican Revolution because he truly believed that he knew what was best for the country.[2] He was a planner and organizer,[2] and succeeded through clever politicking where others relied on strength of arms.[2] His defenders point out that he brought some stability to the country and provided a focus for the movement to remove Huerta, who was a monster.[2] He made many mistakes, however.[2] During the fight against Huerta, he was the first to declare that those who opposed him would be executed,[2] as he considered his to be the only legitimate government in the land after the death of Madero.[2] Other commanders followed suit, and the result was the death of thousands who might have been spared.[2] His unfriendly, rigid nature made it difficult for him to retain his hold on power,[2] especially when some of the alternatives, such as Villa and Obregón, were much more charismatic.[2] Today, he is remembered as one of the “Big Four” of the Revolution, along with Zapata, Villa and Obregón.[2] Although for most of the time period between 1915 and 1920 he was more powerful than any of them,[2] he is today probably the least remembered of the four.[2] Historians point out Obregón's tactical brilliance and rise to power in the 1920s,[2] Villa's legendary bravery, flair, style and leadership and Zapata's unwavering idealism and vision.[2] Carranza had none of these.[2] Carranza's legacy also bears the stain of driving Emiliano Zapata to his untimely and unglorious death to the hands of assassins in 1919; indeed Zapata still remains to this day, along with Villa, the most beloved figure of the Mexican Revolution in popular culture, and the only one whose name has been revived and carried by a socio-political movement in recent times.

Still, it was during Carranza's watch that the Constitution still used today was ratified and he was by far the lesser of two evils when compared to the man he replaced, Victoriano Huerta.[2] He is remembered in the songs and legends of the North (although primarily as the butt of Villa's jokes and pranks) and his place in the history of Mexico is secure.[2]

See also

  • Venustiano Carranza, D.F.#Formation and name


  1. Margaret Maud McKellar, Dolores L. Latorre, "Life on a Mexican ranche", Lehigh University Press, 1994, pg. 227, [1]
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 2.43 2.44 2.45 2.46 2.47 2.48 2.49 2.50 2.51 2.52 2.53 2.54 2.55 2.56 2.57 2.58 2.59 2.60 2.61 2.62 2.63 2.64 Profile of Venustiano Carranza - Venustiano Carranza Biography
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Michael S. Werner, "Concise encyclopedia of Mexico", Taylor & Francis, 2001, pg. 68, [2]
  4. 4.0 4.1 Carothers to Secretary of State, April 22, 1914, Wilson Papers, Ser. 2, as quoted in Haley, The Diplomacy of Taft and Wilson with Mexico, 1910-1917, p. 135.
  5. Heribert von Feilitzsch, In Plain Sight: Felix A. Sommerfeld, Spymaster in Mexico, 1908 to 1914, Henselstone Verlag, Virginia, 2012, p. 359
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Pancho Villa - Mexican Revolutionary Pancho Villa - Francisco Villa in Mexico
  7. D. L. Riner, J. V. Sweeney (1991). Mexico: meeting the challenge. Euromoney. p. 64. ISBN 1-870031-59-8, 9781870031592. 
  8. William V. D'Antonio, Fredrick B. Pike (1964). Religion, revolution, and reform: new forces for change in Latin America. Praeger. p. 66. 
  9. Gen. Francisco L. Urquizo, De la vida militar mexicana (SEDENA, 1991) p. 228
  10. Krause, Enrique, "Venustiano Carranza: puente entre siglos" in the Biografias del Poder series (in Spanish)


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Francisco S. Carvajal
Revolutionary Commander of Mexico
Succeeded by
Eulalio Gutiérrez
Preceded by
Francisco Lagos Cházaro
Revolutionary Commander of Mexico
Succeeded by
became President
Preceded by
self (as Revolutionary Commander of Mexico)
President of Mexico
Succeeded by
Adolfo de la Huerta

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