Friday, December 24, 2010
The Sad Saga of Maximo Castillo
I have to say I have very much enjoyed researching Mexican Bandits and the Revolution of 1910. It is a particularly hard topic to get your hands around, as the players and alliances were changing on an almost constant basis. It is hard to know who the good guys were, and who the bad guys were, but it was pretty clear that there was no shortage of innocent victims, which brings us to today's picture of Maximo Castillo. Castillo was one of Pancho Villa's men in the north. In looking at the picture, I am not sure I like Castillo's outfit. To me, it is almost like he is trying to hard, with the feather in his sombrero, and the over-the-top beard. Perhaps he is trying to make up for other Bandit shortcomings by his dress and appearance.
Anyway, Castillo was one of the Bandit leaders under Pancho Villa. Somewhere along the way Pancho and Castillo had a falling out, and Castillo's band broke away from Villa. Villa was not only the military leader in the north, he was also more or less the de facto government of the north. One of the many things Pancho Villa was responsible for was the northern railroads. Shortly after Castillo's band separated from Villa, there was a tragic train accident. The event occurred in northern Mexico in the Cumbres Tunnel near Juarez. A freight train entered the tunnel, and was dynamited in the middle of the tunnel. The train was left in the tunnel, and the following day a passenger train entered the tunnel at full speed, not knowing that the other train wreckage was in the middle of the tunnel. The passenger train crashed into the disabled freight train, and caught on fire and exploded. All 55 on board were killed, including ten Americans. Immediately, Pancho Villa issued a press release stating that Maximo Castillo and his band of Renegade Bandits had planned and executed the operation to destroy the train. Villa stated that he would hunt down, and then publicly hang Castillo and his men. Villa indicated that he would be sending VIP invitations to American dignitaries to come and watch the hanging. Tempers were immediately flared in northern Mexico, as most people at least knew someone killed on the train. So, Castillo was a marked man. Upon learning of Villas accusations, Castillo and his men made a run for the border. They were able to reach the border and cross over into the United States. Upon safely reaching the United States, Castillo and his men were captured by US army officials and placed in detention of Fort Bliss.
Castllo is the Bandit on the left, shown behind barbed wire.
Above, Castillo is pictured with his American Guards. Castillo looks none to happy in the photograph, but I notice that he is enjoying a fine cigar.
So, once Castillo is captured he vehemently proclaims his innocence. He said that Pancho Villa had blown up his own train to turn the population against Castillo, and to give Villa a pretense to hunt down and kill Castillo as punishment for crossing him, and to serve as an example to other bandits who might think about challenging Villa.
OK, now remember that the whole purpose of the revolution was to unseat Diaz. The revolution was successful, and Madero was installed as president. Very quickly the bandits became unhappy with Madero, and the revolution continued, but this time with the goal to kill Madero. Madero's palace was over run, and Huerta installed himself as president. Very quickly Villa and Huerta had a falling out, and Villa once again was part of a revolution to oust Huerta. It was at this period of time that the Cumbres Tunnel train disaster occurred.
This caused great confusion in the US as to what should be done with Castillo. Castillo had broken no laws in the US, so could not be tried in the United States. The US government did not recognize the legitimacy of the Huerta government, so they could not turn Castillo over to Huerta. While the US had under-the-table relations with Villa, he was a Bandit, and simply turning Castillo over the Villa would be a death sentence without even a semblance of a fair trial. So the US did not know what to do with Castillo.
Interestingly enough, I spent the day researching this yesterday, and was unable to find any information on how this was resolved, and what happened to Huerta. The trail just ran completely cold.
So, we are left to speculate on who really blew up the train. As for me, I feel that it was likely Pancho Villa. I would think that Castillo would have been seeking to keep a lower profile after crossing Villa. My bet would be that Pancho Villa did it to give him an excuse to seek vengeance on Castillo. If any readers have any information on how this ended, I would love to hear it.
In my continuing quest to become a Gentleman Farmer, I am pleased to announce that I completed fabrication of my new lettuce growing system. The system will be able to grow 350 heads of lettuce at a time, year round. I now have the seeds planted and am waiting on them to sprout. I will keep you posted on how this new system works out.