THE OTHER HISTORY OF MEXICO
Celebrating our lifetime friendship, my high school classmate, Jose Alberto Vazquez has provided me with an excellent book published by the famous author, Armando Fuentes better known as Caton. The writer, disclosing a real different version faraway from the traditional, takes the reader to that era of our history in which, poisoned by the 1857 liberal Constitution, the country jumped to the abyss of a destructive intestinal war.
As someone carrying an educational product of Catholic schools, the way in which Caton developed these historic events is not something that surprised me. However, it has promoted my return to a new and deeper reflection. A reflection to adjust my ideology perspective comprised of many years of introspection where I have ridden through many fields trying to understand the evolution of my country.
The title of the book: The Other History of Mexico. Juarez and Maximilian, immediately open the first door toward a new enclosure which unloads its rich content far from the traditional one. It was full of the traditional material with which the Mexican government poisoned the people for centuries. Making an honest evaluation however, we will learn the other version has been as toxic and destructive, and here is where we will find the value of this publication. This is a very real, different and unbiased work.
In my personal walk through private catholic schools, I was taught that Juarez was a real diabolical man responsible for all Mexico's misfortunes. I was taught that Protestantism was the work of the antichrist destroying societies. I was taught that our XIX century conservatives were those saintly warriors spilling their blood all over Mexico trying to save the country from heretics and I was taught that even though they failed in their holy task, our heritage is the bloody land of our country that some day, with the seed of faith, those fields would blossom to recuperate the mandate of the holy church.
If to the mind of a boy furnished with that kind of educational program, we add the emergence of a restless teenager witnessing a poor and oppressed Mexico, the outcome was a real conservative old colonial style. If we then add to this picture a young man proudly carrying a diploma from the best private college in Latin America and an MBA, just to face a country with no liberal or conservative features but instead a deformed entity. A deformed entity that to describe would be a titanic task, and to understand would be virtually impossible and so therefore the confusion grew proportionately bigger.
Under the same roof of a liberal armed with that intellectual purity which was the product of his education was my father, with his silent attitude toward that sad reality of Mexico, always inspiring me to think that there should be a better recipe to heal the everlasting sickness of my country. My great surprise was produced by my meeting with the real liberalism and at that time is when a transformation took place that transported me to feelings of rage and frustration that I had been a victim of an intellectual lie. I realized that I had to do something.
The author took me back to the 80s when, after meeting Milton Friedman, I started an internal debate to arrive to my new libertarian conscience. Then, impressed with the beautiful libertarian philosophy, I tried to refurbish my old demons daring, in my blindness, to compare Juarez with Jefferson, Porfirio Diaz with Madison. Worst of all, comparing those almost mythical figures of the founding fathers of the USA with the deformed and twisted Mexican liberals whom had written one of the most beautiful constitutions, hence only to ignore and violate it. Those stubborn Mexican liberal men who lost the navigational map that would have taken the ship to a safe port, but instead they started a mutiny and have almost sunk it.
It has been a real surprise to find a modern writer declaring that the Mexican liberals had on their side the truth and reason. They wanted to build a modern country, a federal republic with no privileges or aristocracy, to separate Church and State, the Rule of Law. Caton goes on to write that the conservatives had on their side the people whom were controlled by the Church which was spreading excommunications and tickets to hell all over the country. The people, immersed in the Church dogma and religious superstition imagined the inferno as their destiny if they did not reject the constitution. Caton also describes a country with social, political and religious structures inept to negotiate, full of hate and ready to destroy.
Something which almost brought tears to my eyes is the way Caton describes that historic figure who, because of his conservative label, has been not only ignored, but unjustly attacked and the center of historical hate. Gral. Miguel Miramon, a career military man, a gentleman of unquestionable courage and honor. A man whom, before reaching 30 years of age, was the undefeated general and sore of Gral. Alvaro Obregon of his era. A man who was almost forced to assume the presidency which at first he did not accept. He was a great man who was loved and admired but who was sadly killed by a firing squad at the side of Maximilian.
As I read on I was shocked when the author painted the figure of Benito Juarez in a way that was different and unique to my thought and education. Caton describes a cruel and obsessed man who was looking not only to separate Church and State, but demonstrating uncontrollable hate, he wanted to destroy the Church. A liberal man who wanted to destroy the State's most important principles such as religious freedom, the respect of private property, and then, in such an autocratic way, Benito Juarez took over the presidency and stayed there until his death.
The author affirms the coincidences were much more than the differences between liberals and conservatives. He also describes the monumental effort of President Comonfort—one of three at the time— to conciliate the 2 factions and negotiate a government of unity. However, the stubbornness of both, Benito Juarez and the Catholic Church, sank the country into a war that even today its wounds still are not healed. The blind ambition of both started a religious war that if avoided, our present could be starkly different.
At my arrival to the middle of this interesting book, to me the most impressive fact has been the ruling that Miramon published in July 12, 1859. He first accepted that he had no experience to be President. Then he goes on to describe the chaos taking over the country. The most admirable fact is when he goes to the root of the problem. He affirmed his willingness to protect the interests of the Church but then the sentence: "Our country needs order, liberty, and guaranties. I have decided to take that path and, with the law and the canonic statutory, I am going to annihilate that virus which feeds and will keep feeding the war."
That was the emergence of a reform and I would say a real liberal cutting Jefferson's style. The message was clear how the insulting wealth of the Church was the seed of discordance and should be subject to the law. The Church aware of the explosive situation had already accepted to give up something to keep some. This was the great opportunity for agreements.
The same day, Benito Juarez responded proclaiming his reforms deciding to expropriate all of the assets of the church, closing all convents, canceling religious confraternities and declaring the Catholic Church immoral and the worst enemy of the country. What Gral Miramon had proposed to do under the law, Juarez decided on the corner of tyranny. The big chance for Mexico had been sabotage and the real inferno started while Porfirio Diaz smiled.