Mexican Revolutionary Ricardo Flores Magon Forces Had Seized Tijuana With Help From American Wobblies
This day in 1911 in our region was an important date, as it signified the end of the occupation of Tijuana by a small army of Mexican and American revolutionaries. This army – allied with the Mexican Liberal Party, a socialist-anarchist party led by Ricardo Flores Magon and centered in Los Angeles- had marched on Tijuana in early May. The armed force, called the “Second Division”, after a hard-pitched battle on May 9th, drove off the federal authorities and entered the town and took it over.
The Liberal Party’s insurrectionist aims and tactics, of course, were part of the left-wing of the Mexican revolution against Porfirio Diaz, the dictator, and actually foreshadowed a larger movement and armed rebellion that followed months later. Flores Magon, his brother Enrique, and the other leadership of the Party, had dreams of establishing some-sort of anarchist-socialist republic in Baja, as its distance from the rest of Mexico was substantial, and the federal government’s control on the region was weak. Small bands of the Liberal Party’s followers made raids and attempts to occupy other towns in other parts of Mexico, particularly in the north, for years.
Despite the lack of sufficient arms and ammunition, the rebel force kept control of the border town until this day. Dozens of Wobblies – members of the U.S. group, Industrial Workers of the World, had volunteered and crossed the border to join the revolutionary army. Other foreigners also teamed up with the Mexicans and Indians who made up the Liberal army. Then on May 24th , Diaz surrendered and Francisco Madero had assumed control of the federal government. The Liberal Party’s “First Division” had taken Mexicali on January 29, and held it until June 17th when they surrendered to a peace commission sent by Madero.
But the Second Division wanted to continue the revolt. An army made up of 600 federales and Mexican volunteers, ironically from Los Angeles, had arrived by boat to Ensenada. They marched north to re-establish federal control. Tjiuana’s revolutionary brigade, out-gunned, out-manned – it had a force of less than 200 – marched south to meet them. After a 3 hour battle, the insurrectionists were routed. The Americans and other foreigners surrendered at the border, while the Mexicans and Indians disappeared into the countryside. In months the entire country was on fire. But our local region’s chapter in the Revolucion had ended.
[Go here for more history on this event and circumstances surrounding the Baja plan, at the Journal of San Diego History.]