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date: 19 September 2017

General Victoriano Huerta and the Mexican Revolution

Summary and Keywords

General Victoriano Huerta (1850–1916) stands out as the bête noire of twentieth-century Mexico. He was a career army officer who had attained the rank of general. Other generals and the old economic and social hierarchy supported him as a transitional national leader who could restore order following Francisco Madero’s revolution and presidency. Huerta has become the national bête noire because of his assumed responsibility for the assassination of Madero and his vice president, along with several governors and congressmen of the revolutionary regime. His seizure of power resulted in a new phase of the Mexican Revolution, the U.S. occupation of Veracruz, and his involvement with German Mexico and the area along the border with the United States. After going into exile, he attempted to return to power by invading Mexico. He was arrested by U.S. officials and interned at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas, where he died during emergency surgery.

Keywords: Mexico, revolution, dictatorship, Victoriano Huerta, Francisco Madero, Germany, United States, Great Britain

By February 1913, almost no one in the civilian, military, or diplomatic realms spoke publicly in favor of President Francesco Madero’s continuation in office. General Félix Díaz, in cooperation with other Porfirian army officers, launched a rebellion in February 1913 against Madero’s government and quickly seized the armory in the nation’s capital (called the citadel). This revolt was the occasion, but not the reason, for what became the Victoriano Huerta dictatorship that lasted from the end of February 1913 until July 1914.

Observers following the revolt against Madero understood it as story of strong military egos and popular aspirations of peasants and miners. But the events had an international component as well, which emerged during the revolt against Madero and Huerta’s two years in office. Featured were the naïve Mexican president Madero; ruthless generals, especially the dictator Huerta; the idealistic, impractical President Woodrow Wilson; a rogue U.S. ambassador named Henry Lane Wilson; and the German ambassador Paul von Hintze. All acted within unspoken international rules.

On February 10, 1913, General Victoriano Huerta, one of President Madero’s most trusted and prominent generals, took command of the defense of the regime. As General Félix Díaz, in defiance of the political order, revolted and captured the capitol’s citadel, Huerta fought for Madero from the national place only a few streets away.

General Huerta, intimately familiar with how violence enabled but also unmasked political legitimacy, knew that the other federal generals, like Díaz, wanted to topple the president and his revolutionary regime. These officers lacked Huerta’s rank and Díaz’s last name (he was the nephew of Porfirio Díaz, who dominated the nation from 1876 to 1911). Some, no doubt, were not eager to engage in open revolt, which for a soldier, if the revolt failed, meant the end of a military career, court-martial, prison, or even execution for treason.

President Madero tried to overlook the frightening reality of his fragile regime. He acted as though he could serve out his term by simply demanding unconditional surrender from the traitor General Díaz. This required that Huerta and the other generals maintain their political courage with spines of steel. Curiously, Secretary of War Aureliano Blanquet, who was outside the capital, did not return to Mexico City to organize a convincing response to Díaz’s actions, and unfortunately many other officers quickly began considering various ways to eliminate the valiant, although unrealistic, president. Another blow to Madero came with the defections of four hundred volunteers. On February 12, they simply ran across the street to join Díaz’s camp.

Nor did international diplomats stand with the president. U.S. and European envoys jointly punctured Madero’s brave façade as they demanded the president reestablish effective control to stop all rebel activity against foreigners in the capital and the countryside. The German ambassador reported disappointment with the widespread disorder.

During this period, which became known as the Ten Tragic Days (La Decena Trágica), the bombardment mostly killed citizens in the downtown district. Díaz sent delegates to the U.S. embassy to determine whether Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson would publicly support his plan to take office through a coup, a process distasteful to the U.S. president-elect, Woodrow Wilson (no relation to the ambassador).

Ambassador Wilson publicly broke with the united diplomatic front in the capital city. He reported that U.S. warships carrying soldiers were traveling toward Mexican ports. Other nations were also dispatching ships, but only to receive their citizens who were eager to escape the violence and confusion caused by Díaz’s insurrection.

President Madero interpreted the reports from different diplomats about “ships landing” as “invasion.” Perhaps nobody told him that the United States did not have an army large enough to occupy Mexico, nor was there sufficient political support in the United States to sustain a war that would no doubt result in a large number of casualties following an invasion. The situation became more complex when European war broke out barely months after the Balkan Wars of 1912.

The Spanish ambassador delivered the most painful punch against Madero. In dramatic interference in Mexican domestic sovereignty, he demanded of Foreign Minister Pedro Lascuraín that the president resign.

The generals still publicly loyal to Madero had begun to negotiate with the rebels, not for the surrender of Díaz but to force Madero to resign. As the generals talked, diplomats noted on February 14 that “a lack of motivation was beginning to dominate the military. Men no longer wanted to attack.” Díaz chimed in that he was actually holding back from attacking other parts of the city and would march directly from the citadel to the national palace at the Zócalo and capture it. Even the prospect of the arrival of pro-government auxiliary troops with ample ammunition lost any significance. Prominent individuals refused to speak publicly in favor of Madero as they agreed in private that they wanted to get rid of him as president.

Political gossip became rampant. Politicos discussed how Madero should resign. How should Madero respond to Díaz and his army supporters? Should Congress be called into session to demand Madero’s resignation? Or just the Senate? Or should one leading political personality make a public demand instead? In the background European and U.S. diplomats continued to send strong negative signals. The British ambassador raised “questions of liability against British property.” On February 14 the Spanish ambassador repeated to Madero his demand that the president resign.

Ambassador Wilson repeated his fabrications, assuring Madero that the next weekend U.S. troops might arrive in the capital. On the evening of February 14 Foreign Minister Lascuraín succumbed to diplomatic pressure and promised to devote his political energies to obtaining Madero’s resignation.

At this time Huerta increased in prominence among foreign diplomats. On February 16, Ambassador Wilson introduced Huerta to the diplomatic corps as the man “who could create permanent peace and order in Mexico.” Most European diplomats were delighted. The German diplomat Hintze never offered support for the man from Coahuila, however. He contributed to Madero’s demise in a kind of “good cop” performance, trying to be more considerate than his U.S. colleague. Even though he differed in style and diplomacy, Hintze agreed completely with Wilson’s goal. On February 17 Hintze visited Foreign Minister Lascuraín and expressed hope of finding a “middle way that would serve Madero and his challenger, Félix Díaz.” Leaders in the Madero revolution—Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, and Venustiano Carranza—were rejected as successors at that time, with great vehemence.

Madero did not understand the global rulebook of direct and indirect acquisition and imperialism. He had not studied the struggles over the Yangtze before 1905 nor the two Moroccan crises thereafter. If Great Britain could not possess parts of China outright and France was denied exclusive possession of part of North Africa, then Mexico had to be kept free of occupation by a single power as well. The Monroe Doctrine, aspiration and fiction combined, made the situation a high-level challenge. Hintze went to great lengths to assure everyone who would listen that Madero would be allowed to go into exile. Then he explored transitional stages of change in the Mexican government. For example, Huerta might be imposed “as a general governor with powers to end the revolution as he saw fit.” Spanish and Japanese diplomats also worked to ensure that Madero would stay alive and receive exile.

On February 17, Lascuraín again reported threats of a U.S. invasion and the president agreed, in principle, to resign. Then reliable new information proved that the imminent invasion story was a falsehood. Madero again decided to stay in office and to ride out the crisis.

Ambassador Wilson wanted to arrange some form of understanding between Generals Huerta and Díaz (he preferred Díaz to take office). He managed the Pact of the Embassy, which resulted in Madero’s arrest and forced resignation. Huerta, to everyone’s surprise but to his, gained the top spot as provisional president in the evolving political order inside the capital. Wilson offered a personal expression of gratitude to the European diplomats for not putting themselves in public opposition to the coup d’état.

European governments thought that any U.S. invasion into Mexico would mean the loss of their national citizens’ property, investments, and future rights. Whether or how an imperialist division of Latin America would ever take place remained an open question. From 1902 until 1906 quiet understandings might have been possible for the division of the hemisphere. Then the Russo-Japanese War changed priorities. In 1913 the German–British naval competition and the Balkan Wars overshadowed all other international affairs. Still, U.S. forces had to be kept out of the country to avoid a repetition of events in Cuba or the Philippines.

Before European governments endorsed any Mexican revolutionary faction they wanted assurance that it would keep out the United States and maintain a relatively open door for future concessions and trade. No one cared about social justice or peasant culture, so impressively demonstrated by Emiliano Zapata in Morelos and Pancho Villa in Chihuahua. The coup against Madero was expected to be considered within the diplomatic rules of imperialism. Like so many before him, the man holding authoritarian power would be recognized, regardless of his qualities as a person or his political legitimacy. Particularly in the Western Hemisphere, the United States was expected to initiate the ritual of recognition.

In 1913 the start of World War I was still one year away and the certainty of this process of recognition was not questioned at all. Provisional President Victoriano Huerta depended on its successful unfolding, not just for political legitimacy but also for a chance to finance his government quickly through loans and credits on Wall Street or on the exchanges of London, Paris, or Brussels. Only diplomatic recognition would deliver the imperialist passport to the world’s banks and exchanges—the lifeline to build what Huerta wanted to accomplish. And it was clear that Huerta fulfilled the customary three conditions for diplomatic recognition. Europeans could not imagine that a new U.S. president would attempt to add a new fourth condition demanding that a government was legitimate or, at least, had a constitutional foundation. Yet after the March 1913 presidential inauguration Woodrow Wilson did add this new fourth criterion. And since Huerta could not demonstrate constitutional legitimacy, President Wilson refused to move into the direction all sides had expected. Thus, days of uncertainty turned into weeks of no recognition of the strong man whom all had insisted would bring order.

The Monroe Doctrine continued to be a particular provocation for European powers. Particularly, Germany’s Wilhelm II was burning with desire to somehow break it. Thus any submission to a new U.S. policy in Latin America had a more bitter taste than submission to a U.S. wish pertaining to or Africa. It was a matter of honor and European self-respect not to submit to any U.S. political order in Latin America.

In this way a most delicate political problem grew one year before World War I. How could continental European powers realize an independent policy in Mexico without coming into open, hostile opposition to the United States, one year after the Balkan Wars had given a first impression of how terrible even a regional imperial war could become? These powers did not believe it was a propitious time to make Mexico a test case for global imperial ambitions. Thus Huerta experienced his first month in office without access to international legal capital markets, which typically followed from diplomatic recognition.

Imperial Germany kept as its highest policy priority the protection of German investments and properties in Mexico. In particular, German diplomats did not want their citizens in a war zone or subject to foreign invading forces. The best the German ambassador could imagine was that after his March 3 inauguration Woodrow Wilson would need a few weeks to assemble his cabinet and move toward effective international diplomacy. The British could follow without having taken a public position for or against U.S. policy. And, most importantly, German investment and production sites could remain inside Mexico. Hintze wondered if Great Britain and the United States would join in pressuring any new Mexican administration to recognize the revolutionary damage claims that had been made.

The newly inaugurated President Wilson, correctly, focused on the unfolding British–French–German enmity and other global areas of conflict. Huerta and Mexico were not in the forefront of his concerns. Wilson had no particular U.S. policy toward Huerta in these first weeks of his term. Wilson’s secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, simply asked his international colleagues to wait until Wilson had developed a stance. In Germany, Undersecretary of State Arthur Zimmerman was happy to oblige. He said Germany had no intention of running ahead of the United States in this region. Such hesitation by Washington was read by business leaders, particularly in Europe, as a potential chance to make commercial gains.

When Wilson finally acted, his first step was to gather information from trusted emissaries, not the State Department. He sent William B. Hale on a fact-finding tour to learn in detail what the diplomat Henry Lane Wilson had done in the name of the previous administration. Consequently, May and June passed without any political progress.

Huerta meanwhile chaired a cabinet and a bureaucracy and enacted dictatorial measures. In full expectation of becoming part of a lasting national government, cabinet secretaries carried out programs in the name of interim president Huerta. Contrary to the charges that their programs were counterrevolutionary, their policies were progressive in nature. In March the government gave back to the Yaqui and Mayo Indians the village lands that had been stolen from them during the Porfirio Díaz regime. Some farmers were given free seeds, and a new cabinet ministry was created to deal with agrarian issues.

Workers were allowed to hold the nation’s first May Day rally on May 1, 1913. Additional modest institutional reforms were enacted recognizing that labor issues needed the government’s attention to find a solution. In another progressive step, the government founded an Ethnographic Institute in late summer 1913 that broke with the Porfirian and positivist policies of hostility toward all things Native American. Under Huerta, indigenous handicrafts were for the first time officially recognized as valued and worthy of government attention. Huerta’s government also pushed through a plan to train technicians. Only Mexicans were allowed to work in the technical service of this project.

The U.S. president’s principles were costly to U.S. companies. Belgian and French investors seized opportunities as Wall Street banks remained hesitant to invest in a Mexican government without international diplomatic recognition. In Brussels on July 8, 1913, Huerta’s secretary of development agreed to grant a fifty-two-year concession for a new railroad network. He reported to Huerta that the Societé Generale des Chemíns de Fer Secondaíres would finance the construction of a five-thousand-kilometer railroad. The total investment was valued at 625 million Francs! This contract made Belgian financial and industrial interests in Mexico second to those of France and put them ahead of those of Germany. This contract was approved a second time in December 1913. In this way, Huerta had avoided U.S. railroad barons and would acquire a new national rail system. (Venustiano Carranza, once he became president after the defeat of Huerta, cancelled the contract.) U.S. interests also lost contracts for rails, lumber, and rolling stock to European suppliers.

As Belgian and French companies invested in the development of Mexico, Wilson’s emissary Hale returned with an honest evaluation of Huerta. Hale described him to the president in a most damaging way, as brutal and dictatorial. He recommended that Huerta should, somehow, be removed from the presidential chair. Thereafter a new, legitimate leader should be selected in free elections. The resulting government would be worthy of U.S. and other international recognition. Never did Hale recommend supporting any segment of the revolutionary coalition that opposed Huerta. The next president, in Hale’s view, should come out of an urban-led election with no social justice component.

Following this report, the first Wilsonian policy was communicated to Europeans in contradictory fashion. In London on July 3, 1913, the British foreign secretary, Edward Grey, met with Wilson’s adviser Colonel Edward M. House to discuss U.S. policy. House told the anxious British official that the United States did not care which faction won as long as order was reestablished. Two days later in Mexico City, Henry Lane Wilson told German diplomats that Wilson had decided never to recognize Huerta. Thus, recognition by any European nation would cause an open public break with the United States. The imperialistic European powers wanted a neutral U.S. administration. The best the German diplomats could conclude was “consequences for Europe unforeseeable.”

For Huerta, the division between U.S. and European diplomats remained incomprehensible. Both groups, just a few months earlier, had encouraged him to undertake the toppling of the Madero administration and to begin a harsh pacification of Mexico. In Mexico City he observed ambassadors exploring the creation of a European front against Woodrow Wilson’s naïve idealism. Publicly, European diplomats withheld their disgust with the United States. Germany, Great Britain, and France, and even Japan, did not want to defy Wilson’s principles in regard to Huerta.

As early as April 1913, Huerta began to understand that U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson had not accurately represented his influence in the State Department of the new Wilson administration and among European decision makers who dealt with recognition. Huerta’s mistake had been to put too much trust in the words and actions of Ambassador Wilson. The general was brutally efficient on the various battlefields exploiting local customs and ethnicities, but he had no experience outside his own country, so he could not put Henry Lane Wilson’s words into the context of Washington, London, Madrid, or Paris. Once Huerta recognized that Ambassador Wilson’s promises from February had not only destroyed the Madero government but might also damage him in a serious fashion, a reorientation away from the United States and toward European companies and their diplomatic representatives in Mexico City only made sense.

As far as Huerta could tell, the Germans were content with protecting their existing assets while trying not to confront U.S. stances. French and Belgian banks were the most aggressive in seeking future investment opportunities. President Wilson’s indecision began to hurt U.S. economic prospects in Mexico. The most determined of Huerta’s courtiers were British oil companies, which did not necessarily act in the British national interest.

Thus, proposals for tax breaks and improved concessions for British and Dutch oil companies were introduced in Mexico’s Congress. During these months Huerta received only tepid support from Germany because German policy focused on “wanting to make a strong but kind gesture to get things going in the right direction.” None of it had Mexico or Huerta in mind.

The British made the most determined efforts to push Woodrow Wilson out of his reluctance to recognize Huerta. On July 16 Foreign Secretary Grey asked the U.S. ambassador whether his government in D.C. could not be moved to extend recognition to Huerta. In the end, all Wilson did was to recall Henry Lane Wilson from Mexico City and continue to rely on his personal envoy, John Lind. During these months Wilson learned that he could remain stubborn on the Mexican situation, but he could not assume that other governments would follow his lead. Moral rectitude toward dictators in Latin America was not sufficient to find international support.

After August 17, 1913, Huerta stopping thinking that he would receive support from Wilson and the United States. That day Wilson poured his idealism into an official diplomatic request asking European diplomats to support Huerta’s removal from office and to agree that he would never be able to run for president in the future. As was customary, the note was received, but the foreign ministers from Berlin, London, and Paris offered no agreement. The response was again, as a matter of fact, no. Their resounding no only accentuated the widening gap between the two continents. No constructive European connection could be made with Wilson’s new way of interpreting dictatorships in Latin America.

Executing Diplomacy in the White House

And so nothing happened. European observers could not recall the United States being so helpless in its exercise of power south of the border in a long time. Emperor Wilhelm II was delighted and remarked, “Finally, great unity vis-à-vis the Yankees.”

It is important to remember that Woodrow Wilson, in the first year of his tenure, did not have ready access to a large, standing army in order to even contemplate a serious invasion of Mexico. While in the popular press there existed plenty of tough, hateful anti-Mexican talk, the U.S. Congress was still not likely to fund an army that would make an invasion successful in the face of a determined Mexican nationalist reaction.

The next most realistic U.S. measure came forth on August 27, 1913. On that day an arms embargo was imposed in hopes of weakening Huerta’s power base, the Mexican army. But the embargo covered only deliveries from the United States. It remained legal to transport weapons to Mexico from everywhere else in the world.

Then Woodrow Wilson stumbled upon a plan that might get him out of the corner he had backed himself into. Hale informed him that, according to the Mexican constitution, presidential elections were scheduled for October 1913. Huerta had not cancelled them, and the Mexican Congress continued to meet. The U.S. president reached for this lifesaver and declared the crisis of Huerta’s replacement solved: the October election would take place and the dictator would be replaced by default, without violence or invasion. The next Mexican president would enter the national palace as a legally elected leader. Wilson would be able to prove his point.

Not to be underestimated was that this plan would avoid a public U.S.–European clash over policy. Otherwise, a public U.S.–British split might have encouraged Austria-Hungary and Germany to start a war while U.S. forces were tied down in Mexico, unable to help Great Britain with benevolent neutrality.

Wilson continued to view the many Mexican revolutionary forces from the perspective of an academic from the U.S. East Coast who saw Mexico City as center of decision-making. Thus he announced that should Federico Gamboa of the Catholic Party win the presidential election he would gladly extend recognition. He excluded all revolutionaries and agrarian representatives from his promise of recognition. Then he fell back to wait.

U.S. secretary of state Bryan approached Berlin on October 3 to officially demand that German arms suppliers follow the U.S. arms embargo. But Berlin did not accept the invitation. Huerta could continue to shop legally for weapons all across Europe.

The German diplomat Hintze had been away from Mexico City for health reasons until September 5, 1913. His government issued its first serious instructions to him on October 7. His highest priority was to continue the avoidance of any U.S. troop presence in Mexico. Social justice questions remained unrecognized.

Hintze’s second task was one that only a diplomat as skilled he could undertake: he was to counsel the U.S. government, somehow, to return to practicing realpolitik in the imperial mode. In doing so he should never rush ahead of British efforts to do the same.

The U.S. weapons embargo did affect Huerta’s ability to wage war and to oppress domestic opposition. Since Mexico had no weapons industry to speak of, Secretary of War Blanquet placed orders with Mitsui in Japan and with companies in Switzerland, Belgium, and France. On the weapons market this was not considered conspiracy, just business as usual.

On all sides, particularly in the popular press, accounts of suspicions and conspiracies abounded. The secret wars in El Paso previously had confirmed an infinite amount of shenanigans.

In another form of business as usual, at the end of September Great Britain selected Sir Lionel Carden as its next ambassador to Mexico City. He would arrive in mid-October, entering a situation full of tension in expectation of Huerta’s replacement following the election.

Huerta, understanding that the end of his political career might be near, decided to reassert his political power vis-à-vis the international community and other rebel groups. He triggered a second coup on October 10, 1913. Unlike the events of half a year earlier, this time ambassadors played no role, and neither was Felíx Díaz an immediate competitor. Overnight this uneducated general made a mockery of the highbrow political plans of Woodrow Wilson, the former Princeton president. Now, with Huerta in office as an official dictator, U.S. political leadership principles would once again cause friction with European powers.

By coincidence, one day after the October coup, Carden presented his credentials to the dictator. In the eyes of his boss, the British prime minister, Carden was a minor, older, eccentric figure, experienced enough to do an acceptable job at the imperialist periphery. Yet Carden harbored a distinct personal hatred for the U.S. government. Merely out of spite, he looked forward to opposing any U.S. effort against Huerta’s Mexico. He represented a British version of the just-recalled U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson. Short of confronting the United States in Mexico head on, Carden began to tutor Huerta, personally egging him on toward open resistance against U.S. representatives and policies.

The German diplomat Hintze harbored a similar principled rejection of the United States and the Monroe Doctrine, but he dealt more subtly with the provocations of U.S. ways. His covert resistance was calculated so as not to appear in opposition to Woodrow Wilson’s wishes. In reality he played the good cop in a good cop/bad cop performance that he and Carden staged in Huerta’s capital from November 1913 on.

At this time months of mutual nationalist suspicions came to a head. Huerta practiced an aggrieved nationalist policy of upholding the honor of the rejected vis-à-vis all foreign powers. He had to find supporters willing to forward money to his dictatorship. Here tax revenue from large British and Dutch petroleum companies quickly became essential. Huerta rewarded such essentialism with blatant concessions and favors.

Thus when Wilson’s emissary Lind, continuing to reside in Mexico City, reported British oil companies as a main culprit for the ongoing strength of Huerta, he pointed in the right direction. But he failed to realize that the same companies behaved the same way in the Russian, Ottoman, and Bolivian oil sectors. Exceptionalist political idealism was at odds with 1913’s economic imperialism.

For a while Lind also suspected Hintze of conspiring against the United States. Previously U.S. popular culture and the yellow press had cultivated real and imagined fears about German motives in Latin America. Now Wilson’s closest advisers adopted these fears.

In reality, Great Britain had completed its military withdrawal from all of Latin America shortly before 1910 and German militarists remained utterly focused on southeastern Europe. More serious German plans to occupy Cuba or Puerto Rico as part of an unlikely war against the United States had been shelved after 1906. Subversive German politics in the Western Hemisphere would not return until fall 1914. And thus perceived political events became real facts even though they were not driven by a conspiracy from Berlin.

British, German, French, Belgian, and Spanish diplomats in the Valley of Mexico made matters worse. They had no access to the operational continental war plans of the general staffs in Berlin, Paris. As if the shadows of world war had not gathered, they insisted that Mexico City should be a major center of political interest and thus persistently internationalized Mexican politics. And thus all sides dug in, regardless of European dangers.

After Huerta’s second coup, in October 1913, Woodrow Wilson at least could point at one irrefutably antidemocratic event committed by “the dictator,” this time completely free of U.S. encouragement, unlike the coup six months earlier. Wilson and Bryan thought the coup would be enough to redraw the line in the diplomatic sand of the Western Hemisphere. In May European imperialists had been aghast that the U.S. State Department had not automatically extended diplomatic recognition to the Mexican usurper of power, as it had to so many before him. Yet, rooted in the values of domestic U.S. policies, Wilson and Bryan wrongly assumed that the European empires would fall in line this time.

President Wilson next confronted Huerta head on. In November he issued an ultimatum. Huerta was told to resign immediately, to declare the Mexican elections of October invalid, and to accept a successor who would be acceptable to all sides.

Once again European foreign policy administrators let the United States act alone. On the European powers’ priority list of imperialist dangers to be dealt with, Huerta remained way at the bottom. Austrian, German, Ottoman, Russian, Spanish, and British aristocratic elites were outright against investing any political capital in support of disenfranchised peasants, the rural poor, or even urban commoners around the Gulf of Mexico. Speaking up for peasants in Mexico would only embolden peasants in Russia or Austria’s Galicia. It would only encourage social democratic and socialist forces in Europe’s own hierarchical, often repressive, political environments. And the European powers wanted none of it.

In Mexico City, Huerta mirrored Wilson’s principled invocation of moral political superiority with his personal invocation of a defense of his honor. And since Huerta saw himself as an extension of Mexico, Mexican politics became—from November 1913 on—a politics of honor. Situations in which the boundaries of personal and national honor are so fluid rarely lend themselves to simple, quick solutions. To the contrary, a Mexican–U.S. war in the name of nationalist honor—even one entered into unwisely—was now thinkable. In December, against the background of local fighting in Tampico, realistic observers thought a U.S.–Mexican war possible. It seemed that Huerta would choose death or direct violence over following Wilson’s all-or-nothing demand.

In order to keep the U.S. neutral, the German diplomat Hintze spoke with the U.S. emissary Lind on November 1, 1913, seeking to deflate Lind’s suspicions about what Germany might be doing in Mexico. On November 9 Lind repeated the effort, exchanging views with Britain’s Carden. This time Lind came away abhorred, easily picking up from the conversation that Carden, indeed, did not want to be on the U.S.’s side south of the Rio Grande.

A first, strange whiff of changing tides could be hinted at, coming from a fusion of European–U.S. tensions over Mexico and the strategic actions that were building toward World War I. In London, Foreign Secretary Grey found it necessary to personally reassure Woodrow Wilson that 10 Downing Street’s policy toward Mexico was not identical to that of the British oil man Weetman Pearson, Lord Cowdray, and his extensive machinations and constant manipulations. Grey’s emissary William Tyrell traveled to Washington, D.C., attempting to refute what Lind, in Mexico City, had picked up on during the talk with Carden. Afterward Great Britain had to submit to Wilson’s leadership as far as Huerta and Mexico were concerned, in order to ensure benevolent U.S. neutrality in a British–German naval war. From December 1913 on, Europeans could no longer build a united front in Mexico against the United States. This represented a certain gain for U.S. global concerns, but it made very little difference in Mexico City.

Carden’s encouragement of Huerta to provoke the United States could not be stopped that easily. Officially he obeyed his superiors, but unofficially he doubled his determination to create serious headaches for all U.S. interests in Mexico. Carden’s personal bond with Huerta, who was increasingly desperate for any foreign support, remained strong.

What mattered in Mexico City were the words personally exchanged during visits between the two men. Carden told Huerta to pay less attention to signals that were coming from European and U.S. leaders and to simply fight on. And the two men focused on exploring what the future of Huerta’s dictatorship could look like. Just as the principled and obsessed U.S. ambassador Henry Lane Wilson had acted against Francisco Madero, Sir Lionel Carden built up Victoriano Huerta in order to irritate U.S. interests.

French, Belgian, and Spanish ambassadors observed these shenanigans with encouraging silence. To them the Mexican dictator appeared man enough to work publicly against the United States, a leader of the sort that had not been seen since Venezuela’s strongman Cipriano Castro emerged more than five years earlier. Any defiance of the United States’ wishes in Latin America was quietly applauded and never hindered. These minor European ambassadors seriously hoped it would be possible for German imperial warships to land in Mexico and oppose U.S. preferences.

At the beginning of 1914, Huerta’s regime still had not received official diplomatic recognition, but his dictatorship continued to function on a national level. He resisted U.S. wishes and militarized the Mexican nation with growing doggedness. Wilson’s line in the sand had been ignored. Yes, Great Britain had been nudged to choose U.S. benevolence in international affairs over British priorities in Mexico. But this did not mean that Foreign Secretary Grey actively and fervently joined Woodrow Wilson’s vision for Mexico. Rather, he did the minimum necessary while Wilson’s reputation and idealism continued to twist in the international wind in a way that was not becoming for U.S. pride and self-confidence. This was not U.S.–British cooperation and certainly not an alliance as far as the Mexican Revolution was concerned.

Huerta thus had to deal with the strengthening Constitutionalist forces of Pancho Villa, Venustiano Carranza, and Emiliano Zapata. On October 27 the Constitutionalists made their coalition and battle public. Wilson’s weakness and Europe’s reluctance to support him gave Huerta time and space to confront the Constitutionalists. British oil money and personal greed in the international arms market kept him supplied.

At the end of January 1914 European leaders learned of the sustained, skilled war management of a growing number of Mexican regional revolutionaries. Based on that information, at the end of January 1914 British foreign secretary Grey explored anew the reunification of Great Britain, Germany, France, and the United States against Huerta. Only first the other nations wanted to know the specifics how Bryan and Wilson saw Mexico’s leadership under the revolutionaries. Truth was, neither Wilson nor Bryan had any orderly plan to present to them.

Hintze, always eager to avoid the victory of Constitutionalist factions, floated a trial balloon about finding an alternative Mexican strongman palatable to European imperial expectations. Carden felt that the absence of any road map continued to afford him space to disregard official instructions. He hoped for a disastrous U.S. invasion and a subsequent Mexican nationalist guerilla war backlash. His activism enlisted Mexico’s peasantry as tools to hurt the U.S. administration, taking advantage of the fact that it is much easier to destroy than to build something. Carden wanted to break the Monroe Doctrine that year or the next.

Toward the beginning of 1914 fighting had led to effective paralysis on the Mexican battlefields. The U.S. arms embargo was sufficient enough to restrict Huerta’s advance against the Constitutionalists. However, should his arms supply improve significantly, Huerta was determined to lead a new wave of battles against Carranza, Villa, and Zapata.

By the end of 1914 Huerta’s position had weakened for four reasons, and their effect on Huerta’s strength in office was exponential. First, former elites inside Mexico City became less and less able to see what Huerta was building. And he was not winning the war against Villa, Zapata, and Carranza. As long as the United States maintained its weapons embargo, the question of whether Huerta could destroy the Constitutionalists in a decisive military campaign would remain open. Socially, Mexico’s upper class had always appreciated Huerta only as a tool. As the Constitutionalists increased their territory, the establishment and older Porfiristas no longer enjoyed a business environment that allowed them to make a respectable income.

Second, foreign diplomats were no longer as publicly enthusiastic about Huerta and the administration he headed. He did not seem to be able to create an environment suitable for investment, and he favored the British. But British citizens were leaving their Mexican lives behind. Like upper-class Mexicans, they prepared for and feared class warfare led by Villa and Carranza once their troops had breached Mexico City’s perimeter, as punishment for Huerta’s pro-British policy.

Third, Japanese arms suppliers and Japanese politicians let it be known that they would insist on prompt Mexican payment for arms and also that Japanese–U.S. relations had priority over Mexican–Japanese relations. The European arms market continued to be open but also depended more and more on cold, hard cash.

Fourth, the White House increased the military burden on Huerta when it ended the arms embargo against the Constitutionalists on February 3, 1914. From that point, several major Constitutionalist armies could use U.S. suppliers to arm themselves. Increasingly, observers stated that President Wilson was using the Constitutionalists as his army to realize his principled stance against Huerta.

Huerta thus had only two remaining advantages, and those were only political. His presence assured the continued absence of the United States from Mexican soil, and it kept Mexican politicians who favored radical social reform away from the levers of the national government.

European interests were horrified because they had imaged that a manipulation of the flow of weapons would work to protect their property. Instead, the unlimited right to purchase weapons meant that soldiers would surge toward Mexico City in a wave of violence, exposing European property to extortion or destruction on the battlefield. Even worse, the Constitutionalists might have to engage in a house-to-house fight in the capital to reach Huerta in the national palace or Chapultepec Castle.

Adding up these factors, by February 1914 European diplomats and professionals in the capital resigned themselves to the fact that Huerta would never be able to hold legitimate office in Mexico City. Whether they wanted to or not, they would have to tolerate a new, unknown leader in Mexico City. In addition, the idealist Woodrow Wilson had begun to gain an understanding of the social aspect of the revolution and had begun to side, in theory, with the revolutionaries.

From Mexico City Hintze advised the German Foreign Ministry that Wilson had turned in favor of Constitutionalists, the regional revolutionary faction the Germans had not wanted to come to power. Wilhelm II and the German general staff were entirely absorbed by European military affairs, however. When they learned from Johann Bernstorff, the German ambassador to the United States, that Wilson would remain content not to invade Mexico for some time, they were satisfied enough. By March the threat of imperial war in Europe had, by default, created a U.S. mandate to lead foreign efforts to find a solution to Mexico’s revolution.

In the second week of April an unplanned military incident in Tampico created such an international stir that, in the end, Wilson decided to exploit it. He decided to create the impression that an overwhelming U.S. force was coming toward Huerta. The result was a tit for tat over matters of honor between Huerta’s and U.S. forces.

On April 13 Wilson ordered the gathering of the Atlantic Fleet in front of Tampico. On April 15 the entire Pacific Fleet was mobilized. Rumors circulated about U.S. operational plans for landings in Veracruz and Tampico and an expeditionary corps’ march to Mexico City. This all sounded plausible. The propaganda war reached a peak as the U.S. Congress agreed to convene to give Wilson the legal approval to deploy U.S. troops to Mexico.

Mexican civilians were not familiar with how organized state violence realized its goals. Wilson’s display triggered a previously nonexistent nationalist patriotic response in support of Huerta, even if he remained in the national palace simply to lead a guerilla war against any U.S. landing. Not since 1846 had Mexican individuals readied themselves to confront U.S. troops with their very meager means.

Independently of Huerta, Mexicans organized themselves in social defense organizations. Suddenly it seemed likely that 150,000 Mexican individuals would volunteer against a much smaller than expected U.S. invasion force. Huerta misread the nationalist defensive outpouring, believing his people were connecting with him against U.S. invaders. He felt he had been fighting alone for over a year. Now he no longer seemed to be without supporters.

European arms deliveries for Huerta coincided with this moment. The German shipping agency Hapag was one of the world’s major lines servicing Latin American ports. Hapag ships were used for the weapons deliveries simply because it was the most reliable, proven company. Observers, however—and in particular public opinion—read the arrival of the Hapag ships Ypiranga and Bavaria as a signal of the approval of Wilhelm II’s government. Had the German leader thrown continental priorities overboard to grab a piece of Mexico, to harass the United States, or to back Huerta?

Even experts in the German and U.S. foreign ministries needed more time to find out what was happening. Truth was, Wilson had raised the arms embargo and no state of war had been declared—therefore international law allowed any commercial delivery of weapons. European heads of state never issued an embargo against deliveries to Mexico. Nor should it be forgotten that in other Mexican ports private U.S. ships were delivering ammunition for the Constitutionalists. Making such careful distinctions was not in the interest of the U.S. popular press and oil companies, however.

Woodrow Wilson was about to face another humiliating lesson about the limits of U.S. pronouncements in a globalizing world. In Japan, Mitsui was also considering weapons deliveries if Secretary of War Blanquet would be able to make payment. The blindness and fears of political leaders in Mexico, Germany, and the United States had reignited the fuse of Mexican nationalism, leading to a U.S.–Mexican dispute that all imperial powers had wanted to avoid. Wilson, in a noisy bluff that asserted a might he could not deliver, had caused further embarrassment to the U.S. government.

Only Huerta was thrilled about the arrival of the weapons. He is alleged to have bribed a private merchant, Alexander Holste, to make sure the weapons would be unloaded and reach the Mexican capital. The Bavaria moved to Puerto México to unload its military cargo.

Huerta, after surviving one year against principled U.S. opposition, experienced new hope. New weapons offered to overcome the de facto paralysis on the battlefield. They might allow Huerta to push back against Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza, as well as Emiliano Zapata, whose forces had reached Xochimilco at the outskirts of Mexico City.

A new chapter in Latin American history began on May 2, 1914. On that day the Brazilian ambassador, trying to bolster his nation’s leadership position within South America, approached Wilson, offering to mediate between Huerta and the U.S. government. He proposed a conference site at Niagara Falls as a neutral location to host representatives of Wilson and Huerta, as well as those of Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Canada. Perhaps they could mediate the explosive situation away. If it worked, all sides would save face and a Mexican–U.S. war would be averted.

Technically, the conference was supposed to address only the presence of U.S. troops in Tampico and Veracruz. It was not to touch the subject of the removal of Huerta from presidential office, nor to discuss who potentially might lead Mexico in place of Huerta.

Overnight, Victoriano Huerta, the man governments had refused to recognize for twelve months, was becoming a partner in major international negotiations. Huerta agreed to the conference because he thought that it might offer a way to get U.S. forces out of his country and thus increase his national standing via-à-vis the Constitutionalists.

Huerta had been ready to focus on resumed fighting against Villa and Carranza. However, on March 21, a catastrophic federal loss at the battle of Torreón put such optimism, even with new weapons deliveries, into a less than favorable context. Huerta lost much artillery but also access to key railroad lines that would have allowed him to push northward with speed and range.

The conference, originally an experimental meeting, quickly overstepped its original charge and explored Huerta’s removal from office. Even though imperial Berlin had not been involved in bringing about the conference, the German Foreign Ministry charged Hintze to use diplomacy to diffuse the war scenario further. And he was to help make Huerta resign. In Mexico City, Hintze contributed through a psychological process that he managed with unrivaled skill, cajoling Huerta with half-truths that eventually pried his hands from command in Mexico’s Zócalo. Hintze’s activities in Mexico never turned pro-United States. He simply served the larger strategy of the German general staff, promoting Wilhelm II’s global aspirations.

Without Hintze, the British diplomat Carden might have carried the day in Mexico City, breaking Mexico further apart. Had U.S. military leaders in the summer of 1914 chosen to send larger numbers of troops into Mexico, U.S. manufacturers would not have been able to serve as an arsenal of democracy on the side of Great Britain during the initial months of World War I. Instead they would have manufactured armaments to help the U.S. army during another invasion. Would Woodrow Wilson still have received the very reluctant vote to enter World War I in 1917?

Certainly, had the tensions between the United States and Mexico escalated, Wilhelm II and his general staff would have stumbled onto an ideal situation: a context to tie down the U.S. with secret warfare along the Rio Grande. The Niagara Falls conference helped to keep U.S. benevolent neutrality an option. Two months later, as World War I began, the governments in London and Paris had available the emerging U.S. military complex and finances to resist Austrian and Prussian militarism.

On the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in May 1914 diplomats continued to debate European, Latin American, U.S., and regional Mexican visions of what should happen next in Mexico. In Mexico City Hintze did what the German Foreign Ministry had asked him to do, while Carden defied Britain’s leaders as much as he could get away with. End of Huerta’s dictatorship was now in sight.

In retrospect it is easy to say when the beginning of the end took place. Often the end of a war, while wasting lives and energy, represents the time of greatest danger. Huerta, too, in his last six weeks in office toyed with doomsday scenarios. Since he no longer had control over a large army, he encouraged anarchic violence in an effort to create a context in which he would be needed. First he sent Rincón Gallardo to the Texas border to spend $300,000 hiring criminals and professional agitators to start a race war in Texas. He hoped U.S. leaders would overreact and declare a war against Mexico. Then Huerta planned to offer himself as a military leader.

Huerta also tried to instrumentalize Mexican Catholicism. He would urge Mexican Catholics to rise up and fight against U.S. Protestantism and its allies inside Mexico. If they followed his call he would then offer to head national Catholic forces. Faced with a new, chaotic environment, Mexican citizens would long to return to the less volatile times of his dictatorship, or so Huerta thought.

Both of Huerta’s scenarios aimed to make renewed dictatorship tolerable by promising clear structures of command and social hierarchy.

Huerta’s third strategy was to offer Wilhelm II Mexican oil fields, promising to take British property in order to do so. This was a sincere offer that men of lesser sanity than Hintze might have fallen for. A similar offer would be made to Undersecretary of State Zimmermann and his emperor in 1917, and Zimmerman would turn the idea on its head.

For weeks Carden encouraged Huerta to follow such dangerous fantasies. Carden let his own rage flow in order to create chaos outside the capital and to humiliate the United States. He advised Huerta to loosen the political bonds between Mexican states and to pursue the path of radical federalism. He was in favor of Emiliano Zapata becoming governor of Morelos and Pancho Villa acting as the governor of Chihuahua. His advice was not based on support for the revolutionaries’ social projects but on the cynical hope that a deeply fractured Mexico would be even more difficult for U.S. forces to enter, occupy, and put to economic use.

Hintze put forth more constructive scenarios. He wanted the state kept together and functioning and revolutionaries out of positions of power. Such a nation would require another strongman, again backed by national military forces. A new national caudillo, however, should receive not just diplomatic advice but the services of a European training mission to strengthen rational practices of police work, financial management, and a national judiciary. An alternative option would be to select a junta before Huerta’s resignation, staffing it with leading Mexican politicians and soldiers. The junta might rule or it might choose a new president.

For a while Hintze urged Huerta to enter into a truce and then a peace treaty with Carranza and Villa, something Huerta categorically refused to do. Hintze also intensified his exchanges with former and current national politicians in Mexico City, in particular senators. He learned that some had pondered having Huerta declared insane. This, then, would become the reason to depose him. Another option was to shock Huerta into resignation through a joint cabinet resignation.

Unlike all the other diplomats in Mexico, Hintze understood and managed superbly the intense psychological challenges of May 1914. Rightfully, he argued that in addition to maintaining a credible national force inside Mexico City, the situation required the diplomats to address Huerta’s intense need for respect and honor. Hintze went to great lengths to make Huerta believe that he was valued, affirmed, and respected. It was Hintze who broke down the political steps toward resignation into psychological gestures that Huerta could relate to, agree to, and act upon. Hintze called it building him “a golden bridge.” Whether Huerta deserved such consideration was irrelevant.

The bargain with Huerta included allowing the illegal transfer abroad of funds, permitting him to take along his highly corrupt entourage, and in essence, convincing him that by leaving Mexico he was performing an honorable service to the nation. His departure would mean the opposite of defeat and cowardice. Not to be overlooked was that Huerta would remain alive, avoiding death in some lonely room inside the national palace as his enemies closed in on him. In comparison, offering and organizing the imperial British and German ships that would transport Huerta and his entourage to royal Spain was comparatively easy.

Huerta took such hyperbole seriously, believing that Hintze was talking to him as a soldier to a soldier. In July Huerta took the golden bridge and sailed for Spain.

Yet conference discussions in Niagara Falls and Hintze’s psychological astuteness alone did not make Huerta give up. An increasing number of personal experiences drove home to Huerta that he was rapidly becoming a dictator of nothing and nobody.

First, Mexico City’s tiny middle class and the federal armed forces had begun to explore alternatives without him. Second, Huerta received reports on June 25 that the capital would soon be out of oil. Without heating oil, cold fall nights and angry citizens would become the norm. Also, there would be no fuel to drive cars, no energy to manufacture small industrial parts, and most certainly no means of heating ovens to make tortillas or bread. Quickly Chapultepec Park would lose trees, as the poor would chop them down to obtain firewood. Furthermore, after an attack on the power station in Necaxa on June 27, the city’s electricity flowed only with interruptions.

Third, Huerta was losing his remaining loyal troops due to inability to pay them. On June 22 he learned that within weeks he would no longer have the funds necessary to pay to defend Mexico City from the approaching Constitutionalist forces.

Fourth, on June 27 reports revealed the planning of a military revolt. If soldiers were turning against their leaders, it was plausible to think that Huerta’s own troops might replace him very soon, just as generals, including Huerta himself, had turned against Francisco Madero.

Although Huerta did not know it, Hintze had already learned from the informer Felix Sommerfeld on May 27 that the Constitutionalists and the U.S. government were, to some degree, coordinating their military advances so that rebel warfare and diplomacy reinforced each other.

A painful blow fell when Carden informed Huerta that his superiors in London had ordered him not to provide asylum for Huerta and his family. Huerta thought he had been hung out to dry by his closest international supporter, for whose economic interests he had done so much. From early June on Huerta refused to meet or talk with Carden. Finally, Hintze also explained to Huerta that circumstances for granting asylum were becoming very limited for Berlin leaders as well. Such immediate personal experiences joined with the events unfolding in Niagara Falls and Hintze’s “advice sessions” to move Huerta toward accepting exile.

By mid-June 1914 discussions in Niagara focused less and less on the presence of U.S. troops in Tampico and Veracruz or whether Huerta would be replaced but instead considered how that should happen. On June 24, without on obvious outcome emerging from the Niagara Falls conference, Hintze considered Huerta’s end to be imminent. The following day, Hintze’s British colleague agreed, and Huerta’s own secretary of war, Blanquet, also talked about the need to replace him. Like a fish on a hook, Huerta was slowly being pulled out of the waters of his existentialist denials. Hintze, Carden, and also, indirectly, Bryan kept the “golden bridge” open for him.

Hintze, Carden, and leading Mexicans, as well as Huerta, insisted that the Mexican people should pick their own candidate for succession. Many wanted Foreign Minister Lascuraín to step forward and volunteer as transitional president. He, however, remained more than hesitant. The U.S. government demanded categorically that any replacement be a prominent revolutionary from the Constitutionalist camp.

Then unsubstantiated rumors circulated that Huerta’s delegates to the Niagara Falls conference were becoming disloyal to him and were engaging in deep discussions about his replacement. On June 24 a draft document consisting of four points emerged from the conference. Points one to three were telegraphed to Mexico City, but somehow point four repeatedly failed to arrive.

Huerta became anxious. On June 17 he had mentioned his determination to put together a new military offensive against the Constitutionalists. Suddenly he asked his representatives to stick to their initial charge for the conference: to discuss only how to end the occupation of Tampico and Veracruz. Mexican observers thought it possible that Huerta might disown his three representatives. Then he demanded a final conference agreement by July 1 or the declaration of failure of the mediation. Suddenly all sides seemed to be back to an almost warlike situation, like that of the winter of 1913–14.

Thousands of miles away, on June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, triggering the Austrian, Russian, German, and French mobilizations that would turn into World War I. In Mexico City and Niagara Falls few realized what was about to come. Nevertheless, international diplomacy gave prime attention to European events. Wilhelm II believed that he and his staff would have to conduct only a limited war on the continent, without pulling Great Britain, and certainly not the United States, into the conflict.

This was the global context when Huerta admitted defeat during a talk with his secretary of the treasury, de la Lama on July 1, 1914. Right away Mexico City politicians mustered new courage. Huerta’s cabinet pondered a joint resignation to embarrass him further.

On July 4 rumor had it that Huerta was suddenly thinking about escaping from Mexico City. Some feared he might shoot a foreign diplomat in order to create confusion and chaos that would cover his escape. On the same day Huerta’s former secretary of commerce and trade fled abroad and his head of general staff resigned. Also, Rincón Gallardo, the commander of the Rurales and chief organizer of guerilla warfare, abandoned Huerta’s dictatorship.

Mysteriously, on July 6, the fourth point agreed upon in the Niagara Falls draft proposal was telegraphed to Mexico City. Huerta’s own representatives had kept from him that all parties had agreed that he would be replaced by an interim presidential government. There was no agreement as to who the replacement would be.

On July 13, Huerta wanted to use Hintze’s “golden bridge,” accompanied by his secretary of war, Blanquet. In Europe, Russian and Austrian troops were moving toward full mobilization. Wilhelm II and his general staff had pledged their loyalty to Austrian emperor Joseph for a new war against Serbia.

In Mexico City, the surviving rump of a Congress gathered and officially announced Huerta’s resignation on July 15. On July 16 Francisco Carvajal was elected interim president.

Huerta left the capital by train to travel to the waiting German warship Dresden. A British warship was awaiting Huerta’s family and entourage. Huerta and Blanquet set foot on the Dresden on the evening of July 18. Right away the ship lifted anchor and hurried to Kingston, Jamaica.

The Wilson administration issued a word of appreciation to the British and German governments. With the help of Brazil’s diplomats they had removed from Mexico the man who had presented imperial leaders and the idealistic Wilson with such a formidable political challenge.

From Jamaica Huerta traveled into Spanish exile. When he arrived in Europe it was ablaze in a world war. The plans developed by leading military leaders proved faulty, and the aristocratic world of the previous four hundred years began its four-year march to collapse. The United States remained neutral until 1917. Between 1914 and 1917, although the nation was not at war, the U.S. economy became Great Britain’s and France’s reliable supporter.

Victoriano Huerta would attempt a comeback in 1915, this time as part of a secret war campaign with the involvement of the secret service arm of the German navy. The Woodrow Wilson administration showed zero patience with the Mexican general. Now Mexican affairs were a matter of world affairs from the very outset. Imperial Germany said no to requests from Félix Díaz and one other Mexican to back counterrevolutionaries in Mexico.

In early 1917 German undersecretary of state Zimmermann would take what he had learned from three Mexican invitations to finance war south of the U.S. border and would attempt, foolishly, to enlist Mexico to help Wilhelm II stave off the likely end of imperial Germany.

Discussion of the Literature

Historians and the public, with one major exception, have made Victoriano Huerta the bête noire of Mexican politics. Historical accounts of the overthrow of the government of Francisco Madero and his murder, making him the martyr of the Revolution, have uniformly blamed Huerta for these events. Only the U.S. historian Michael C. Meyer, in his political biography of Huerta, challenged this interpretation, laying responsibility on General Félix Díaz.1 Meyer’s student Peter Henderson, in his dissertation on Díaz, generally followed this interpretation.2 Friedrich Schuler, in his translation of the diary of the German ambassador Hintze, provides an essential source with a good deal information on the workings of the Huerta government and its collapse under the pressure of the Constitutionalist revolutionaries.3

Primary Sources

The most important primary sources collections are located in Mexico City, Mexico. One major archive is the Secretaría de las Relaciones Exteriores de México (SRE) in Tlatelolco. The collection called Revolución Mexicana durante los Años de 1910 a 1920. Second in importance are Informaciones Diversas de la República y de las Oficinas de México en el Exterior. 259 bound volumes await the researcher. A third helpful collection is Mensajes Relativos a la Evacuación del Puerto de Veracruz por los Americanos. Finally in the SRE are files with documents dealing with the main individuals of the Huerta era.

A second important place is the Archivo General de la Nación. Here the subsections are the Ministry of Interior (Gobernación). Its documents report about the connections between Mexico City and the region. This archive also holds collections of President Francisco Madero’s correspondence. Records pertaining to military affairs are housed in the Archivo Histórico de la Defensa Nacional. Other archives that should be consulted are the Fundación Cultural de Condumex. The Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia preserves a copy of the Archivo de don Francisco I. Madero.

Outside Mexico the most extensive collection holding records about the Huerta period is the National Archive in Washington. The papers of U.S. Senator Albert B. Fall can be read at the Huntington Library. Records from British observers are located at Britain’s National Archive in Kew Garden near London. In Germany records are located at the Political Archive of the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin.

Further Reading

Katz, Friedrich. The Secret War in Mexico. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.Find this resource:

Knight, Alan. The Mexican Revolution, Volume 2. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.Find this resource:

Meyer, Michael C.Huerta: A Political Portrait. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972.Find this resource:

O’Shaughnessy, Edith. A Diplomat’s Wife in Mexico. New York: Harper, 1916.Find this resource:

Schuler, Friedrich, ed. Murder and Counterrevolution in Mexico: The Eyewitness Account of German Ambassador Paul von Hintze, 1912–1914. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.Find this resource:


(1.) Michael C. Meyer, Huerta: A Political Biography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1972).

(2.) Peter Van Ness Henderson, Felix Diaz, the Porfirians and the Mexican Revolution (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981).

(3.) Friedrich E. Schuler, ed. Murder and Counterrevolution in Mexico: The Eyewitness Account of German Ambassador Paul von Hintze, 1912–1914 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015).