Cristero War
Overview
 
The Cristero War (also known as the Cristiada) of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government in power at that time. The rebellion was set off by the strict enforcement of the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and the expansion of further anti-clerical laws. After a period of peaceful resistance, a number of skirmishes took place in 1926.
Encyclopedia
The Cristero War (also known as the Cristiada) of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government in power at that time. The rebellion was set off by the strict enforcement of the anti-clerical provisions of the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and the expansion of further anti-clerical laws. After a period of peaceful resistance, a number of skirmishes took place in 1926. The formal rebellions began on 2 January 1927, with the rebels were called Cristeros because they felt they were fighting for "Cristo Rey" ("Christ
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 the King"). The rebellion ended by diplomatic means brokered by the then United States Ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Whitney Morrow.

1917 Constitution

The Political Constitution of the United Mexican States was redacted by the Constitutional Congress convoked by Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza
Venustiano Carranza de la Garza, was one of the leaders of the Mexican Revolution. He ultimately became President of Mexico following the overthrow of the dictatorial Huerta regime in the summer of 1914 and during his administration the current constitution of Mexico was drafted...

 in September 1916, and it was approved on 5 February 1917. The new constitution was based in the previous one instituted by Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez born Benito Pablo Juárez García, was a Mexican lawyer and politician of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca who served five terms as president of Mexico: 1858–1861 as interim, 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872...

 in 1857. Three of its 136 articles, number 3, 27, and 130, contain heavily anticlerical sections.

The first two sections of article 3 state that: I. According to the religious liberties established under article 24, educational services shall be secular and, therefore, free of any religious orientation. II. The educational services shall be based on scientific progress and shall fight against ignorance, ignorance's effects, servitudes, fanaticism and prejudice. The second section of article 27 states that: All religious associations organized according to article 130 and its derived legislation, shall be authorized to acquire, possess or manage just the necessary assets to achieve their objectives.

The first paragraph of article 130 states that: The rules established at this article are guided by the historical principle according to which the State and the churches are separated entities from each other. Churches and religious congregations shall be organized under the law.

It also provided for obligatory state registration of all churches and religious congregations, and places a series of restrictions on priests and ministers of all religions (ineligible to hold public office, to canvas (sic
Sic
Sic—generally inside square brackets, [sic], and occasionally parentheses, —when added just after a quote or reprinted text, indicates the passage appears exactly as in the original source...

) on behalf of political parties or candidates, to inherit from persons other than close blood relatives, etc.). The article also allowed the state to regulate the number of priests in each region, even reducing the number to zero, forbade the wearing of religious garb, and excluded offenders from a trial by jury. Venustiano Carranza declared himself opposed to the final redaction of Articles 3, 5, 24, 27, 123 and 130. But the Constitutional Congress contained only 85 conservatives and centrists close to Carranza's brand of liberalism, and against them there were 132 more radical delegates.

Article 24 states that: "Every man shall be free to choose and profess any religious belief as long as it is lawful and it cannot be punished under criminal law. The Congress shall not be authorized to enact laws either establishing or prohibiting a particular religion. Religious ceremonies of public nature shall be ordinarily performed at the temples. Those performed outdoors shall be regulated under the law.

Background to rebellion

The Mexican Revolution
Mexican Revolution
The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

 of 1910 was originally fought against the longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz
Porfirio Díaz
José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori was a Mexican-American War volunteer and French intervention hero, an accomplished general and the President of Mexico continuously from 1876 to 1911, with the exception of a brief term in 1876 when he left Juan N...

, but it would eventually lead to an increase in anticlericalism. Francisco I. Madero
Francisco I. Madero
Francisco Ignacio Madero González was a politician, writer and revolutionary who served as President of Mexico from 1911 to 1913. As a respectable upper-class politician, he supplied a center around which opposition to the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz could coalesce...

 was the first revolutionary leader. Madero became president in November 1911, but was eventually overthrown and executed in 1913 by the counterrevolutionary Victoriano Huerta
Victoriano Huerta
José Victoriano Huerta Márquez was a Mexican military officer and president of Mexico. Huerta's supporters were known as Huertistas during the Mexican Revolution...

. The support given by the Mexican Church's hierarchy to Huerta resulted in direct confrontation between the Catholic Church and the revolutionary generals Carranza, Villa, and Zapata
Emiliano Zapata
Emiliano Zapata Salazar was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910, and which was initially directed against the president Porfirio Díaz. He formed and commanded an important revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South, during the Mexican Revolution...

, who had previously vanquished Huerta's Federal Army
Huerta's Federal Army
Huerta's Federal Army, also known as the Federales in popular culture, was the force headed by Victoriano Huerta during his 1913–1914 reign as president of Mexico....

 under the Plan of Guadalupe
Plan of Guadalupe
The Plan of Guadalupe was a document drafted on March 23, 1913 by Venustiano Carranza in response to the overthrow and execution of Francisco I. Madero, then President of Mexico...

.

Carranza was the first president under the new Constitution, but he was eventually overthrown by his one-time ally Álvaro Obregón
Álvaro Obregón
General Álvaro Obregón Salido was the President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He was assassinated in 1928, shortly after winning election to another presidential term....

 in 1919, who succeeded to the presidency in late 1920. Álvaro Obregón applied the anticlerical laws emanating from the constitution selectively, only in areas where Catholic sentiment was weakest. This uneasy "truce" between the government and the Church ended with the 1924 election of an atheist, Plutarco Elías Calles
Plutarco Elías Calles
Plutarco Elías Calles was a Mexican general and politician. He was president of Mexico from 1924 to 1928, but he continued to be the de facto ruler from 1928–1935, a period known as the maximato...

. Mexican Jacobins, supported by Calles's central government, went beyond mere anticlericalism and engaged in antireligious campaigns to eradicate what they called "superstition" and "fanaticism", including desecration of religious objects, persecution of the clergy and anticlerical legislation.

Calles applied the anti-clerical laws stringently throughout the country and added his own anti-clerical legislation. In June 1926, he signed the "Law for Reforming the Penal Code", known unofficially as the "Calles Law
Calles Law
The Calles' Law, or Law for Reforming the Penal Code, was a reform of the penal code in Mexico under the presidency of Plutarco Elias Calles. The code reinforced strong restrictions against clerics and the Catholic Church put forth under Article 130 of the Mexican Constitution of 1917. Article 130...

". This provided specific penalties for priests and individuals who violated the provisions of the 1917 Constitution. For instance, wearing clerical garb in public (i.e., outside Church buildings) earned a fine of 500 pesos
Mexican peso
The peso is the currency of Mexico. Modern peso and dollar currencies have a common origin in the 15th–19th century Spanish dollar, most continuing to use its sign, "$". The Mexican peso is the 12th most traded currency in the world, the third most traded in the Americas, and by far the most...

 (approximately 250 $US dollars at the time); a priest who criticized the government could be imprisoned for five years. Some states enacted oppressive measures. Chihuahua enacted a law permitting only a single priest to serve the entire Catholic congregation of the state. To help enforce the law, Calles seized church property, expelled all foreign priests, and closed the monasteries, convents and religious schools.

Peaceful resistance

In response to these measures, Catholic organizations began to intensify their resistance. The most important of these groups was the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty
National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty
National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty or National League for the Defense of Religious Freedom was a religious civil rights organization formed in March 1925 in Mexico which played a crucial role in the Cristero War of 1926-1929...

, founded in 1924. This was joined by the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth (founded 1913) and the Popular Union, a Catholic political party founded in 1925. On 11 July 1926, Catholic bishops voted to suspend all public worship in response to the Calles Law. This suspension was to take effect on 1 August. On 14 July, they endorsed plans for an economic boycott against the government, which was particularly effective in west-central Mexico (the states of Jalisco
Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

, Guanajuato
Guanajuato
Guanajuato officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 46 municipalities and its capital city is Guanajuato....

, Aguascalientes
Aguascalientes
Aguascalientes is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 11 municipalities and its capital city is Aguascalientes....

, and Zacatecas
Zacatecas
Zacatecas officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Zacatecas is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 58 municipalities and its capital city is Zacatecas....

). Catholics in these areas stopped attending movies and plays and using public transportation, and Catholic teachers stopped teaching in secular schools.

The bishops worked to have the offending articles of the Constitution amended. Pope Pius XI
Pope Pius XI
Pope Pius XI , born Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti, was Pope from 6 February 1922, and sovereign of Vatican City from its creation as an independent state on 11 February 1929 until his death on 10 February 1939...

 explicitly approved this plan. The Calles government considered the bishops' activism seditious behavior and had many more churches closed. In September the episcopate submitted a proposal for the amendment of the constitution, but Congress rejected it on 22 September 1926.

Escalation of violence

In Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. With a population of 1,564,514 it is Mexico's second most populous municipality...

, on 3 August 1926, some 400 armed Catholics shut themselves up in the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe , also known as the Virgin of Guadalupe is a celebrated Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary.According to tradition, on December 9, 1531 Juan Diego, a simple indigenous peasant, had a vision of a young woman while he was on a hill in the Tepeyac desert, near Mexico City. The lady...

. They were involved in a shootout with federal troops and surrendered only when they ran out of ammunition. According to U.S. consular sources, this battle resulted in 18 dead and 40 injured. The following day, 4 August, in Sahuayo
Sahuayo
Sahuayo is a city in the state of Michoacán, in western México, near the southern shore of Lake Chapala. It serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name...

, Michoacán
Michoacán
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

, 240 government soldiers stormed the parish church. The parish priest and his vicar were killed in the ensuing violence. On 14 August, government agents staged a purge of the Chalchihuites
Chalchihuites
Alta Vista, or Chalchihuites, is a small Mesoamerican archaeological site in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, in the northwest of Mexico. The archaeological site of Alta Vista, at Chalchihuites, is located 137 miles to the northwest of the city of Zacatecas and 102 miles southeast of the city of...

, Zacatecas, chapter of the Association of Catholic Youth and executed their spiritual adviser Father Luis Bátiz Sainz. This execution caused a band of ranchers, led by Pedro Quintanar, to seize the local treasury and declare themselves in rebellion. At the height of their rebellion, they held a region including the entire northern part of Jalisco. Luis Navarro Origel, the mayor of Pénjamo
Pénjamo
Penjamo Hidalgo Cradle, is the City head-board of the homonymous Municipality, one of 46 municipalities of Guanajuato's Mexican state. It is one of the cities with major commercial movement of the State, and is considered to be the major City of the Southwest of the entity and the city number 17...

, Guanajuato
Guanajuato
Guanajuato officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 46 municipalities and its capital city is Guanajuato....

, led another uprising beginning on 28 September. His men were defeated by federal troops in the open land around the town but retreated into the mountains, where they continued as guerrillas
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

.

This was followed by an uprising in Durango
Durango
Durango officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Durango is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. The state is located in Northwest Mexico. With a population of 1,632,934, it has Mexico's second-lowest population density, after Baja...

 led by Trinidad Mora on 29 September, and a 4 October rebellion in southern Guanajuato, led by former general Rodolfo Gallegos. Both of these rebel leaders adopted guerrilla tactics, as they were no match for the federal troops and airforce on open ground. Meanwhile, the rebels in Jalisco (particularly the region northeast of Guadalajara
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. With a population of 1,564,514 it is Mexico's second most populous municipality...

) quietly began gathering forces. This region became the main focal point of the rebellion led by 27-year-old René Capistrán Garza
René Capistrán Garza
René Capistrán Garza was a leader of the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth .Born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, on January 26, 1898 Capistrán Garza studied law at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico...

, leader of the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth.

Cristero War

The formal rebellion began on 1 January 1927 with a manifesto sent by Garza on New Year's Day, titled A la Nación (To the Nation). This declared that "the hour of battle has sounded" and "the hour of victory belongs to God". With the declaration, the state of Jalisco, which had seemed to be quiet since the Guadalajara church uprising, exploded. Bands of rebels moving in the "Los Altos" region northeast of Guadalajara began seizing villages, often armed with only ancient muskets and clubs. The Cristeros' battle cry was ¡Viva Cristo Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! (Long live Christ the King
Christ the King
Christ the King is a title of Jesus based on several passages of Scripture. It is used by most Christians. The Roman Catholic Church, together with many Protestant denominations, including the Anglican Churches, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Methodists, celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on the...

! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!
). The rebels had scarce logistical supplies, and relied heavily on the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
The Feminine Brigades of Saint Joan of Arc . Founded by Mrs. Uribe on the 21st of June 1927, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Formed as a secret Catholic women's society that organized to support the Mexican Cristero War effort, they were affiliated with Unión Popular...

, raids to towns, trains and ranches in order to supply themselves with money, horses, ammunition, and food. By contrast, later in the war the Calles government was supplied with arms and ammunition by the U.S. government. In at least one battle, American pilots provided air support for the federal army against the Cristero rebels.

The Calles government did not take the threat very seriously at first. The rebels did well against the agraristas (a rural militia recruited throughout Mexico) and the Social Defense forces (local militia), but, at first, were always defeated by the federal troops who guarded the important cities. At this time, the federal army numbered 79,759 men. When Jalisco federal commander General Jesús Ferreira moved on the rebels, he matter-of-factly wired to the army headquarters that "it will be less a campaign than a hunt." It was a sentiment which Calles also held.

However, these rebels, who had had no previous military experience for the most part, planned their battles well. The most successful rebel leaders were Jesús Degollado (a pharmacist), Victoriano Ramírez (a ranch hand), and two priests, Aristeo Pedroza
Aristeo Pedroza
Aristeo Pedroza was a Catholic priest and a Cristero Brigadier General who participated in the Cristero War. Father Pedroza ordered the execution of the General Victoriano Ramirez and, in order to avoid dissent within the Cristeros, because “the Fourteen” were very esteemed, he resolved to fulfill...

 and José Reyes Vega. Unlike Pedroza, Vega was a priest in name only who entered the seminary under the pressure of his family and who made no pretense of living a virtuous life or of remaining celibate. Vega was renowned for his cruelty and Cardinal Davila, deemed him a "black-hearted assassin". At least five priests took up arms, while many others supported them in various ways.

The Mexican episcopate never officially supported the rebellion, but the rebels had some indications that their cause was legitimate. Bishop José Francisco Orozco
José Francisco Orozco y Jiménez
José Francisco Orozco y Jiménez was archbishop of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico from 1913 through 1936.He was born in Zamora, Michoacán on November 19, 1864. He was ordained a priest in 1887 and appointed Bishop of Chiapas in 1902....

 of Guadalajara remained with the rebels; while formally rejecting armed rebellion, he was unwilling to leave his flock.

On 23 February 1927, the Cristeros defeated federal troops for the first time at San Francisco del Rincón
San Francisco del Rincón
San Francisco del Rincón is a city and municipality in the western part of the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. The city serves as the municipal seat for the municipality of San Francisco del Rincón...

, Guanajuato
Guanajuato
Guanajuato officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guanajuato is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 46 municipalities and its capital city is Guanajuato....

, followed by another victory at San Julián, Jalisco
San Julián, Jalisco
San Julián is a city and municipality of about 26,000 people in the Altos region of the Mexican state of Jalisco. San Julian is a town and people of the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Located northeast of Jalisco, in the Southern Highlands Region. Its land area is 268.44 km 2 and is located within...

. However, the Cristeros quickly began to lose in the face of superior federal forces, and retreated into remote areas, constantly fleeing federal soldiers. Most of the leadership of the revolt in the state of Jalisco was forced to flee to the United States, although Victoriano Ramírez and Fr. Reyes Vega remained. In April, the leader of the civilian wing of the Cristiada, Anacleto González Flores, was captured, tortured and killed. The media and government declared victory and plans were made for a socialist reeducation campaign in the areas that had rebelled.
As if to prove that the rebellion was not extinguished, and to avenge the death of González Flores, Father Vega led a raid against a train carrying a shipment of money for the Bank of Mexico on 19 April. The raid was a success, but Vega's brother was killed in the raid.

The "concentration" policy, rather than suppressing the revolt, gave it new life, as thousands of men began to aid and join the rebels in resentment for the cruel treatment of the Federation. When the rains came, the peasants were allowed to return to the harvest, and there was now more support than ever for the Cristeros. By August, they had consolidated their movement and were constantly attacking the federal troops garrisoned in their towns. Soon, they would be joined by Enrique Gorostieta
Enrique Gorostieta
Enrique Gorostieta Velarde was a Mexican soldier. He was one of the leaders of the Cristero Rebellion....

, a general hired by the National League for Religious Liberty. Although Gorostieta was himself a liberal and a skeptic, he would eventually wear a cross around his neck and speak openly of his reliance on God.

Fathers Vega and Pedroza were born soldiers. Father Vega was not a typical priest, and was reputed to drink heavily and routinely ignore his vow of chastity. Father Pedroza, by contrast, was rigidly moral and faithful to his priestly vows. However, the fact that the two took up arms at all is problematic from the point of view of Catholic sacramental theology. On 21 June 1927, the first brigade of female Cristeros was formed in Zapopan
Zapopan
Zapopan is a city and municipality located in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which is part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. It is best known as being the home of the Virgin of Zapopan, an image of the Virgin Mary which was made in the 16th century. This image has been credited with a number of...

. They named themselves for Saint Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Saint Joan of Arc, nicknamed "The Maid of Orléans" , is a national heroine of France and a Roman Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years' War, which paved the way for the...

, the Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
The Feminine Brigades of Saint Joan of Arc . Founded by Mrs. Uribe on the 21st of June 1927, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Formed as a secret Catholic women's society that organized to support the Mexican Cristero War effort, they were affiliated with Unión Popular...

. The brigade began with 17 women, but soon grew to 135 members. Its mission was to obtain money, weapons, provisions and information for the combatant men; they also cared for the wounded. By March 1928, there were some 10,000 women involved. Many smuggled weapons into the combat zones by carrying them in carts filled with grain or cement. By the end of the war, they numbered some 25,000.

The Cristeros maintained the upper hand throughout 1928, and in 1929, the federal government faced a new crisis: a revolt within Army ranks, led by Arnulfo R. Gómez in Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

. The Cristeros tried to take advantage of this with an attack on Guadalajara in late March. This failed, but the rebels did manage to take Tepatitlán
Tepatitlán de Morelos
Tepatitlán de Morelos is a city and municipality founded in 1883, in the central Mexican state of Jalisco. It is located in the area known as Los Altos de Jalisco , about 70 km east of state capital Guadalajara. Its surrounding municipality of the same name had an area of 1,532.78 km²...

 on April 19. Father Vega was killed in that battle. The military rebellion was met with equal force and the Cristeros were soon facing divisions within their own ranks. On 2 June, Gorostieta was killed when he was ambushed by a federal patrol. However the rebels had some 50,000 men under arms by this point and seemed poised to draw out the rebellion for a long time.

Diplomacy and the uprising

Before and after the successes had by the rebels and the support of Bishop Orozco, the Mexican bishops supported the Cristeros (this is in dispute- the only comprehensive history of this movement, "The Cristero Rebellion" indicates that with a couple of exceptions the episcopacy was hostile to the movement).The bishops were expelled from Mexico after Father Vega's attack on the train, but they continued to try to influence the war's outcome from outside the country.

In October 1927, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico was Dwight Whitney Morrow. He initiated a series of breakfast meetings with President Calles at which the two would discuss a range of issues, from the religious uprising, to oil and irrigation. This earned him the nickname "ham and eggs diplomat" in U.S. papers. Morrow wanted the conflict to end both for regional security and to help find a solution to the oil problem in the U.S. He was aided in his efforts by Father John J. Burke
John J. Burke
John J. Burke was a Paulist priest and editor of the Catholic World from 1903 to 1922.A central point of Burke's writing and lecturing concerned the supernatural element of charity...

 of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. Calles's term as president was coming to an end and president-elect Álvaro Obregón
Álvaro Obregón
General Álvaro Obregón Salido was the President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He was assassinated in 1928, shortly after winning election to another presidential term....

 was scheduled to take office on 1 December 1928. Two weeks after his election, Obregón was assassinated by a Catholic radical, José de León Toral
José de León Toral
José de León Toral , December 23, 1900 - Mexico City, February 9, 1929) was a Roman Catholic militant who assassinated general Álvaro Obregón, president elect of Mexico in 1928....

, an event that gravely damaged the peace process.

Congress named Emilio Portes Gil
Emilio Portes Gil
Emilio Cándido Portes Gil was President of Mexico from 1928 to 1930.-Biography:Portes Gil was born in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas in northeast Mexico....

 interim president in September 1928, with an election to be held in November 1929. Portes was more open to the Church than Calles had been, allowing Morrow and Burke to reinitiate their peace initiative. Portes told a foreign correspondent on May 1 that "the Catholic clergy, when they wish, may renew the exercise of their rites with only one obligation, that they respect the laws of the land". The next day, exiled Archbishop Leopoldo Ruíz y Flores issued a statement the bishops would not demand the repeal of the laws, only their more lenient application. Morrow managed to bring the parties to agreement on 21 June 1929. His office drafted a pact called the arreglos (agreement) that allowed worship to resume in Mexico and granted three concessions to the Catholics: only priests who were named by hierarchical superiors would be required to register, religious instruction in the churches (but not in the schools) would be permitted, and all citizens, including the clergy, would be allowed to make petitions to reform the laws. But the most important part of the agreement was that the church would recover the right to use its properties, and priests recovered their rights to live on such property. Legally speaking, the church was not allowed to own real estate, and its former facilities remained federal property. But the church effectively took control over the properties. It was a convenient arrangement for both parties, and the church ostensibly ended its support for the rebels.

In the last two years, more anticlerical officers who were hostile to the federal government for reasons other than its position on religion joined the rebels. When the agreement between the government and the church was made known, only a minority of the rebels went home, those who felt their battle had been won. As the rebels themselves were not consulted in the talks, many felt betrayed and some continued to fight. The church then threatened rebels with excommunication, and gradually the rebellion died out. The officers, fearing that they would be tried as traitors, tried to keep the rebellion alive. This attempt failed and many were captured and shot, while others escaped to San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí
San Luis Potosí, commonly called SLP or simply San Luis, is the capital of, and most populous city in the Mexican state of the same name. The city lies at an elevation of 1,850 meters...

, where General Saturnino Cedillo gave them refuge.

On 27 June 1929, the church bells rang in Mexico for the first time in almost three years. The war had claimed the lives of some 90,000 people: 56,882 on the federal side, 30,000 Cristeros, and numerous civilians and Cristeros who were killed in anticlerical raids after the war ended. As promised by Portes Gil, the Calles Law remained on the books, but no organized federal attempts to enforce it took place. Nonetheless, in several localities, officials continued persecution of Catholic priests based on their interpretation of the law. In 1992, the Mexican government amended the constitution by granting all religious groups legal status, conceding them limited property rights, and lifting restrictions on the number of priests in the country.

Present-day

The Mexican constitution prohibits outdoor worship, which is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, generally requiring governmental permission. Religious organizations are not permitted to own print or electronic media outlets, governmental permission is required to broadcast religious ceremonies, and ministers are prohibited from being political candidates or holding public office.

Aftermath of the war and the toll on the Church

The government allegedly did not abide by the terms of the truce and, in violation of its terms, shot some 500 Cristero leaders and 5,000 other Cristeros dead. Particularly offensive to Catholics after the supposed truce was Calles's insistence on a complete state monopoly on education, suppressing all Catholic education and introducing secular education in its place: "We must enter and take possession of the mind of childhood, the mind of youth." Calles's military persecution of Catholics would be officially condemned by President Lázaro Cárdenas
Lázaro Cárdenas
Lázaro Cárdenas del Río was President of Mexico from 1934 to 1940.-Early life:Lázaro Cárdenas was born on May 21, 1895 in a lower-middle class family in the village of Jiquilpan, Michoacán. He supported his family from age 16 after the death of his father...

 and the Mexican Congress in 1935.

Between 1935 and 1936, Cardenas had Calles and many of his close associates arrested and forced them into exile soon afterwards. Freedom of worship was no longer suppressed, although some states still refused to repeal Calles' policy, and relations with the church improved while Cardenas was president.

Government disregard for the church, however, did not relent until 1940, when President Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho served as the President of Mexico from 1940 to 1946.Manuel Ávila was born in the city of Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla, to middle-class parents, Manuel Ávila Castillo and Eufrosina Camacho Bello. He had several siblings, among them sister María Jovita Ávila Camacho and...

, a practising Catholic, took office. Church buildings in the country still belonged to the Mexican government and the nation's policies regarding the church still fell into federal jurisdiction. Under Camacho, the bans against church, though lawfully required either throughout the country or in just some Mexican states, were no longer enforced anywhere in Mexico.

The effects of the war on the Church were profound. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. There were 4,500 priests serving the people before the rebellion, but by 1934 there were only 334 priests licensed by the government to serve fifteen million people. The rest had been eliminated by emigration, expulsion and assassination. By 1935, 17 states had no priest at all.

The end of the Cristero War affected emigration to the United States. "In the aftermath of their defeat, many of the Cristeros — by some estimates as much as 5 percent of Mexico's population — fled to the U.S. Many of them made their way to Los Angeles, where they found a protector in John Joseph Cantwell
John Joseph Cantwell
John Joseph Cantwell was the first archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.Archbishop Cantwell was born in Limerick, Ireland. He was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco on June 18, 1899 and was initially assigned as curate of Berkeley's St. Joseph The Worker...

, the bishop of what was then the Los Angeles-San Diego diocese." Under Archbishop Cantwell's sponsorship the Cristero refugees became a substantial community in Los Angeles, in 1934 staging a parade some 40,000 strong through the city.

Cristero War saints

The Catholic Church has recognized several of those killed in the Cristero rebellion as martyr
Martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

s, including the Blessed
Beatification
Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name . Beatification is the third of the four steps in the canonization process...

 Miguel Pro
Miguel Pro
Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez , also known as Blessed Miguel Pro, was a Mexican Jesuit priest, executed without trial during the persecution of the Catholic Church under the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles after trumped up charges of involvement in an assassination attempt against former President...

 (SJ), who was executed by firing squad on 23 November 1927, without a trial, on trumped up charges of involvement in an assassination attempt against former President Álvaro Obregón
Álvaro Obregón
General Álvaro Obregón Salido was the President of Mexico from 1920 to 1924. He was assassinated in 1928, shortly after winning election to another presidential term....

 but in actuality for his priestly activities in defiance of the government.. His beatification
Beatification
Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name . Beatification is the third of the four steps in the canonization process...

 occurred in 1988.

On 21 May 2000, Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

 canonized a group of 25 martyrs from this period. They had been beatified on 22 November 1992. Of this group, 22 were secular clergy
Secular clergy
The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious order.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, the secular clergy are ministers, such as deacons and priests, who do not belong to a religious order...

 and three were laymen. They did not take up arms but refused to leave their flocks and ministries, being shot or hung by government forces for offering the sacraments. Most were executed by federal forces. Although Pedro de Jesús Maldonado was killed in 1937, after the war ended, he is considered a Cristero and a member of this group.

Father Luis Bátiz Sainz was the parish priest in Chalchihuites and a member of the Knights of Columbus
Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is the world's largest Catholic fraternal service organization. Founded in the United States in 1882, it is named in honor of Christopher Columbus....

. He was known for his devotion to the Eucharist
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 and for his prayer for martyrdom: "Lord, I want to be a martyr; even though I am your unworthy servant, I want to pour out my blood, drop by drop, for your name." In 1926, shortly before the closing of the churches, he was denounced as a conspirator against the government because of his connections with the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, which was preparing an armed uprising. A squad of soldiers raided the private house where he was staying on August 14 and took him captive. They executed him, reportedly without benefit of a trial, along with three youths of the Mexican Association of Catholic Youth.

The Catholic Church declared thirteen additional victims of the anti-Catholic regime as martyrs on 20 November 2005, thus paving the way for their beatifications. This group was mostly lay people, including a 14-year-old, José Sánchez del Río
José Sánchez del Río
Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río was a young Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. He has been declared a martyr and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005.-Life:José Luis Sánchez del Río was born on March...

. On 20 November 2005, at Jalisco Stadium in Guadalajara, José Saraiva Cardinal Martins celebrated the beatifications.

Atrocities by the Cristeros against rural teachers

As it was mentioned above, the Calles law was repealed after Lázaro Cárdenas
Lázaro Cárdenas
Lázaro Cárdenas del Río was President of Mexico from 1934 to 1940.-Early life:Lázaro Cárdenas was born on May 21, 1895 in a lower-middle class family in the village of Jiquilpan, Michoacán. He supported his family from age 16 after the death of his father...

 became president. Cárdenas earned respect from Pope Pius and befriended Mexican Archbishop Luis María Martinez, a major figure in Mexico's Catholic Church who successfully persuaded Mexicans to obey the government's laws in a peaceful manner. The church refused to back Mexican insurgent Saturnino Cedillo's failed revolt against Cardenas, despite the fact that Cedillo endorsed more freedom the church.

Cardenas' government allegedly continued to show disregard for Roman Catholics in the field of education during his presidential years (1934–40). Congress amended Article 3 of the Constitution in October 1934 to include the following introductory text (textual translation): "The education imparted by the State shall be a socialist one and, in addition to excluding all religious doctrine, shall combat fanaticism and prejudices by organizing its instruction and activities in a way that shall permit the creation in youth of an exact and rational concept of the Universe and of social life." This amendment was invalidated by future President Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho served as the President of Mexico from 1940 to 1946.Manuel Ávila was born in the city of Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla, to middle-class parents, Manuel Ávila Castillo and Eufrosina Camacho Bello. He had several siblings, among them sister María Jovita Ávila Camacho and...

. Constitutional bans against the church would not be enforced anywhere in Mexico during Camacho's presidency.

The promotion of so called "socialist education" met with strong opposition in some parts of academia and in areas formerly controlled by the Cristeros.

Pope Pius XI also published the encyclical, Firmissimam Constantiam, on 28 March 1937, expressing his opposition to the "impious and corruptive school" (paragraph 22) and his support for Catholic Action
Catholic Action
Catholic Action was the name of many groups of lay Catholics who were attempting to encourage a Catholic influence on society.They were especially active in the nineteenth century in historically Catholic countries that fell under anti-clerical regimes such as Spain, Italy, Bavaria, France, and...

 in Mexico. This was the third and last encyclical published by Pius XI making reference to the religious situation in Mexico.

Many Cristeros took up the arms again, and they were followed by other Catholics, but this time unarmed teachers were among the main targets of Cristero-associated atrocities.

Rural teachers did not take up arms, but some of them refused to leave their schools and communities, and many had their ears cut off. This is the reason why those teachers who were murdered and had their corpses desecrated are often known as "maestros desorejados" ("teachers without ears") in Mexico.

In the worst cases, teachers were tortured and murdered by the Cristeros. It is calculated that almost three hundred rural teachers were murdered in this way between 1935 and 1939, while other authors calculate that at least 223 teachers were victims of the violence between 1931-40, including the assassinations of Carlos Sayago, Carlos Pastraña, and Librado Labastida in Teziutlán
Teziutlán
Teziutlán is a small city in the northeast of the Mexican state of Puebla. Its 2005 census population was 60,597. It also serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. The municipality has an area of 84.2 km² and a population of 88,970.Teziutlán is located at...

, Puebla, hometown of future president Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho
Manuel Ávila Camacho served as the President of Mexico from 1940 to 1946.Manuel Ávila was born in the city of Teziutlán, a small town in Puebla, to middle-class parents, Manuel Ávila Castillo and Eufrosina Camacho Bello. He had several siblings, among them sister María Jovita Ávila Camacho and...

; the execution of a teacher, Carlos Toledano, who was burned alive in Tlapacoyan, Veracruz
Veracruz
Veracruz, formally Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave , is one of the 31 states that, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided in 212 municipalities and its capital city is...

; and the lynching of at least 42 teachers in the state of Michoacan
Michoacán
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

: J. Trinidad Ramírez in Contepec, Pedro García in Apatzingan, Juan Gonzalez Valdespino in Huajumbaro, José Rivera Romero in Ciudad Hidalgo, María Salud Morales in Tacambaro; et al. The atrocities by the Cristeros against rural teachers have been criticized in essays and books published by the Jesuit Ibero-American University
Universidad Iberoamericana
The Ibero-American University is a Mexican private institution of higher education sponsored by the Society of Jesus...

 in Mexico.

Battle hymn of the Cristeros

A surviving Cristero, Juan Gutiérrez, recited a hymn sung by the Cristeros, to the tune of the Spanish "Marcha Real
Marcha Real
is the national anthem of Spain. It is one of the few national anthems in the world to have no official lyrics ....

"

Spanish
La Virgen María es nuestra protectora y nuestra defensora cuando hay que temer,
Vencerá a los demonios gritando "¡Viva Cristo Rey!",
Vencerá a los demonios gritando "¡Viva Cristo Rey!"

Soldados de Cristo: ¡Sigamos la bandera que la Cruz enseña el ejército de Dios!
Sigamos la bandera gritando, "¡Viva Cristo Rey!"


English translation
The Virgin Mary is our protector and defender when there is something to fear,
She will defeat the demons crying "Long live Christ the King!"
She will defeat the demons crying "Long live Christ the King!"

Soldiers of Christ let us follow the flag that the Cross shows the army of God!
Let us follow the flag crying, "Long live Christ the King!"

In popular culture

Juán Rulfo
Juan Rulfo
Juan Rulfo was a Mexican author and photographer. One of Latin America's most esteemed authors, Rulfo's reputation rests on two slim books, the novel Pedro Páramo , and El Llano en llamas...

's famous novel Pedro Páramo
Pedro Páramo
Pedro Páramo is a short novel written by Juan Rulfo, originally published in 1955. In just the 23 FCE editions and reprintings, it had sold 1,143,000 copies by November 1997. Other editions in Mexico, Spain, and other nations have sold countless more copies...

 is set in during the Cristero War in Northwestern Mexico.

Many fact based film versions of the war have been produced since 1929, a short list includes El coloso de mármol (1929), Los cristeros (aka Sucedió en Jalisco) (1947), La guerra santa (1979), La cristiada (1986), etc. The most recent film on this subject is Cristiada
Cristiada (film)
Cristiada is a drama film and historic epic, currently in post-production, directed by Dean Wright and written by , based on the true story of the Cristero War . Although filmed in Mexico, it is in English...

, starring Andy Garcia
Andy García
Andrés Arturo García Menéndez , professionally known as Andy García, is a Cuban American actor. He became known in the late 1980s and 1990s, having appeared in several successful Hollywood films, including The Godfather: Part III, The Untouchables, Internal Affairs and When a Man Loves a Woman...

, Eva Longoria
Eva Longoria
Eva Jacqueline Longoria is an American actress, best known for portraying Gabrielle Solis on the ABC television series Desperate Housewives...

, Eduardo Verastegui
Eduardo Verástegui
Eduardo Verástegui is a Mexican model, singer, and actor.- Biography :Verástegui was born in Mante, Tamaulipas, México and was raised as a devout Roman Catholic. He moved to Mexico City to pursue modeling, landing work with Calvin Klein among others...

 and Peter O'Toole
Peter O'Toole
Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole is an Irish actor of stage and screen. O'Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and then went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most...

.

See also

  • Mexican Revolution
    Mexican Revolution
    The Mexican Revolution was a major armed struggle that started in 1910, with an uprising led by Francisco I. Madero against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. The Revolution was characterized by several socialist, liberal, anarchist, populist, and agrarianist movements. Over time the Revolution...

  • National Action Party (Mexico)
    National Action Party (Mexico)
    The National Action Party , is one of the three main political parties in Mexico. The party's political platform is generally considered Centre-Right in the Mexican political spectrum. Since 2000, the President of Mexico has been a member of this party; both houses have PAN pluralities, but the...

  • List of wars involving Mexico
  • Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
    Feminine Brigades of St. Joan of Arc
    The Feminine Brigades of Saint Joan of Arc . Founded by Mrs. Uribe on the 21st of June 1927, in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Formed as a secret Catholic women's society that organized to support the Mexican Cristero War effort, they were affiliated with Unión Popular...


External links


Reading

  • Inquiries into the Cristero Insurrection against the Mexican Revolution by Ramon Jrade in Latin American Research Review, Vol. 20, No. 2 (1985), pp. 53–69
  • Meyer, Jean. The Cristero Rebellion: The Mexican People between Church and State, 1926–1929. Cambridge, 1976.
  • Tuck, Jim. The Holy War in Los Altos: A Regional Analysis of Mexico's Cristero Rebellion. University of Arizona Press, 1982. ISBN 0-8165-0779-1
  • Groppe, Lothar. P. Michael Pro SJ: Ein mexikanischer Schlingel wird Priester und Martyrer. Freundeskreis Maria Goretti, e.V., Munich, 1988.
  • Purnell, Jenny. Popular Movements and State Formation in Revolutionary Mexico: The Agraristas and Cristeros of Michoacan. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.
  • Greene, Graham
    Graham Greene
    Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

    . The Power and the Glory
    The Power and the Glory
    The Power and the Glory is a novel by British author Graham Greene. The title is an allusion to the doxology often added to the end of the Lord's Prayer: "For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever , amen." This novel has also been published in the US under the name The...

    (novel). New York: Viking Press, 1940 (as The Labyrinthine Ways).
  • Mabry, Donald J. Mexican Anticlerics, Bishops, Cristeros, and the Devout during the 1920s: A Scholarly Debate Journal of Church and State Vol. 20, No. 1, (1978), 81–92
  • Luis Gonzalez – Translated by John Upton. San Jose de Gracia: Mexican Village in Transition ISBN 978-0-292-77571-8 (historical novel), Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1982.
  • Potter, Gary. Valor and Betrayal – The Historical Background and Story of the Cristeros at Catholicism.org.
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