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State of Durango.

Durango is a state of the United States of Mexico. It is one of six states created by the Mexico City Constitution of 1820. Its capital is Torreón, its largest city and chief Caribbean port is Tampico, and its chief executive is the Governor of Durango. Durango is composed of the former Mexican provinces of Sonora, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Mexico, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas and Jalisco.

Early Years of the U.S.M.[]

Durango became the State of Durango after the State of Jefferson united with the Republic of Mexico as the United States of Mexico in 1820. Durango was ruled through an alliance of Anglo and Hispano politicians, who dominated the state's Mexicano peasantry. Durango, along with Chiapas and Mexico del Norte, gave the Catholic Church special rights under the state charter. At this time Durango was a poverty-stricken and segregated state, and Governor Alberto Rias attempted to introduce cotton agriculture to the state with limited success and encouraged Jeffersonian immigration, which brought Negro slavery into the state. Under the terms of the Hagen Bill of 1825, every Jeffersonian who emigrated to Durango would receive a grant of 250 acres of land, on the understanding that he would produce crops for three successive years. The government gave bounties for the production of indigo and hemp, and later other tropical and semi-tropical products were added to the list.

Miguel Huddleston.

One of these Jeffersonian immigrants was Michael Huddleston, a member of Jefferson's volunteer militia who marched south under Andrew Jackson in 1816. At the time, Huddleston had only contempt for the Mexicans, whom he saw as "only a trifle better than our slaves." However, he soon developed an admiration for Mexican culture, and in particular for Consuela Venegas, the daughter of a deposed Mexican official. Huddleston fell in love with Venegas, and in 1819 he married her after converting to Catholicism and changing his name to Miguel Huddleston. Huddleston settled in Mexico City, and soon became wealthy as a cotton factor, purchasing a hacienda in Pimintel, Durango. Huddleston was elected to the Durango legislature in 1822, and the Mexican Senate in 1827, where he became a leader of the Liberty Party caucus. By 1833, he was recognized as the most talented politician in the Liberty Party, and had been adopted by Senate Minority Leader Arthur Younger as his protégé.

Thanks to French loans negotiated by Jackson, who had become the U.S.M.'s first president in 1821, a system of roads linked the state's interior to the port of Tampico, and Durango silver mines brought growing revenue to the state. The silver mines were also responsible for the establishment of the Bank of Mexico in 1829, which allowed for the issuance of paper money in the U.S.M.

Huddleston was nominated by the Liberty Party for president in the 1833 Mexican elections, and although he lost to Jackson, it was widely acknowledged that when Jackson finally retired, Huddleston would almost certainly succeed him. Huddleston accepted his loss with good grace, and began preparing for the 1839 elections, when he knew Jackson would step down. The Panic of 1836 brought an end to the French loans that had sustained Jackson's internal improvements programs, and half-built roads in Durango had to be abandoned.

The 1839 Mexican elections brought victory to Huddleston and the Liberty Party; all four of the Libertarian Senate candidates in Durango were elected, helping to propel the party to a 17-7 Senate majority that chose Huddleston for president in September. Contrary to expectations, Huddleston did not expel the French from Durango or seize control of the gold mines that had been opened during the California Gold Rush of 1838. Instead, he retained the French bankers and merchants of Tampico and assured the mine owners that they would not be interfered with by the federal government. Nor did Huddleston interfere with slavery in Durango or anywhere else in Mexico. The main result of his administration was a shift of public works to Durango and Chiapas.

Unfortunately, Huddleston's attempt to bring harmony to the U.S.M.'s diverse population was unsuccessful. The Hispanos claimed that California gold was being used to enrich "Huddleston's Anglo friends," while the Indians and Mexicanos expressed dismay at "the President's lack of interest in our problems," and the Anglos of Jefferson, who still enjoyed a disproportionate share of the country's political power, refused to trust a man who had gone Hispano himself. There were also charges of misappropriation of funds, many involving Secretary of the Exchequer William Wilson, and several minor officials in the Customs Bureau and Treasury Department were convicted of embezzlement and accepting bribes.

There was also opposition to Huddleston's policy of entente with the Confederation of North America, such as sending Secretary of State Isaac Shelby to Burgoyne in February 1843 to represent the U.S.M. at Governor-General Winfield Scott's investiture. Relations with the C.N.A. deteriorated in 1845 as miners from the two nations clashed in the disputed Broken Arrow region between Mexico del Norte and the Confederation of Vandalia. In April, Huddleston and Scott agreed to arbitration of the dispute by a three-nation panel, but the attempt failed. Between February and June 156 Mexicans and 197 North Americans were killed in Broken Arrow, and the settlements of Morelos and Kinsey were destroyed.

War With the C.N.A. and Its Aftermath[]

In the 1845 Mexican elections, the Libertarians renominated Huddleston for president, while the Continentalist Party nominated Senator Pedro Hermión of Jefferson, who spoke of what he called "the coming struggle for the continent" and the "martyrs of Morelos." Huddleston stressed the rising wealth of the nation, the growing accord between the races (which was unfortunately untrue), the expansion of Mexican foreign trade, and his internal improvements in Chiapas and Durango. News of further fighting in Broken Arrow came a week before the election, and the Continentalists won a fourteen-seat majority in the Senate, including one of Durango's four seats, giving Hermión the Presidency.

By the time of Hermión's inauguration in September 1845, what became known as the Rocky Mountain War was under way. The Mexican Navy was quickly driven from the seas, and a North American force under General Herbert Williamhouse landed in Tampico on 8 July 1846. The North Americans marched up the Tampico Road to Mexico City, but were defeated at the Battle of Tampico Road by a scratch force led by Major Michael Doheny. Doheny followed up his victory by driving Williamhouse's men back to Tampico, which he then put under siege. Despite receiving reinforcements by sea, Williamhouse was unable to break out of Tampico, and was ultimately forced to withdraw on 5 March 1848.

Hermión's assassination on 19 June 1851 allowed the Libertarians to regain control of the Senate in the 1851 Mexican elections, ensuring the elevation of Libertarian nominee Hector Niles to the presidency. Although the Libertarians were unable to regain control of Durango's fourth Senate seat, they were able to win control of 13 of the state's 24 Assembly seats. Although Governor-General Henry Gilpin continued to launch several attacks against Mexico, all were unsuccessful, and Gilpin was replaced in February 1853 by William Johnson. Niles and Johnson agreed to an armistice, and in 1855 both nations signed the Hague Treaty ending the war.

Senator James FitzHugh.

Like Jackson before him, Niles was able to negotiate loans from the French to help Mexico recover from the war. Most of the fighting had taken place in the northern states, and apart from the occcupation of Tampico, Durango had been left untouched by the war. Despite his success in restoring Mexico's prosperity, however, Niles' opponents in the Continentalist Party accused him of accepting a dishonorable peace with the C.N.A. Niles was defeated in the 1857 Mexican elections by Continentalist nominee Arthur Conroy. The Libertarians in Durango lost a second Senate seat to Continentalist candidate James FitzHugh, as well as one of the state's seats in the Assembly.

Kramer Associates and the Moralistas[]

Under Conroy, the center of gravity in Mexican politics once again shifted to the majority-Anglo states of Jefferson and California. The 1860s saw the rise of two large Anglo-controlled business enterprises, Kramer Associates in California, and Petroleum of Mexico in Jefferson. The wealthy businessmen of those states were determined to keep power in their own hands, and when Conroy adopted a reform agenda after his re-election in 1863, he was removed from the leadership of the Continentalist Party and replaced by Omar Kinkaid of California, a creature of the large corporations. In both the 1869 Mexican elections and the 1875 Mexican elections Kinkaid was able to win election as president despite losing in every state except California and Jefferson.

A backlash against Anglo control of the country developed in the majority-Mexicano states of Durango and Chiapas, giving rise to a revolutionary movement called the Moralistas. Fearful of losing control of the country, the wealthy businessmen arranged a coup d'etat in September 1881 that brought Pedro Hermión's son Benito Hermión to power. The younger Hermión ruled as Chief of State for 20 years before being overthrown by the same business interests who had placed him in power. The de facto ruler of Mexico, Diego Cortez y Catalán, reinstated democratic elections, though his money ensured that Anthony Flores, an exiled former Senator from Durango, won the election, gaining 60% of the vote in his home state and a plurality of 45% nationwide. Twelve years later, Flores' handpicked successor, Victoriano Consalus, was elected with 67% of the vote in Durango and 52% nationwide.

The Slavery Crisis[]

Consalus's first year as president saw an invasion of Mexico by France called the Hundred Day War. The French commander, General Jacques Beauchamp, repeated the tactics of Williamhouse 68 years before, landing in Tampico on 22 June and marching up the Tampico Road to Mexico City. Along the way, French troops freed thousands of slaves in Durango, who joined the French army on its march. The defeat of the French at the Battle of Chapultepec on 28 August left the slaves at the mercy of the Mexicans. Consalus ordered the slaves put on trial for treason, and they day before the Mexico Tribunal was due to announce its verdict, the slaves were freed by an attack on the Federal Prison known as the Chapultepec Incident.

Senator Rodrigo de la Casa.

The issue of slavery haunted Mexican politics for the next four years, until the victor of Chapultepec, General Emiliano Calles, was elected president in 1920 with over 70% of the vote in Durango. However, while Calles' personal popularity allowed allies such as Alvin Silva to win election to the Senate on an anti-slavery platform, it was not enough to prevent Rodrigo de la Casa of the U.M.P. from also being elected on a pro-slavery platform.

In spite of his pledge to defend slavery, de la Casa was dependent on campaign financing from Kramer Associates, and when K.A. President Douglas Benedict decided to support manumission, de la Casa went along. On 29 April 1920 de la Casa requested a meeting with Secretary of State Albert Ullman. When the two men met the next day at noon, de la Casa argued that President Calles' call for a Constitutional amendment abolishing slavery would be dangerous. De la Casa warned that Calles should think twice before submitting such a controversial proposal to the will of the people.

Ullman asked de la Casa he how thought Calles should procede, given that the president was determined to eliminate slavery from the U.S.M. De la Casa gave what was clearly a prepared answer: a simple bill, submitted to the Senate and the Assembly and passed by a voice vote, would be far more appealing to the legislators. Ullman recognized that de la Casa believed the measure would pass, showing that the pro-slavery legislators knew they lacked the votes to prevent it.

Sobel makes it clear that de la Casa was acting on orders from Douglas Benedict the President of Kramer Associates, as were other nominally pro-slavery legislators who were prepared to vote to free Mexico's slaves. When Calles submitted his Manumission Act to the Senate on 14 May, Sobel states that de la Casa acted as the voice of Benedict, which presumably meant quietly threatening his fellow U.M.P. members with well-funded primary opponents when their current terms expired if they failed to vote for manumission. Calles' Manumission Act did indeed pass on voice votes in both houses of Congress, freeing Mexico's slaves. This outraged his Mexicano supporters, and when Calles ran for re-election in 1926 he was defeated, winning only 37% of Durango's votes and only 47% nationwide.

Alvin Silva, War, and Dictatorship[]

President Alvin Silva.

Silva, by contrast, was able to win re-election in 1926 in spite of his support for Calles' policies. During the presidency of Pedro Fuentes of Chiapas, Silva became a leading figure in the Liberty Party, criticizing Fuentes' obsession with attacking Kramer Associates, and mocking his inability to bring the company to heel. Silva was able to win the Libertarian nomination for president, and went on to beat Fuentes in the 1932 Mexican elections, winning 54.6% of the national vote despite winning only 48% of the vote in Durango. Silva's aggressive foreign policy allowed him to maintain his popularity, and when he ran for re-election in the 1938 Mexican elections, he was able to win 51.4% of Durango's votes on his way to another 54% national victory.

Although a military alliance with the Germanic Confederation was the centerpiece of Silva's foreign policy, when the Germans went to war with the British in 1939, Silva chose to remain neutral. A series of swift German victories against France and the Ottoman Empire left Silva feeling nervous about his ally, and instead of assisting the Germans, Silva chose to attack Japan and China in alliance with Siberia on 1 January 1942. The war with Japan brought Silva into conflict with Kramer Associates, which had relocated to the Philippines in 1936 and was now quietly supporting the Japanese against Mexico. By the summer of 1944 Mexico's early victories came to an end, and the Mexican Pacific Fleet suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Japan and Australia. By 1949 the Japanese had conquered Siberia and were threatening the Mexican states of Hawaii and Alaska.

Silva had cancelled the 1944 Mexican elections, and as his popularity waned he was forced to schedule national elections for January 1950. Silva narrowly lost to Admiral Paul Suarez in an election plagued with violence and accusations of fraud on both sides. As the day of Suarez's inauguration approached, growing political violence led to a coup d'etat by a military junta led by Colonel Vincent Mercator.

Social programs initiated by Mercator have resulted in a leveling effect in the U.S.M. Starvation in Durango has been eliminated, and education rates are the highest in the state's history. However, these gains have come at the cost of the flight of much of Mexico's middle class overseas to the C.N.A. and Taiwan.

Sobel's sources for Durango include Silva's The Search for the Mexican Soul (Mexico City, 1931); de la Casa's Life at Court: An Observer of the Calles Regime(Mexico City, 1934); and Charles Winslow's Peasants in Brocade: The Oil Millionaires of Chiapas and Durango (New York 1962).

This was the Featured Article for the month of May 2022.

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