Diego Cortez y Catalán (1837 - 1909) was the second President of Kramer Associates, the Mexican supercorporation, serving from April 1882 to his retirement in 1904. Cortez oversaw the company's growth during the dictatorship of Benito Hermión in the 1880s and 1890s, and he masterminded Hermión's overthrow in October 1901.
Cortez succeeded to the presidency of K.A. upon the death of company founder Bernard Kramer in April 1882. Sobel does not indicate how Cortez came to succeed Kramer, nor what role he played in the company prior to becoming president. Cortez was twenty-eight when the company was founded in 1865, and thus almost certainly too young to be one of Kramer's original twenty-five partners, though he may have been the son of one of the partners. Since one of Kramer's original partners was his Hispano brother-in-law, Cortez may even have been Kramer's nephew, though Sobel makes no mention of a family relationship. On the other hand, Cortez may have simply been an exceptionally able K.A. employee who managed to work his way up to vice-president of the company.
Cortez succeeded as head of K.A. seven months after the start of the Hermión dictatorship engineered by his predecessor. Cortez was content to allow Hermión to rule the United States of Mexico as a dictator as long as K.A. was given a free hand in the country's economic sector. Within months of Cortez' elevation, Hermión announced that the U.S.M. would repudiate its debt to France, and confiscated all investments by citizens of the revolutionary French Republic. These investments were awarded to Hermión's most trusted supporters, presumably including Cortez. Hermión announced the creation of several new social programs, which were funded by new taxes on corporations, to which K.A. was exempt. At the same time, Hermión forced the company to cede half-ownership of the Kinkaid Canal to the government. Hermión's conquest of New Granada in 1890 brought that country's economy under the control of K.A. By this time, Cortez had expanded K.A. beyond its California base to control almost seventy percent of the U.S.M.'s non-petroleum industry.
Starting in 1891, Cortez began expanding K.A.'s investments throughout the world, financing railroads in Manchuria and Argentina, a copper mine in the Congo, and the Burger Steel Company in Belgium. The following year, Cortez merged K.A. with Petroleum of Mexico, and also masterminded a coup d'etat in Hawaii that led to its annexation by Mexico. In 1894 Cortez entered into negotiations with the Krupp firm in Germany to take control of the Ottoman Empire, though the negotiations were inconclusive. By 1895, K.A. was the third-largest business organization in the world, engaged in various kinds of manufacturing, foreign trade, railroads, food production, and other activities.
The rapid electrification of Europe and the C.N.A. had produced a worldwide copper shortage, and Cortez entered into negotiations with Russian foreign minister Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky for an agreement giving K.A. concessions in Alaska to mine copper and other minerals. When gold was discovered in Alaska by K.A. in July of 1896, the Russian government reneged on the deal. Cortez responded by provoking a war between Russia and Mexico in 1898.
Mexican forces quickly defeated the Russians in Alaska in 1898, and K.A. was able to gain control of the Alaskan economy. The same thing happened the following year when Mexico invaded Siberia, which touched off the Russian Revolution and led to the breakup of the Russian Empire in 1900. The conquest of Alaska and Siberia went to Hermión's head, and on 2 April 1901 he declared himself Emperor of Mexico. Cortez responded by ousting Hermión on 15 October, and placing Martin Cole at the head of a provisional government. Elections were held on 14 June 1902, with a runoff election that resulted in former Senator Anthony Flores becoming president with Cortez' assistance. Cortez retired in 1904 on his sixty-seventh birthday, and was succeeded by Douglas Benedict, the grandson of Petroleum of Mexico founder Monte Benedict.
Following his retirement, Cortez donated $9 million for college scholarships for Mexicanos in Chiapas and Durango. The Cortez Fund, formed after his death in 1909, was capitalized at $200 million, all in K.A. stock, and the dividends were used for these scholarships.
Sobel's sources for the life of Diego Cortez y Catalán are Cortez' collected papers as edited by Jack Nathanson: From the Cortez Files (Mexico City, 1938) and More From the Cortez Files (Mexico City, 1947); as well as Frank Dana's Recent Discoveries in the Cortez Collection (New York, 1958); and Miguel Señada's Cortez and Hermión: Bitter Friendship (Mexico City, 1968). Secondary sources are Andrew Stirling's The Secret History of the Great Northern War (London, 1923); Walter Sepúlveda's An Economic History of the Hermión Regime (Mexico City, 1968); and Stanley Tulin's The Kramer Associates: The Cortez Years (London, 1970).
|Presidents of Kramer Associates|
|Bernard Kramer • Diego Cortez y Catalán • Douglas Benedict • John Jackson • Carl Salazar|