Sunday, 31 August 2008

Behind the Songs: Bullets of Mexico

"A .45 bullet has ended the life of a man who had lived by the gun,
But all of the bullets of Mexico cannot undo all the work that he's done."
--Phil Ochs, "Bullets of Mexico" (1962)

Struggles of a Campesino Leader: Ruben Jaramillo

With the presidential election of Manuel Avila Camacho in 1940, the era of land reform and support for social change ended suddenly and the revolution veered sharply rightward. The politics of class struggle quickly gave way to a state-directed campaign to achieve the goals, and inculcate the values, of modern capitalist development within a postwar world of united, anticommunist nations...Jaramillo was born in Tlaquiltenango, Morelos, in 1900. He joined Zapata's army at the age of 15, and became a lifelong adherent of the Zapatista causes of land and liberty for the rural poor. By the end of the 1920s he had emerged as a prominent agrarian leader. He strongly supported the Cardenas presidency, and Cardenas returned the favor by supporting Jaramillo's project, the cooperatively run sugar complex of Zacatepec, which was inaugurated in 1938. Jaramillo was elected to the mill's first Council of Administrations and Vigilance. He immediately entered into conflict with the mill's federally appointed administrators when he uncompromisingly advocated many reforms in favor of the mill's workers. These conflicts turned more violent with the advent of the Avila Camacho era, as we see in the excerpt below.

Jaramillo would spend much of his life trying to elude death threats from corrupt local powers supported by the federal government. While underground, he remained active in organizing peasants and workers; occasionally, he managed to emerge from hiding long enough to found legal, above-ground organizations. In 1958 President Adolfo Lopez Mateos named him psecial delegate of the National Peasant Confederation. Frustration with the funereal pace of the government's land reform led Jaramillo to support land invasions and the formation of a socialist collective in 1960, inviting fresh reprisals from his enemies. On May 23, 1962, judicial police and soldiers captured Jaramillo and assassinated him along with his pregnant wife and three sons. No one was ever brought to trial for the crime, which proved to be one of several high-profile episodes that darkened the reputation of the PRI int he post-war era.

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