Cuartelazo (military uprising) (1977) 




Director:     Alberto Isaac. 

Starring:    Héctor Ortega (Belisarío Domínguez), Bruno Rey (General Victoriano Huerta), Arturo Beristáin (Sebastín Quiroga), Eduardo López Rojas (General Villista), José Ángel Espinosa 'Ferrusquilla' (Manuel Gutiérrez Zamora), Ignacio Retes (Coronel Rebelde), Alejandro Parodi (José Ma. Iglesias Calderón), Carlos CastaZón (Díaz), Delia Casanova (Soldadera), Manuel Dondé (Jesús Fernández), Ramón Menéndez (Venustiano Carranza), Ricardo Fuentes (Juez), Roberto Dumont (Lind), Mario Castillón Bracho (Aldape), Armando de Pascual (Gerente).

General Vitoriano Huerta overthrows Madera in a plot with US ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson; he was president 1913-1914



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.  I had a rough time without English subtitles, but believe I have the overall thrust correct. 

"The only thing history teaches us is that man learns nothing from history."

Panteon de Coyoacan, 1914.  The skeleton of Chiapas senator Belisarío Domínguez is unearthed after one of the killers confesses.  Ricardo, the son of  Domínguez, identifies the body when he sees two gold molars in the skull.  They also find a hat with the initials BD on it. 

The narrator says that this is the story of this very turbulent time in Mexico. 

Flashback.  A year earlier, 1913, Comitan, Chiapas, following the disappearance of Senator Domínguez.  Representatives of the Huerta government (who had  Domínguez killed) give their condolences to the relatives of  Domínguez at a ceremony for the deceased.  Indian peasants come to give flowers to the widow.  They also place bottles of liquor by the lighted candles on the ground. 

Sebastián Quiroga, Domínguez's nephew, rides off to join the revolutionary forces of Lucio Blanco.  He signs up.  The captain there gets after him for not addressing him with his military title.  Quiroga sees a pretty soldadera (soldier's woman) with her soldier man.  He is quite taken with her.  She seems to enjoy the way he looks too. 

Penitentiary, Mexico City, February 1913.  The police arrive in force to get General Félix Díaz out of jail.  The shout goes up "Viva General Félix Díaz"; then "Viva General Manuel Mondragón"; and finally, "Viva General Bernardo Reyes!"

In a stagecoach Domínguez is being taken to Mexico City from Chiapas.  With him is a friend, along with  his son and nephew.  Domínguez tells his friend that he lived in France for 14 years.  His friend says it's not the same in Mexico as in France.  Mexico needs a man of iron and Madero, the new president, is not that man.  The stagecoach is stopped at a checkpoint, but is then allowed to proceed. 

When the stagecoach arrives in Mexico City, Domínguez and his crew are roughly handled by the police.  The friend tells the police that this is no way to treat a senator (actually a substitute senator in case something happens to the real senator).  The fellow in charge says that these measures are necessary given the current circumstances.  Domínguez wants to know what these current circumstances are.  What has happened?  There has been fighting in the capital around the National Palace.  Generals Félix Díaz, Bernardo Reyes and  Manuel Mondragón are all there fighting against the forces of Madero.  Reyes has been killed.  Senator Domínguez says the word cuartelazo (military uprising) about the fracas.  He then asks worriedly what happened to President Madero.  No answer is given.  The Senator is then taken to the Hotel Garden.  Shots of the fighting can still be heard.  The newspapers say that there have been 300 dead and 500 wounded in the fighting.  The newspapers also mention that the Department of State in Washington, D.C. reports that the events were not a cause for intervention on the part of the U.S.  Nevertheless, some forces will be sent to Mexico's ports to protect American lives and property.  The owner of the hotel tells Domínguez that Madero and the vice-president have been arrested. 

General Huerta, with extremely short-cut hair and wearing sun glasses, is in command and he summons his staff.  He has an oppositional statement from rebel Carranza read out loud, but tells his staff it is nothing to worry about.  He begins making organizational changes, such as substituting his men for the governors of the states.  Huerta has his photo taken with the foreign diplomatic corps and some of his generals.  Huerta tells US Ambassador to Mexico Henry Lane Wilson:  "I am certain that your government will bring peace and prosperity again to the Mexican people." 

The news is of the executions of President Madero and the vice-president.  Also in the news is the US denial of the headlines that America will be invading Mexico.  In one of the newspapers is a satirical comic of Huerta sitting on a throne of skulls.  Thismakes Huerta so mad that he has the newspapers shut down and the newspaper men arrested.

A druggist gives his political views of Madero's failure while talking with Domínguez, who is a doctor himself.  He says that Madero's worst enemy was Madero himself.  The police bring in young men and force them into the army.  Domínguez receives a telegram notifying him that Chiapas Senator Chiva has died.  This means that now Domínguez is the new senator. 

Somewhere in Bajio, July 1914.  The rebels are digging in.  The captain watches the pretty soldadera through his binoculars while she washes up by a stream.  Her man died the other day and now she is alone.  He watches as she puts on his old shoes.  Quiroga plays the piano for some fellow officers.  The colonel does not like the young man.  He tells Quiroga that he is not a true soldier and asks him what he is doing here.   Quiroga leaves.  The colonel then reads a long passage from Quiroga's journal about the goals of the revolution.  Quiroga sees the soldadera.  He touches her face; starts to fondle her; kisses her; and then lies down with her. 

April 1913.  Domínguez speaks in the senate.  He is booed by the opposition and applauded by his comrades. 

At the mourning for the deceased Domínguez, Huerta talks to the new U.S. ambassador Lind (replacing Henry Lane Wilson).  He tries to convince Lind  that the US should recognize his government: "I guarantee to the United States tranquility and magnificent relations of good neighbors, of friends. Only in this way are secure investments possible in our country."  Later, Lind says to his wife:  "I don't know if I should admire this man or reproach him."

The headlines in the newspapers are about the U.S. occupation of the port city of Veracruz.  Domínguez speaks with some of his political comrades, one of whom says: "It is [Huerta's] personal interests and not, as he says, the national dignity that is at stake."  One of the senators says that he is afraid for his wife and children with Huerta in power. 

Haciendo de Guadalupe, Coahuila, March 26, 1913.  Carranza is there to meet with some of the rebel officers, one of whom is Quiroga.   Carranza says:  "What we need is action." 

Domínguez prepares an important speech before the senate.  He gives the speech which condemns Huerta and demands his resignation.  Meanwhile, the Huerta henchmen are committing terrible crimes against humanity, like shooting in the head the men lying down on the ground in a line and pouring gasoline on a man and lighting the liquid.  Later Domínguez sees a flier on the wall.  It is the Manifesto of Zapata to the nation, October 1913.  Neither Zapata or Villa like Carranza. 

Quiroga and some fellow officers who are with the forces of Carranza go to visit a General favorable to the Villa/Zapata side of the revolution.  The General mentions the importance of the redistribution of land to the revolutionary movement.  The high officer becomes so angry at Carranza's men that he has them arrested and placed in jail to be shot by a firing squad.  But the General just can't bring himself to kill fellow revolutionary officers and he lets them go. 

October 6.  Someone is trying to break into the room of Senator Domínguez.  He opens the door to see three men there.  He tells them peacefully that he will get dressed and will go with them.  He is taken to jail. 

The first handing out of land distribution deeds, Matamoros, Tamaulipas, August 6, 1913. 

The Senate comes together again. 

The next morning following his arrest and imprisonment, Senator Domínguez is taken for a walk in a cemetery.  Four men follow about fifteen or so yards behind him.  They take out their guns and shoot the senator in the back, killing him.  (A year later, one of the killers confesses and Domínguez's body is uncovered.)

June 15, 1914.  Huerta abdicates and goes into exile with his family.   

August 15, 1914.  Concentration of the Constitutionalist Army (including Quiroga and soldadera) in the suburbs of Mexico City for its entrance into the capital. 

Sebastián  Quirog later held a number of political posts, including senator and governor.  He died in 1953 at one of his haciendas in Sonora.


Good movie.  But you have to know something about the history of the Mexican Revolution (available below).  You have to know the history fairly well because the movie does jump around in time and can confuse the naive viewer.   The Mexican Revolution is a little confusing to follow.  It started with an overthrow of a government (that of dictator Profirio) and his replacement by a "revolutionary government" under Madero.  That government in turn is overthrown by General Huerta who becomes a harsh dictator.  The forces of the revolution get back into power (under Carranza), but soon a civil war breaks out between different factions of the revolutionary movement.  Carranza and his moderates and wealthier people, did not want to see the land redistribution that revolutionaries Zapata and Pancho Villa wanted.  After all, they represented a lot of poor peasants and Indians.  Carranza won and Zapata and Villa were assassinated.  But in turn Carranza was killed. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

1850 (December 23)  --  José Victoriano Huerta Ortega born in Colotlán, Jalisco, Mexico.  His parents were of Mestizo descent.

1867  --  he enters the Mexican Army.  He gets admitted to the Military Academy at Chapultepec.

Working under the Porfirio Díaz administration, he became a general. 

He subdues the Chan Santa Cruz Maya people of Yucatán.

Venustiano Carranza was an early supporter of Francisco I. Madero's efforts to overthrow the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship.

1910-1920 --  Mexican Revolution/Civil War.

1910  --  Francisco Madero enters Mexico from USA to overthrow Díaz.

1911 (May 10) --  Ciudad Juarez taken by troops under Pancho Villa and Orozco. 

1911 (May 25)  --  Porfirio Díaz resigns.  He appoints Francisco León de la Barra as interim president.

1911 --  He fights against the rebels of Emiliano Zapata.

1911 (November 6)  --  Madero takes office following his election. 

When Madero formed his revolutionary cabinet he appointed Carranza Secretary of War and of the Navy.

 Huerta pledges allegiance to President Francisco Madero.

Zapata publishes Plan de Ayala.  His intention is to overthrow Madero.

1912  --  Huerta crushes anti-Madero revolts by rebel generals such as Pascual Orozco. Villa imprisoned by Huerta military court. 

1912 (December 25)  --  Villa escapes from prison and flees to the USA. 

1913  (February)  --  La decena tragica  (The Ten Tragic Days)  --  Generals Félix Díaz, Bernardo Reyes, Manuel Mondragón attack national palace, but are repulsed.  Reyes killed. 

Huerta secretly plots with U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, cashiered general Bernardo Reyes, and Félix Díaz, Porfirio Díaz's nephew, to overthrow Madero.

There are a few days of fighting in Mexico City between loyalist and rebel factions of the Army.

Huerta has Madero and vice-president José María Pino Suárez seized and imprisoned in the Palacio Nacional.

After Huerta's overthrow of the Madero government, Carranza under the "Plan de Guadalupe" became the leader in the opposition revolt against Huerta. His forces were known as the Constitutionalist Army.

Huerta and the other main conspirators meet at the US Embassy.  They sign el Pacto de la Embajada (The Embassy Pact).  Madero and Pino Suarez are to be sent into exile and Huerta is to take over of the Mexican government.

1913 (Feb 18) - 1913 (Feb 18)  --  Pedro Lascuráin was interim president.

1913 (February 18)  --  Huerta proclaims himself provisional president of Mexico.

1913 (February 22)  --  at night Madero and Pino Suárez are shot by officers of the Rurales (Federal mounted police). 

General Huerta's rule is very harsh. 

1913 (October 7)  --  Chiapas senator Belisario Domínguez, after making a dramatic speech in Congress against Huerta, is murdered in Mexico City by Gilberto Márquez, Alberto Quiroz, José Hernández Ramírez and Gabriel Huerta.

US President Woodrow Wilson recalls ambassador Henry Lane Wilson and demands that Huerta step down for democratic elections.

Huerta refuses.

1914 (April 14)  --  the Tampico Affair; starts with a minor incident involving US sailors and Mexican forces loyal to Huerta. 

1914 (April 21)  --   President Wilson lands US troops at Mexico's most important seaport, Veracruz.

Venustiano Carranza's Plan of Guadalupe calls for the creation of a Constitutional Army, the ouster of Huerta and the restoration of constitutional government. (The plan is supported by Zapata, Pancho Villa and General Álvaro Obregón.) 

Obregón and Villa repeatedly defeat Huerta in battle.  Villa defeats federal troops in major battle at Torreón.

1914 (June 23)  --  the climatic confrontation at the Battle of Zacatecas leads to the end of Huerta.

Villa and Zapata break with Carranza. 

1914 (July 15)  --  Huerta resigns and goes into exile. 

1915 (June 27)  --  Huerta and Pascual Orozco are arrested in Newman, New Mexico, USA, for negotiating with German agents to secure the Kaiser's support for another coup d'état in Mexico.  The charge is conspiracy to violate US neutrality laws and placed in a US Army prison at Fort Bliss, Texas. 

Huerta is released on bail but remains under house arrest. 

Later Huerta returns to jail.

1914 (October 10)  --  all the major factions (Villista, Carrancista, Zapatista) meet to negotiate at Aquascalientes. 

1914 (December 6)  --  Conventionists (Villistas and Zapatistas) enter Mexico City.

1915  --  Obregón defeats Villa two times in major Celaya battles. 

USA president Woodrow Wilson backs Constitutionalists (Carranza). 

Villa finished as a military force at Agua Prieta, stopped by German machine guns. 

1916 (January 13)  --  Huerta dies in El Paso, Texas of cirrhosis of the liver.  Today Huerta is known in Mexico as El Chacal (The Jackal).

1917 (January 31)  --  Constitution signed.

1917  (April 26)  --  Carranza becomes president. 

1919 (April 10)  --  Zapata assassinated. 

1920 (April 23)  --  Plan de Agua Prieta.  Calles leads rebellion.

1920 (May 21)   --  Carrabza is killed by forces of Obregón and Calles.

1920 (December 1)  --  Obregón becomes president. 

1920 (July 20)  --  Villa assassinated. 




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