José Victoriano Huerta Márquez (Spanish pronunciation: [biktoˈɾjano ˈwerta]; 22 December 1850 – 13 January 1916) was a Mexican military officer and president of Mexico.
After a military career under President Porfirio Díaz, Huerta became a high-ranking officer under pro-democracy President Francisco Madero during the first phase of the Mexican Revolution. In 1913, Huerta led a counter-revolutionary coup, the Ten Tragic Days, in which Madero was deposed and then assassinated. The Huerta regime was immediately opposed by revolutionary forces, and Huerta was forced to resign and flee the country in 1914, after 17 months as president. While attempting to intrigue with German spies in the United States during World War I, Huerta was arrested in 1915 and died in U.S. custody.
Huerta's supporters were known as Huertistas during the Mexican Revolution. Huerta is still vilified by modern-day Mexicans, who generally refer to him as El Chacal ("The Jackal") or El Usurpador ("The Usurper").
Victoriano Huerta was born in the settlement of Agua Gorda within the municipality of Colotlán, Jalisco, son of Jesús Huerta and María Lázara del Refugio Márquez. He identified himself as indigenous, and both his parents are reported to have been ethnically Huichol, although his father is said to have been Mestizo. Huerta learned to read and write at a school run by the local priest. In 1869 he was employed by the visiting General Donato Guerra to serve as his personal secretary. In that role, he distinguished himself and with General Guerra's support, Huerta gained admission to the Mexican National Military Academy (Heroico Colegio Militar) at Chapultepec in Mexico City in 1872. President Benito Juárez praised Cadet Huerta when inspecting the Academy, noting that the Army needed officers of indigenous origins.
Huerta married Emilia Águila Moya, whom he met in Veracruz, on 21 November 1880 in Mexico City. Together they had eleven children. The names of his children surviving him in 1916 were Jorge, María Elisa, Victor, Luz, Elena, Dagoberto, Eva and Celia.
|A graphical timeline is available at |
Timeline of the Mexican Revolution
Upon graduating from the military academy in 1877, Huerta was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers. He participated in the "pacification campaigns" in Tepic and Sinaloa, where he distinguished himself in combat. He then spent nine years of his military career undertaking topographic studies in the states of Puebla and Veracruz. He traveled extensively to all parts of Mexico in this position.
By 1890, Huerta had reached the rank of Colonel of Engineers, under the administration of Porfirio Díaz. In December 1900, Huerta commanded a successful military campaign against Yaqui rebels in Sonora. Two years later he suppressed a Maya peoples' rising in Yucatán. He was then promoted to Brigadier General and awarded the Medal of Military Merit In 1905, Huerta was appointed to head a committee tasked with reforming the uniforms of the Federal Army. In 1907, he retired from the army on grounds of ill-health, having developed cataracts while serving in the southern jungles. He then applied his technical training by taking up the position of Head of Public Works in Monterrey and planning a new street layout for the city.
On the eve of the 1910 Revolution against the long-established Díaz regime, Huerta was teaching mathematics in Mexico City. He applied successfully to rejoin the Federal Army with his former rank. He did not play a major role in the early stages of the Revolution, although he commanded the military escort which gave Díaz safe conduct into exile, Huerta initially pledged allegiance to the new administration of Francisco Madero, and he was retained by the Madero administration to crush anti-Madero revolts by rebel generals such as Pascual Orozco. However, Huerta secretly plotted with United States Ambassador to Mexico Henry Lane Wilson, cashiered General Bernardo Reyes, and Félix Díaz, Porfirio Díaz's nephew, to overthrow Madero. This episode in Mexican history is known as La decena trágica (Ten Tragic Days).
Following a confused few days of fighting in Mexico City between loyalist and rebel factions of the Army, Huerta had Madero and vice-president José María Pino Suárez seized and briefly imprisoned on 18 February 1913 in the National Palace. The conspirators then met at the U.S. Embassy to sign El Pacto de la Embajada (The Embassy Pact), which provided for the exile of Madero and Pino Suárez, and Huerta's takeover of the Mexican government.
To give the coup the appearance of legitimacy, Huerta had foreign minister Pedro Lascuráin assume the presidency; under the 1857 Constitution of Mexico, the foreign minister stood third in line for the presidency behind the vice-president and attorney general; Madero's attorney general had also been ousted in the coup. Lascuráin then appointed Huerta as interior minister—constitutionally, fourth in line for the presidency. After less than an hour in office (some sources say as little as 15 minutes), Lascuráin resigned, handing the presidency to Huerta. At a late-night special session of Congress surrounded by Huerta's troops, the legislators endorsed his assumption of power. Four days later Madero and Pino Suárez were taken from the National Palace to prison at night and shot by officers of the rurales (federal mounted police) who were assumed to be acting on Huerta's orders.
Huerta moved quickly to consolidate power with the support of state governors. Chihuahua governor Abraham González refused and Huerta had him arrested and murdered in March 1913. The most important challenge from a state governor was by Venustiano Carranza, governor of Coahuila, who drafted the Plan of Guadalupe, calling for the creation of a Constitutionalist Army to oust Huerta and restore constitutional government. Supporters of Carranza's plan included Emiliano Zapata, who nonetheless remained loyal to his own Plan de Ayala, Francisco "Pancho" Villa and Álvaro Obregón. However, former revolutionary general Pascual Orozco whom Huerta fought when serving President Madero now joined with Huerta as a counter-revolutionary.
Huerta established a harsh military dictatorship. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson became hostile to the Huerta administration, recalled ambassador Henry Lane Wilson, and demanded Huerta step aside for democratic elections. When Huerta refused, and with the situation further exacerbated by the Tampico Affair, President Wilson landed U.S. troops to occupy Mexico's most important seaport, Veracruz.
After repeated field defeats of the Federal Army by Obregón and Villa, climaxing in the Battle of Zacatecas, Huerta bowed to internal and external pressure and resigned the presidency on 15 July 1914.
Exile, late life and death
He went into exile, first traveling to Kingston, Jamaica, aboard the German cruiser SMS Dresden. From there, he moved to the UK, then Spain, and arrived in the United States in April 1915.
During 1915, he negotiated with Captain Franz von Rintelen of German Navy Intelligence for money to purchase weapons and arrange U-boat landings to provide support, while offering (perhaps as a bargaining chip) to make war on the U.S., which Germany hoped would end munitions supplies to the Allies. Their meetings, held at the Manhattan Hotel (as well as another New York hotel, "probably the Holland House" at Fifth Avenue and 30th Street) were observed by Secret Servicemen, and von Rintelen's telephone conversations were routinely intercepted and recorded.
Huerta traveled from New York by train to Newman, New Mexico (25 miles from the border), where he was to be met by General Pascual Orozco and some well-armed Mexican supporters. However, a U.S. Army colonel with 25 soldiers and two deputy U.S. marshals intervened and arrested him as he left the train on a charge of sedition. The German-initiated plan for Huerta to regain the Mexican presidency through a coup d'état was foiled. After some time in a U.S. Army prison at Fort Bliss, he was released on bail, but remained under house arrest due to risk of flight to Mexico. A day after he attended a dinner at Fort Bliss. Later he was returned to jail, and while so confined, died, perhaps of cirrhosis of the liver. While the main symptom was yellow jaundice, poisoning by the U.S. was widely suspected.
In popular culture
Huerta has been portrayed or referenced in any number of movies dealing with the Mexican Revolution, including The Wild Bunch, Duck, You Sucker!, and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself.
In the 1952 film Viva Zapata!, starring Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata, Huerta is portrayed by Frank Silvera.
In the 1968 film Villa Rides, Huerta was portrayed by Herbert Lom.
In the novel The Friends of Pancho Villa (1996), by James Carlos Blake, Huerta is a major character.