Tracing the Loyalty of Vigilantes: In the Name of Nation, Religion, and Community

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:50 AM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Gema Karina Santamaria Balmaceda, Loyola University Chicago
On November 15 of 1935, a group of federal police officers killed Clemente Mendoza, a well-known vigilante leader who was accused of hanging, mutilating, and slaying dozens of socialist teachers in the state of Puebla. Among his belongings, they found anti-socialist propaganda, a list that contained the names of teachers that imparted the socialist education, as well as a prayer written on a piece of paper. The prayer read: “Merciful Jesus…I do not want to fight nor live nor die if it is not for your Church and for you. Holy Mother of Guadalupe, join this poor sinner in his agony and make his last cry on Earth and his first chant in Heaven be: Viva Cristo Rey!” Between 1930 and 1955, lynch mobs and groups of vigilantes threatened, killed, and mutilated hundreds of socialist teachers, communist ideologues, Evangelicals, and iconoclasts, in various regions of Mexico. These acts of violence, which took place after the religiously motivated Cristero War had officially ended in 1929, brought into question the apparent modus vivendi that had been reached between the Catholic Church and the State in post-revolutionary Mexico. The aim of this paper is to trace the identity as well as the diverse, even competing, loyalties that informed the perpetrators of these acts of violence. Through the use of multiple sources – including letters of complain written by families of the victims, newspaper accounts, anti-socialist propaganda, Catholic publications, as well as a letters written by perpetrator themselves- the paper will weight the impact that religious affiliation, nationalist ideologies, as well as community-based identities had in legitimating their actions.