concentration camps in mexico -- 9/01/22

Today's encore selection -- from Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution by Frank McLynn. During the Mexican Revolution, one of President Francisco Madero's generals tried to subdue the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata by using the techniques of concentration camps and the destruction of villages that had also been used in South Africa and the Philippines:

"[President] Madero [tried to prevail over the revolutionary Emiliano Zapata and his followers, the zapatistas, by] sending to [Zapata's town of] Morelos a tough, fanatical, hardline ex-Indian fighter, General Juvencio Robles, whose unspoken motto was that the only good rebel was a dead one. Robles was such a fanatic that he thought even the Morelos plantation owners were zapatistas. 'All Morelos, as I understand it,' he declared, 'is zapatista, and there's not a single inhabitant who doesn't believe in the false doctrines of the bandit Emiliano Zapata.' His first action was to have Zapata's sister, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law arrested and brought to Cuernavaca as hostages. His troops began shooting and arresting people at will or at Robles's whim.

Boer civilians watching British soldiers blow up their house with dynamite: Boers were given 10 minutes to gather belongings.

"Robles had studied the 'pacification' methods used by the British in the Boer War and by the US military in the Philippines -- principally 'resettling' villagers in concentration camps. Once entire populations had been herded into the camps, he sent out flying columns into the countryside, killing all they met, on the grounds that all non-rebels should already be in the camps. Robles then burned down the villages, so that guerrillas could not return to get food or use the houses as redoubts. On 15 February federal troops found the village of Nexpa occupied only by women, children and decrepit old men. Amid the ululations and lamentations of these people, they gutted the place, black 'smoke signals' telling the guerrillas they would find no refuge in Nexpa. Other villages burned in the same way included San Rafael, Ticumán, Los Hornos, Villa de Ayala, Coajomulco and Ocotepec. Robles's men brutalised and intimidated all they met, including docile peons resident on the great estates and even hacienda managers.

"Robles's career as an incendiarist alarmed even the people he was supposed to be defending. The planters tried to find a middle way, ... petitioning Robles not to burn villages for which they could vouch personally. The burning campaign was totally counterproductive, for it created new recruits for Zapata and made the zapatistas feel they had nothing to lose by staying in the field and nothing to gain from negotiating with Madero."



Frank McLynn


Villa and Zapata: A History of the Mexican Revolution


Basic Books


Copyright 2000 by Frank McLynn


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