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Agrarian Revolt in the Sierra of Chihuahua

Summary and Keywords

On September 23, 1965, several years of protest, including land invasions, strikes, sit-ins, and cross-country marches, culminated in an armed attack on an army base located in the remote town of Madera, Chihuahua, in northern Mexico. Protesters had demanded that the state comply with land reform guarantees provided for by the constitution of Mexico; students from the normal schools joined in and raised their own demands. Instead of negotiating partial reforms, the state governor called out troops to burnish his reputation as an anti-communist crusader. Nominally organized in the Unión General de Obreros y Campesinos de México, movement leaders broke with national directives and encouraged “direct action” and illegal occupations, while the normalistas acted within a student activist tradition rooted in the Marxism of the 1930s. The agrarian demands came from landless workers in an agricultural valley planted in cotton, whose fortunes were linked to the world market and from dispossessed smallholders in the mountainous backlands now claimed by timber export companies. This mid-century modernization of land use had its counterpart in the protestors’ emulation of the Cuban revolution and their attempt to apply Che’s theory of guerrilla warfare. As the governor’s recalcitrance radicalized the movement, small groups undertook sporadic armed actions in the mountains, disarming forces sent after them. Other leaders moved to Mexico City to avoid arrest, undergo military training, and attempt to gather support; they returned to Chihuahua with the plan to attack the army base. Despite its spectacular failure, the event has been hailed as Mexico’s first socialist guerrilla struggle and served as inspiration for the dirty war of the 1970s, when armed revolutionaries fought the armed power of the state. Attention to its armed component has eclipsed the movement’s underlying basis, which was equally innovative and had lasting influence on Mexican social protest.

Keywords: Chihuahua, agrarian rebellion, normalistas, UGOCM, Grupo Popular Guerrillero, foquismo, Cold War, dirty war

Agrarian Revolt in the Sierra of ChihuahuaClick to view larger

The Mexican State of Chihuahua.

Courtesy of Hugo Carillo Domínguez.

In Madera City, Sierra Madre of Chihuahua, just before dawn on September 23, 1965, a squad of thirteen poorly armed young men who called themselves the Grupo Popular Guerrillero de la Sierra (Popular Guerrilla Group of the Sierra, GPG) attacked an army base on the edge of this town of twelve thousand inhabitants. They had expected to find some seventy soldiers asleep in the barracks, instead there were 125. After a brief firefight the troops killed eight guerrillas while five escaped, with the help of townspeople, into the surrounding mountains. Five soldiers died while one or two civilians were also killed by the soldiers. The soldiers paraded the bodies of the dead guerrilleros around town in the rain and left them in the plaza overnight. Governor Práxedis Giner Durán (1962–1968) refused requests to remove the bodies and ordered them thrown into a common grave without shrouds. “¿Querían tierra? ¡Dénles tierra hasta que se harten!” (“They wanted land? Give it to them until they choke!)” he announced.1

This unequal battle culminated years of protests. Rooted in agrarian demands, the conflict was broad and heterogeneous in its origins. A recalcitrant state governor burnished his anti-communist credentials by refusing to negotiate obvious violations of the law, and the contention spread throughout the state, taking multiple forms: caravans marched on the capital, campesinos invaded land susceptible to expropriation and were driven off by troops, and urban demonstrations became prolonged sit-ins in front of government offices. The effervescence spread between campesinos and students and between the sierra and the plains and Chihuahua City.

The sierra is in Chihuahua’s longitude of war;2 the district is named Guerrero, the warrior.3 There, beleagered smallholders and tenants whose ranches were threatened by the expansion of industrial timbering were harassed by three antagonists: big foresters, the armed state, and caciques—they finally resorted to firearms.

The agrarian aims of the Mexican Revolution had long been codified in the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Party of the Institutional Revolution, PRI); even the left opposition gave support to these provisos and supported its purported nationalism until the Cuban Revolution revealed new revolutionary goals. The events in Cuba made the rupture that took place within the party of Lazaro Cárdenas a logical outcome. The 1960s became the heyday of national liberation and audacity. In Chihuahua the students were reading Che Guevara’s Guerra de Guerrillas, “the [limited] insurrection creates the conditions for revolution.”4 The armed serrano self-defense units forming in the sierra represented an alliance between the campesinos and the students, supplemented by large campesino mobilizations in the Río Conchos area. These elements of social pressure, which included dozens of schools and tens of dozens of agrarian communities, had the good fortune of leaders who coordinated throughout the state while their smaller bases maintained their own momentum.

Context: Chihuahua

The Sierra Madre in the northwestern and southern parts of the state consists of a forested system of mountain ranges and canyons. While entrepreneurs have exploited minerals there since colonial times, the sierra remained isolated until the mid-20th century. Much of the rest of the state consists of high desert basins, requiring massive hydraulic investments to produce anything but livestock. There the first big estates took form in the 18th century. In the southeast, the Río Conchos and its tributaries constitute a fertile corridor centered on the town of Delicias. To the northwest, the plains near Casas Grandes were eventually irrigated by the Terrazas clan who once held 7 million acres, the largest private domain in Mexico.

Chihuahua began as a sparsely populated frontier where the Spanish established a series of military colonies to defend the region from encroaching indigenous tribes, who pushed south and west as the United States encroached on them from the north. These tribes were known as Apache, but included Comanche, Navajo, Yaqui, and Kiowa raiders.5 The 19th-century invasions combined with the Wars of the Reform in central Mexico to bring chaos and continued hostilities; in 1848 and again in 1853, Chihuahua lost parts of its northern territories to the United States. Then, during the late 19th century, the smallholding serranos, descendants of the original military colonists who had pushed back the frontier, began to exhibit a propensity for armed resistance to any challenge to their autonomy.

By the 1880s, the indigenous tribes had been largely defeated and the railroad connecting Ciudad Juárez and El Paso with Mexico City was completed, leading to an export cattle boom and rising land prices. During the Porfiriato (1876–1911), the concentration of land ownership and foreign investment accelerated. While Luis Terrazas had the largest holdings in the state, thirty-nine foreign proprietors owned more than 100,000 acres each and five land companies alone controlled more than 1 million acres.6 A series of rebellions against Porfirian encroachments on local autonomy and resources foreshadowed the Revolution of 1910 in Tomóchic, Santo Tomás, and Temósachic, all in the sierra. The family of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst acquired the Hacienda Babícora in the Guerrero District with 360,000 hectares in 1887 and kept a portion of it until 1957.7 The struggle to expropriate the Babícora was an important antecedent to the agrarian battles of the 1960s.


Forestry, with its ready market in the United States and existing system of rail communication, offered an excellent investment opportunity in post-revolutionary Chihuahua. One-third of its surface was once covered with pine and oak forests. In 1904, Governor Enrique Creel sold the timber concession that led to the industry headquartered in Madera; the property then passed through various hands. Madera began as a company town, with Mexican and U.S. workers housed in disparate conditions. The company built new sawmills, the most modern in all Latin America.8 The forests were clear cut, around Madera first, until today less than 1 percent of the old growth remains.9 There are other centers of timber extraction further south in the sierra.

In 1934, Eloy Vallina, the son of a Spanish exile, founded the Banco Comercial Mexicano (today Comermex) in Chihuahua City. By the end of the 1950s, the Vallina group had achieved national influence and founded several wood-processing industries in Colonia Anáhuac.10 In 1946, the group bought the Northwest Mexico Railroad, essential to moving timber, and in 1952 they formed the company Bosques de Chihuahua (Chihuahua’s Forests), headquartered in Madera City. Bosques soon received a fifty-year concession covering some 560,000 hectares to supply industries in Anáhuac.11 Lands not conducive to logging were to remain in livestock; Bosques sold some of this land to cattlemen, including a consortium known as Four Friends, although some of what they sold was not theirs, having been settled for generations by families who never obtained the titles they had the right to.

Agrarian Campaigns and Normalistas

Article 27 of the Constitution of 1917 mandated the distribution of land, regardless of prior ownership, to any group of campesinos who demonstrated need. Agrarian campaigns took several forms in Chihuahua in the early 1960s. In the valley of the Río Conchos and near Casas Grandes, landless workers demanded ejidos, focusing on landholdings with certificates of livestock inaffectability (CIG). The CIGs dated from the late 1930s and were meant to encourage food production; they exempted grazing lands from agrarian expropriation for twenty-five years. More than one hundred had been granted in Chihuahua, and the earliest would expire in 196412; other CIGs were fraudulent or exceeded the stipulated surface area. Protesters also targeted foreigners illegally holding land within the border zone. A perennial demand was that the state bureaucracy act on favorable resolutions that sometimes slumbered unattended to for decades. There were hundreds of such cases. In the area around Madera, Bosques de Chihuahua and the Four Friends were pushing smallholders and tenants off their land, using legal and illegal means.

Initial protests were led by the Unión General de Obreros y Campesinos Mexicanos (General Union of Mexican Workers and Campesinos, UGOCM), an affiliate of the Partido Popular Socialista (Popular Socialist Party, PPS), led by Vicente Lombardo Toledano, which coupled socialist rhetoric with support for the ruling regime’s candidates. Local UGOCM leaders refused to be contained by national directives. Chihuahua was like a rancho, a small town, where various sectors of the left cooperated and campaigns included members of the Partido Comunista Mexicana (PCM) and its youth group along with the PPS, its youth group, and the UGOCM. Rural teachers and normalistas (students of teaching colleges) studied the Agrarian Code and counseled solicitants. The rural normal schools, located first in Flores Magón and then in Saucillo (girls) and Salaices (boys), were centers of resistance and provided passionate supporters for agrarian campaigns, alongside the State Normal School and technical school students in the capital, with some participation by students of the university and its preparatory school. The students were radicalized not only within the schools and political parties—taught from above—but also from below, by the daily struggle and the joy of joining something bigger than themselves, by the refusal of the state government to support social programs, and the brutality of the armed forces.13

The rural normal schools had been founded after the Revolution of 1910 to forge a unified nation from scattered villages; they taught Spanish, hygiene, and science. Along with fierce anti-clericism, the schools were embued with a devout sense of social purpose. The campesinos and their student allies argued their right to land according to the constitution, but the existing state did not rest on the forces that in 1917 had codified the most revolutionary demands of the fighters still on the ground, and so the movement could only defend the revolution by opposing its betrayal by contemporary politicians. From 1960 to 1965, the struggle against big landholdings became a struggle against the “revolutionary” state itself, in which the young revolutionaries used the language of the revolution on which the state had been founded.

Both rural and urban normal schools developed their own politicized culture. Many teachers were Marxists and veterans of the “socialist education” of the 1930s. In the early 1960s, the State Normal School was “… an institution where discussions and analysis of the Cuban Revolution, the Soviet Union, Yankee imperialism or the agrarian reform were part of everyday life.”14 Students interrupted everyday routine, striking to remove teachers or administrators and for better living conditions. In 1964, they undertook a prolonged strike to protest the governor’s closure of dormitories in the capital.

Direct Action

Most contemporary accounts of these events focus on the emergence of the guerrilla, whose glamor eclipses the earlier, more inclusive and heterogeneous popular movement. The public movement both relied on new methods of pressure and incorporated broader issues, such as support for the Cuban Revolution, and was both innovative and frequently illegal. Its occupations, invasions, and caravans provided an alternative to the petitions and delegations to Mexico City relied on in the past when the campesinos struggled with pen and paper and dozed in waiting rooms, hat in hand. Now they marched and camped on public plazas, making tortillas on the patios of downtown tenements. They incorporated large numbers of people, urban as well as rural, whose participation was not mediated by the usual forms of representation; while participants might be members of organizations, the organizations did not act in their stead. The campesinos ceased to be objects of manipulation and acted on their own behalf. Prolonged coexistence both strengthened bonds among participants and announced to the bureaucrats, timber barons, latifundistas, and caciques that the protesters were political subjects, who continued to be present and resist the anonymity and displacement that was their purported fate: “… the principle of direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.”15 The direct action strategy prefigured participatory movements from below associated with subsequent decades throughout Mexico, especially the Comité de Defensa Popular (Committee for Popular Defense, CDP) of the 1970s.16


The movement failed to raise any demands relating to women, nor do its surviving documents, the Resolutions of the Sierra,17 contain any analysis specific to women. Their existence as women was not addressed, but their participation was crucial at every step. In the cities, women normalistas were in the forefront of every mobilization; in the countryside, women sheltered and nursed fugitives, took food to their hiding places, and served as messengers. Other women were involved regardless of their intent.

A number of men of the Gaytán–Scobell families played central roles in both public and armed struggles, including successor guerrilla groups. As Nithia Castorena pointed out, women took part in the movement in one of two ways: either they decided to participate, assuming risks of their own choosing, or they became involved through decisions of their menfolk and suffered the consequences. Following the emergence of the GPG, the sierra swarmed with soldiers, ransacking houses, stealing provisions, and torturing children. With the disappearance of adult men, women were left in poverty with large families to provide for. While protecting and providing for the family was a key aspect of masculine honor, disappearing into clandestinity absolved men of that responsibility without prejudicing their virility.18

The land invasions were symbolic. Few of the participants expected to stay, but they enacted an alternative reality: the invaders performed the world they wanted to live in. The women cooked in field kitchens, the normalistas set up schools, the men plowed and tended the earth. The presence of women and children made the act of symbolic possession more comprehensive. While women performed traditional roles, they also undermined those roles by declaring the fields to be their homes, in defiance of landowners and the state, becoming actors in their own right within the limitations imposed by gender.

Both men and women enrolled in normal schools and became teachers; it was one of the few options available to girls without family resources that let them postpone marriage and take up a career, however poorly paid. The separation of rural schools by gender during the 1940s worked to the girls’ advantage. Unconstrained by boys competing for the right to speak and obliged to select their own representatives to student groups, female leadership emerged among the normalistas of Saucillo. Saucillo consistently sent more supporters to UGOCM actions; they also collected money and food. The girls were in the thick of the protests; they were young, away from home, and responsible only to their teachers, who were themselves incubators of radicalism.

The discourse of the guerrilla was gendered; battles between male protagonists were described as duels. The gendered dimension of the conflict between serranos and caciques was expressed in terms of rape; José Ibarra, one of the Four Friends, and the men of his family were repeatedly described as rapists. The violation of the bodies of women—there is no evidence of the rape of boys or men—was meant to drive the smallholders out and quiet their demands for land and justice. The women’s bodies were tokens in battles among men, whereby the caciques affronted male honor.

Armed Struggle and the Cold War

Battles between smallholders in the sierra and caciques allied with state agents were face-to-face confrontations between armed actors with specific grievances. The inhabitants of the region had shown a long-standing propensity for armed self-defense that easily loaned itself to the foquismo then gaining currency among radicals. Formulated by Cuban revolutionaries, foquismo is the belief that a small group, organized in a foco or magnetic center, could through guerrilla attacks demonstrate the weakness of its enemy and the possibility of victory.19 Unlike later armed movements undertaken by students frustrated at their inability to affect social change during the dirty war, unequal to military conflict,20 the roots of the GPG were endemic to the sierra. The attack on the base grew from the confluence of this endemic movement and the explicitly revolutionary ideology developed in the group around Arturo Gámiz, a rural teacher and leader of both public and armed movements. Once the decision was taken, in late 1964, to expand the sporadic armed actions of the serranos into a larger arena, participants were corralled into activities that separated them from their base in the countryside and could only end in total victory or defeat. Misled by their own rhetoric, young people impatient with the popular movement and maddened by the intransigence of state authorities hurled themselves into an adventure whose spectacular failure put an end to the movement itself.

With obsessive simplicity, Gámiz believed the Cuban myth from Che’s Guerra de Guerrillas, first published in Havana in 1960 or 1961.21 “We consider that the Cuban Revolution contributed three fundamental lessons …: (1) Popular forces can win a war against the army. (2) It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them. (3) In underdeveloped America, the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting.”22 The GPG leapt from being convinced of the need for armed struggle to believing the same protesters who mobilized for land invasions were waiting the signal to rise up in arms. The results were tragic.

Governor Giner Durán refused to honor the code of protest, negotiation, and incorporation that was the cornerstone of rule by the PRI, which held presidential office until 2000. Giner defied the transfer of land to ejidos, insisting that not one meter remained subject to affectation and called out troops against protesters. Federal officials regarded Giner as incompetent23 and sent Federal Attorney General Salvador del Toro Rosales to Chihuahua on several occasions to ameliorate the damage.24 Enraged by the students’ participation, Giner closed a series of dormitories and schools and cast aspersions of promiscuity on girl students. His vulgarity was legendary, and he engaged in at least one shouting match with Arturo Gámiz on the patio of the statehouse. His recalcitrance may have done more than Che’s Guerra de Guerrillas to turn a popular social movement into an attack on the federal army.

Rogelio Hernández Rodríguez examined the relationship between presidents and state governors, refuting the myth of the strong center and puppet governors, noting that governors were allowed the substantial autonomy needed to guarantee stability and were only removed when they fail to keep the peace.25 Adolfo López Mateos removed the governor of Puebla for letting protests get out of hand; Gustavo Díaz Ordaz removed the governor of Durango for similar protests in 1966. Yet Giner Durán continued in office, even after the attack on the base. He faced considerable opposition from opposing factions within state government and the enmity of the local daily newspaper, along with several opposition papers. He explained that he was the “most anti-communist” of all and that the United States knew they could count on him; he bragged of creating problems where they did not exist. As long as the communists threatened, the federal authority would not remove him.26

Agrarismo and the Miracle Years

The agrarismo of Article 27 of the Constitution contained a contradiction: the campesinos’ struggle for land had been enough to enshrine collective landholding in the constitution but not enough to prevent a capitalist regime from constituting itself from elements of both new and old power. According to Armando Bartra, the state “was obligated to juridically recognize the campesino’s right to land, legalizing a kind of rural class struggle that questions nothing less than the sacred principle of capitalist private property.”27 The result was two sorts of agrarismo: revolutionary, seeking autonomy, and the official agrarismo of the revolution-made government. Land distributed to ejidos still belonged to the state, not to the community, and its expropriation was conducted by a cumbersome bureaucracy. Ejido land was frequently of poor quality and served as a locus for the reproduction of seasonal labor for commercial agriculture, while land intended for large-scale development remained private. The state was forced to mediate between the insatiable land hunger of the poor and the need of the rural bourgeoisie for secure tenure and social stability, which could only—paradoxically—be guaranteed through periodic distributions.

During the Miracle, 1940–1970, when annual economic growth reached astonishing rates under state management, this expansion meant a massive transfer of resources from country to town. Industry relied on cheap natural resources and the low wages of urban workers, whose ranks swelled with refugees from the countryside, subsidized by low food prices. The urban population doubled by mid-century, making Mexico predominantly urban.

The ejido, plagued by inefficiency, corruption, demographic increase, and soil exhaustion, frequently proved insufficient even for subsistence; ejidatarios were forced into the labor market to enrich the profits of entrepreneurial rivals. Others abandoned the countryside for the cities or migrated to work as peons in the United States. Agricultural resources were funneled into the export sector, revitalized by World War II and high-end domestic consumption.

The failure of the ejido system was obvious long before the dissolution of Article 27 in 1994. The ejidos assumed an impossible burden: to provide social justice and a livelihood to their members, to feed the growing cities, and to provide the state with a mechanism for the political incorporation of campesinos.28 At best, the ejidal parcel was part of a mixed strategy for family survival: illegally rented out or marginally farmed and combined with wage labor, migration, handicrafts, and small-scale retail sales, it provided an additional source of income or food.

The PRI’s stability had rested on its incorporation of blocs of campesinos, workers, and middle-class urban dwellers, whose organizations could be coopted and manipulated by the party. By mid-century, that system of cooptation and corporativism was unraveling, as the economy moved ahead, motivated by global economic currents as well as internal developments. Both workers and campesinos clamored for autonomous organizations and a greater share of the wealth. The middle classes demanded democracy and autonomy of their own. In 1968 the regime responded with naked repression: the old process of negotiation was overturned. Soon the state and the armed opposition confronted one another openly in what became known as the dirty war. In Chihuahua, the turning point came earlier.


The cycle of repression and protest that culminated in the attack on the base began in the small town of Madera, where Alvaro Ríos had just arrived to organize a chapter of the UGOCM. In November 1959, the retired schoolteacher Francisco Luján was assassinated at his home; he had spent years helping local campesinos petition for ejidos. The UGOCM organized a caravan protesting his murder; hundreds of people marched on foot to Chihuahua City.

The UGOCM attributed Luján’s assassination to José Ibarra. In 1956, he, Tomás Vega, Roberto Schneider, and Alejandro Prieto had formed the livestock company, Four Friends, with more than 2 million pesos, to buy land within the Bosques de Chihuahua concession.30 Vega, Schneider, and Prieto were established landowners; Ibarra was an adventurer and a thug. An AGN report described José Ibarra and his brother Florentino as the “protectors” of the other partners, dedicated to “repressive actions against the small cattlemen of the region, applying systems of torture and terror, and pillaging their goods and livestock, going as far as imprisonment and murder …”31 They were notorious rapists. The Four Friends were dissolved in 1958, but they were blamed for Ibarra’s depredations.

Ibarra was motivated by greed and lust for power. He appeared when the sierra was in flux as industrialization put pressure on traditional patterns of land tenure. He established a store and an illegal sotol (liquor) factory in the Mineral de Dolores, a former mining town east of Madera and the head of a municipal section. He and his supporters were authorized agents of the state police32 as they harassed the serranos and became primary targets of the guerrilla struggle. Although referred to as a cacique, he was not a traditional political boss and did not mediate between community and authorities.

In March 1960, Florentino Ibarra killed Carlos Ríos, an indigenous Pima and member of the UGOCM, in the Mineral de Dolores. Ibarra was sentenced to prison. Freed on bail, he appealed and his sentence was revoked.33 The demand for justice for these two assassinations would reverberate through the years. The Mineral de Dolores was also home to the Gaytán–Scobell family, smallholding and tenant ranchers whose feud with the Ibarras led them into the GPG. Other branches of the family, including several women, joined subsequent guerrilla movements.

At least four of the movement leaders had been born in poverty and spent formative years in Mexico City where they became members of the Partido Popular Socialista in the case of Ríos, Gámiz, and Gómez, and of the Partido Comunista Mexicana in the case of Judith Reyes. Ríos was the son of a campesino leader from Sonora, who spent years working with the UGOCM in Mexico City and attending its Universidad Obrera. It was Ríos who pioneered use of caravans and occupations to support paperwork and petitions. Arturo Gámiz was born to poor campesinos in Durango and sent to study in Mexico City as a child; he was an activist with the PPS’s youth group and student at the Politécnico Nacional when the army broke a student strike and occupied the dormitories. Expelled from school, he joined his family in Anáhuac, where his father was working, and after several years enrolled in the State Normal School. In late 1962, without a formal appointment, he arrived in Mineral de Dolores as a teacher when Salvador Gaytán won election as sectional president. The two mobilized the villagers to make a number of improvements, including the construction of a bridge to reduce the town’s isolation. Years later, after the emergence of the GPG, the outgoing mayor bragged of their achievements, without giving them credit, and heaped calumnies on the guerrilla.34

Pablo Gómez, also the child of poor campesinos, graduated from the State Normal School along with his brother Raúl and his wife, Alma Caballero, then moved to Mexico City where he studied medicine. The brothers were both militants in the PPS, and both obtained teaching positions in the Delicias district; Pablo taught at the girls’ normal school in nearby Saucillo.

Judith Reyes, the protest singer-songwriter, was born in Tamaulipas and moved to Mexico City where she sang on the radio for several years. She arrived in Chihuahua in late 1959 or early 1960 and worked as a journalist, where she came into contact with the first land invasions and protest marches. In 1962, she founded the semi-monthly newspaper Acción: Voz revolucionara del pueblo, dedicated to campesino mobilizations. Chihuahua supported three opposition newspapers: Acción; Indice, edited by Guillermo Gallardo; and El Norte, edited by Luis Fuentes Saucedo.

United in the early years, by late 1964 Ríos and Reyes had distanced themselves from Gámiz and the incipient GPG, Ríos organizing in neighboring Durango. Reyes wrote a number of corridos commemorating aspects of the struggle, including the “Corrido of Arturo Gámiz.”

The first land invasion, in 1960, took place on the Hacienda Santo Domingo, property of a U.S. citizen, southwest of Villa Ahumada. The land was solicited by two groups: one associated with the PRI’s Confederación Nacional Campesina and the other with the Villista División del Norte and the UGOCM.35 Part of the property was eventually expropriated and distributed, mostly to campesinos associated with the CNC. The División del Norte condemned this distribution and continued to invade until 1962.36

In November 1960, President Adolfo López Mateos visited Chihuahua. A delegation from Madera requested the expropriation of Bosques de Chihuahua and punishment for the murders of Luján and Ríos. They followed the official November 20 parade with one of their own, marching in freezing rain with a contingent of students.37 At the Celulosa plant in Anáhuac, labor went on strike, the company fired the leaders and threatened evictions from company housing, and eventually some partial victories were gained.38

When the United States invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, the students joined with Friends of Cuba to call for a demonstration. Catholic conservatives attacked the meeting, molotov cocktails were thrown, and five students and one professor were arrested as police moved in. Years later, Alvaro Ríos was accused of homicide in the death of a Catholic protester and served some six months in jail, although he had been on the speakers platform throughout the event.

In 1962, outgoing governor Teófilo Borunda left office amid accusations of financial scandal and was replaced by Práxedis Giner Durán. Giner was a military general who had fought with Pancho Villa’s Division of the North and was commander of the Fifth Military Zone and president of the Cattlemen’s Association. According to Victor Quintana, Giner was chosen for his vociferous anti-communism in contrast with Borunda who failed to prevent pro-Cuban mobilizations and the formation of a local chapter of the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional that summer.39

In 1963, a number of invasions occurred throughout the state as well as a protracted sit-in before the offices of the Departamento de Asuntos Agrarios y Colonización (Department of Agrarian Affairs and Colonization, DAAC), along with another visit by López Mateos, who met with leaders and promised his support. The DAAC continued to obstruct the distribution of parcels. The Mexico City journalist Roberto Blanco Moheno, who visited Chihuahua in 1964, insisted that the root of the conflict was corruption: DAAC officials were blackmailing latifundistas with the threat of expropriation, taking bribes to protect their properties, and distributing worthless lands to comply with presidential resolutions. He cited a number of examples and blamed the conflicts on Giner Durán’s announcement that, “All this agrarismo is bullshit. The lands should go back to the hacendados.”40 In the sierra, Bosques was threatening to evict families living within their concession, including the Gaytáns.41

The First Encounter of the Sierra “Pancho Villa” was a gathering of campesinos, students, and activists from neighboring states. It was held in the remote ejido of Cebadilla de Dolores, east of Madera. Cebadilla has been confused with the Mineral de Dolores; the Mineral, and not Cebadilla, was the sectional head where Salvador Gaytán was president and Arturo Gámiz taught. A deep barranca separates the two; a photograph entitled Mina de Dolores desde Cebadilla de Dolores can be found on Google Earth.42 The Encounters—the second was held in May 1965—were forums for the production of ideology. The Second Encounter produced the Five Resolutions of the Sierra,43 now available online, while the documents of the First Encounter are found in the AGN.44 Both the Resolutions and the First Encounter’s “Statement of Political Context” are remarkable for their lack of analysis of local conditions and reveal extensive borrowing from sources that did not take the local case into account. The “Statement” focused on world peace, disarmament, and the danger of a third world war, a Soviet preoccupation that rang a dissonant note in the Chihuahua backlands, as did its emphasis on workers and not campesinos. Jesús Vargas reproduced DFS reports from agents who infiltrated the gathering.45 The encounter did introduce the students to the sierra; afterwards they counseled local ejidatarios, then tore out a fence that a neighboring landowner had erected on ejido property to keep the campesinos from watering their livestock. Several were arrested and bailed out of jail.46

The Election Year of 1964

The PRI nominated Gustavo Díaz Ordaz as its presidential candidate, and the state section of the UGOCM came under pressure to contain the mass movement and support the candidate. A split in the local UGOCM became inevitable. Judith Reyes ran for state senate for the Federación Electoral Popular, a national group allied with the PCM, and the Gómez Ramírez brothers ran as district candidates of the PPS. Díaz Ordaz’s campaign stop in Chihuahua kicked off a riot, when students climbed on the platform and grabbed the microphone, demanding an interview; the crowd shouted slogans against the PRI and the governor, pelting the stage with sticks and fruit, and soon the platform was on fire, scorching the façade of City Hall.47 It was the second such event that spring. Earlier, students had stormed the headquarters of DAAC; in the frenzy someone had locked the front door, while dozens screamed at the director in his office. The combined forces of riot, municipal, and state police drove the students back into the streets, where they gathered before the statehouse and were driven away by tear gas while some thirty were arrested.48 Maddened by Giner’s refusal to negotiate and made bold by their own culture of opposition, the students regrouped and engaged in a festival of disobedience, burning “Bad Government” in effigy, encircling the statehouse, and carrying a coffin representing the governor.49

The year would be marked by increased polarization, as the governor faced off against the students, finally closing several dormitories and provoking a protracted strike that delayed school openings in the fall. The campesinos organized several intercity caravans and another prolonged sit-in in front of the offices of DAAC. To consolidate the movement’s moderate supporters, the businessman Lázaro Villarreal, who bankrolled a number of the movement’s activities, founded the Comité Pro Defensa de Guarantías Individuales y Sociales, which called for constitutional guarantees, another example of the movement’s insistence that it was they who obeyed the laws and the government and landowners who broke them.50 Ten years earlier, Villarreal had organized mobilizations against a previous governor, Oscar Soto Maynez, for covering up the murder of a taxidriver who had defended a waitress against some “juniors.” Soto Maynez was driven from office by huge demonstrations funded by many small donations, thousands from women.

The New Mexico land grant activist Reyes López Tijerina, who later attacked a local courthouse with arms, arrived in Chihuahua that summer, leading a delegation seeking support for their demand for restitution from the United States. He was welcomed by Judith Reyes and then deported.51

The first action of the GPG also occurred in 1964, when the group burned a bridge used to transport timber out of the sierra and left behind a banner supporting the land invasions and demanding liberty for the movement’s prisoners.52 In March, Salomón Gaytán shot and killed Florentino Ibarra in revenge for the murder of Carlos Ríos.53 In April, the GPG burned down José Ibarra’s house in Dolores.54 In February, Arturo Gámiz was arrested at a land invasion in Madera and held for several weeks at the state penitentiary, where he made a favorable impression on the federal attorney general sent to resolve the situation.55 Released on bail, he joined the GPG in the sierra. Florencio Lugo, recruited from jail in Casas Grandes, left a moving account of his days in the GPG in his Testimonio.56 Never more than a dozen and mostly serranos, including several who did not join the attack on the base, they hiked through the mountains, helping the inhabitants in their labors, and camped while listening to someone read from Che’s Guerra de Guerrillas. Many had been recruited following face-to-face confrontations with Ibarra and other caciques. Lugo also described a sometimes difficult relationship with the students, who had formed the Urban Support Network, charged with sending money and boots. A handful of urban recruits arrived in the sierra and were sent home, unable to endure the physical rigors. Lugo characterized the students as “subjective, romantic, and frequently without political experience,”57 but what could be more natural to a growing movement, one that had maintained a steady dynamic since the demonstrations in late 1959? Several young women, current and former normalistas, attempted to join the guerrillas and were dissuaded by Pablo Gómez.58

On May 18, gunmen surprised members of the GPG near Dolores, although they escaped and regrouped a few days later. The army sent three sections of soldiers, who failed to make contact. The soldiers hired guides among the serranos, who led them about pointlessly. The troops resorted to counterinsurgency to break civilians; they beat them, hung them from trees, and dangled them from helicopters flying close to the rocks.59

In June, graduates of the State Normal School agreed not to invite Giner to address their commencement, as was customary. Giner forced the director to back down. The students included Hilario Cardona in the list of graduates.60 Cardona was one of several long-term political prisoners that year, along with Alvaro Ríos; his declarations contain accounts of torture.61 In July, the GPG surrounded another house in Dolores where the state police were headquartered, burned it down, wounded two, confiscated their arms, debated whether to execute their prisoners, and then walked away.62 In the fall, Indice reprinted a long article, with abundant photos, including an interview with Arturo Gámiz and Salomón Gaytán, the group’s military leader; the article had originally been published in the national magazine Sucesos para Todos63 and documented a number of cases of abuse, including the torture of Gaytán’s eleven-year-old nephew. Sometime in the latter half of 1964, General Antonio Gómez Velasco, head of the Fifth Military Zone, ordered José Ibarra out of Madera. There are several conflicting versions of that encounter.64

Mexico City and Beyond

After a series of scattered small-scale ambushes of troops combing the rancherías, most of the GPG headed for Mexico City, hoping to broaden their contacts and undergo military training. A handful of fighters were left to carry out sporadic actions. Members trained in the mountains near the capital and in Zacatecas with the help of former army captain Lorenzo Cárdenas Barajas, who may have been a government agent. Attempts to raise money failed and no lasting alliances were forged. Little is known about those months.65

In Chihuahua, battles between normalistas and the governor intensified. Pablo and Raúl Gómez were assigned jobs far from the Conchos Valley, Pablo to Veracruz, which he refused. In May, the group organized the Second Encounter of Sierra “Heraclio Bernal” where the Five Resolutions were proclaimed. Presumably written by Gámiz, who did not appear, the Resolutions exhibited a blend of orthodox Marxism and foquismo, ending with a call to armed struggle. “We conceive of the reconstruction of the workers movement, the unification of the left, and the unification of a democratic or national patriotic front as the result and not a prerequisite of the armed revolutionary process.”66 Another article, signed by Gámiz, entitled “The Participation of the Students in the Revolutionary Movement,” has been circulated with the Resolutions and does contain a wealth of specific references to the actual situation.67

In May 1965, Salvador Gaytán resigned his position of sectional president and published a declaration that related the rebuilding of Dolores under his and Gámiz’s leadership, Ibarra’s aggressions, and his first action, the armed expropriation of a cattle dealer.68 Plans to assault the base were made in Mexico City. Several conflicting firsthand accounts relate the trip back to Chihuahua. A group kidnapped a taxi in Torreón on their way north and released the driver unharmed several days later; they seemed to be in a hurry to burn whatever bridges remained. Arriving in the capital, Gámiz called a meeting where he divided the group into units—one to retrieve high-powered weapons hidden in the sierra, another to visit Madera and report back on troop strength, and a third to travel directly to Madera.69

Only the last was successful. After kidnapping another vehicle—a logging truck—thirteen young men gathered outside Madera, without money or provisions, armed with a pitiful assortment of weapons and some homemade grenades that failed to ignite. Gámiz met arguments to wait with accusations of cowardice. They attacked just before dawn, five escaped and the rest were slain, their bodies tossed into a common grave and spread with lime before they had all been identified.70 The leaders of the group, Arturo Gámiz, Salomón Gaytán, and Pablo Gómez, were killed; the other dead were Miguel Quiñonez, director of the rural school at Ariseáchic, Guerrero; Rafael Martínez Valdivia, a teacher in Basúchil, Guerrero; Oscar Sandoval Salinas, a student at the State Normal School; Antonio Escóbel (Scobell) Gaytán, campesino and nephew of Salomón Gaytán; and Emilio Gámiz, State Normal School student and brother of Arturo Gámiz. Of the thirteen attackers, only Pablo Gómez, thirty-nine and father of five children, was older than twenty-five. Florencio Lugo, Francisco (Paco) Ornelas, José Juan (Matías) Fernández, Ramón Mendoza, and Guadalupe Scobell Gaytán escaped.

A few weeks later, Victor Rico Galán traveled to the sierra with the photographer Rodrigo Moya and published a sympathetic article in the national newsmagazine, Sucesos para todos.71 Again, repression in the sierra was harsh, although the five escaped guerrillas evaded capture. In the years following the attack, properties belonging to Ibarra, Vega, and Bosques de Chihuahua were expropriated;72 one of the principal beneficiaries was Ejido El Largo, which continues to produce timber under conditions that favor industry despite collective ownership.73 Chihuahua produced successor guerrilla groups in 1968 and 1971, along with the Committee of Popular Defense, a group of urban tenants who settled the Colonia Pancho Villa north of the capital. In the 1980s, Chihuahua was one of the first states to vote the PRI out of office. In September 2015, a series of celebrations honored the survivors, along with the release of a feature film, Las armas del alba,74 commemorating the attack.

The GPG and the effervescent public movement that produced it were part of a wave of armed resistance that swept the 1960s and ’70s, hoping to stem broad economic and political changes taking place on a global scale: the restructuring of domestic economies; the incorporation of former colonials within the U.S.’s sphere of influence; and the migration from country to town. The resistance, too, was global, taking its inspiration from Cuba, Algeria, China, and the black athletes who raised defiant fists at the Mexico City Olympics of 1968. By the 1980s, most of this revolutionary effervescence had dissipated, defeated by its own internal contradictions, the armed guerillas of the state, and sometimes by its own successes. The GPG emerged in a world that seemed poised on the brink of overturning the existing order.

The collapse of the Miracle’s overextended credit led to neoliberal restructuring and the lost decade of the 1980s, bringing an end to the corporative inclusion and clientelist bonds that once cemented the PRI’s control at the bottom. The countryside is now dominated by cash crops destined for export, especially illegal drugs. Entire villages in the sierra are ruled by cartels that provide the only capital for even modest improvements. The cartels themselves have been privatized and penetrated ever more deeply in state institutions. The United States has been doubly complicit, by its insistence on structural adjustments favoring the wealthy and by its vast market for illegal drugs.75 Today’s desolation is the reflection of battles lost fifty years ago.

Discussion of the Literature

Scholarly literature focused on these events was long limited to a discussion by Marco Bellingeri,76 who analyzed the armed movements in Guerrero, Morelos, and Chihuahua as a crisis of modernization, when old forms of authoritarian power conflicted with new regional oligarchies, exemplied by Bosques de Chihuahua, demonstrating the intractable crisis in what was called the Miracle.

In 1968, José Santos Valdés, the School Inspector for Northern Mexico and a friend of Pablo Gómez, published Madera: Razón de un Martiriologio77; for decades, this was the only source of information, along with its curious sequel, ¡Qué poco mad … era la de José Santos Valdés!, a fraudulent memoir intended as misinformation.78

In 2003, the novelist Carlos Montemayor published the first of a trilogy of historical novels about the attack,79 based on extensive interviews now transcribed and available to the public. While not scholarly, these works were carefully researched and played a crucial role in opening the public discussion of events which had long been denied.

In 2002 Victor Orozco, Chihuahua’s most prominent historian who recently retired from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, presented a brief but thoughtful analysis of the development of the guerrilla, noting both the influence of the Cuba and the diminishing weight of the countryside.80

Early discussions tended to rely on interviews, memoirs, newspapers, internal documents, and each other, without recourse to either the agrarian archives, still available in Chihuahua City, or the DFS and IPS archives, available in 2002. The Chihuahua States Archives were in disarray. Among those early studies were “El amanecer de la rebelión,” by Juan Fernando Reyes Peláez,81 former director of the Center for Historic Investigations of the Armed Movements (CIHMAS), and José Antonio Reyes Matamoros y José Luis Moreno Borbolla, “Un 23 de Septiembre en Chihuahua.”82 Alberto López Limón contributed “Los martires de Madera.”83 In February 2006, the Special Prosecutor for Social and Political Movements of the Past, an office created in 2002 with the opening of the national security archives, published a Draft Report including a study of the GPG with substantial references to the DFS archives.84 These early works were limited by a teleological focus on the guerrilla to the exclusion of the conditions that gave rise to it and tended to recycle certain minor errors; they sometimes betrayed the authors’ lack of familiarity with Chihuahua.

For decades, Jesús Vargas Valdés has published an invaluable series of chronicles about many aspects of Chihuahua’s history in a column titled “La Fragua de los Tiempos.”85 In 2015, on the fiftieth anniversary of the attack, he published Madera Rebelde, a lively account, but with limited historic context, an abrupt ending, no bibliography, and almost no footnotes.86

In 2015 Aleida García Aguirre published a monograph that analyzes the relationship between campesinos and normalistas, based on extensive research in the agrarian archives and interviews.87 Tanalís Padilla, who analyzed Jaramillo’s movement in Morelos,88 is working on a manuscript entitled The Unintended Lessons of Revolution: School Teachers in the Mexican Countryside, 1940–1980. Nithia Castorena has done substantial work on women in Chihuahua’s guerrilla movements.89 Adela Cedillo continues to do important work on the dirty war. These and others promise to go beyond a hagiographic recital of names and actions and contribute to a critical discussion of the role of political violence in revolutionary strategy and an understanding of the social culture of revolutionary—or prerevolutionary—times.

Primary Sources

In the Archivo General de la Nación: Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS) and Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales (IPS), not classified for easy reference.

The Hemeroteca at the UNAM contains Acción (a number of issues are missing), Indice, El Norte, and El Heraldo de Chihuahua.

The state agrarian archives are now at the Registro Agrario Nacional in Mexico City. In 2012, archives of the state criminal courts were in the security compound known as SE4 on Highway 16 East. The State Normal School maintains archives of enrollment and grades.

A website maintained by the Colegio de México contains 450 internal documents of armed movements from 1960 to 2005, including the GPG.

The Chihuahua state archives are now at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua; the archivists maintain a website and answer queries.

The Special Collections Library of the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez houses the Carlos Montemayor collection and the transcripts of many of Montemayor’s interviews.

Madera65 is maintained by Comité Primeros Vientos, commemorating the attack, with a wealth of material in many forms.

Movimientos Armados contains 450 internal documents of the armed movements between 1960 and 2005.

Further Reading

Aviña, Alexander. Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside. London: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

    Bellingeri, Marco. Del agrarismo armado a la guerra de los pobres: Ensayos de guerrilla rural en el México contemporaneo, 1940–1974. Mexico City: Editorial Casa Juan Pablos, 2003.Find this resource:

      Calderón, Fernando Herrera, and Adela Cedillo. Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964–1982. New York: Routledge, 2011.Find this resource:

        Castorena Sáenz, Nithia. “Estaban ahí. Las mujeres en los grupos armados de Chihuahua. (1965–1973).” Master’s thesis, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Administracion, Departamento de Humanidades, 2013.Find this resource:

          García Aguirre, Aleida. La revolución que llegaría: Experiencias de solidaridad y redes de maestros y normalistas en el movimiento campesino y la guerrilla moderna en Chihuahua, 1960–1968. Mexico City: n.p., 2015.Find this resource:

            Lugo Hernández, Raúl Florencio. 23 de septiembre de 1965: El asalto al cuartel de Madera, Testimonio de un sobrevivente. 3d ed. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de Chapingo, 2006.Find this resource:

              Montemayor, Carlos. Las armas del alba: Novela. Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz, 2003.Find this resource:

                Montemayor, Carlos. La fuga. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2007.Find this resource:

                  Montemayor, Carlos. Las mujeres del alba. Mexico City: Grijalbo, 2010.Find this resource:

                    Oikion, Veronica and Marta Eugenia Garcia Ugarte, eds. Movimientos armados en Mexico, Siglo XX. 3 vols. Mexico City: Colegio de Michoacán/CIESAS, 2006.Find this resource:

                      Orozco, Victor. Diez ensayos sobre Chihuahua. Chihuahua, Mexico: Doble Hélice, 2003.Find this resource:

                        Santos Valdés, José. Madera: Razón de un Martiriologio. Mexico City: n.p., 1968.Find this resource:

                          Vargas Valdés, Jesús. Madera Rebelde: Movimiento agrario y guerrilla (1959–1965). Chihuahua, Mexico: Ediciones Nueva Vizcaya, 2015.Find this resource:


                            (1.) Carlos Montemayor, Las armas del alba: Novela (Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz, 2003), 72; and Victor Rico Galán, “De la desesperación a la muerte,” Sucesos para todos, 13.

                            (2.) See Fernando Jordán, Crónica de un país bárbaro (Chihuahua, Mexico: Centro Librero, s.f., 1975; originally published in 1956).

                            (3.) See Victor Orozco, Diez ensayos sobre Chihuahua (Chihuahua, Mexico: Doble Hélice, 2003), especially “Tradiciones guerreras y antiautoritarias.”

                            (4.) Ernesto Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998). Originally published in English, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1961.

                            (5.) See Brian Delay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

                            (6.) Mark Wasserman, Capitalists, Caciques, and Revolution: The Native Elite and Foreign Enterprise in Chihuahua, Mexico, 1854–1911 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 82.

                            (7.) Noé G. Palomares Peña, Propietarios Norteamericanos y Reforma Agraria en Chihuahua, 1917–1942 (Juárez: Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, 1991), 111–113.

                            (8.) See François Lartigue, Indios y bosques: Políticas forestales y comunales en la Sierra Tarahumara (Mexico City: CIESAS, 1983), 1927.

                            (9.) María Teresa Guerrero, “The Forest Industry in the Sierra Madre of Chihuahua: Social, Economic, and Ecological Impacts” (Comisión de Solidaridad y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Chihuahua, and Texas Center for Policy Studies, Austin, Texas, July, 2000), 25, available at

                            (10.) Alejandra Salas-Porras, Grupos empresariales en Chihuahua de 1920 al presente (Mexico City: Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, 1992), 17–20.

                            (11.) AGN IPS, vol. 1027.

                            (12.) Aleida García Aguirre, “Normalistas y maestros en el movimiento campesino y guerrillero de Chihuahua, 1960–1968. Experiencias de solidaridad y relaciones reticulares en la formación de un sujeto político.” Master’s thesis, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados, Departamento de Investigaciones Educativas, 2012, 54–55, citing DAAC 1965, Vencimiento de las primeras concesiones de inafectabilidad ganadera, a report issued following the first round of expirations.

                            (13.) See Aleida García Aguirre, La revolución que llegaría: Experiencias de solidaridad y redes de maestros y normalistas en el movimiento campesino y la guerrilla moderna en Chihuahua, 1960–1968 (Mexico City: n.p., 2015) for relations between campesinos and normalistas.

                            (14.) García Aguirre, “Normalistas,” 37.

                            (16.) See Victor Orozco, “Las luchas populares de los setenta,” in Diez Ensayos.

                            (17.) Anonymous, Resolutions of the Second Encounter of the Sierra “Heraclio Bernal” (Chihuahua, Mexico: Ediciones Linea Revolucionaria, 1965).

                            (18.) See Nithia Castorena Sáenz, “Estaban ahí. Las mujeres en los grupos armados de Chihuahua (1965–1973).” Master’s thesis, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Administración, Departamento de Humanidades, 2013.

                            (19.) See Guevara, Guerilla Warfare, and Régis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution? Armed Struggle and Political Struggle in Latin America (New York: Grove, 1967).

                            (20.) See Fernando Herrera Calderón and Adela Cedillo, Challenging Authoritarianism in Mexico: Revolutionary Struggles and the Dirty War, 1964–1982 (New York: Routledge, 2011).

                            (21.) Carlos Montemayor, Interview with Refugia Carrasco and Herminia Gómez, 6 (Special Collections, Library of the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, Fondo Carlos Montemayor, Serie: Analista político, Asalto al Cuartel de Madera).

                            (22.) Guevara, Guerilla Warfare, 7.

                            (23.) See AGN IPS, vol. 1025, for a detailed report on Giner and Chihuahua by government agents.

                            (24.) See Salvador del Toro Rosales, Testimonios (Monterrey: Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo Leon, 1996), 23, 94.

                            (25.) See Rogelio Hernández Rodríguez, El centro dividido: La nueva autonomía de los gobernadores (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 2008).

                            (26.) Proceso, September 20, 2015, 45–46.

                            (27.) Armando Bartra, Los herederos de Zapata: Movimientos campesinos posrevolucionarios en México, 1920–1980 (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1985), 27.

                            (28.) Thanks to Christopher R. Boyer for this formulation; he added ecological preservation.

                            (29.) There are multiple references for this and the next section; frequently sources in the DFS (AGN), the opposition press, the memoirs, and the Montemayor interviews agree, except in minor details.

                            (30.) AGN DFS, Exp. 100-5-1-64, L9, H109.

                            (31.) AGN IPS, vol. 1027.

                            (32.) AGN DFS 100-5-1-64, L9, H107–21.

                            (33.) AGN IPS, vol. 2023A, exp. 20.

                            (34.) State Archives, Presidencia Municipal Madera, Tesorería, Asunto Varios, oficio 84, exp. AV-17-964.

                            (35.) García Aguirre, “Normalistas,” 81.

                            (36.) García Aguirre, “Normalistas,” footnote to 80.

                            (37.) Indice, November 26, 1960, 1; and Arturo Gámiz, “The Participation of Students in the Revolutionary Movement” (Chihuahua, Mexico: Ediciones Linea Revolucionaria, 1965), no. 24.

                            (38.) Indice, 1960.

                            (39.) Victor Quintana, “Madera 65: Los ejes del contexto,” La Jornada del Campo, September 19, 2015, 14.

                            (40.) Roberto Blanco Moheno, La noticia detrás de la noticia (Mexico City: Editorial V Siglos, 1975), 204–206.

                            (41.) Acción, July, 1963, and Indice, July 5, 1963.

                            (43.) Anonymous, Resolutions.

                            (44.) AGN IPS, vol. 2955A, exp. 5.

                            (45.) Jesús Vargas Valdés, La Fragua de los Tiempos, 946 and 947,

                            (46.) AGN IPS, vol. 1305; and Acción, November 1963, 1.

                            (47.) Oscar Viramontes, “Un incidente que hizo temblar a Chihuahua,” El Heraldo de Chihuahua, October 12, 2009, based on contemporary accounts.

                            (48.) Acción, February 25, 1964, 1.

                            (49.) Indice, March 7, 1964, 1; and AGN IPS, vol. 1305.

                            (50.) AGN IPS, vol. 1027.

                            (51.) Acción, July 15, 1964, 1.

                            (52.) AGN DFS 100-5-3-64, H36–37, L2; and Raúl Florencio Lugo Hernández, 23 de septiembre de 1965: El asalto al cuartel de Madera, Testimonio de un sobrevivente, 3d ed. (Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de Chapingo, 2006), 56.

                            (53.) José Santos Valdés, Madera: Razón de un Martiriologio (México City: n.p., 1968), 81–87.

                            (54.) State Archives, Inspector General de la Policía, no. 1083, exp. IV, April 27, 1964.

                            (55.) Juzgado Primero de lo Penal, Distrito Morales, legajo no. 49, causa no. 28, 1964, Arturo Gamiz Garcia and Manuel Montes Varela; and Toro Rosales, Testimonios, 39–47.

                            (56.) Lugo, 23 de septiembre de 1965.

                            (57.) Lugo, 23 de septiembre de 1965, 76.

                            (58.) Montemayor, Guadalupe Jacott Interview, 8; Clara Elena Gutierrez Interview, 29; and Laura Gaytán Interview, 4.

                            (59.) Daniel de los Reyes, “Guerrillas en la sierra chihuahuense,” Sucesos para Todos, September 11, 18, and 25, 1964.

                            (60.) Indice, June 20, 1964, 1.

                            (61.) Juzgado Primero de lo Penal, Distrito Morales, legajo 67, no. 612. 221/64, Jesús Hilario Cardona Rodríguez.

                            (62.) State Archives, Inspector General of the Police, oficio 1772, exp. VII and Lugo, 65–70.

                            (63.) Reyes, “Guerrillas.”

                            (64.) See AGN DFS 100-5-1, L16, H96; AGN DFS 100-5-1, L9, H70; AGN DFS 100-5-1 L10 H231; and AGN IPS 2023 A, exp. 20.

                            (65.) See Lugo, 23 de septiembre de 1965; Raúl Florencio Lugo Hernández, Del cuartel a Lecumberri (Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico: n.p., 2005); Francisco Ornelas Gómez, Sueños de libertad (Chihuahua, Mexico: n.p., 2005); “Informe de Ramón,”, accessed December 14, 2014; and Montemayor, José Juan (Matías) Fernández Adame Interview, 1.

                            (66.) Anonymous, Resolutions, “Fifth Resolution: The Only Path to Follow.”

                            (67.) Gámiz, “The Participation of Students.”

                            (68.) Santos Valdés, 81–87.

                            (69.) See Orozco, “La guerrilla de los sesenta,” in Diez Ensayos; Lugo, 23 de septiembre de 1965; and “Informe de Ramón.”

                            (70.) Salomón Gaytán’s family retrieved his body, held a wake, and buried it separately. His name appears on the stone placed later on the common grave.

                            (71.) Victor Rico Galán, “Chihuahua: de la desesperación a la muerte,” Sucesos para todos, October 15, 1965.

                            (72.) See AGN IPS vol. 450; Registro Agrario Nacional (RAN), Delegación Chihuahua, Dirección de Catastro Rural, Estructura Ejidal, April 15, 1994, 27; and Luis Aboites, Breve historia de Chihuahua (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1994), 166.

                            (73.) María Guadalupe del Socorro López Alvarez, “Poder, desarrollo y medio ambiente en el ejido forestal ‘El Largo’ y sus anexos: Chihuahua (1971–1994).” Master’s thesis, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco, 1996, 38.

                            (74.) Las armas del alba, directed by José Luis Urquieta, based on the novel of Carlos Montemayor (Galactica Films, 2013).

                            (75.) See Carmen Boullosa and Mike Wallace, “How the Cartels Were Born,” Jacobin online, available at

                            (76.) Marco Bellingeri, Del agrarismo armado a la guerra de los pobres: Ensayos de guerrilla rural en el México contemporaneo, 1940–1974 (Mexico City: Editorial Casa Juan Pablos, 2003); and “La imposibilidad del odio: La guerrilla y el movimiento estudiantil en México, 1960–1974” in La transición interrumpida. México 1968–1988, ed. Ilán Semo (Mexico City: Universidad Iberoamericana y Nueva Imagen, 1993).

                            (77.) José Santos Valdés, Madera: Razón de un Martiriologio (Mexico City: n.p., 1968).

                            (78.) Prudencio Godines Jr., ¡Qué poco mad … era la de José Santos Valdés! (Mexico City: n.p., 1968).

                            (79.) Montemayor, Las armas; La fuga (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2007); Las mujeres del alba (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 2010).

                            (80.) Orozco, “La guerrilla de los sesenta,” in Diez Ensayos, op.cit.; and in Veronica Oikion and Marta Eugenia Garcia Ugarte, eds., Movimientos armados en Mexico, Siglo XX, vol. 2 (Mexico City: CIESAS, 2006).

                            (81.) Juan Fernando Reyes Peláez, “El amanecer de la rebelión,” from his unpublished manuscript, Los Movimientos Armados en México (1943–1985).

                            (82.) José Antonio Reyes Matamoros y José Luis Moreno Borbolla, “Un 23 de Septiembre en Chihuahua,” Expediente Abierto, CIHMAS, No. 1.

                            (83.) Alberto López Limón, “Los martires de Madera,” in Enrique Camacho Navarro, ed., El Rebelde contemporáneo en el circuncaribe: Imágenes y representaciones (Mexico City: UNAM, 2006).

                            (84.) “Beginnings of the Modern Guerrilla in Mexico,” available at

                            (85.) Vargas, Fragua.

                            (86.) Jesús Vargas Valdés, Madera Rebelde: Movimiento agrario y guerrilla (1959–1965) (Chihuahua, Mexico: Ediciones Nueva Vizcaya, 2015).

                            (87.) García Aguirre, La revolución.

                            (88.) Tanalís Padilla, Rural Resistance in the Land of Zapata: The Jaramillista Movement and the Myth of the Pax-Priísta, 1940–1962 (Durham, NC: Duke, 2008).

                            (89.) Castorena, “Estaban ahí.”