100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Over 600 Killed In Train Wreck in Mexico

Porfirio Diaz had ruled Mexico as president and virtual dictator since 1876. In the presidential elections of 1910 he was challenged by Franciso Madero, lawyer and son of a wealthy landowner. Hoping to control the election, Diaz threw Madero in jail but he escaped the the US where he called for the overthrow of Diaz. Several anti-Diaz forces combined including Pancho Villa in the North and Emiliano Zapata in the South. After several decisive battles, Diaz was forced to step down in May 1911 with Madero declared a president. Madero, a memeber of the ruling class, kept many Diaz appointees and refused to agree to social reforms calling for better working hours, pay and conditions. The rural working class took up arms against Madero in support of Zapata and Villa.

In early 1913 Victoriano Huerta, the commander of the armed forces offered protection to Madero against anti-revolutionary forces. Heurta used this opportunity to seize power and Madero was forced to resign and Heurta took over the presidency. But Huerta was universally hated by revolutionary leaders and resigned the office in July 1914. He was replaced by Venustiano Carranza, head of the Constitutional Army.

Convention at Aquacalietes - 1914

Convention at Aquacalietes – 1914

Carranza called for a “Great Convention of Commanding Military Chiefs and State Governors.” The convention took place October/November 1914 at Aquacalientes and was intended to settle the differences between the “big four” warlords who played the biggest roles in overthrowing Huerta: Pancho Villa, Emiliano Zapata, Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon. It had just the opposite effect : the convention elected General Eulalio Gutiérrez Ortiz as President of Republic, and appointed Villa commander of the Conventionalist Army, which then took up arms against Carranza’s Constitutionalists. These forces are fighting throughout Mexico. On January 18, 1915 Carranza’s troops captured Guadalajara in southwestern Mexico. He immediately ordered that the families of his troops be transported by train from Colima on the Pacific coast to his newly captured stronghold.

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On January 22, 1915 a special train of twenty cars left Colima. It was packed, with people even clinging to the roofs and undercarriages. Somewhere between Colima and Guadalajara the engineer lost control on a long steep descent. As the train gathered speed many people were thrown off as the train negotiated curves. Eventually the entire train plunged off the tracks and into a deep canyon. 600 of 900 people were killed including the entire train crew.

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