The author becomes the surrogate, the alter ego, of General Calles, as the latter is known even now, following his death in 1945. The author is the grandson of the General and becomes his spokesman. He relates the General’s memoirs in the first person. A reader becomes comfortable in the role, as the General ‘speaks from the grave,’ once it becomes evident that spiritually grandfather and grandson have blended in a transcendence that accounts for the fusion of their essence – the communion of their souls in the sphere of the infinite.
General Calles is credited in the history of
Through his grandson, General Calles shares with us his private thoughts and intimacies, his zeal and dedication to the creation of an independent state based on constitutional government, free of the yoke of the Catholic Church and the wealthy class, the unholy alliance which monopolized the wealth and power of the nation at the expense of the people.
He shares his experience in being seduced by the revolution of 1910 which overthrew the thirty year dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz and established the Mexican Constitution of 1917, following the assassination of Francisco Madero, the philosopher and ideologue of the Revolution.
His advent from teacher, rancher and entrepreneur, and eventually to General under the auspices of his lifelong friend and mentor, Alvaro Obregon, and comradeship with “Fito” de la Huerta – the ‘Three Sonora Musketeers’ as they were known - is filled with the political intrigue and treachery, based on greed and power, that was as great an enemy as the opposition of the clergy and aristocracy.
He relates the excesses of revolutionaries such as Pancho Villa and even the usurpation of Venustiano Carranza, who succeeded Madero as constitutional head of state.
As he ascends to power in 1924 for a four year term as president of the republic, following the presidency of his dearest friend and mentor, Obregon, Calles tells us of his many challenges, primarily the state of the economy and, more daunting, the constant threat of the United States who sought to control the petroleum production of Mexico.
Threatened with an invasion and/or military
excursion, one of several previously undertaken by his northern
neighbor, President Elias Calles ordered his general, Lazaro Cardenas,
to destroy the oil fields if the
At once, “El Hombre Fuerte” - the strong man - of Mexico, with limited resources, after a revolution which emaciated the country and killed some one million of its citizens, faced with the threat of its powerful and imperialistic neighbor to the north, attacked by the controlled media and vested interests of the clergy and the rich, a society grounded on ignorance and poverty, and, surrounded by the treachery of ambitious conspirators aspiring to power, took the reins of the government, as if riding his steed, with firmness, discipline and resoluteness. He became an authoritarian strong man in the cusp of dictatorship.
A tragic event in the life of General Calles was
the assassination of his closest friend, Obregon, in 1928, when he was
elected to the presidency for a second term upon completion of Calles’
presidency. Although the issue of reelection was negated as a
possibility among the three musketeers, Obregon had reneged on this
commitment contrary to the understanding with Calles, justified on the
As a consequence there was suspicion that Calles may have had a hand on the murder of Obregon. In fact, a Catholic zealot had engineered the assassination. Following the death of Obregon, by default, Calles became a mentor to the successive presidents, earning the title ‘Jefe Maximato.” His stewardship was criticized by his retractors as a dictatorship de facto.
For twenty years that
Since the presidency controlled the press Cardenas once more planted the accusation, since then discredited, that Calles was the author of Obregon’s assassination; that Calles was conspiring to overthrow the constitutional government and usurp power as a dictator; that Calles had enriched himself and his family and friends during his presidency; and, that Calles indiscriminately had persecuted and slaughtered the Catholic faithful. Without access to the press,
Calles was unable to defend himself. But, more
important, Calles chose to subordinate his interests and reputation in
order to avoid an armed conflict that would ensue if he sought truth and
justice. He was exiled by
The author makes this point, which is largely ignored in Mexican history which idolizes Cardenas, with a touch of irony as General Calles condemns his ‘friend’ for the treachery – “La quema de Judas” – considering that Calles was without equal the person most responsible for Cardenas ascendancy to the presidency.
All along Calles relates to us his private moments, his family life and personal life style, his mystic encounters with “La Buki” a Yaqui Indian woman by adoption, his love affairs, the relations with his closest friends and, more important, his intrinsic values and ambitions.