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Introduction to military issues

Durango is remarkable for the number of different state issues made during the Revolution, partly a function of the different factions in the state, and the manner that issues seem to overlap. The notes also enjoyed widespread usage through the northern states, even down to Mexico City, complementing the other revolutionary issues. This is an initial attempt to reconstruct that history. In addition to the basic sequence of events, this history can be garnered firstly from a study of the notes themselves (their appearance, denominations and signatories though with the caveat that a date or printed signatory is only an indication of intent, not a definite statement of fact, and the knowledge that I have not attempted a detailed study of control letters or validations) and then from a study of official documents, newspaper reports and other correspondence.

Within a month of Madero’s assassination in February 1913, rebels led by Calixto Contreras and Domingo Arrieta already controlled rural Durango. Three months later they occupied the state capital and were poised to launch an offensive against Torreón that would mark the beginning of the end for the Huerta government far away in Mexico City. The young civil engineer Pastor Rouaix was appointed governor.

Because of personal animosities Domingo Arrieta and his brothers aligned themselves nationally with Venustiano Carranza rather than Pancho Villa. However, they also coveted political power at the state level and as commanders of the military forces that garrisoned the city of Durango in the summer of 1914 openly fought with Pastor Rouaix for control of the state government. In early August 1914 Arrieta forced Rouaix’s resignation and assumed the governorship. Despite what was happening elsewhere, Durango then entered a long period of tranquility characterized by minimal levels of political violence.

The rebels divided again in 1914-15 as those under the leadership of Contreras, mostly from eastern Durango, sided with Villa, while a significant minority, mostly from the mountainous western Durango, followed the Arrietas who joined Carranza. Severino Ceniceros became the Provisional Governor and Military Commander of Durango later in the autumn of 1914 after Villa ordered Contreras to expel the Arrietas and their followers from Durango. The last Villista Governor and Military Commander of Durango was General Máximo García.

In contrast to the relative calm of the Villista Durango, the Carrancista era which began when pursuing Carrancista military forces invaded the state from every direction in the autumn of 1915 was experienced by nearly everyone as a time of war, famine, and pestilence. Unlike the Villista armies, the Carrancista forces that invaded Durango were foreign armies of occupation with no local ties, affiliations, or loyalties, except in the state capital and in the towns of western Durango that continued to be garrisoned by Arrieta forces, nominally loyal to Carranza. As a result the people of Durango were more Villista than ever in 1916.